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Marvel’s Phase 4 May Need to Be Radically Different After James Gunn's Firing

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3's Delay Creates a Release Date Problem

With production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 delayed indefinitely, Marvel's immediate challenge is to decide what to release in its May 2020 slot. Marvel has changed release dates before, and even dropped entire films from their slate; Phase 3 was originally supposed to include Inhumans, after all. But this one is a little trickier, given that the clock's ticking on pre-production. What's more, assuming Marvel plan to continue their current pattern, we should expect this to be another sequel; the last few years have seen Marvel release two sequels and launch one new franchise every year. That probably means Black Widow is already part of the 2020 slate, along with one other sequel. Doctor Strange director Scott Derickson recently dropped a cryptic comment that suggests Doctor Strange 2 is finally in the works, which could plug the gap.

Marvel Studios currently has three release dates claimed for 2020 releases; May 1, July 31, and November 6. A short-term solution may be to switch their plans around, moving one of their sequels - or possibly Black Widow - to May; this would give Marvel longer to work on a script for a film they probably weren't expecting to be pushing as a priority just yet. But as early May is one of the biggest release weeks of the year, Marvel would want to lead with a banner series like Guardians, adding complications.

Read More: What Marvel Film Can Take Guardians of the Galaxy's Release Slot?

Ironically, Marvel's secrecy about Phase 4 helps a little. The studio had openly announced their Phase 3 slate, meaning it was possible for viewers to track every change in plans. But Phase 4 is a mystery, and the real impact of all this will never truly be known. In fact, while it's generally believed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was intended to be the May 2020 release, that was never officially confirmed.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Was Going to Expand the MCU's Cosmic Future

But it's important to understand that James Gunn wasn't just important for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The unprecedented success of his franchise had persuaded Marvel that Phase 4 should embrace the cosmic side of the MCU. According to Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was intended to "help to set up the next 10, 20 years of Marvel movies." As far back as August last year, Gunn had revealed that "scripts are already in the works... [for] the next iteration of cosmic characters." Feige had even suggested Gunn himself could be involved with some of these projects.

All that means Gunn's departure, and the delay of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, are more than one movie and release date. If Guardians 3 was intended to serve as a launchpad for a whole slew of cosmic Marvel movies, then that entire launch is now delayed. What's more, we don't yet know how long the delay will be; although Marvel want to stick with Gunn's script, they'll still need to find a new director to take over. Given Gunn's popularity among the fanbase - he was well known for interacting with fans on social media - his successor will face a difficult challenge. It may be best to push this entire project back a year or more, in order to let the heat die down a little.

Related: What Marvel Cosmic Movies Should Follow Guardians of the Galaxy 3?

But that means problems for Marvel's long-term plans. Remember, Feige has had meetings about projects all the way up to 2025, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was clearly foundational to these plans. So, while the most visible impact of Gunn's departure is the delayed production of a single film and a change to Marvel's 2019 slate, the real consequence of all this could run on for the next seven years or more.

Page 3: The Continued Impact of Gunn's Firing

Key Release Dates
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
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