In addition to next month's theatrical release of Thor: The Dark World, Disney and Marvel Studios have two films in post-production for release next year, and two films in pre-production for release in summer 2015. After that, there are unannounced projects with release dates already locked down in 2016-17 that fans won't learn more about until next year.
One of the potential properties that could see an introduction after The Avengers: Age of Ultron closes Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the long-awaited live-action adaptation of Black Panther, a character who's been namedropped by Marvel execs repeatedly in association with Marvel One-Shot short films and early development on future feature films. As the franchise continues to expand, the realization of Black Panther on the big screen has seemingly become an issue of when instead of if.
During the press junket for Thor: The Dark World, Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige was asked by BlackTree TV about Black Panther and whether or not it's happening.
"In terms of Black Panther, it's absolutely in development, and when you have something as rich as Wakanda and [Black Panther's] backstory - and clearly, Vibranium's been introduced in the universe already - I don't know when it will be exactly but certainly we have plans to bring him to life someday."
Vibranium refers to the powerful metal that Captain America's shield is made from - it's a fictional element that's only found in the African land of Wakanda where Black Panther resides.
When it comes to the unannounced projects coming in 2016-17, the safe bets would be on sequels to Captain America and Thor taking the May opening weekend slots of each summer, followed by new properties in Doctor Strange and The Inhumans. Feige's been saying for a month or so now however, that they're still deciding on what projects make the cut and perhaps won't finalize the production slate until early next year. We do know from talking to him ourselves that the second movie in each of those new years will in fact, be a new property.
Feige previously went on record revealing that Doctor Strange is going to be part of Phase Three after Ant-Man, and as for The Inhumans, it can serve as a quasi-sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy while also playing into the bigger picture plans we talked to Feige about in relation to The Avengers 3. Unless either the Thor or Cap threequel is going to be delayed until after The Avengers 3 (likely in 2018), these four projects seem to be the most likely choices for the studio as 2016-17 releases.
Based on everything we've heard since The Avengers broke box office records around the world last year, we're therefore not sure there's room in Phase 3 for Black Panther, but since we know Marvel Studios has roughly planned out movies up until 2021, there's plenty of opportunity down the road to bring the king of Wakanda to the big screen. Speaking with Fandango, Feige hinted that they may even have early plans beyond 2021.
"Realistically, [we've planned] just into the beginnings of [phase] three, in terms of practicality. In terms of pipe dreams, we've talked about [phases] four and five, but that's just sort of wishful thinking."
A growing topic of discussion in the press as Marvel promotes their plethora of projects is the need for diversity in leading characters. Characters including Black Panther and Ms. Marvel will help address that issue, and bolster The Avengers roster in a good way. And with contracts expiring on many of the franchise's biggest stars by the end of Phase 3, Marvel will have to start rotating the roster of Avengers with new characters.
If Black Panther were put on the fast-track by Marvel Studios, which other film should be pushed back until Phase 4?
Thor: The Dark World releases on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!