What's happening in Marvel Phase Four?
3rd December 2018

How is it possible that Marvel Phase Four is nearly here already? It seems like only yesterday that the Avengers were getting together in Phase One.

Time keeps moving on, and if you thought that the first three Marvel Cinematic Universe phases all blurred into one, Disney is preparing for a major shakeup in the wake of Avengers: Infinity War.

When does Marvel Phase Four start?

The final movie of Phase Three is the untitled ‘Avengers 4’, which is coming in 2019 after Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Infinity War, Ant-Man & the Wasp and Captain Marvel. Yes, Marvel’s slate is going very busy over the next two years.

Avengers 4 completes the Infinity War story and leads directly into Phase Four, which kicks off with the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel on July 5, 2019. And when we say directly, we mean directly – the movie “will start a few minutes after Avengers 4 wraps as a story”, according to producer Amy Pascal.

Which films will be in Marvel Phase Four?

We’ve already mentioned the first movie, ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming 2’ – now officially unveiled as Spider-Man: Far From Home.

The long-awaited Black Widow solo movie is also reported to be in development – finally, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has confirmed Doctor Strange 2 for ‘some point in the future’. As for new properties, it seems that the superpowered beings called the Eternals. Who are the Eternals? Funny you should ask…

Disney has been a bit shy on announcing other Phase Four films, with Feige saying that they will be keeping it that way for as long as possible.

Still, we can make some educated guesses as to what else might be heading our way. Marvel loves a sequel, so we would expect Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2 and maybe another Ant-Man and the Wasp film to be strong contenders for Phase Four.

As for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, James Gunn had announced that it would arrive in Phase Four to complete the trilogy of stories he has been telling about Star-Lord’s team. It was promised to “help to set up the next 10, 20 years of Marvel movies”.

However, thanks to Gunn’s sudden firing, the movie has currently been delayed indefinitely. What its ultimate fate will be remains to be seen.

And apparently Nova is another favourite too.

How will Marvel Phase Four be different?

You probably noticed that we didn’t mention any Iron Man, Captain America or Thor sequels as potential Phase Four films. Speculation as to when the MCU’s biggest stars – especially Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans – will bow out has been a popular pastime among Marvel fans for years now, and Avengers 4 is widely expected to mark the end of the road for several characters.

Feige has hinted that some stories will be coming to an end at the “unprecedented conclusion to a 22-movie overarching narrative”, and Avengers 4 co-director Joe Russo said at Comic-Con that “everything has to have an end at some point in order for it to have value”.

Still, the structure of storytelling established in the MCU is likely to continue for the most part.

“We do know what’s coming,” Feige told io9. “We have ideas of the shape of what’s to come.

“But that structure that you laid out was from the comics, right? Everyone had their individual stories. They meet up for a mega event and they go back to their individual stories changed from that event. I think that’s a wonderful structure that’s worked for decades in the comics, has worked for us now for a decade, so I think it’s a good model. But it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to stick to it in stone.”

Some actors will likely stick around, but we’re expecting major change, with characters dying or retiring (ie Sebastian Stan’s Bucky seems primed to replace Captain America) and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man clearly being set up as a central character as the MCU enters Phase Four.

Meanwhile Anthony Russo teased “radical” changes for Thor, explaining that “he’s gone through a radical transformation, and he’s moving forward in a way where he could never go back.”

“I think the overall mythology will begin to [grow], as you’ve already started to see with Guardians and certainly now with Panther and with Doctor Strange,” said Feige. “I don’t think we’ll ever leave our past behind necessarily, but I think the new elements and the new inroads and, by the way, places that we haven’t explored yet from the comic universe, will become more and more at the forefront.”

The MCU has always had a global aesthetic, but if New York City has served as its nominal centre so far, it sounds as though Wakanda could take its place moving forwards. The upcoming Avengers movies are said to have major repercussions for T’Challa’s newly outed homeland which are likely to spill over into Phase Four in some way. The Homecoming sequel will also take Spider-Man on a global adventure.

We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that Marvel continues to embrace diversity as it moves deeper into Phase Four. 2018’s Black Panther was the first MCU film to centre on a non-white hero, and they’ll be keeping us hanging until 2019, the last year of Phase Three, before finally giving us a female lead in the form of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel.

Popular characters from the comics who could move Marvel away from the white-guys-called-Chris model include long-time fan favourite She-Hulk, the mixed-race Spider-Man Miles Morales, and the newest Ms Marvel – Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager from New Jersey.

Feige has also made noises about the possibility of embracing other genres, such as horror – taking a leaf out of Fox’s more recent and experimental successes like Deadpool and Logan.

And with Disney’s purchase of Fox, there is the potential for incorporating the X-Men and Fantastic Four – somehow – into the MCU, although according to Feige it will be some years before that is a serious consideration, so might not affect Phase Four at all.

Marvel has the material – now we just have to wait and see how it chooses to use it.

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