Marvel Cinematic Universe phase four: everything we know so far

Obviously 'Avengers: Endgame' was never the end. What can we expect from phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Avengers: Endgame was a big fat line under everything that’s happened in the Marvel Universe so far. Three major characters signed out, and the story that had been building for 11 years was complete. Of course the Marvel Universe doesn’t stop there. We’re about to begin Phase Four, a slate of movies that will see some brand new faces, the return of some old ones and the sort-of resurrection of one we thought was dead. Here’s everything we know so far.

Black Widow

What’s it about?

If you’re reading this, it’s fair to assume you know Black Widow splatted to her death in Avengers: Endgame. So how is she getting a solo film? It’s a prequel, of course, set after the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier. It might seem a bit odd giving Natasha Romanoff a standalone when we know her fate, but this is the Marvel Universe, so you never know when things might dramatically change.

Who’s in it?

Scarlett Johansson plays Natasha/Black Widow, as we know. Stranger Things’ David Harbour will play Alexei Shostakov, described as a Russian version of Captain America, who has a history with Natasha. Florence Pugh (Midsommar) will play Yelena Belova, who has a very close friendship with Natasha. In the comics she’s trained by the same assassin school, The Red Room, as Natasha, and also goes by the name Black Widow. Rachel Weisz will play Melina, another Red Room assassin who’s been the subject of an experiment (sounds like she might be the villain, but that’s guesswork). O-T Fagbenie plays Mason, Natasha’s love interest. Ray Winstone and Olivier Richters have undisclosed roles.

Who’s directing?

Cate Shortland, an Australian director of independent movies, including Somersault and Berlin Syndrome. She has quite an unflashy, raw style so expect something that leans more on the intense psychological thrills of Natasha’s story, rather than one of the silly, light Marvels.

When’s it out?

May 1, 2020

The Eternals

What’s it about?

One of the less well-known Marvel properties, but that didn’t hurt Guardians of the Galaxy. This is the story of an immortal alien race, the titular eternals (godlike creatures with super strength, speed, agility, etc.), who are dispatched to Earth by their creators, the Celestials, to guard them against invasion from an evil alien race, the Deviants. The comic of the same name dates back to 1976 and has had an enormous roster of characters over the years.

Who’s in it?

The cast is incredible. Angelina Jolie plays Thena. In the comics she’s an incredibly intelligent woman, skilled fighter and has the power to make herself invulnerable. Richard Madden (The Bodyguard) plays Ikaris, an eternal who is powered by cosmic energy. Kumail Nanjiani (Silicone Valley) plays Kingo, an extraordinarily good swordsman. Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead) will play Makkari, who is a male telekinetic in the comics. She’ll be the first deaf hero to appear in a Marvel movie. The excellent Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) will play Phastos, an illusionist. Salma Hayek is Ajak, the Eternals’ leader. Don Lee plays Gilgamesh, the strongest of the Eternals, and Lia McHugh plays Sprite, who can make blasts of cosmic radiation.

Who’s directing?

Chloe Zhao, a very little known director whose two releases so far are critically celebrated Songs ‘My Brother Taught Me’ and ‘The Rider’. She has Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand and David Strathairn, due for release soon.

When’s it out?

November 6, 2020

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

What’s it about?

Marvel’s first movie with an Asian lead, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings slightly rewrites the comic book history. In the comics, Shang Chi is the son of evil martial arts genius/criminal mastermind Fu Manchu. Shang Chi, also exceptionally handy in martial arts, acts as an assassin for his father, until he learns he’s actually a baddy. The film will swap Fu Manchu for The Mandarin. Oddly, The Mandarin has already appeared in the Marvel Universe. In Iron Man 3 he was set up as the big villain, but was revealed to be an English actor, Trevor Slattery, who was merely hired by the real villain, Killian, to play a fake warlord. This, we’re told, will be the real Mandarin, who possesses various powers drawn from the ten magic rings of the title.

Who’s in it?

Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) will play the title character, his first ever movie role. He’ll be joined by an icon of Asian cinema, Tony Leung (In The Mood For Love, Hard Boiled, Infernal Affairs), as The Mandarin. Awkwafina, who stole both Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8, will appear in an unspecified role.

Who’s directing?

Destin Daniel Cretton, who has directed films including the excellent, if not widely seen, Short Term 12 and the only ok The Glass Castle. He’s made three movies with Brie Larson, who plays Captain Marvel, so might we expect her to appear? Well, Iron Man used to appear in loads of other Marvel characters’ movies, so maybe.

When’s it out?

February 12, 2021

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

What’s it about?

The sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange. We currently don’t know anything about the movie’s plot but we do know that Marvel says it has horror leanings – they plan for it to be genuinely scary – which sounds very intriguing. The horror possibilities of the weird world of Doctor Strange are considerable.

Who’s in it?

Benedict Cumberbatch will of course return as Doctor Strange. Benedict Wong will be back as his friend and co-worker Wong. Elizabeth Olsen will join the cast to reprise her role as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (the film will apparently tie to events in her upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision). Rachel McAdams is expected to be signed up for the sequel but is as yet unconfirmed.

Who’s directing?

Scott Derickson, the same director as the first movie.

When’s it out?

May 7, 2021

Thor: Love and Thunder

What’s it about?

The big one. The one everyone’s really excited about. After the massive success of the ridiculously fun Thor Ragnarok, Taika Waititi is returning to write and direct a fourth Thor movie. Chris Hemsworth was so keen to work with Waititi again that he signed a new contract after his previous one ended with Endgame. What we know about this one so far is that Thor is no longer king of Asgard. That crown has gone to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who is now looking for a queen (after weakly hinting at it in the last movie, Marvel will now explicitly make Valkyrie bisexual). The biggest news is that Natalie Portman will be returning as Jane, but not as a girlfriend in distress this time. In Thor 4, Jane will (at least for part of the film) become Thor, wielding the mighty hammer. That’s not Ms Thor, or Lady Thor. She’s Thor.

Who’s in it?

As above, Hemsworth, Thompson and Portman are all back. We don’t know if Tom Hiddleston will feature as Loki. He supposedly died in Avengers: Infinity War, but he’s back for a Loki TV series (set in an unspecified time) so maybe this god isn’t dead, on account of being a god.

Who’s directing?

Taiki Waititi, obvs.

When’s it out?

Not for ages. We have to wait until November 5, 2021