If you missed the surprise news yesterday morning, the Marvel Cinematic Universe just got a little bigger. Four movies bigger to be exact and we're still pondering what it means for the larger long-form story of the franchise.
Here's the simple part: Ant-Man is getting a sequel titled Ant-Man and the Wasp and it was slotted for release in July 2018, a release date previously held by Captain Marvel, then held by Black Panther. The schedule has adjusted twice now with the additions of Spider-Man and now the Ant-Man followup. Where it gets a little confusing is in the second part of the announcement where Marvel Studios set dates for three (3!) additional unannounced films in 2020.
The updated schedule of upcoming MCU feature films in Phase 3 now looks like this (Note: Black Panther was moved closer to February 2018 and Captain Marvel was pushed back into 2019):
- May 6, 2016 – Captain America: Civil War
- November 4, 2016 – Doctor Strange
- May 5, 2017 – Guardians of the Galaxy 2
- July 27, 2017 – Spider-Man
- November 3, 2017 – Thor: Ragnarok
- February 16, 2018 - Black Panther
- May 4, 2018 – The Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1
- July 6, 2018 – Ant-Man and the Wasp
- March 8, 2019 – Captain Marvel
- May 3, 2019 – The Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2
- July 12, 2019 – Inhumans
- May 1, 2020 - Unannounced
- July 10, 2020 - Unannounced
- November 6, 2020 - Unannounced
Are Marvel's 3 New Mystery Movies Part of Phase 3?
The official press release on Marvel.com detailing these news bits was titled "Phase 3 Update" and nowhere in the announcement is the term "Phase 4" so by that alone we could assume that the 2020 films are indeed part of Phase 3. When we asked someone at Marvel, they didn't know for certain if that was the case however.
It remains the number one question since if Phase 3 does continue all the way until November 2020, than that chapter of the MCU does not end with the Avengers: Infinity War. Perhaps the war itself and the repercussions of it extend through another four films (Inhumans, which was originally scheduled to release before Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2 and three unannounced features). If so, this war could be shown on more fronts and perhaps embrace elements of Jonathan Hickman's game-changing 2012-2015 Avengers runs in Marvel Comics which included the Infinity and Inhumanity storylines where a new cosmic threat emerges and Thanos takes advantage and attacks Earth. The aftermath sees the Inhumans unleash Terrigen Mists all across the world (something we're right now starting to see on ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Phase 2 didn't end with Avengers: Age of Ultron this summer however, and Ant-Man certainly didn't cap off some larger story, instead serving more as a standalone origin tale, so the beginning and end points of each Phase don't necessarily need to be well-defined as such.
If Inhumans or one of the 2020 features is the beginning of Phase 4 however, there's a stronger likelihood that at least two of those new dates could be for sequels to established series.
What Movies are Marvel Planning For 2020?
We suspect Marvel doesn't want to wait more than three years in bringing back the Guardians of the Galaxy after Volume 2 releases in 2017 so Volume 3 or a related cosmic spinoff seems an obvious contender for 2020. Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2 writer and director James Gunn has continually made mention and hinted at the idea of GOTG spinoffs, stating those are the only other movies he could see himself working on in the MCU.
So, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? Nova origin story? Warlock and the Infinity Watch?
The 2020 titles haven't been announced yet because they 1) aren't finalized or 2) too revealing at this stage.
Since Captain America: Civil War kicks off Phase 3 next summer in 2016, we can also envision a fourth Captain America title featuring someone else wearing the star-spangled Avengers uniform (Bucky or Falcon) in Captain America 4. We could also see a followup for Doctor Strange since 2020 will be four years since his debut.
There's also the "inevitable" day where Marvel TV heroes, including the Netflix Defenders (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Punisher, etc.) will appear in the films. Maybe they can get their own film after having their origins explored on the small screen.
We're still unclear at this point on the details of the partnership agreement between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures over the use of Spider-Man but it's a guarantee that there will be more new Spider-Man movies and spinoffs coming after his 2017 re-reboot. Those could fall entirely under the Sony umbrella however, even if they take place in the MCU, and might not be counted on this list. If those future Spidey products are Marvel Studios branded however, then something along the lines of Spider-Man 2/Venom/Sinister Six will absolutely be out in 2020 as well.
We'll learn more as casting and writer/director news trickles in over the next few months, but take this time to share your thoughts and theories on what directions Marvel Studios should explore next!
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange - November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - May 5, 2017; Spider-Man - July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok - November 3, 2017; Black Panther - February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 - May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp - July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel - March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.