Marvel Studios, in a surprise twist reminiscent of the end credits sequences their movies are now famous for, has released a sizzle reel trailer celebrating their filmography while also offering glimpses of what is to come.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the gold standard that film franchises are built on. But after its monster hit Avengers: Endgame saw the end of the journey for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark aka Iron Man culminating with the epic battle against Thanos, the bar has been set very high.
How can Marvel Studios top that initial 10-year success? The Marvel Phase 4 sizzle reel gives us a hint of the answer to that question. Read on for the details!
Stan The Man
The surprise Marvel Phase 4 trailer begins, appropriately enough, with the man who started it all. Stan Lee, along with legendary artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and many others over the years, forged the characters and storyline that would become Marvel Comics. Thus, it is fitting that the creator, fondly given the nickname "The Man", ushers in the next stage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his familiar voice:
I love being with people. It’s the most incredible thing in the world. That world may change and evolve. But the one thing that will never change, we’re all part of one big family. That man next to you, he’s your brother. That woman over there, she’s your sister. We’re all part of one universe that moves ever upward and onward to greater glory.
Stan Lee always approached the stories in the Marvel Comics superhero line with a viewing to being above people overcoming their foibles, becoming greater than they were. The idea of a global family and everyone’s place in it has always been a cornerstone in these stories, whether it’s about individuals like Iron Man and Spider-man or groups like the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. Lee’s voiceover here echoes that essential part of the Marvel storytelling method.
As Lee’s voiceover runs, the audience is treated to scene highlights from previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from Phase 1 through 3. But as the old scenes run their course, the second purpose of the Marvel Celebrates the Movies sizzle trailer comes to light: confirming the projected release dates of the Phase 4 movies, as well as provide hints at a few possible (but unconfirmed) future projects.
The solo outing for Scarlet Johansson’s Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, has long been delayed. The film had been previously scheduled as early as mid-2020. However, due to the COVID pandemic and other industry and internal issues, the Black Widow film has had its release date pushed back multiple times.
With the new Marvel Studios sizzle trailer, the final release date for Black Widow has been confirmed as July 9, 2021. The story will explore an untold chapter of Natasha Romanov’s life between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, as well as her early years as a Russian secret agent. Black Widow also stars Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Simu Liu stars as the titular Shang-Chi, Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu. The film is taking a few creative choices with the story. For one, the Mandarin is set up as Shang-Chi’s father. In the comics, his father is the classic antagonist Fu Manchu. However, due to licensing reasons, this was dropped. For convenience, the Mandarin is used as the replacement father for Shang-Chi.
Interestingly, this would also be the first time the "real" Mandarin would make his appearance in the MCU. Infamously, the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 played by Ben Kingsley was revealed to be an actor just using the Mandarin’s moniker. However, a later short film revealed that there is an actual Mandarin behind the Ten Rings terrorist group.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been revealed to have a release date of September 3, 2021. The film will also star Akwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, and Rosalind Chao.
The Eternals is one of the more obscure properties in the Marvel Comics stable. The Eternals are a race of beings created by Celestials through genetic manipulation to possess vast cosmic power. Created by Jack Kirby in 1976, the Eternals was presented as being the inspiration for legendary and mythological figures, particularly the Greek gods. It is likely the upcoming film will explore this element of their back story, similar to how the Asgardians are actually an extradimensional alien race that inspired the Norse mythologies.
The Eternals is directed by Chloe Zhao, starring Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Ma Dong-seok, and Kit Harrington. It is scheduled for a November 5, 2021 theatrical release.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
The last MCU film intended for a 2021 release is also one of the most anticipated. The full title of the third Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures collaboration for the web-slinger was revealed to be Spider-Man: No Way Home last February 24. What has not been revealed thus far is the full breakdown of the plot.
It is rumored that it will involve elements of the Spider-Verse, which intends to bring in and establish previous Spider-Man films as being part of the MCU’s Multiverse. Speculations run high that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will reprise their versions of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. However, the specifics have not been leaked, other than Jamie Foxx and Alfred Molina returning as a version of their previous roles as Elektro and Doctor Octopus.
Directed by Jon Watts, the Spider-Man: No Way Home film’s confirmed cast includes Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jamie Foxx, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Alfred Molina. Spider-Man: No Way Home is targeted for a release of December 17, 2021.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will directly tie into multiple other Marvel Studios projects past and present. As the name indicates, this will be the first full-fledged exploration of the Multiverse, with the alternate realities of the MCU providing the hook. The upcoming Spider-man: No Way Home film and the recent Disney Plus exclusive series WandaVision are intended to directly lead to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
In fact, it was expected that Doctor Strange was to appear in the finale of WandaVision, but that proved to be a false assumption. Regardless, the ramifications and consequences from that series would be one of the central themes of the upcoming film, particularly with Wanda Maximoff now fully accepting her destiny as the Scarlet Witch.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Benedict Wong. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film will arrive in theaters March 25, 2022.
Thor: Love and Thunder
After Avengers: Endgame, the future of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor was in a state of flux. The Asgardian survivors had settled on Earth and Thor went with the Guardians of the Galaxy to outer space. With Thor: Love and Thunder, it is likely the thunder god will be coming back and, as revealed in 2019, would involve Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster taking the mantle and wielding the hammer of Thor. In the comics, a cancer stricken Jane Foster was deemed worthy to lift Mjolnir during the period that Thor was unworthy and was simply called Odinson.
It has also been revealed that Christian Bale would be playing Gor, the God-butcher. With the surprise inclusion of Russel Crowe to the cast, speculations have come up that the story will revolve around the other pantheons of the MCU. Given the release schedule, could the Eternals also be involved?
Thor: Love and Thunder will star Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Christian Bale, and Russel Crowe. Directed by Taika Waititi, it is targeted for a release of May 6, 2022.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The tragic and untimely death of Chadwick Boseman left the Black Panther film franchise in a conundrum. With the massive response to the first film and Boseman’s T’challa playing key roles in other MCU films including Avengers: Endgame, the idea of replacing the actor was deemed inconceivable. However, the comics did have established plotlines where the mantle of the Black Panther was passed on. Although it has not been confirmed, it is likely that this will be the case, with Letitia Wright’s Shuri stepping into the Black Panther role.
Regardless of the film’s actual plot, we now have confirmation of what the title will be. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be helmed by returning director Ryan Coogler. Although the cast has not been confirmed, it will likely see the return of Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, and Winston Duke. The film is scheduled to be released July 8, 2022.
The second of the surprise revelations from Marvel Celebrates the Movies sizzle reel trailer is The Marvels film. It will be a sequel to the Captain Marvel film, with Brie Larson returning to the role. Aside from Carol Danvers, the film will also bring in Teyonnah Parris as Monica Rambeau (who was featured in WandaVision) and Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel (debuting in the upcoming Disney Plus series).
In the comics, Rambeau was actually the first female Captain Marvel after the original Kree hero Mar-Vell perished. The Marvels film logo cleverly incorporates the symbols associated with both heroes. Meanwhile, Kamala Khan adopts Carol Danvers’s original alter ego Ms. Marvel. No word yet on what the plot will be beyond the three superheroes teaming up.
The Marvels will be directed by Nia Acosta. Starring Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani, it will be released on November 11, 2022.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Initially intended for a 2021 release, the third installment of the Ant-Man film series was another instance of being delayed due to the pandemic. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will further explore the possible universes found through the quantum realm. With the introduction of the time traveling Kang, the Conqueror included, it is very likely the story will also have that theme.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania brings back Peyton Reed as director and casts Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeifer. New to the series are Kathryn Newton (playing Cassie Lang, replacing Emma Fuhrmann) and Jonathan Majors (as Kang, the Conqueror). The film will be released on February 17, 2023.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol.3
The third entry to the Guardians of the Galaxy side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a major stumbling block. After the second movie in 2017, Disney distanced from director James Gunn after backlash from old controversial posts on Twitter came to light. Gunn went on to direct for Marvel’s biggest rival, DC Comics/Warner Bros. for The Suicide Squad.
However, Disney and Gunn have patched their differences and Disney brought the director back to helm Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 which started filming in 2019. Details for the third film in the series are scarce, but there will be a prelude titled Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special as a TV production (an homage to the notoriously reviled Star Wars Holiday Special).
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 stars Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, and Sean Gunn. The James Gunn-directed film is aiming for a May 5, 2023 release date.
Although the revelation of the release dates of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 films were the meat of the sizzle reel trailer, the hints at upcoming and unannounced projects are what gained the most attention.
First, the most obvious was the tail-end of the trailer with the blue emblazoned "4" logo. Although it is possible that this is simply indicating that all the movie snippets and release dates are for Phase 4, the design is obviously a dead-ringer for Marvel’s Fantastic Four symbol. With the Fox movie division’s acquisition by Disney in recent years, the Fantastic Four property has been on the radar since then.
However, the early 2000s Fantastic Four films were considered only okay (and the second one even hated by some fans) and the later Fant4stic film was a critical and commercial bomb. It is very likely the new Fantastic Four film will be a complete reboot to keep it in line with the MCU’s current standards of quality and consistency. It should also be noted that the current slate of Phase 4 films run only to the end of 2023. Could the Fantastic Four film be aiming for a 2024 release?
The second, but easily overlooked, Easter Egg is the presentation of the Armored Avenger and the Green Goliath. If you look at it closely, it is not Tony Stark’s Iron Man depicted but the War Machine armor, piloted by James Rhodes (played by Terence Howard in Iron Man and by Don Cheadle since Iron Man 2 and onwards). Armor Wars was announced as a Disney Plus project. Could this be a hint of that or something else entirely? And as for the Hulk, there have been rumors that there might be a solo feature film in the works for Mark Ruffalo’s take on the Jade Giant.
With Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now set in stone, what could the immediate future hold? As The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has just concluded, how might the upcoming Loki stand-alone Disney Plus series interconnect with the rest? Who will be the main villain that ties the plotlines together? Keep your eye out for more as we continue our coverage of Marvel Studios' MCU Phase 4 and beyond!