Marvel Studios publicly announced its plans for ‘Phase 4’ – yes, that’s officially what the post-Avengers: Endgame slate is called – and what isn’t planned for release by 2021 is almost as surprising as what is on the horizon.
Along with a slate of ten sequels, new properties, and even in-continuity MCU tie-in shows on the Disney+ streaming service, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige threw out a tease for several still unscheduled sequels – and two brand new MCU franchises - that also need dates.
Fortunately, the studio has a whole year (2022) of reserved dates with no movies attached as well – even after placing this weekend’s announcements on all the 2020 and 2021 dates. And at this stage let's face it, in 2023 and beyond, Marvel Studios can take any date it likes and anyone and everyone else will go running, even if previously reserved.
So how might things shake out in 2022 and beyond? Well, let’s look at the dates – and the movies – Marvel has in the offing.
Marvel’s announced slate - Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange 2 and Thor: Love and Thunder takes us through 2021 – so the first year that remains a cipher is 2022. Marvel’s got unspecified flags planted in three 2022 dates – February 18, May 6, and July 29.
Black Panther 2
This year might be pretty easy to nail down on its face – we’re gonna go ahead and assume Black Panther 2 will land on February 17, 2022, capitalizing on Marvel’s tendency to release sequels in similar timeframes as their predecessors.
And by 2022, it’ll be four full years since the release of the mega-hit Black Panther – meaning the ‘Wakanda Forever’ crowd will be champing at the bit to get back to T’Challa and the royal family.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
From there, it’s an easy assumption Marvel will land Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (now with 100% more James Gunn) on May 6, 2022.
Yes, that’s just a year out from Gunn’s currently in production DC film The Suicide Squad, but remember that GotG3 already has a script, a director, and most of a cast.
That means it’s got a leg up in pre-production that will likely allow Gunn – who confirmed on Twitter that GotG3 was pushed from Phase 4 by his work on The Suicide Squad – to slide right into the third leg of his cosmic movie franchise. And it'll be a full five years since 2017's Vol 2, so this one also feels like a lock.
And finally, with three dates for 2022, Marvel will likely launch a fresh franchise alongside those aforementioned sequels – and in this case, we’re betting the Mahershala Ali-led Blade reboot announced during the Hall H panel will bow on July 29, 2022.
We make this prediction with the assumption that the potential bloodbath is further along than the other teased new franchise (which rhymes with Shmantastic Shmour – more on that shortly). And you don't sign a rising star like Ali and make him sit around for too long.
2023 is a little further out for Marvel Studios – but given the now 5-year gap precedent the 2021 Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and a 2022 release for Guardians Vol. 3 would set, we’re looking to get a handle on how Marvel can squeeze in the movies we know are on their way – and where the future might lead in terms of unannounced projects.
Captain Marvel 2
A sequel to the over $1 billion-dollar worldwide hit was confirmed by Feige as being in development but without a release date announced.
Since that electrifying Nick Fury in space teaser from the post-credits sequence of Spider-Man: Far From Home will likely pay off in Captain Marvel 2, we're calculating Marvel isn't going to let more than four years go by before they pick on that game-changing plot thread.
Keeping that in mind, Captain Marvel 2 is likely a shoo-in for an eventual Spring 2023 bow, again keeping it in its original release quarter.
Yep – we’re gonna call this now. We’re betting – based on what we know today in 2019 – that the Fantastic Four will make their MCU debut in May 2023.
For one thing, that window leaves plenty of time for development, casting, and yes, introducing the team before they get their own movie (as for where and how that could happen, well… there are clues, but we’ve got to mind carts and horses here).
That would make Fantastic Four 2023’s big new franchise – and put the arrival of the first of the ‘Fox characters’ in the MCU right in line with Feige’s publicly stated estimations.
And of course, that would put the Baxter Building in the MCU New York’s skyline just in time for…
Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man movies drop in July – it’s just that simple. Spider-Man is a perennial summer favorite, and we’re betting that the sure to be hotly anticipated third MCU Spidey film will follow suit.
Yes, we’re including this here even though Feige somewhat conspicuously, given Spider-Man: Far From Home’s other shocking post-credits sequence , didn’t shout the film out in his rundown of still-to-be-scheduled films at Comic-Con. Feige probably just didn't want to shift focus on a years-out sequel when Far From Home is still in the thick of its box office run. But the reasons to consider it a likely 2023 release are simple.
First off, Marvel’s not just gonna drop Peter Parker’s unmasking as a plot point. It’s GOT to be explored – and Far From Home is even more popular than its predecessor. Second, Tom Holland is only gonna sport that babyface so long.
Four years is a long time when you’re in your early 20s - and Peter Parker is technically still in high school. This movie’s gotta come out sooner rather than later.
We’re not even getting into the things we KNOW are coming that haven’t been announced yet here. Feige teased ‘mutants’ in the MCU (not X-Men… hmmm?) but didn’t give a timeframe. And there’s little doubt Deadpool will show up again somewhere – we’re still counting on him joining the MCU, by the way.
The question moving forward is how will Marvel Studios handle the bottleneck it has created for itself. By giving Thor a fourth installment, giving Black Widow her own film, and by surprising the world with Blade, they're by design crowding the field and lengthening what's been a mostly standard 2 to 3-year gap between sequels.
One possible method to clear some traffic is to move to four annual films a year. Marvel Studios have established beachheads in February-March, May, July and November but have yet to try out all four in one year. The marketplace seems receptive to any and all things MCU these days, so the studio has to weigh if three films is 'just right' or if four would be pressing their luck and compromising the goodwill they currently bask in.
And you can't address MCU volume without addressing Disney+. Marvel is going to begin their streaming experiment with five episodic series - The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye and the animated What If...? but could they also use the upstart service to premiere original films, which seems to be a model working for Netflix?
One character/franchise conspicuously not invited to Saturday's Comic-Con party was Ant-Man, notable considering Marvel hasn't stopped at one sequel for any film as of yet, which is even more of a thing now that Thor will break the fourth film barrier.
Last year's Ant-Man and the Wasp didn't really break out at the box office either domestically or internationally the way most MCU recent films have, relatively speaking, but Marvel certainly left some potential storylines dangling with Cassie Lang now a teen, Ghost still out there somewhere and Janet Van Dyne not really have made any mark at all. Could Marvel draw Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and co. to a streaming series or Disney+ film the way they've nailed down movie stars like Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston?
Either way, if Marvel mostly sticks to at least three films per franchise, mixes in a new franchise at least once a year and given it has the FF and "Mutant" properties to contend with (not even mentioning continuing or tweaking the Avengers franchise anytime soon), something either has to give or the studio will have to expand the playing field.