A global pandemic may have hit the breaks hard on the beginnings of the MCU Phase 4 in early 2020, but even that couldn’t slow down the franchise behemoth entirely. This summer Marvel is headed back to the movies with BLACK WIDOW, and from then on it will be a regular Marvelpalooza of movies (don’t even get us started on the TV shows) from now and throughtout 2023. There are almost a dozen movies set to come out over the next few years, and understandably, there’s a lot to keep and lose track of, but I’m here to make sure you don’t get lost in space trying to juggle all that superhero madness.
Kicking off with Widow, I’ll be moving through the MCU Phase 4 slate, featuring the rest of the movie’s, featuring everything from Shang-Chi later this summer to the new Fantastic Four movie and their release dates, which were confirmed this morning via a lovely video montage. I’ll summarize what all we know and what very, very much we have no clue about, and by the end, you should have a clear picture of what’s on the horizon and when you’ll get to see it all.
Without further ado, get on your best Marvel gear and get reading, and by the end, wonder why I demanded you get dressed up in the first place.
Black Widow (July 9, 2021)
Well over a year after its initial scheduled release date, the Black Widow solo movie (the concept itself a few years late) is seemingly locked and ready to go for this July 9. A notable change of pace from what pundits and fans expect, the movie is debuting simultaneously on the big screen and Disney+ – a move that shows Disney/Marvel decided it’s time to just get this thing out there and shut us all up. After years as part of the Avengers and other character’s solo movies (and then dying), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finally has her own movie, one which takes her back to her roots, her “family” (made up of Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour) and puts her up against other spies trained in the Red Room, as well as the supervillain Taskmaster. Trailers have hinted at a spy-thriller angle like The Winter Soldier, and while it looks like director Cate Shortland and her team pulled that off well, the big question is can the movie validate giving Widow her own movie this late in her arc, especially after, you know, dying.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3, 2021)
The first Marvel movie with an Asian lead and predominantly Asian cast, people have had their eyes on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings for quite some time. The movie from Destin Daniel Cretten would’ve already hit theaters, our Blu-ray shelves and Disney+ if not for the pandemic, but it’s finally here September 3 – and it looks awesome. The first trailer featured no shortage of fast-paced martial arts action and fantastical spectacle, giving Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi a proper introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Widow may be our first trip back into the MCU in theaters after Spider-Man: Far From Home two years ago (!), but Shang-Chi is shaping up to be the epic Marvel showstopper that demands to be seen on the biggest screen.
Eternals (November 5, 2021)
Hype levels were already pretty high for Marvel’s Eternals as a movie taking place in space and featuring a whole new team of celestial MCU newcomers made up of some top-tier performers, but now that director Chloe Zhao is the talk of the town after her historic Oscar win(s) for Nomadland, all eyes are even more affixed on this year’s interstellar Marvel adventure and its handsome cast. We don’t know a ton about the movie, as is expected for a Marvel movie that’s this far from its release (November 5), and the footage we got a glimpse of in a recent preview left far too much to the imagination, but much of that will change as we head into the summer and inch closer to Black Widow’s release, with more and more layers being peeled off what could be Marvel’s boldest movie yet.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17, 2021)
Out of all the movies I’ll discuss on this list, Spider-Man: No Way Home feels increasingly like the black sheep of the family. The previous two solo outings for the web-head have nestled right on into the MCU, but now that Sony feels confident taking the character back for their own usage, this is shaping up to be the last time we see him with any of his Avengers pals. On top of that, the rumor mill is churning double -time what with reports of various Spider-Men and nemesis coming into the fold through one means of a dimensional portal or another. It sounds equal parts awesome and hot mess, and a full-on mash of Sony and Marvel both trying to get something out of a single character for their own purposes. I truly have no idea how this will shape up, but at least Alfred Molina has nothing to lose, which could make for all kinds of entertaining developments.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)
Not convinced Marvel is quite ready to dip into its Multiverse? Well read the title of Doctor Strange 2 and weep! This Sam Raimi-directed sequel (!!) to the doctor’s 2016 solo outing will surely dip into the strange and bizarre of the mystic arts and reveal sections of the Marvel universe that could change how it functions forever. Or maybe it won’t, and the movie will find Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) bouncing around different dimensions, slugging home, climbing into bed and saying, “Never again.” Only the Marvel gods know what madness is in store, but what we do know is Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch will be alongside him for the adventure, bringing some newfound powers with her. The sequel marks Marvel’s 2022 cinematic arrival on March 25, and it could very be an insane time.
Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022)
While Tony Stark gave his life and Steve Rogers gave away the shield, the god of thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still puttering around somewhere in space. The next time we see him he may have shed some pounds and last his burly beard, and the events he goes through will effectively set the stage to hand over the hammer and his sparkle hands to Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. Not to mention, the Guardians of the Galaxy are set to appear, Christian Bale is set to play the villain Gorr the God Butcher, and director/co-writer Taika Waititi said the movie will be crazy in “the very best way,” and others close to the project considering it a sort of “Avengers 5”. So, yeah, if you thought Thor: Ragnarok was pure bonkers, it seems that was just the warm-up.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (July 8, 2022)
The sudden loss of actor Chadwick Boseman left a hole in the entertainment industry that may never be filled, but he left a legacy and series of roles behind that will stand the test of time. With the perfectly titled Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, director Ryan Coogler and the team will do their best to honor that legacy with a story that honors Boseman’s T’Challa and his impact on the MCU. There’s nothing but questions regarding the movie, such as who will take on the mantle of Black Panther, and what the journey will be to get them to that point. Many fingers are pointed at Letitia Wright’s Shuri earning the mantle, as she does in the comics, meaning the movie could act as both a sequel and a sort of superhero origin story for her. With a little over a year left until its July 2022 release, we could know more by the end of the year, with the first promotional material likely to make us all collectively weep.
The Marvels (November 11, 2022)
Not quite the solo Captain Marvel 2 some fans may have been expecting, this newest outing for Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Laron) will have her teaming up with WandaVision’s Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) for The Marvels. Candyman director Nia DaCosta is directing with a script from Megan McDonnell and will supposedly explore what Danvers’ time off-planet meant for characters back on Earth – namely Monica, the daughter of her best friend and fellow airman, Maria. Other than that, just reliably little to go on at this point, but things should start to come into a much clearer picture when Ms. Marvel hits Disney+ later this year.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (February 17, 2023)
Kicking things off in 2023 is the third run in the Ant-Man series, which based on the title, sounds like it will further explore the Quantum realm that was used heavily in Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Endgame. Director Peyton Reed hinted at a much larger story this time around, with the main cast of Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer reprising their roles. Switching things up, Kathryn Newton will join the MCU to play Lang’s (Rudd) daughter Cassie, after being played by Emma Fuhrmann in Endgame. Perhaps the most exciting development so far is the confirmation of Jonathan Majors joining the movie as the uber-villain Kang the Conqueror, with many believing this movie will be the link to the Fantastic Four entering the MCU given his relationship to the superhero team. Other than that, we don’t know a ton, and given the release date, it may be a while before big news breaks.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5, 2023)
Production of this movie was thrown into a tailspin when Disney fired James Gunn as director back in 2018, leading him to take on this year’s The Suicide Squad, and ultimately have him come back on later that year (it was announced in March 2019). Between all that business and the pandemic, the latest adventure for the Guardians will have taken about six years to get the screen after 2017’s Vol. 2. But with Gunn likely having big plans in store for what will essentially be the conclusion of this iteration of the team (at least as it’s made up now), we can expect something very bold and very emotional in store. With that in mind, it won’t be the next time we see the team in action, with them set to appear in Thor: Love and Thunder and their own holiday special later next year.
Fantastic Four (Date Unconfirmed/Mid-Late 2023)
The only movie of Phase Four without a set release date or confirmed cast, the only thing we really know about this movie is that Spider-Man director Jon Watts will be at the helm and that it will mark Marvel’s First Family’s debut in the MCU after a series of lackluster-to-abhorrent entries from Fox. Wish there was more to be said, but aside from the rampant fan-casting for John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as Reed Richards and Sue Storm, there’s really not much more to discuss. Actually, not even that needs to be discussed and preferably stopped right this instant.