We’re almost a decade into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and Phase 3 is in full swing. The latest chapter in the saga kicked off with Captain America: Civil War in 2016 and most recently debuted the third Thor entry, Thor: Ragnarok.
With Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Captain Marvel still on the way, that puts the first Phase 4 movie in theaters sometime around either late 2019 or early 2020. Even that far into the future though, we’re seeing it billed as an intriguing turning point for the franchise.
Here’s what we know so far.
1. Marvel won’t reveal the Phase 4 movie titles until after Infinity War, and there’s a reason for that
Marvel has never been shy about laying down a roadmap deep into the distant future. So why is the entirety of Phase 4 still largely a secret? The simple reason: Because knowing what’s coming would give away too much about Avengers: Infinity War. Speaking to the Toronto Sun, Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige had this to say on the matter: “Where we go after Avengers; what those 2020 films are, we’re pretty sure what those are going to be … but if I tell you that, we’re getting into spoilers.”
That could mean any number of things in the bigger scheme of the MCU, most significantly pointing toward a handful of important characters either dying, or leaving the franchise. No matter what it means, it’ll have massive implications on Phase 4 all the same.
2. An MCU beyond Iron Man and Captain America
As the MCU soldiers on, it’s worth looking into the current contracts of its two biggest stars: Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. In the case of the former, Evans is signed on for six total films, with four already in the can (two Captain America’s and two Avengers). That makes his final two films Avengers: Infinity War, and the untitled sequel releasing the following year. For Downey, his contract is more movie-to-movie, while his $40-50 million price-tag per film makes him increasingly more difficult to secure down the line.
So who will take over the mantle of the two de facto leaders of the MCU? Benedict Cumberbatch certainly made a strong case in Doctor Strange, and as such, it’s not all that crazy to envision him leading the Avengers in Phase 4.
3. The potential for Black Widow
It hardly seems fair that every one of the original Avengers has their own standalone film, while Black Widow and Hawkeye continue to exist on the periphery of the franchise. Black Widow especially has an intriguing origin story, having been brought up in a covert Russian program intent on training young girls to be super-weapons for the KGB.
Interestingly enough, Kevin Feige himself admitted that “the (movie) creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is Black Widow,” setting the stage for a long overdue Phase 4 debut.
4. We might finally get an Inhumans movie
The saga for an Inhumans movie has been a long one. The film was originally slated for a November 2018 release, which would have put it right in the thick of Phase 3. It was then pushed out to 2019, before a new Indiana Jones film put it on hold indefinitely.
Marvel then changed strategy, instead turning the Inhumans into an ABC show that premiered in fall 2017. Unfortunately for the studio, the show has bombed critically and didn’t fare much better in ratings. Still, the characters have a compelling backstory, so some fans are hoping that the studio will move forward with the film version. Perhaps in Phase 4?
5. ‘Anything is possible’
Part of the beauty of having much of Phase 4 up in the air is the sheer breadth of potential. Right now, Marvel can move in any number of directions in the post-Infinity War MCU, and they’re well aware of this. When asked by Collider what he envisions for Phase 4, Kevin Feige admitted, “I think anything is possible.”
He went on to note how a mix of new standalone movies and sequels has proven to be a solid formula for success, and that we can expect more of the same moving forward. Beyond that, the sky truly is the limit for Marvel.
Who knows what the state of audiences will be in 2020 concerning superhero franchises. Whatever it is, it’ll be up to Feige and company to adjust accordingly in order to keep things fresh and interesting.
6. More character-driven stories, and a few ‘unexpected team-ups’
Part of what makes a great comic book movie is the way in which it shows us the human side of our hero. Phase 4 will be doubling down on that in a big way too, with Feige telling Vulture how “it’s less about continuing to go bigger with spectacle … and more about continuing to go deeper with those character interactions.”
He goes on to tease at a good deal of “unexpected team-ups” in Infinity War and beyond, outlining how the interactions between different heroes will drive much of the thematic weight. By the time 2020 rolls around, odds are a return to basics will be what people want more than big-budget CGI spectacles.
Thankfully, Phase 4 will be there to give us just that.
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