Phase 4

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This has been a big weekend for Marvel fans. Not only have we gotten a glimpse into the upcoming slate of movies in Phase 4, but we’ve been treated to some basic plot lines, some innovations, and the first five TV shows that will be streaming on Disney Sploosh.

As you can imagine…I’m basically in heaven. As I sit here, drinking out of my Iron Man coffee mug, I’m in legitimate heaven. Here’s a run down of everything we know, speculations being made, and hypotheses made on my end. LET’S GO.

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BLACK WIDOW. MAY 1ST, 2020. Filming started in May 2019 with a script written by Jac Shaeffer and rewritten by Ned Benson. There’s not much known about the script or the plot, other than it’s a prequel. Because…duh, she dies in Endgame. Nonetheless, I’ve jazzed and hell to see the Scarlett Johansson incarnation of the character have her own movie. I have my own thoughts on the movie and why they waited this long to make it. Personally, I think that Black Widow is more fo a codename (like 007 or Duchess), and can be transferred from person to person. I’d like to believe that the Black Widow character is not leaving the MCU, but we’re going to get a whole new actor to portray her on screen. I think it’d be nice, given the scope of the MCU and how far into the universe it reaches, to maintain a level of humanity. To keep characters involved that aren’t gods or celestials or enhanced or mutated but instead are masters of a particular skill is a great way to maintain a balance of character in this continued experiment of filmmaking. I’ll miss Scarlet for sure, but I’d be happy for a continuation of the character. For no reason other than to have a constant character with fresh life breathed into it. If I were a betting man: we’re gonna be seeing a lot more of Florence Pugh sprinkled about future phases of the MCU.

Directed by: Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome)

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, David Harbor (Stranger Things), Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth), O.T. Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

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THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER. AUGUST 2020. Oh my god, sploosh for a second time, you guys. I will be drained by the end of this article. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are confirmed to reprise their roles as Falcon/Captain America and The Winter Soldier respectively for this series that takes place in the aftermath of the events in Endgame. That’s quite literally the only plot detail we know. In a post-Endgame world, the new Captain America, now capable of flight (hopefully), teams up with he Winter Soldier to do something badass (hopefully). The cool thing about this series is the fact that it also ties directly into Civil War. Daniel Brühl appeared via video at this year’s SDCC in character as Baron Helmut Zemo, because “the living are not done with [him] yet.” Thank the Lord for that continuation, because hot damn I need closure. Emily VanCamp will also return as Peggy Carter/Agent 13 (suspiciously absent from End Game…why was she not included in that gnarly ass all female fight scene…I would have splooshed so respectfully and with great consent).

Directed by: Kari Skogland (Sons Of Liberty, Fear The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead, House Of Cards)

Written by: Derek Kolstad (The mother fucking John Wick series!)

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Daniel Brühl

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ETERNALS. NOVEMBER 6TH, 2020. Here’s where I personally get into some sketchy territory. I know absolutely nothing about The Eternals or Shang-Chi. But if Marvel Studios has taught me anything, it’s that learning about something new isn’t always a bad thing. So it’s time for research. The Eternals are super powered, genetically engineered creations the Celestials. Thanks, Wikipedia! They’re immortal beings who lived on Earth and helped shape its history and civilizations. Thanks, IMDb! Basically what we’re getting here is a prequel about the War of Superiority between the Celestials and the Deviants. Tucked away in there, we’ve got a story (possibly of love) about the relationship between Ikaris and Sersi. I could type more and more about each of the characters, but this is more about excitement for new property and new possibilities of landscape and more galactic influence on the MCU at large. The cast alone is enough to make me want to see this thing. I’m liking the direction. The idea to introduce a new super group akin to how the Guardians were introduced as an ensemble is a wonderful idea. Also, much like the Guardians, I have zero knowledge on these characters or their stories. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and I’m 3000% percent certain that I’m not the only one who couldn’t care less that I know nothing. Bring me new characters. Tell me more stories. Give me new locations. Marvel has stated that this film, along with the upcoming Captain Marvel sequel, is the “perfect transition” into the next phase of films (sploosh #3), and that they’re interested in exploring Jack Kirby’s “immense, amazing epic that spans tens of thousands of years” (sploosh #4). How can I pay for my ticket right the fuck now?

Directed by: Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brother Taught Me)

Written by: Matthew & Ryan Firpo (Refuge, Mimi From Rio)

Starring: Apparently everybody, but more specifically Angelina Jolie (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Richard Madden (Game Of Thrones), Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber), Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead), Brian Tyree Henry (Hotel Artemis), Salma Hayek (Wild, Wild West), Lia McHugh (The Lodge), Ma Dong-seok (Don Lee) (Train To Busan)

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SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE 10 RINGS. FEBRUARY 12TH, 2021. And we dive right back in to more shit that I have no working knowledge of. All I know is Shang-Chi is the first asian led Marvel title, and I’m excited to get a glimpse into a superhero from that part of the world. Thinking about it, we barely have any asian influence save for brief scenes in Seoul (Age of Ultron, Black Panther) and Japan (Endgame). So gimme some of that Asian culture. I want to know how it’s introduced into the MCU. I want to know how the dynamic shifts. Most importantly, I want to know how the shit they’re going to retcon Iron Man 3 and the Manadarin thing (reverse sploosh). If this film can undo that botched representation of one of the greatest comic book villains ever made, and keep it submerged in the Asian landscape I will absolutely sploosh a fourth time for the second time. Despite the death sentence of being released in mid-February (some films do okay there…especially Marvel films), I have extremely high hopes for the film. Based on what little research I’ve done on the main character, it’s going to ball so fucking hard. Let’s. Go.

Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle)

Written by: Dave Callaham (The mother fucking Expendables series)

Starring: Simu Liu (Taken [the series], Kim’s Convenience), Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Monster Hunt 2, Europe Raiders), Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8, Crazy Rich Asians)

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LOKI. EARLY 2021. Okay, just take my money. There’s literally nothing out there about this series save for two bits of information. A) it stars Tom Hiddleston as Loki (duh), and 2) it will follow the VERSION OF LOKI THAT JACKS THE SPACE STONE IN ENDGAME!! Did you hear that? Did you hear the subtle sound of a sploosh? What was easily one of the biggest “what the fuck” moments in Endgame has now become a major plot point in a 6 episode series. Right now there’s no word  on a director or a writer or a supporting cast. I don’t care. I just do not care. Here’s what I care about: I care about exploring the ramifications of Loki stealing the Space Stone. I care about the adventures that follow. I care about the devastation his initial action has on the MCU timeline. And I care about him returning the stone to the proper place in time in order to let everything happen as it was meant to. What I’m excited about is the fact that Loki can be taken back a few steps. He easily died a hero in Infinity War, but at the time of his capture in Avengers he was still a rambunctious little asshole. We get to see his evolution again, with the spotlight focused solely on him. Ugh…uh…uuhhhh…UUUUUUUUHHHHH…..sploosh.

Directed by: N/A

Written by: N/A

Starring: Tom Hiddleston (The only person ever allowed to play Loki for the rest of time)

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WANDAVISION. EARLY 2021. Holy shit, there’s even less known about this series than there is about Loki. We know that Elizabeth Olson and Paul Bettany are returning as the Scarlet Witch and The Vision. Which is yay. We have reason to believe that the show will focus on their relationship, which I always thought was super underdeveloped. As for heavy plot details or a place on the MCU timeline, there’s no clue. But! Oh my god, premature sploosh on this one, this series will directly tie into the Doctor Strange sequel. This means one of two things: The first is that this series takes place before Infinity War, which means Doctor Strange 2 is also on the timeline before Infinity War. I know Strange is a brilliant man, and he’s very aware of everything around him, but when he asks who could find Vision in the opening moments of IW, he seems to already be familiar with the character and his existence. Perhaps they’ve crossed paths before? Perhaps the series that leads into Doctor Strange 2 sets up the events of Infinity War, giving us a behind the scenes look at a cataclysmic event that sets everything in motion. The second theory is that there was a way to revive Vision after Infinity War. I can’t imagine they’d make getting the Mind Stone out of his forehead such a huge part of the story if there was no continuation or possible closure of that particular idea. Unless it was just the writers and the Russos supremely fucking with us, which is a huge possibility. But what I just pitched earlier, about Strange 2 taking place before IW, doesn’t seem likely. It makes very little sense to revisit the world before IW and Endgame when we have infinite possibilities about the world they live in after Thanos was permanently defeated. If Strange 2 does in fact take place after Endgame, then Wandavision has to do the same if it’s going to lead in to the Soccer Supreme’s second outing. But what do I know? I’m just speculating and splooshing wildly. EDIT: okay, fuck everything I just said. Wikipedia states that the events take place after Endgame. Welcome *sploosh* back, Vision.

Directed by: N/A

Written by: N/A

Starring: Elizabeth Olson, Paul Bettany, Teyonah Parris (Madmen, If Beale Street Could Talk)

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DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. MAY 7TH, 2021. Thank you, Jesus. Doctor Strange has needed this for so long. It seems like 4 years is a long time to wait for a standalone sequel, but when you consider the packed Phase 3 lineup, it makes sense. Whatever. I’m jizzed for the sequel. I’m jizzed for the inclusion of Wanda Maximoff, because I could easily watch her in more films because they’ve made her such a badass. I’m jizzed for Doctor Strange to really dig in to the Multiverse. But what I’m mostly jizzed for is something that the MCU doesn’t get enough credit for. They don’t really make superhero films. They make genre films that happen to feature superheroes. The Winter Soldier is a spy/espionage film. Guardians 1 & 2 is a space opera. Civil War is a political thriller. Homecoming is a coming of age teen movie. Ragnarok was a buddy comedy. Ant-Man was a heist movie. Endgame was a time travel science fiction. I could do this for every single movie within the MCU, but these are the ones that really showcase the heart of what the movie is. Multiverse Of Madness has been described the first scary movie in the MCU, hellbent on adding the horror genre to the never ending bag of tricks the studio has cultivated since 2008. So again…while not much is known about the plot or whatever, we know the Doctor and Witch will be in a movie that’s the first of its kind in the shared Marvel Universe. I’m…….I’m splooshing. 

I’m splooshing now…

 
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Directed by: Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange)

Written by: N/A

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olson, Benedict Wong

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WHAT IF…? MID 2021. Let’s be real here. Marvel’s animated offerings are less than stellar. To be a little more real, they’ve kinda sucked. But here’s where play time begins. The What If…? series will be adapted from the comic book story, but will take place within the MCU proper. The idea is that each episode will examine a different pivotal moment in the MCU's history and explore different outcomes, leading the audience into uncharted territory (IMDb/Wikipedia). No news on writers or directors, but we’ve got two years to wait. I think this one has the potential to be the most badass, because it could very easily address plot holes, or it could completely change the way these characters could have developed for better or worse, and it could give the characters more room to grow and completely redefine how these proposed “crucial moments” are viewed in the eyes of fans who have watched and speculated from the very beginning. Jeffery Wright will be the voice of Uatu The Watcher (presumably the one driving the ship), but the best news is that actors from the series are expected to return in order to voice themselves in these episodes. The fact that Marvel has boldly made that announcement, I firmly believe that we’ll once again see RDJ and Chris Evans invoked with the MCU at least one more time, and I think you can guess what’s happening right now. That’s right. Sploosh city.

Directed by: N/A

Written by: N/A

Starring: Jeffrey Wright (Angels In America, Bond 25), Previous cast members of the MCU

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THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. NOVEMBER 5TH, 2021. With this movie, Thor will become the longest running franchise in the MCU, and that’s perfectly fine. This movie is going to give us something brand new. I’m not talking about Valkyrie’s bisexuality. That’s kind of a nonissue for me. I’m talking more about the fact that Natalie Portman is returning because one can only guess that she finally came to her senses, and she’ll wield Mjolnir as a new incarnation of Thor. It happened in the comics, and it was badass. So not only will we have Chris Hemsworth back as the god of thunder, but we’ll have an evolution that will hopefully kick this franchise into an even higher gear. Here are my biggest prerequisites for new plot lines: does it serve the story, does it honor the character, does it belong? Personally, I loved the Jane Foster storyline in the comics. I thought it was cool that Thor became more of a title than an actual name. For a brief moment even Captain America was Thor. I can see what Marvel’s doing. They’re trying to make more diverse stories to include women and the LGBTQ community. That’s all well and good, as long as it’s not shoehorned in there just to appease the people who are clamoring for it. If it serves the story, then by all means show me Valkyrie searching for her Queen. Is making Jane Foster the goddess of Thunder a way to keep the spirit of the character alive for a few more movies and cross overs, to encourage new avenues of exploration for the character, to say “we had a really great way to adapt that story line, and Natalie Portman was so down for the concept that we absolutely had to do it? The fuck yes, make that shit. Is it just another way of saying “hey, women are here too, and if we don’t do this now, we’ll be irrelevant in the near future?” That’s pandering. And no thank you. I can’t believe I have to say this, but as a straight, white male, the sploosh moment for me doesn’t come from the revelation that someone’s bisexual/gay or  a woman. The sploosh moment comes when the character is given the respect they deserve, when the integrity of the character and their history is kept intact, and when the actor breathes honesty into the character. No shoehorning. Please. Make whoever you want anything. Change the race (Heimdall, Flash Thompson), change the gender (The Ancient One), the sexual preference (Valkyrie), I honestly don’t give a shit. What matters is that it serves the role, and the actor is right for the part. Make good shit. And that’s what Marvel does. They make the absolute best shit.

Directed by: Taika Waititi

Written by: Taika Waititi

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Natalie Portman

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HAWKEYE. LATE 2021. Unpopular opinion: Hawkeye is not the worst part of the MCU. That honor is shared by The Incredible Hulk and the Mandarin fiasco from Iron Man 3. I personally believe Hawkeye has been underappreciated, underdeveloped, and wrongfully kept an arm’s distance from becoming a phenomenal addition to the growing universe. There’s massive potential for growth, and I’m happy to finally see the spotlight be put on him. What I’m not excited for is that fact that this series on Disney+ will be about him passing on the mantle of Hawkeye to Kate Bishop. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all great and shit, but I wish we had more time for Clint Barton himself.

Directed by: N/A

Written by: N/A

Starring: Jeremy Renner

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BLADE. TBA. Gonna be real honest with you cats…there’s nothing known about this. I’m honestly shocked that it was included in the announcement because it’s the only film to not have an exact date tacked on to it. But Mahershala Ali is playing Eric Brooks/Blade. That, along with the fact that Kevin Feige has confirmed the film’s in development, is good enough for me. It should also be noted that in October 2016, Kate Beckinsale (sploosh) pitched a Blade/Underworld team up but was shot down because Feige has mention plans to introduce her character into the  MCU. So…sploosh again.


THE FUTURE. There’s so much more coming after all this, guys. Ryan Coogler is confirmed to have signed on to write and direct and Black Panther sequel. After the dumbass decision to fire James Gunn in July of last year, he was rehired to direct Guardians Vol. 3, a film that’s been confirmed by Kevin Feige to be in development. An untitled Captain Marvel sequel is in development as are movies centered around X-Men (sploosh) and the Fantastic Four (SPLOOSH). And assuming that Marvel retains joint rights to Spider-Man along with Sony, they’ve been touting a Peter Parker story that’s never been done before on screen. Another Ant-Man & The Wasp has been discussed, but according to Michael Douglas there’s no formal plan. Regardless…the future looks bright.


FINAL THOUGHTS: To say that I’m excited is a massive understatement. In the announced films we have 4 new properties (I’m counting Widow in that), and only two sequels. I personally can’t wait for the mix of old and new, and I’m jizzed as hell for the future of the MCU. However, there’s something about the Marvel comics that bothers me, and it’s how event based they are. The MCU and Marvel Studios could easily fall into the same trap if they decide to pursue crossovers on a  more regular basis. Unfortunately(ish), there’s room here for Young Avengers, Secret Wars, Avengers vs X-Men and so on and so forth. The beauty of the MCU to this point is their events and heavyweight crossovers highlight the achievements made in each of the phases and stand alone films, and thereby have grown increasingly more special. If we start to have events and team ups all the damn time, the bubble will certainly burst. That being said, I’m not gonna worry about it. Not yet. Marvel Studios has given me zero reason to not trust them, and until I see some shit going sideways, I’ll remain overly optimistic about any plan they throw in my face. Also…gimme a War Machine series on Disney+, because sp-fucking-loosh.


Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to tell you something that I’ve been planning on for a while. As you may or may not know (if you don’t know, you’re an idiot), I’m a hardcore MCU fanatic. This winter, I will have 11 days off from work, and on December 26th I will watch the entirety of the MCU in watch order, from start to finish, at one time. The goal is to stream on Twitch, live tweet the event, and chronicle the whole thing via video. It’s gonna be wild. Something like…what? Three days no sleep? I’m declaring it here and now so I can properly prepare myself for the upcoming phase 4. I’m dedicated. I want this.

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Robbie Clark is a senior writer and contributor at Cinema Soapbox and the Cinema Soapbox Podcast.