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The Marvel Cinematic Universe is due for a longer-than-expected hiatus.

After Avengers: Endgame changed the series forever, Marvel Studios was set to launch Phase 4 less than a year after Spider-Man: Far from Home. But the release of Black Widow — the first Phase 4 title — was pushed back from May 2020 to November 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Given the interconnected nature of the MCU, this caused a domino effect that pushed every Phase 4 entry further down the line. So, while Doctor Strange will get his sequel, it will now take five years for fans to see it. The silver lining? We now know when Captain Marvel will return. But will it be as the concluding chapter of Phase 4?

Brie Larson at the world premiere of 'Captain Marvel'
Brie Larson at the world premiere of ‘Captain Marvel’ | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

‘Captain Marvel 2’ finally gets its release date

When Marvel Studios announced the updated release dates for Phase 4, the company also snuck in some fresh news. Captain Marvel 2 is now set to hit theaters on July 8, 2022. Previously, Marvel had revealed the sequel was in development but offered no concrete plans beyond that.

Despite the complaints of some petulant fans, star Brie Larson isn’t going anywhere. After all, Captain Marvel earned $1.1 billion when it hit theaters in March 2019. As the final MCU film before Avengers: Endgame, the release helped set up Captain Marvel’s role in the fight against Thanos and beyond.

At this point, little is known about Captain Marvel 2. Rumors claim the film will take place in the present day. But it just as easily could stick to its predecessor’s 1990s setting. This would allow some subplots — especially one involving Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who was killed by the Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 — to continue.

The film could be the perfect end to Marvel’s Phase 4

When Marvel originally laid out its Phase 4 plans, Captain Marvel 2 was not included. Because of this, many fans assumed Carol Danvers’ sophomore adventure would be an early part of Phase 5. But the way its release date was announced with the updated Phase 4 indicates it could be part of the line-up.

This wouldn’t be the first time Marvel Studios has amended its schedule in such a way. Phase 3 ballooned a bit over time, with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp added after the initial announcement. This led to subsequent date changes for other films. Marvel could similarly sneak Black Panther II and Captain Marvel 2 into Phase 4.

Besides, if Captain Marvel 2 is set in the present day, it could be integral to setting up Phase 5. More than likely, the next Thanos-level threat will be on the cosmic side. And Captain Marvel is a character who lends herself to such large-scale storytelling. Plus, Larson is being positioned as a major figure in the MCU going forward.

Captain Marvel will probably lead the next Avengers line-up

By all accounts, Captain Marvel will be leading Earth’s Mightiest Heroes by the time a fifth Avengers film comes around. Overall, Phase 4 seems to be focused on setting up which heroes will make up the next core line-up. On the Disney+ side, that means a new Captain America, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye.

But on the big screen, the goal appears to be promoting characters like Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Captain Marvel to serving as first-string Avengers. With Carol Danvers as the most likely leader, it makes sense for her second solo movie to round out this transitional phase and key up the next villain.

Besides, it doesn’t make sense for Captain Marvel to sit out an entire phase without a new film. And as it has evolved from one phase to the next, the MCU has gotten more and more ambitious. So don’t be surprised if Captain Marvel 2 become the climactic chapter of Phase 4, keeping her front and center for whatever comes next.