Marvel's Inhumans currently has no release date. It was officially undated by Disney and Marvel Studios this week. Why and what that means right now, and what it could mean in the future are something we're going to delve into into here.
First, to clear up some confusion, Inhumans wasn't going to be a part of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe anyway. It was first announced in October 2014 as part of the Phase 3 slate but several major happenings drastically altered Marvel's plans. The biggest of these of course was the beginning of the partnership with Sony Pictures where Marvel was able to reboot Spider-Man within the MCU and give him a new standalone movie in summer 2017. That deal, as Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige pointed out shortly after, was something they always banked on and while they couldn't announce it then, they knew Spider-Man would me a major player in Phase 3. That's important to remember, since it lends credence to the idea that Feige also then knew that the Inhumans were not going to be part of Phase 3 as well.
Secondly, 2015's Ant-Man beat expectations financially and a sequel (Ant-Man and the Wasp) was quickly greenlit and squeezed into 2018, further shifting the non-Avengers movies slated for 2018-2019. With Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp now on the slate, Inhumans was scheduled for theatrical release right after 2019's Avengers: Infinity War Part 2. And while previously, Ant-Man was still the final chapter of Phase 2 even though it wasn't an Avengers-style culmination of the events before it, Inhumans was a project that Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige confirmed would likely move dates and be delayed (Disney planted Indiana Jones 5 in that time frame instead). Couple that fact with the details Disney and Marvel included in their official announcement of the start of production on Doctor Strange months ago, where it specifically stated that Marvel Phase 3 was only nine movies and it became clear: Inhumans, at best, would be the start of Phase 4, except it's not that either...
There's another major point to consider that relates to the inner workings at Marvel but we'll get to that at the end. For now, let's focus on the four release dates already selected by Marvel Studios for unannounced titles. The easy and safest assumption here is that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will take the May 1, 2020 date:
- July 12, 2019 (this date will need to change to the fall because of Indiana Jones 5)
- May 1, 2020
- July 10, 2020
- November 6, 2020
We know Guardians is now a major sub-franchise for Marvel and the three-year gap between May 2017's release of Vol. 2 and May 2020's Vol. 3 fits how Marvel currently schedules productions. The others are less clear but what we're going to focus on is what's going to take the old Inhumans date of July 12, 2019 since clearly Marvel knows what that's going to be at this point even if the date moves to later in the year (which it will). Keeping that in mind may help us figure out exactly what it could be. So, here are some possibilities for Marvel's third 2019 movie if it's not going to be the Inhumans later in the year and we assume Marvel will continue with three releases per annum...
Another Spider-Man Movie
Relaunching Spider-Man (Marvel's most important comic book character) as a part of the Marvel movie family is a massive investment, both in terms of setting a precedent in collaborating with Sony Pictures to share the rights on Spider-Man and attach his world to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in money as well. Marvel is paying Robert Downey Jr. top dollar to have him play a supporting role in it as well. And while Sony gets the distribution rights, Marvel is fully in charge of making the movie and casting it. So yes, not only are Peter Parker and fellow Spidey characters and villains going to be a part of the MCU so to will the be sequels, spinoffs and team-ups.
Maybe that Venom movie Sony is reportedly developing isn't so standalone after all, and - as it should be - it's a part of the MCU as well. It's a property Sony has been working on for a decade with multiple scripts. And after establishing Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War and his own movie, maybe it's time to use some of Marvel's cosmic world-building to bring in another super popular character. Of course Spider-Man is going to get followups and it won't be waiting more than three years to launch another sequel. Count on the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel coming in 2019-20.
More Infinity War
Can the "culmination" of three Phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe really be told in just four or five hours? Dozens of heroes, the big real debut of the Mad Titan Thanos - the ultimate villain of the MCU to date - and a war that includes not only all facets of Earth we've seen in the movies to date, but the cosmic side as well, may need a little more screen time. Or there may simply be loose ends that need to tied up in another followup or spinoff.
After all, Kevin Feige is teasing that Infinity War will serve to conclude the three Phases of the MCU as a "saga," teasing that Phase 4 will be "distinctively different." It's possible Phase 3 becomes 10 movies and the last movie of 2019 is directly associated with Infinity War, giving Marvel's creative execs more room to tell the Infinity War story (Avengers: Infinity War Part 3?). An announcement related to that would be a great way to justify pushing Inhumans back.
On the flip side, if that third 2019 movie is meant to launch Phase 4 (and it might not since it's odd to start a new saga of the MCU with the last movie of the year), it could be another film that simply ties-in and spins off of Infinity War. Think something along the lines Warlock and The Infinity Watch, a series in Marvel Comics that followed Adam Warlock and other characters (many of whom became the Guardians of the Galaxy) after the original Jim Starlin Infinity Gauntlet storyline. The followup to Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War (for which Avengers 3 & 4 takes its name and inspiration) actually had its story interconnected with the Infinity Watch so something like that fits and could take advantage of the popularity of the Guardians.
Doctor Strange 2
Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man were departures from the Marvel norm, even if in reality that may not be entirely accurate, but we can't argue that both were deemed risky or outlandish by many, yet both were big successes and both earned sequels. There's no reason to think Doctor Strange, the first Marvel movie delving deep into magic and alternate realities, won't have sequels too. It's a very important property of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it continues to expand in the future and it's a certainty that Benedict Cumberbatch's time as the Sorcerer Supreme is only just beginning in Phase 3.
Mid-to-late 2019 will be nearly three years after Doctor Strange opens in theaters and Marvel doesn't usually space movies out beyond that time frame. Which leads us to another possibility...
Captain America 4
Chris Evans initially said "no" when offered the role of Steve Rogers in the MCU, but after repeated conversations and negotiating his contract from nine pictures down to six, he of course took the part. And now he says he'd forever regret it had he not taken it. A few years later, Evans was rather insistent that after his contract was up with Marvel, he'd "retire" from acting and focus on his directing - a new passion of his. Again, the actor has changed his tune and now wants to "ride the wave" for as long as possible, extending his contract. He even namedropped a desire to do Iron Man 4 to repay the favor of RDJ appearing in Captain America: Civil War.
Given the early buzz and positive reviews of Captain America: Civil War helping balloon box office forecasts, there's no doubt going to be another Captain America movie - it's a franchise based on a character name that's a mantle instead of one specific person, so Evans technically doesn't even need to be the title character in future installments. For the last few years in Marvel Comics, it's been his pal Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon (Anthony Mackie) serving as Captain America anyway. Perhaps after the cosmic-meets-Earth events of the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, the next Captain America can help ground another Earth-based story for the MCU's Phase 4.
Serpent Society fan poster by Fred Stanton.
Expansion of Partnership With Fox
There's something else potentially in the works, something that even if it were true won't be talked about for a while - a partnership deal between Fox and Disney-Marvel similar to the Marvel-Sony partnership for Spider-Man. If you've been following along on Screen Rant, we've been exploring this topic extensively over the last year:
- Marvel and Fox team-up for two X-Men TV shows
- Did Marvel Get The Fantastic Four Movie Rights Back?
- How Fox & Marvel Can Save The Fantastic Four
It goes something like this: Fox put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, on the Fantastic Four brand with its failed 2015 reboot. It's dead. The sequel's release date was canned, and Marvel Entertainment had already put an end to Fantastic Four comics and FF-related merchandise/licensing in an effort to avoid supporting Fox's movie properties. The value of the live-action rights to FF has tanked due to Fox and Marvel's efforts and similar to how Sony was in a position where they could keeping digging a hole with Spider-Man in his own, limited universe versus teaming-up with Marvel for a bigger universe and bigger money (it's all about shared universes after all!), they didn't really have a choice.
Fox has two options: Keep the Fantastic Four and try rebooting again before the rights expire in 6-8 years, perhaps even doing so within their X-Men movies, or allow them to exist in a world where they interact with the Avengers. The biggest Fantastic Four stories from the comics involve key Marvel characters Fox doesn't own and vice versa, many of the biggest Marvel events involve Fantastic Four characters. By not teaming up, neither studio can faithfully adapt these Marvel Comics stories and for Fox, that's especially troubling because there's no interest in another self-contained reboot. That sort of franchise in the modern movie landscape cannot succeed, especially without the backing of the established MCU. Sony knew this and we suspect Fox knows this too.
With that in mind, Fox and Disney-Marvel are already in talks and have been for a while. They're co-producing a pair of TV shows that were officially announced on Marvel.com. That's a big deal for two companies that seemed completely at odds with each other previously. And on the bigger picture side, Disney and Fox partnered to build an Avatar theme park at Walt Disney World, while also seemingly coming to an agreement on sharing and alternating December release dates for future Star Wars and Avatar movies over the next seven years. That means they're talking, and in a way, working together to each other's benefit. Is it really possible they've then not talked about Marvel movie rights? C'mon.
And that doesn't necessarily need to include the X-Men. They're fine on their own at Fox (even though Deadpool's creative team want to see Deadpool team-up with Spider-Man). Marvel has far more interest in the cosmic characters Fox has been sitting on for two decades and is doing nothing with - characters like Galactus and the Silver Surfer, Annihilus and Kang the Conquerer, and alien species like the Badoon, Skrulls, and Shi'ar.
Why Not Announce it Already?
Because Phase 3 literally has not even begun at the time of this writing. We're still over two weeks out from Captain America: Civil War debuting and there are eight more titled films to come. Detailing Phase 4 would cause too much of a distraction from what needs to be marketed now and in the near future, and would potentially reveal too much about how Phase 3 will play out. And if there's a possibility that that the Fantastic Four or some part of that family of characters is indeed joining the MCU, why not save that huge announcement for when Marvel needs to make another splash in the future?
Right now, Marvel needs to slowly build up their current major score in Spider-Man and save another big-impact announcement (read: game-changer) until they need to up the ante after Avengers: Infinity War which is shaping up to be the biggest superhero film ever.
Inhumans Are Not Dead Yet
With all of this talk about what future of the Inhumans and what sort of project(s) could replace it, this does not mean the property is dead. It's even possible Inhumans simply comes later in 2019 since that July date needs to change to make room for Indiana Jones 5 although if that were the case, that would have been part of the announcement. According to Bleeding Cool, who got it right with their scoops on the X-Men and Fantastic Four Fox/Marvel feud and were correct again on Inhumans being pushed back, they clarified on the latest news of the film losing its release date by adding that the Inhumans movie was only really part of the slate at the request of Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter in exchange for letting Kevin Feige get a Captain Marvel movie.
And of course, these two executives made many headlines last year when reports broke of a shake-up at the top of Marvel Studios. Feige was unhappy and restricted by Ike so Disney reportedly removed Ike from the film division entirely, leaving him in charge of Marvel TV and publishing, allowing Feige to fully command Marvel Studios, reporting directly to Disney boss Alan Horn. That solved issues like paying Robert Downey Jr. enough to get him involved with Captain America: Civil War, since Feige has a direct line and relationship with all of its movie stars.
There's no need for Feige now to keep Inhumans where it was originally released, especially if he's not too invested personally in it. But he did go on record in the last few weeks while promoting Captain America: Civil War to say that it's just a matter of "when" so should Marvel need another team of superheroes to play with, ones that can work in both Earth and cosmic stories, the Inhumans will be there. For now, since there's a clear separation between Marvel Studios and Marvel TV (especially on the ABC side), we're certain Marvel Studios is fine not touching Inhumans anytime soon if the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are - it's already becoming increasingly complex to fold those characters an their stories into the movies.
"...I think it will shuffle off the current date that it’s on right now. How far down it shuffles, I’m not sure yet… No [‘Inhumans’ is not canceled]. it’s a question of when."
While the rumors that called out Inhumans as being in trouble haven't been wrong so far, especially with the movie now nowhere to be found, but on the other side, Kevin Feige wouldn't say it's a "question of when" if it were actually not coming at all. Well... that did happen with Runaways....
What Do You Think?
We want to hear your thoughts!
What movies should launch Phase 4 and will all of the new character solo films in Phase 3 get direct sequels? Do they need to or should bankable team-ups be the strategy going forward?
Is it realistic for Fox and Marvel to share rights on Fantastic Four characters and could they help form the big event of Phase 4? With that in mind, how much more cosmic will Phase 4 be after Infinity War?
Will Marvel TV characters get their chance on the big screen?
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.