The future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is gradually falling into place - and here are our predictions for what Marvel's Phase 4 could look like in the end. Under Kevin Feige's leadership, Marvel Studios has become increasingly secretive about their long-term plans. Back in 2014, they announced their entire five-year slate at a press event; nowadays, they only reveal a couple of years at a time.
Studios do, however, still need to book release dates in advance. As a result, eager viewers can know when to expect Marvel movies, even though they don't exactly what they're going to be. Disney recently booked Marvel release dates through 2022 and 2023, confirming that the MCU is moving to a four-film-a-year slate. It's unknown whether this will still be considered Phase 4, or instead will reflect part of the MCU's Phase 5. Meanwhile, it's important to note that from Phase 4, the films will count for just half the MCU content coming out each year. Marvel Studios is now working on studio-budget TV shows for the Disney+ streaming service, which will connect to the movies, and thus will have a massive impact upon the MCU's ongoing narrative.
So far, the following MCU Phase 4 movies are confirmed over the next two years:
- Black Widow - May 1, 2020
- Eternals - November 6, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - February 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - May 7, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 - July 16, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder - November 5, 2021
- Black Panther 2 - May 6, 2022
That leaves seven mystery Marvel movies releasing in 2022 and 2023. Here are our predictions of what that full MCU Phase 4 slate will look like.
February 2022 - Deadpool 3
It's only a matter of time before Marvel announce an MCU Deadpool movie. Disney's Fox acquisition means the X-Men and the Fantastic Four are soon to make their MCU debut, and in general, Marvel intend to reboot the franchises completely. Deadpool is an exception, with Marvel and Disney reportedly operating under a policy of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recently teased a meeting with Marvel execs, which seems to hint that there'll be news soon. It's generally believed that Deadpool will continue to be R-rated and lower-budget - increasingly likely after Joker's success with that kind of formula. If so, there's certainly time to get this done for this tried-and-tested February release date.
July 2022 - Ant-Man 3
Marvel is pushing ahead with Ant-Man 3, with director Peyton Reed returning and production due to begin in January 2021. That makes this a pretty easy one to call for July 2022, especially because Marvel tend to keep the same window for a franchise. The first Ant-Man released on June 29, 2015, and its sequel Ant-Man & the Wasp came out on July 6, 2018; Marvel is happy enough with the success of these films to greenlight a third, so they're unlikely to switch things up. It presumably won't be long before details begin to emerge on social media.
October 22 - Fantastic Four
Sometimes known as "Marvel's First Family", the Fantastic Four are quite an easy fit for the MCU, and as such it's reasonable to expect them to make their MCU debut ahead of the X-Men. What's more, the franchise's last failure was back in 2015, meaning there's been plenty of time for moviegoers to forget Josh Trank's strange, mismatched body-horror flick. It's possible the post-credits scene from Spider-Man: Far From Home could have helped set this up, revealing that humans are coordinating with shapeshifting Skrulls on a massive project in space. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where four people involved in this are exposed to Cosmic Rays.
February 2023 - Blade
Marvel has been sitting on the Blade franchise since they regained the film rights in 2012, but they're finally moving ahead after Mahershala Ali called them and asked to play the part. He contacted Marvel fresh from an Academy Award win, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said there was no way he could turn the idea down. Given the studio has such a high-profile actor booked for the starring role, this will probably be something of a development priority. There's intense speculation that Blade could be another R-rated movie, and if so, a February 2023 release date would allow Marvel to stick with more mature content in that particular window after Deadpool.
May 2023 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was originally intended to kick off Phase 4, but matters became more than a little complicated when writer-director James Gunn found himself at the heart of a controversy on social media. Disney first fired Gunn, and then re-hired him, and it's had a profound impact on the MCU slate. The core problem is that, in the period where he wasn't signed up with Disney, Gunn joined up with rival studio Warner Bros. to write and direct The Suicide Squad. He'll be finishing that film first, which will release in August 2021, and will only be free to start work with Marvel again when he's done promoting it. That means Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will drop no sooner than 2023, and it's likely Marvel will want to stick with the May window.
July 2023 - Captain Marvel 2
There's been no concrete news of Captain Marvel 2 - even star Brie Larson doesn't know when it will happen, but Kevin Feige has confirmed it's coming. The first film grossed over $1 billion worldwide, bringing a satisfying end to the longstanding Hollywood myth that audiences aren't interested in female superheroes, and defying vocal critics on social media. It's difficult to precisely place Captain Marvel 2 in the slate, but Marvel may well want to turn it into a tent-pole summer release. Captain Marvel 2 is one of the few more distant film projects to have a clear link to the Disney+ TV shows; Marvel's confirmed that they're working on a Ms. Marvel series, centered around a young Pakistani-American teenager who's inspired by Carol Danvers. It stands to reason that Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan will cross paths.
November 2023 - X-Men
Our final prediction is that November 2023 could be another franchise launch, introducing the MCU's version of the X-Men. One of Marvel's big concerns with the X-Men will be that their films will inevitably be compared to Fox's, and they'll need this amount of time to ensure previous iterations of popular characters - most notably Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, James McAvoy's Charles Xavier, and Michael Fassbender's Magneto - are seen as legacies rather than competitors. Meanwhile, the idea of "mutants" isn't necessarily an organic fit for the MCU, so it may require a bit of setup. Still, speaking at SDCC 2019 Kevin Feige insisted that "there's no time left to talk about mutants, and how mutants fit into the MCU." That means Marvel has already figured out their approach, and we're speculating that November 2023 will see the MCU's mutants emerge on the big screen.