Marvel Studio’s Phase Four: New Movies with Surprise Characters, Old Characters, New Possibilities!

Round-up of all the news regarding plans by Marvel Studios for their Phase Four films along with Fox and Sony as well.
Baby Groot

(Spoiler-free for those who haven’t seen “Avengers: Endgame”.)

This is a hugely exciting time to be a Marvel Studios fan. With “Avengers: Endgame”, we are just about at the end of Phase Three, the culmination of 23 movies starting with Iron Man in 2008. As we recently learned from Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, the real end of Phase Three will be Sony’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home”. Along with a new slate of movies, Phase Four will see a major expansion not only with the addition of the Fox characters (X-Men, Deadpool, Fantastic Four) and Sony characters (Spider-Man, Morbius, Venom, etc.) but also a huge number of projects on new streaming platforms. Here, we’ll concentrate on the cinematic component of the expanding universe, with a companion article covering streaming.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: This should have been on the schedule for 2020 but due to the firing of director James Gunn, the movie was put into limbo while Marvel attempted but failed to find a new director along with trying to quell dissension amongst its entire cast who supported Gunn. Finally, Marvel relented and hired Gunn back and the movie is back on track, but now for 2021.

The Eternals: This is a surprising choice given the relatively obscure nature of this comic book created by Jack Kirby in 1976. Although the book was not successful sales-wise and the plot was always confusing, the book burst forth with brilliant imagery and intriguing concepts. The book was canceled with Issue #19 before the story could be wrapped-up; subsequently, many including Neil Gaiman have wrestled with this property over the decades with varying results. In basic terms, beings called The Celestials came to earth a long time ago and created the heroic Eternals along with the villainous Deviants, affecting the course of human history and giving rise to superheroes. Or something like that.

I’m betting the magicians at Marvel Studios can craft something coherent out of this while exploiting Kirby’s spectacular visual world to full effect. Chinese director Chloé Zhao was hired as the director with Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani as stars, with filming starting later this year. Fun Fact: Thanos is considered to be an Eternal, although of a Deviant strain from Titan.

From the Eternals #3, art by Jack Kirby.
Art by Jack Kirby.

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu: Cashing in on the kung-fu craze of the early ’70s, Marvel Comics acquired the rights to the pulp villain Dr. Fu-Manchu and decided to introduce his son, Shang-Chi, who fights bad guys including his father. The character was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin (also creator of Thanos) and debuted in 1973, running both in his own comic book and magazine until the kung-fu craze ended. Since that point, Shang-Chi has been a somewhat obscure character which per Marvel Studios logic makes him ripe for introducing to moviegoing audiences. Plus if they do it correctly, he should appeal to the massive Asian market that’s starting to outgross North America. Filming should begin at the end of this year.

Special Marvel Edition #15 featuring The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, art by Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin.

Black Widow: Although Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was the first female superhero to appear in a Marvel film, it was Captain Marvel who was the first to get a movie of her own. Word is that a Black Widow movie is next, although some issues from “Avengers: Endgame” need to be resolved (trying not to spoil). There is hope they’ll fill out the film character’s sketchy background which is much divorced from her comic book incarnation (where’s the Russian accent?). Australian Kate Shortland will direct.

Fox – X-Men, Deadpool, Fantastic Four: Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox put X-Men, Deadpool, and the Fantastic Four under their control but so far, no word yet on whether they will join the Disney Marvel Universe. “Dark Phoenix” which is opening soon, has been referred to as the last of this run of X-Men movies which started with “X-Men: First Class”. To me, that’s fine since they’re already recycling the Dark Phoenix storyline from 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand”. I do like the current cast; however, they may decide to start fresh. There’s no doubt they’ll produce another Deadpool movie (with more Rob Delaney, please!). However, they can’t seem to get Fantastic Four right (what the hell was that last one?). I’m hoping they’ll go back to the original comic book and set it in the Kennedy-era with Sue Storm wearing cute Jackie-esque outfits. “The New Mutants” is a seemingly troubled production filmed two years ago with the release date recently pushed back by Disney to April 2020. Also, it was announced the long in development “Gambit” has been canceled.

Sony – Spider-Man, Morbius, Venom: Along with Spider-Man, Sony has been keen to exploit the character’s deep bench of villains and allies, having already produced “Venom” to great financial success and now filming “Morbius” with Jared Leto. Rumors are that Kraven the Hunter, Black Cat, and Silver Sable are next. Personally, I want them to stick with Spider-Man and go back to the storylines from his original comic book run, starting from “Amazing Fantasy #15” through to perhaps Issue #200 of “The Amazing Spider-Man”. To me, that was the longest and best run of great writing, characters and events in Peter Parker’s history. A TV show would probably be the best vehicle for that and maybe that’s being considered? Yes?

Black Panther 2: Unannounced but inevitable due to the blockbuster grosses of the first film, earning over $1.3 billion dollars worldwide. Its success was a huge shock to Hollywood and most likely Marvel itself, showing that doing something different can pay off in a very big way, that people will come if you give them a good movie. It was also a huge surprise to comic book fans, who had seen the character struggle ever since his debut in 1966 (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) to remain published on an ongoing basis.

Captain Marvel 2: Also unannounced but another shoe-in given that it’s grossed over $1.1 billion thus far. To me, the movie felt it a bit bland, but audiences obviously didn’t agree and would be up for more. Fun Fact: Brie Larson filmed her scenes in “Avengers: Endgame” before she filmed the Captain Marvel movie.

Avengers: We could easily see another Avengers movie, or at least more movies for their members: Ant-Man, Captain America, Doctor Strange, The Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor. Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Falcon, Bucky Barnes and Loki will get their own streaming series on Disney+.

Secret Wars: In lieu of another Avengers movie, the idea of a “Secret Wars” movie has been brought up. Conceived when Mattel approached Marvel in the early ’80s to create a toy line, “Secret Wars” was one of Marvel’s first crossover events, a promised extravaganza of unprecedented excitement involving just about every Marvel character created up to that time. However, once the first issue landed, we could all see it was a crash. That didn’t stop them from creating a sequel. It could still work as a concept, where all superheroes and villains are transported to another planet by an unknown being, but Marvel would need to work their special magic (and they usually do).

Splash page from Secret Wars #1, art by Mike Zeck.
Art by Mike Zeck.

Blade: So far, there’s been no word on future Blade movies. The trio of films released by New Line Studios was relatively successful, so why not? Not sure who owns the rights, as Marvel is still trying to consolidate the characters it licensed out to other studios.

Hellcat: Last but not least, I’m pushing for a Hellcat movie. Check out my article explaining why.

That’s it for the cinematic universe. Now check out my article on Marvel’s expanding streaming universe, with loads of new programming coming to Disney+ and Hulu.

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