Instead of what has been done at past panels at San Diego Comic-Con–having a panel for each or just a few major projects–Marvel Studios exec Kevin Feige was on-hand to get several announcements out the door and as many key cast members in and out of his single panel as possible.  For the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase IV, that means tying in Disney’s (pay) streaming service with the movies.  The big takeaway?  New logos are pretty much all there is so far to share, plus key casting and timing announcements.  And although the last Phase had some changes along the way, it looks as if these ten projects will round out the entirety of Marvel over the next few years.  The biggest frustration for fans of the X-Men and Fantastic Four is why nobody at Marvel has been getting a head start on these two massively popular teams of characters–money is definitely going to be left on the table for the duration of Phase IV by pushing out these projects.  Why aren’t these Priority #1 with someone at Disney in light of the long lead-time the corporation had for the Fox acquisition?

The new time table is straightforward: Black Widow movie (May 1, 2020), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV series (Fall 2020), Eternals movie (November 6, 2020), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie (February 12, 2021), WandaVision TV series (Spring 2021), Loki TV series (Spring 2021), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie (May 7, 2021), What If…? animated series (Summer 2021), Hawkeye TV series (Fall 2021), and Thor: Love and Thunder movie (November 5, 2021).  The most eagerly awaited film after this year’s Avengers: Endgame was the hinted-at Guardians of the Galaxy/Thor or Asgardians of the Galaxy team-up movie, but Marvel still has not confirmed that project, unless it’s tied into the 2021 film.  Also relegated to “in development” status: Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and the next Tom Holland Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man is Iron Man’s replacement, right?).  Silence seems to confirm the death of the Marvel Netflix universe of Luke Cage, The Punisher, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist, and maybe even Disney+ projects Runaways, Ghost Rider, and Helstrom.  FX’s Legion was already announced as canceled, and we lost track of how many times The New Mutants movie has been pushed back.  Even bigger unknowns are the next Ant-Man and The Wasp, which had Hank Pym actor Michael Douglas already discussing it as a prequel, and if anyone is thinking about Prince Namor the Submariner, nobody is talking.  It begs the question:  Does Disney have too much to handle now?

As a beginning Disney’s Marvel side seems to be taking a lead from its Star Wars division, with its offerings targeting a mix of fans old, new, and in-between.  For the fans of the MCU so far you have plenty, a Black Widow (presumably prequel) and Thor movie as bookends for Phase IV, and TV series to keep alive Falcon, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Loki, Doctor Strange, and Hawkeye.  For new audiences (and possibly much older comic book readers) there is Shang-Chi and the Eternals to get to know, along with the announcement that Luke Cage’s Mahershala Ali will be playing Blade in a reboot movie at the beginning of Phase V, the vampire hunter who, like Spider-Man, has already seen an entire series of movies outside of the MCU.

The details are an eclectic mix of things you might want, things you didn’t know you want, and things you won’t know what to make of:

Finally, Scarlett Johansson gets her solo movie, Black Widow Clearly an eleventh hour film, long, long overdue, it should have had its place in Phase III.  Directed by Cate Shortland with a script in the works by Nicole Perlman, Jac Schaeffer, and Ned Benson, it will co-star David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle, and Rachel Weisz.  It reportedly just began filming, and is scheduled for release in theaters May 1, 2020.

The TV MCU tie-in begins with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, bringing back Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan as the titles characters, and Daniel Brühl as Zemo, last seen in Captain America: Civil War.  It will be streaming exclusively on Disney+ and it’s scheduled for release Fall 2020.

The strangest of the bunch goes to Eternals, directed by Chloé Zhao, with a big cast: Salma Hayek (Ajax), Angelina Jolie (Thena), Richard Madden (Ikaris), Kumail Nanjiani (Kingo Sunen), Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos), Lauren Ridloff (Makkari), Lia McHugh (Sprite), and Don Lee (Gilgamesh).  It is scheduled for release in theaters in late autumn, November 6, 2020.  So far this sounds an awful lot like the Inhumans series.

Another odd choice from the far corners of Marvel Comics is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.  The cast includes Simu Liu as Shang-Chi with Awkwafina, and Tony Leung Chiu-wai as Mandarin, formerly “only kinda sorta” played by Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3.  It is scheduled for release in theaters February 12, 2021.

Benedict Cumberbatch returns to the big screen in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, which will tie-in Elizabeth Olsen′s Scarlet Witch character.  Scott Derrickson, director on Doctor Strange, will return.  It is scheduled for release in theaters May 7, 2021.

Tying into the Doctor Strange sequel is the curiosity WandaVision, a TV series starring Elizabeth Olsen and bringing back Paul Bettany as Vision and Teyonah Parris as an adult Monica Rambeau from Captain Marvel.  This sounds a lot like DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.  It will be streaming exclusively on Disney+ and it’s scheduled for release Spring 2021.

Also in Spring 2021 Tom Hiddleston will return in the TV series Loki Loki, who is not dead after his getaway in Avengers: Endgame, will likely show audiences what happened after he phased away.

Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…?, will be the first animated series in the MCU, with Jeffrey Wright as the voice of The Watcher, plus other actors from across the MCU reprising their roles.  This will stream on Disney+, scheduled for Summer 2021.

Jeremy Renner confirmed his new TV series, Hawkeye, borrowing the comics logo, will introduce character Kate Bishop to the MCU.  It will streaming on Disney+ in Fall 2021.

And to round out Phase IV, Thor: Love and Thunder will have the return of director Taika Waititi, plus a shake-up of sorts as Chris Hemsworth′s Thor hands Mjolnir over to Natalie Portman′s Jane Foster, as envisioned in the 1970s by Donald Glut and Rick Hoberg in the pages of What If…? and re-introduced a few years ago by writer Jason Aaron.   As we saw at the end of Avengers: Endgame, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is the new King of Asgard, and she will be searching for her new Queen.  Will Thor: Love and Thunder make its scheduled release date in theaters November 5, 2021?

It all begins with Black Widow next May.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg