Much of what happens after Avengers: Infinity War in 2018-19 and during (and after) Marvel’s three unannounced 2020 movies, depends on the next big “events” the Marvel Cinematic Universe will build towards and what characters are needed to deliver upon that. Will Marvel Studios double-down on its cosmic properties and build spinoffs out of Guardians of the Galaxy sequels? Will there be even more Avengers-like team movies? Will new solo character movies get sequels or be folded into larger crossover projects? Is there any chance Marvel and Fox work together to co-produce an expansion of the MCU including the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer? Will future Spider-Man movies and spinoffs made in partnership with made with Sony Pictures count as Marvel Studios productions?
The sheer amount of unknowns at this stage, months out from the beginning of Phase 3, opens the door to many different options going into Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe even if the studio has a rough plan all way up to 2028. As we know from the announcements this year, these plans change frequently, so with that in mind, we’ve gathered 25 film ideas that Marvel could explore in Phase 4 even if they don’t seem plausible at this moment in time. Enjoy!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
A third GOTG film is perhaps the most obvious title to be featured in Phase 4 given the success of the first, the buzz leading up to its followup, and the contracts already in place for its cast. The cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the top growth opportunity for the studio and we suspect there will be several spinoffs on the way on top of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are essentially the cosmic Avengers and one day we’ll see them meet-up with Marvel’s Earthbound heroes, opening up possibilities for familiar faces to join Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) for space-based adventures just as they do in the comics. Thanos is just one cosmic threat and we can promise you many more are out there.
Marvel Studios already announced a sequel to Ant-Man and squeezed it into Phase 3 with a 2018 release date. More importantly, it marks the first feature film from the studio to name a superheroine in its title. With Ant-Man and the Wasp establishing two key members of the original comic book Avengers and there still being another version of Ant-Man from the comics (Eric O’Grady) yet to be introduced, we expect the Ant-Man storyline to continue into and beyond Phase 4.
Marvel can even use sequels to go back in time to tell stories of the original Ant-Man and Wasp and tie it into the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the happenings on TV with ABC’s Agent Carter. And one day, Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie can become a hero too, perhaps even helping lead a Young Avengers team, just as she does in the source material. The Ant-Man and Wasp lineage is a long and varied one, and they will no doubt be a long-term staple in The Avengers going forward.
Doctor Strange 2
Guardians of the Galaxy is just the beginning of the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and next fall, Doctor Strange will be that for magic and mystical side. As one of the most exciting, important, and unique stories coming during Phase 3, Doctor Strange will open doors to all sorts of new realities and villains that the MCU will benefit from going forward.
Not only will Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) become a key member of the New Avengers in the future, but he’ll bring with him a wide array of stories that allow Marvel to explore all sorts of team-up possibilities, ranging from the original Defenders (coming to Netflix) to the Illuminati and other supernatural-based properties More on that later.
Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, who have partnered to merge the Spider-Man universe into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, have yet to give an official title to their Spider-Man solo movie reboot coming in 2017 from director Jon Watts. Spectacular Spider-Man (or whatever it ends up being called) is the beginning of something massive for the MCU and will absolutely lead to endless sequels and spinoffs to come.
It is unclear at this point whether additional Spider-Man movies will fall under the Marvel Studios slate of films or remain entirely at Sony, set within the same continuity, but when it comes to timelines, you can expect with certainty to see more movies based around Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. You’ll also see spinoffs include Venom and Sinister Six and potentially even team-ups just like in the animated series (Nova!). More on those later…
Venom was shoehorned into Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 as a way to sell more merchandise and to take advantage of plans for a spinoff for the alien symbiote. For years Sony Pictures had a script ready for Venom but The Amazing Spider-Man reboot put an end to that. And then when a new Venom spinoff was announced to debut sometime after The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this second version of the franchise was also canned.
Now for the third attempt, Sony and Marvel are working together on Spider-Man and it makes more sense now than ever to get to work on adapting this iconic villain (and antihero) the right way. Venom has many ties to other Marvel Comics stories and brands including Thunderbolts and more recently, the modern Guardians of the Galaxy comics. Venom will be a big part of Marvel’s long-term future.
Producer, writer and director Drew Goddard (Daredevil, The Cabin in the Woods) was ready to go on continuing the story of Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with his take on the Sinister Six, and even even dropped out of showrunning Marvel TV’s Daredevil series on Netflix to do so, only to see the franchise vanish. But there’s still hope.
Goddard may not be working on the Spider-Man reboot even though he seemed like a shoe-in for the director’s chair at one point, but he’s confident there will be a time and place for Sinister Six, a story featuring six different Spider-Man villains working together. With Spider-Man joining the MCU so to are his greatest villains, some of Marvel’s best overall, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Sony and Marvel work together to make the MCU’s first villain-focused feature.
Warlock and the Infinity Watch
Depending on what Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does and whether or not it introduces Adam Warlock as a new member of the team (it will intro at least one new Guardian), the Infinity Watch might be a logical followup for Phase 4. In the books, Adam Warlock is the key to battling Thanos and taking over the Infinity Stones after defeating him during the Infinity War.
The Infinity Watch are formed to guard the Infinity Stones, with each member keeping one for safekeeping. After Avengers: Infinity War in 2018-19, something will need to happen with those powerful artifacts and it’s either adapt this story, adapt a version of the modern Illuminati (more on this later) who also safeguarded the Infinity Stones at one point, or make them conveniently vanish. These MacGuffins however, have been the building blocks and through-line for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe so we don’t expect them to go away.
DC Entertainment has their villain team Suicide Squad coming to theaters next year and Sony Pictures previously had planned a Sinister Six movie. For Marvel, their answer to this would be the Thunderbolts which they can now finally adapt faithfully based on the more modern version of this team since they can use key Spider-Man antagonist Norman Osborn.
Such a story could build off of ideas from the source material including Osborn taking over S.H.I.E.L.D. (still defunct and only existing on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV Show as a small organization) and creating his own version of it (called HAMMER). Osborn even greats his his own Dark Avengers team. Later, as part of the Marvel NOW! comics relaunch from 2012-15, the Thunderbolts began again looking like the image above. And we can see that happening in the movies.
Red Hulk could be introduced in Captain America: Civil War if some extreme fan theories regarding the return of General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) come true, and of course, Elektra (Elodie Yung) and Punisher (Jon Bernthal) are both coming our way in Daredevil season 2 in early 2016. With Spider-Man also now in the MCU so to will Venom eventually be, meaning we already have most of the modern Thunderbolts team. And since William Hurt is returning from The Incredible Hulk, it’s always possible Tim Blake Nelson’s Samuel Sterns – who at the end of that film became the villain known as The Leader – returns to as another member of the modern Thunderbolts.
Black Panther 2
The legacy of Black Panther allows films based on the character (actually a ceremonial title for the leader of Wakanda) to be set in the present or past, but warrior prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is going to be one of the most important members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe beginning next year in Captain America: Civil War.
With ties not only to the Avengers of which he’ll be a part of for the foreseeable future, Black Panther is also a member of the Illuminati (more on that later). When it comes to major crossover events in Marvel Comics, T’Challa and the advanced, secretive African nation of Wakanda are a big part of it. Black Panther brings with him more of that Doctor Strange-esque mysticism, some of the most advanced tech on Earth, and of course, the rare and nearly indestructible metal Captain America’s shield is made from: vibranium.
The fifth Avengers movie won’t be numbered and we don’t even know if it’ll be one movie or spread into two or more parts like Phase 3’s Avengers: Infinity War, but we do know that Avengers 5 is inevitable and that there will be many more. It’s even possible that we see multiple Avengers teams with their own films during Phase 4.
Either way, Avengers is the flagship headlining brand within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it will continue to grow and rotate new characters in as the franchise moves and evolves into Phase 4. It will be the center piece of any major Phase 4 event(s).
Captain Marvel 2
Speaking of new Avengers teams, one of the most important (and powerful) new characters joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Phase 3 is Carol Danvers. Thanks to alien tech, Danvers becomes Ms. Marvel then later takes on the mantle of Captain Marvel (named after the cosmic superhero who could show up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) helping co-lead the modern Avengers in some of their most important missions ever in comics.
Casting Danvers is no easy task since the character will be a face of the MCU through Phase 4 and beyond of the MCU and we wouldn’t at all be surprised if her own film launches direct sequels mirroring that of her self-titled comic runs.
The Inhumans 2
Despite rumors Marvel may be delaying or scrapping the Inhumans movie, we don’t believe that to be entirely the case given their importance in the Marvel universe. So, after the Inhumans are introduced on Earth at the tail end of Phase 3 (even though the race is already featured heavily on TV in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), we can easily see future stories taking their ancient and advanced flying city of Attilan off-Earth as part of future MCU crossover events. See War of Kings and Realm of Kings crossover events for more.
The Inhumans leader Black Bolt, is not only the king of this self-contained super-powered society, but he’s destined to lead the alien Kree empire as well, the blue-skinned aliens featured in Guardians of the Galaxy. And playing Black Bolt might be a Guardian himself in Groot voice actor Vin Diesel who’s confirmed he’s been chatting with Marvel about playing the (ironically voiceless) Black Bolt for Inhumans – so long as the director and script are good of course.
A recently re-designed Spider-Woman costume went a long way to help modernizing Jessica Drew, a character created by Stan Lee in the late ’70s for the sole reason of protecting the “Spider-Woman” copyright from competitors. The powerful superhero has since become a key member of The Avengers over the last decade.
Prior to that, Spider-Woman’s origin has been altered drastically as she popped in and out of different series, but the modern and generally accepted tale sees Drew initially serving Hydra and later, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s space decision known as SWORD, before joining the New Avengers. All of these story bits would allow a Spider-Woman film to bridge the gap between happenings on Marvel TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and in future Avengers movies.
In planning out Phase 1, Marvel Studios commissioned a screenplay for Runaways by Drew Pearce to be directed by Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) but pre-production was canned so Disney and Marvel could focus all efforts on building and launching the first Avengers movie. Since then, while Runaways frequently comes up in planning meetings at Marvel Studios according to its boss Kevin Feige, the film has yet to see new light.
I suggested the property as something that could be adapted to a Netflix style of TV series but screenwriter Drew Pearce explained to me that the way it was envisioned, Runaways needs to be a big budget feature film. Marvel Studios is already starting to inject more youth in the MCU with high school-aged Peter Parker, but they’ll need more than that in the long term. Runaways could be a part of that while also offering the franchise something unique and different, once the franchise has more good villains to build from.
The Incredible Hulk 2
Bruce Banner a.k.a. Hulk returns alongside Thor for Thor: Ragnarok in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This may be the closest thing moviegoers get to a live-action adaptation of the infamous Planet Hulk story from the comics since rumors indicated Hulk will be introduced in Thor 3 on another world that’s neither Asgard or Earth. Perhaps here we’ll see Hulk suit up with some armor and weapons like he does in the books (think of the toys!) but if not, there’s always room in Phase 4 for Hulk to become so dangerous that the New Avengers must send him off-world where he’ll eventually return as a King with his own army seeking revenge, World War Hulk style.
Mark Ruffalo has four more films on his Marvel Studios contract – three after his Thor 3 appearance – but the actor claims his deal could be extended. If we count Avengers: Infinity War as another one or two pictures off his deal, then we’ll definitely see Banner at least once more in Phase 4. Hopefully more. The question is whether or not he can carry his own movie.
Captain America 4
Captain America has stepped up as the new premiere solo character movie series for Marvel Studios now that Robert Downey Jr. is seemingly finished with the Iron Man sub-franchise. And although Captain America’s greatest power might be his ability to lead, hence his ensembles of supporting characters, he’s also more of a symbol than a person.
When he “died” in Marvel Comics after the events of Civil War, his best pal Bucky Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Soldier picked up the shield and suited up in a star-spangled Avengers uniform of his own to continuing fighting the good fight. Since actor Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky in the MCU, has a nine-picture deal and has only appeared twice so far in the movies, it seems all but certain that one day he’ll take up the Captain America mantle from star Chris Evans who previous said he’d retire from Marvel after Avengers: Infinity War.
Of course, Evans has since changed his tune, an easy thing to do with Marvel Studios have new leadership in boss Kevin Feige who’s not afraid to spend to keep talent around, but either way, Marvel has plenty of options to keep the Captain America series going. If not Bucky, or even after Bucky, Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon (Anthony Mackie) can also one day become Captain America and lead another movie, especially since Falcon is the current Captain America in Marvel Comics.
Like Chris Evans and other original Avengers cast members, Chris Hemsworth’s contract ends with Avengers: Infinity War, but Thor and the realm of Asgard are crucial to the long-form story of the MCU. So if Hemsworth doesn’t re-sign for more films, or if he does only in a supporting capacity, Marvel can keep the Thor franchise alive just like they can with Captain America, for Odinson is not the only Thor.
Introduced last year in Marvel Comics was female Thor, later revealed to be Jane Foster who’s played by Natalie Portman in the films. Portman may not be likely to stick around for long in the MCU after her obligations are met but there are other ways Thor can continue as a female character. Rumor has it Thor: Ragnarok may introduce Valkyrie, a powerful superhero who aids Earth’s heroes on many occasions. As an Asgardian who wields badass medieval weaponry, Valkyrie can step up into a similar role. So too could Thor hero Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) or the modern era comic book character of Angela from the tenth realm of Heven (originally crated for Spawn comics by Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane but now a part of Marvel), the first born of King Odin, and future member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. See the opportunities here?
One of the most fan-requested characters yet to be introduced in the MCU is that of Nova. Guardians of the Galaxy introduced the Nova Corps who were depicted quite differently than they are in the comics, serving as guards and pilots for the planet Xandar instead of the galactic super-powered police force Marvel Comics readers know them as.
Still, while Guardians writer and director James Gunn claims that his sequel won’t feature any additional Earth-based characters, he does frequently hint at eventual spinoffs and we can only imagine Nova would be at the top of that list. In Phase 4, Marvel can introduce Richard Rider, Earth’s first Nova, or the more recent Sam Alexander who also features in the Spider-Man cartoons. Young Spider-Man, young Nova… Team-up?
Nova’s another character who can not only help bridge the gap between the Earthly Avengers stories and the Marvel cosmic, but he can help lead the way to future Phase 4 (and beyond) crossover events from the comics that’ll increase in scale beyond our little planet. Check out Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest stories in Marvel Comics for more.
If Nova’s on the way, he’ll need a team. We can see him fight alongside The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, but he’s most known for serving with the New Warriors, a team of younger heroes and subject of much controversy which is what makes this property an interesting and unique one.
For all the grand adventures the New Warriors have been on, fighting with and against Greek gods and various supervillains and magical beings, their most grounded and relevant story might be when they were reality TV show stars – a logical reality given the advent of enhanced beings in the MCU. Filming their superhero antics lead to a skirmish in a suburban neighborhood where one villain’s powers wiped out a section of town, killing hundreds of innocents including children at an elementary school. In the comics, it’s this event that sets off Civil War and the need for superhero registration. While this would have been better served coming before Captain America: Civil War, a similar story inspired by these books could be a relevant one in the MCU.
We mentioned Planet Hulk as a story Marvel can eventually adapt and if so, they’ll need a council of Earth heroes who make the big decisions to protect our planet. They’re the ones who decided Hulk was too dangerous to keep around on Earth. That council would be the secretive Illuminati, more recently depicted in the comics as the New Avengers. Most of the characters that would form this council are about to be introduced in the MCU, including Black Panther, Black Bolt, and Doctor Strange, but to do it right for Phase 4, Marvel Studios may need access to a few characters they don’t currently have the rights to.
Reed Richards from Twentieth Century Fox’s Fantastic Four is the most important one, followed by Namor whose distribution rights are held up at Universal Pictures. Since Marvel and Universal worked out a deal for Hulk, we can easily see the same happening for Namor. After all, Universal has no use for the character on his own and will never adapt a feature film for him. More on that later.
As for the Fantastic Four, Marvel and Fox began mending their relationship recently, after having finalized a deal to co-produce a pair of X-Men TV shows for Fox and FX Networks. We can only hope those talks eventually extend to the studios sharing the Fantastic Four rights so Marvel can make use of them and their cosmic supporting characters. Without them, Marvel is restrained in what key events from Marvel Comics they can faithfully adapt.
There’s no need to only do one Avengers headliner feature per Phase. The Illuminati give Marvel two Avengers properties that can interconnect and build towards bigger events just like they did in the comics leading up to Secret Wars – the biggest Marvel Comics event ever.
Despite rumors that Marvel Studios had worked out a deal with Fox to reboot the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe both studios have denied this to be the case. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen down the road though and given the financial and critical failure of the film franchise in its current state, we believe the only way the Fantastic Four and their roster of supporting characters can flourish in the modern era of comic book movie super franchises is within the MCU.
There, the likes of Reed Richards, Doctor Doom, and Silver Surfer, can have their biggest and best Marvel Comics stories told as they should be – bouncing off of Avengers and other heroes and villains theses characters work with and against. With the studios starting to work together on the TV side, there’s room for the film divisions to benefit by working together as well. And there’s plenty of time (years!) for that to happen before any Phase 4 movies begin production.
Namor fought alongside Captain America during WWII on the Invaders, helped save (sort of) the world as a member of the New Avengers/Illumanti, and is seemingly always in a state of war with Black Panther and the nation of Wakanda. One of the most important Marvel Comics characters whose yet to see any life on the big screen is that of Namor, the Submariner.
Like Hulk, Namor’s rights are partly held at Universal Pictures, but with Universal having worked out a deal for Hulk there’s no reason they can’t do the same for Namor. And for Marvel, looking to expand the MCU into new areas (Guardians of the Galaxy in space, Doctor Strange into magic, Ant-Man into Microverse), the deep sea is a logical next step. After all, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment are doing so with Aquaman.
The Marvel TV heroes will “inevitably” appear in the Marvel Studios films and that chapter of the MCU is only just beginning. Daredevil was a massive hit for Netflix and this fall we meet Jessica Jones and Luke Cage – the latter of whom gets his own series next year alongside Daredevil season 2 (featuring introductions of Elektra and Punisher). After that, Iron Fist is on the way before all of them team-up to form Marvel’s Defenders for a Netflix miniseries.
But that’s not how it was in the comics. The original Defenders were formed by Doctor Strange to protect Earth from extra-dimensional villains and he recruited Namor and Hulk to help out. Even Valkyrie (Thor 3!) and Silver Surfer joined the roster at different points in time. With there being rumors that Marvel TV’s Iron Fist could naturally connect to the equally mystical Doctor Strange movie, it’s possible the Defenders TV miniseries could continue and extend to a feature film, combining TV and movie heroes for another superhero team-up.
Marvel Studios executives and writers have frequently expressed interest in an R-rated film, citing the success of the Blade franchise as an example. Blade of course, is now owned by Marvel and Blade star Wesley Snipes has revealed several times that he’s had chats with Marvel about the potential future of the character in the MCU, and even other roles should that not work out.
With Fox testing out a “Hard R” rating for Deadpool next year and the potential of DC’s Suicide Squad also trying out an R rating, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Marvel Studios try something more adult, just as they’re starting to do on the TV front with their Netflix programming. There’s also a rumor out there that Marvel could be developing a project around Blade’s daughter but either way, a badass vampire hunter who can team up with the likes of Punisher is something the MCU could use. And if Marvel keeps introducing Marvel Knights style characters, including Moon Knight and Ghost Rider, there’s another cool team-up movie waiting to happen…
Like Daredevil, Blade, and Punisher, Ghost Rider is another film license Marvel Entertainment reacquired a few years back meaning no more Nic Cage sequels. Currently there are no plans (that we know of) to bring the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe but given the special effects work necessary to animate Johnny Blaze’s alter ego and his ride, Ghost Rider might be a better fit for the big screen.
Since Ghost Rider’s story has been (sort of) explored already in film, Marvel Studios could adapt more recent Ghost Rider comic book characters Daniel Ketch and Robbie Reyes – the latter of whom drives a muscle car instead of the bike, but there’s absolutely room in Marvel Phase 4 for a Marvel Knights movie where Ghost Rider comes to be after someone sells their soul to a demon. Doctor Strange will open the MCU to that aspect of the comics, paving the way for the supernatural worlds of Blade and Ghost Rider.
Honorable Mention: Iron Man 4
Robert Downey Jr. has always been the outlier when it comes to Marvel Studios’ notoriously stingy and long-term contracts. Since he was the first to kickstart the MCU, RDJ has been able to re-sign with massive, profit-sharing deals for just a few movies at a time. After Iron Man 3, Hollywood’s top paid actor re-signed for two more Avengers movies but later, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige was able to convince RDJ to also come back for Captain America: Civil War – a film the actor helped make possible.
Now with Feige fully in charge, willing to spend, and friendly with RDJ, we can see the actor sticking around even longer. After all, Iron Man seems to be the only constant staple from all the changing Avengers rosters in the comics, and from chatting with Downey Jr. ourselves, he’s embracing the idea of helping support the large universe and in helping shepherd in new characters (like Spider-Man). With more and more new characters getting new movies and sequels, we can easily see Robert Downey Jr. convinced that Tony Stark needs to be in the spotlight again. And after the Avengers movies, the top money maker for the studio is of course the Iron Man franchise. Bring on Iron Man 4.
Of course, such a movie would need to address the “real” Mandarin and his Ten Rings organization, right? There must be more to the All Hail The King Marvel One-Shot.
Share your thoughts on what movies should be included in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
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