Marvel Studios has really picked up the pace over the years. In the beginning, the franchise delivered one or two films per year. Yet, every year since 2017, three new adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have hit theaters. According to recent reports, that momentum is only going to grow as Marvel enters Phase 4 and beyond.
A soft reboot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
The record-breaking success of Avengers: Endgame may have planted the seeds for what comes next. However, the creative team designed the film as a swan song for the original Avengers, especially Iron Man and Captain America. So whatever comes next does have the pressure of serving as a kind of soft reboot for the MCU.
With Cap and Iron Man out of the picture, supporting heroes will rise up and new ones will emerge. Discovering where it’s all heading — a la the three-phase Infinity Saga — will be part of the fun for viewers. But it also means the MCU has a lot of work ahead.
In that regard, Marvel Studios likely wants to get started laying the groundwork for the next Thanos-level threat now. Audiences will need to be introduced gradually to the next generation of Avengers. And sequels to billion-dollar hits like Black Panther and Captain Marvel aren’t going to just make themselves.
What fans should expect starting in Phase 4
For awhile, the plan for Phase 4 and beyond has been largely shrouded in mystery. Yes, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige laid out the projects fans could expect to see in 2020 and 2021. But fans could find no apparent grand design to it all.
The reason for this? Marvel Studios is just starting to kick into a higher gear. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Alan Horn, chief creative officer and co-chairman of Disney, revealed that Feige will begin making “three or four” films a year.
Horn’s unwillingness to concretely commit to four films a year feels like more of a testament to Marvel Studios’ process than anything else. After all, fans — and Disney shareholders — will be able to expect a new Marvel Studios release every single quarter. Considering the scope of these productions, this is a tall order which takes time to achieve.
Which films will we see each year?
Although the plan may be to ramp up to four films per year, Marvel Studios will likely be unable to do so until 2021. Next year brings Black Widow and Eternals on the big screen, alongside The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+. That last project is the first of several series slated to hit the streaming service in the next couple of years.
In 2021, Marvel Studios will truly begin to turn up the heat with its four-film annual schedule. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a third Spider-Man, and Thor: Love and Thunder are all currently due for release that year.
The following year is a bit murkier. Black Panther II is certainly coming our way in 2022, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. The just-announced Ant-Man 3 is a likely candidate, as is perhaps Deadpool 3.
Might we see The Defenders reunite on-screen or Marvel Studios’ version of the Fantastic Four or X-Men soon? All we can say right now is “maybe.” With four films out each year, it’s an excellent time to be a fan of the MCU.