Marvel have been playing it characteristically close to the vest when it comes to the shape of their cinematic universe post-Avengers: Endgame. The fourth movie in their juggernaut crossover franchise is likely to serve as the end of the line for some of the team’s founding members, meaning that there are myriad possibilities for what could come next.
I’m not going to pretend that I have industry contacts leaking me exclusive information, but from past MCU trends and announcements I’ve made an educated guess at what Marvel’s next phase could look like.
Spider-Man: Far From Home | July 5th 2019
Director: Jon Watts (confirmed)
Far From Home is the only phase four film that we know for a fact is on its way. Despite recently turning to ash, Marvel’s world-famous web-slinger will be back for another adventure in the summer of next year. Homecoming‘s Jon Watts is back to direct this sequel, for which we can probably expect a trailer sometime in the next month.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 | November 2020
Director: Travis Knight (rumoured)
James Gunn’s firing and the resulting outcry threw the third Guardians movie into a state of utter disarray, but I’m confident that the film will still make it to screens. The previous two entries made roughly $800 million each, so there’s too much money on the table to just abandon the project entirely. It’s unlikely to meet its original release date, but the script is complete and ready to start shooting as soon as a director is found. Bumblebee helmer Travis Knight has denied rumours that he is in talks for the job, but it’s possible that he’s been told to keep his mouth shut until Marvel holds their inevitable phase four press conference.
Black Panther 2 | February 2021
Director: Ryan Coogler (expected)
After Black Panther made well over one billion dollars this year, it’s a safe bet that Marvel will fast-track a sequel. Equally, they’ll probably want to keep Ryan Coogler on-board as the man who delivered the studio their first genuine awards contender. A February release date is possible given how well it served the first film, but there is a chance it could be promoted to summer movie status.
Doctor Strange 2 | November 2021
Director: Scott Derrickson (confirmed)
Scott Derrickson was recently announced as returning to direct the as-of-yet untitled Doctor Strange sequel, which industry pundits are expecting to hit sometime in 2021. I’ve penciled the film into November because generally Marvel keep their franchises tied to the same month for each installment. After playing a brilliant role in Avengers: Infinity War, it’s quite likely that the Master of the Mystic Arts has gained a number of new fans this year, which bodes well for the box office takings of this second outing.
Black Widow | March 2022
Director: Chad Stahelski (dream choice)
At least one founding member of the Avengers looks set to be sticking around after Endgame. Scarlett Johansson has secured a $15 million salary for starring in an upcoming Black Widow solo movie, with Captain Marvel co-writer Jac Schaeffer currently penning the screenplay. It’s very likely that Kevin Feige will find a female director for the movie, but personally I think he should enlist the talents of John Wick‘s Chad Stahelski. I have no doubt that he could deliver some incredible action sequences with the character.
Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu | August 2022
Director: Gareth Evans (dream choice)
Screenwriter Dave Callaham was recently hired to write the script for a movie starring Shang-Chi, a kung-fu master who made his first comics appearance in 1973. As China becomes an increasingly dominant box office force, it’s no surprise that Marvel wants a franchise that caters to an iconic part of the country’s culture. No director is attached at the moment, but the obvious choice is Gareth Evans who has done incredible work with The Raid and its sequel. Shang-Chi is at risk of seeming a little underpowered in comparison to other members of the MCU, so it’s vitally important that his action sequences show everything that the character is capable of.
Giant-Man and the Wasp | October 2022
Director: Not Peyton Reed (hopefully)
Ant-Man and the Wasp was a solid success at the box office this year, but didn’t see a boost as significant as other MCU sequels. I blame that on Peyton Reed, who directed one of the safest and least-ambitious Marvel movies in recent memory. I hope that Marvel realises this too and finds someone fresh to take the reins of the third (and likely final) movie. A shift in focus towards Scott Lang’s larger persona could also help generate a little more interest from audiences.
Avengers: House of A | May 2023
Director: Jon Favreau (random choice)
This is where my speculation ventures into fan-fiction territory, but I do think this is a cool idea and a genuine possibility as to where the MCU is headed. With the introduction of the shape-shifting Skrulls in March’s Captain Marvel, many have speculated that an adaptation of Secret Invasion is on the horizon. It’s quite likely that is the case, but I don’t think Marvel will dive straight into it with Avengers 5.
Not only will they want some time to move their pieces around the board and introduce some new characters, but also there’s a risk that Secret Invasion may seem too similar to Infinity War from the perspective of casual audiences. Instead, I’m pitching House of A, a new twist on the famous House of M storyline written by Brian Michael Bendis and published in 2005.
That story sees the Scarlet Witch suffer a mental breakdown, completely changing the fabric of reality for a short time before depowering the majority of the mutant population. Of course, there aren’t any mutants in the MCU (yet), but this story could quite easily be changed to end with Wanda stripping the Avengers of their powers instead.
Given the traumatic events of Infinity War and the loss of her brother in Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch has been under a huge amount of mental strain in recent years. All the while, her powers have been growing more and more substantial which I refuse to believe is a mere coincidence.
Honestly, I couldn’t think of anyone to direct this movie. The Russo brothers have confirmed that they are moving on after Endgame and it would be good to let someone else try their hand at an Avengers movie. In the end, I picked Jon Favreau. In a way, he’s the father of the Marvel Cinematic Universe having directed the first Iron Man movie. Admittedly, the sequel isn’t highly regarded but that seems to be more the fault of studio interference than Favreau himself.
Plus, he’s still a major player at Disney, serving as director of their live-action Jungle Book and Lion King movies, as well as showrunner of Star Wars streaming show The Mandalorian. I think he has what it takes to keep the crossover series alive.
Fantastic Four | September 2023
Director: Brad Bird (obvious choice)
By 2023, the Disney-Fox merger will likely be complete, meaning Marvel Studios will once again have ownership of the Fantastic Four. In the unlikely event that Feige uses my idea, the First Family could gain their powers (or perhaps return from a long adventure) in the wake of House of A.
Not only could this give them the opportunity to immediately step up to the plate against a threat that the Avengers would now be powerless to confront, but also the scientific prowess of Reed Richards could well be what gets the Avengers their powers back.
Personally, I was not a fan of The Incredibles 2 but it’s difficult to argue with its box office results. As a man who has good experience with both Disney and super-powered families, director Brad Bird would be the obvious choice for an MCU incarnation of the Fantastic Four.
It seems likely that Marvel will hold their phase four press conference sometime between the release of Avengers: Endgame (24th April 2019) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (5th July 2019), at which point we’ll assess if these predictions were anywhere near correct.