Many were expecting, while some were frankly hoping, Marvel Studios to set Black Widow for a Disney+ debut ala Mulan. Prior to Disney’s 2020 Investor Day, this is what fans were anticipating, especially after Warner Bros’ monumental move of all their 2021 films to HBO Max. It’s been no secret that Marvel has set all sights on the booming streaming service, with Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Solider on the horizon. Marvel Studios’ presentation at Disney’s 2020 Investors Day, arguably saved best for last, shed a ton of light with plenty of new reveals. Black Widow was confirmed to stick to its theatrical release date of May 7, 2021, but even those hoping for the opposite couldn’t complain. The Hollywood mammoth shocked casual and die-hard moviegoers alike with a shocking slate, one that leaned heavily towards the “at home” experience without abandoning theaters. New trailers for Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier were just the beginning. Following suit with Lucasfilm and Pixar, Disney+ is going to play a key role in Marvel’s future, for the MCU is laying some of its biggest cards on the streaming table.
The MCU on Disney+
In addition to the already announced Loki, What if…?, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, and Moon Knight shows, studio president Kevin Feige unveiled a whole slew of new programming along with updates on what’s already been announced. Everything pertained to live-action barring What If…?, which premieres next summer on the streamer. Phase 4 of the MCU is going to be the biggest yet without a doubt, something that many didn’t think was possible, or likely, after Avengers: Endgame no less the pandemic.
Feige debuted the first look at Loki, quite unprecedented considering Wandavision hasn’t even debuted yet. Loki follows the infamous, yet famed God of Mischief as he returns for the first time since Infinity War (though it’s not really that same Loki). Tom Hiddleston makes a comeback as the titular character, but thanks to previous events dealing with time travel and such, he gets to return to a more sinister form. The story was originally said to hop between different time periods as the god causes all sorts of trouble within real history, and the trailer confirms all of this deliciously (Loki was D.B. Cooper!). Those who were first skeptical of a Loki spin-off are now eating their words, this truly doesn’t look like anything Marvel has produced. Many have already drawn comparisons to BBC’s Doctor Who, and for once, such comments feel justified. The trailer is full of easter eggs and gives a taste of the MCU debuts of Owen Wilson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The series is directed by Kate Herron (Sex Education) and kicks off May 2021.
Landing next spring, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier revealed a fantastic trailer alongside its official release date of March 19, 2021. The show directed by Kari Skogland (The Handmaid’s Tale) will follow Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, respectively, as Bucky and Sam. Set sometime after Endgame, Daniel Brühl returns as the now-masked Zemo. Bucky and Sam must team-up in order to stop him, while also juggling the responsibilities of leading a world post-Captain America. Originally set to debut in August, the ongoing pandemic has delayed this significantly. Rumors suggested it had to be released after Black Widow because the two were tied together by spoilers. Feige has continuously emphasized how interconnected the MCU films and shows will be, so this notion was believable. But it turns out to not be so true since this series is now releasing roughly a month and a half before Black Widow.
Kate Bishop joins Clint Barton in Hawkeye, starring Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld who, after a popular ‘fan cast’ campaign and months of speculation, can finally be confirmed as the new archer. Additionally, members of the Hawkeye cast include Vera Farmiga, Fra Free, and first-time actor Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez, aka the hero Echo. Phenomenal casting, Cox is deaf and of Native descent, just like Echo in the comics. Marvel sets a great example with this decision moving forward in diversifying their projects. Hawkeye will release in late 2021 with episodes directed by Rhys Thomas (SNL) and the duo of Bert and Bertie (Troop Zero).
Bisha K. Ali’s Ms. Marvel will be treated to a late 2021 release on Disney+. Starring newcomer Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, the show is said to be about relationships and the young hero “figuring herself out.” This series will introduce a new family to the MCU, adding to the already family-orientated Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Another surprise from Feige, with shooting only beginning a mere weeks ago, the first sizzle was released to a great emotional response from fans. Kamala’s MCU debut has been long in the works and it feels like it’s making its way with grace. The series will be directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys For Life), Meera Menon (Farah Goes Bang), and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (3 Bahadur).
Continuing from things previously announced, Feige confirmed that Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) will play the titualr role of She-Hulk in the upcoming Disney+ show of the same name. Fans can sleep well at night knowing that Mark Ruffalo and Tim Roth will be reprising their roles of the Hulk and Abomination. The Abomination hasn’t been seen since the events of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Many have been longing for a rematch between the two, and they just might get it finally but with a twist. Episodes of She-Hulk will be directed by Kat Coiro (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Anu Valia (Love, Victor). Great to see female talent behind the scenes on this specific venture. Feige also played coy during the presentation, stating that since this show deals with lawyers and the law, one never knows which other MCU characters will show up for help. Anyone is on the table, but many, of course, took it as a reference to Daredevil. With Charlie Cox’s Daredevil recently reported to appear in the upcoming Spider-Man sequel, Feige may have planted those exact seeds.
Feige offered new details on Moon Knight, another highly-anticipated series. “The Marvel Studios original series for Disney+ centers on the character Marc Spector aka Moon Knight, a complex vigilante who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. These multiple identities who live inside him are distinct characters in the series and will appear against a backdrop of Egyptian iconography.” A heavy influence on Indiana Jones was also emphasized. Oscar Isaac was reported to be in negotiations to star as the titular character. The series will be directed by Mohamed Diab (Cairo 678), an award-winning Egyptian filmmaker who is famously outspoken when it comes to pressing issues in Egyptian society. The report of Oscar Isaac’s involvement was met with plenty of excitement and criticism. As great as he is, he doesn’t really fit the ethnic background of Moon Knight. It was odd to not have Feige confirm such a big name during the presentation, so perhaps Isaac is still in negotiation?
Now on to freshly revealed projects. Highly speculated and now-highly anticipated, Secret Invasion is definitely one of the more shocking announcements of Marvel’s presentation. Based on the comic-book of the same name, the series will see the return of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos from Captain Marvel. The story was teased to be about Fury fishing out Skrulls who have long invaded Earth. No specifics beyond this were revealed. Though this could otherwise be called Agents of S.W.O.R.D.
Dominique Thorne (If Beale Street Could Talk) will star as the fan-favorite Riri Williams in Ironheart, another new series coming to Disney+. Williams is a genius designer who built the “most advanced suit of armor since Iron Man.” Ironheart was created in 2015 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mike Deodato. She is one of the newer characters to be introduced in the MCU, alongside Ms. Marvel who was created in 2013. No other details on Ironheart were given.
Suit up! Don Cheadle returns as Rhodey in Armor Wars. The Cheadle-led series is in early development at Marvel and will focus on Tony Stark’s worst fear, “what happens when his tech falls into the wrong hands?” Who better than Rhodey to come in and preserve the legacy, possibly also connecting to IronHeart since it deals with Stark tech? Many have wanted Cheadle to have a longer time in the spotlight as War Machine, and the possibilities for this concept are vast in a post-Stark MCU. Now, could Robert Downey Jr. reprise his iconic role in a cameo? Sure, but that’s probably one of the last things on the agenda when Feige has put a clear focus on the brand’s future.
The Guardians of the Galaxy family will now pave the way for two completely new projects for the MCU. The first being The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, paying homage to the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978. This will mark the return of writer and director James Gunn, for its scheduled to premiere in 2022 while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is slated for 2023. The plan is to shoot the special concurrently with the upcoming sequel. This one of a kind special has been in the works for a long time from both Gunn and Feige. Additionally, Vin Diesel returns as Baby Groot in I Am Groot, a series of short films set for Disney+. This collection will feature “several new and unusual characters.” This marks the next MCU series of short films since the fan-loved One-Shot series .
The MCU on the Big Screen
With the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman and the incoming production of Black Panther 2, speculation lit the internet ablaze as rumors flew about how the sequel would deal with his absence. Thankfully, Feige confirmed that Boseman will not be recast and that the team behind the film is working hard to honor his legacy. Ryan Coogler returns to write and direct with a release currently set for Summer 2022. After Boseman’s passing, Coogler revealed that his original script featured the main hero of T’Challa heavily (like many would assume). So one could only imagine how hard he has been working to shape a new story.
Back in August, Nia DaCosta (Candyman) landed the directing gig on Captain Marvel 2. Feige welcomed DaCosta during the presentation and dropped another bomb, two more Marvels are joining Brie Larson for the sequel: Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel and Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau, who is debuting next month in Wandavision. Megan McDonnell, who wrote on that very series, is penning the script for Captain Marvel 2.
Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly return in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania, though no release date has been set. Director Peyton Reed is going to complete his trilogy with Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer also set to reprise their mentor-like roles. In addition to revealing the obvious, Feige confirmed that Jonathon Majors (Lovecraft Country) will play famed Marvel villain Kang the Conquerer. Many still can’t wrap their heads around such a major villain being the foe of an Ant-Man film, but this looks to be shaping up as more of an ensemble piece. Cassie Lang has been given a recast in what is more than likely a bigger role. Emma Fuhrmann who briefly played the character in Endgame has been replaced by Freaky star Kathryn Newton. Somewhat unexpected, Newton does, however, bring more star-power to the role.
Feige confirmed that Christian Bale is playing the villainous Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder. A more recent antagonist first introduced in the comics in 2013. Taika Waititi is returning to direct and write and he’s bringing Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster with him. Bale joining the MCU was reported some time ago, but getting the confirmation just adds to the sweet feeling. Some tidbits on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were acknowledged. Such as the fact that director Destin Daniel Cretton has already wrapped shooting. This should come to theaters in time next year given the industry maintains itself with the pandemic. Feige briefly mentioned Blade starring Mahershala Ali and assured eager fans that the project is coming along nicely in its early days of production.
In combination with the recent announcement of Rachel McAdams returning to the world of Doctor Strange, Feige revealed that Xochitel Gomez (The Baby-Sitters Club) will play America Chavez in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Admittedly, hearing Feige say “directed by Sam Raimi” hits a certain way. He went on to describe Raimi’s vision as “scary, thrilling, and mind-bending.” One of the bigger pieces of news that was casually slipped, the events of Multiverse of Madness will lead into the next Spider-Man sequel. Something that fans have been predicting ever since reports of returning cast from Sony’s past runs on Spider-Man surfaced. So basically, Feige revealed that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man will face the multiverse to some degree (this time for real). This literally comes days after news of Andrew Garfield and Toby Maguire’s return as their own versions of the hero in the upcoming Jon Watts-directed film.
Tying into Spider-Man comes the final shocker. Jon Watts is set to direct the MCU’s first Fantastic Four film. Marvel’s first family is finally coming home, but their plans are currently in early development. Acquired during the Disney-Fox acquisition, this will mark the first use of these newly-acquired characters (at least from what has been revealed thus far). No one frankly expected Watts to join this highly-anticipated project. This next Spider-Man film is more than likely his last, with the future of Holland’s character somewhat being vague at the moment.
So this is what the current state of the MCU looks like. Not counting the Spider-Man sequel (a co-production with Sony currently set for a December 2021 release), this makes for a total of 9 projects next year alone:
- Wandavision (2021)
- The Falcon and the Winter Solider (2021)
- Loki (2021)
- What If…? (2021)
- Ms. Marvel (2021)
- Hawkeye (2021)
- She-Hulk (TBA)
- Moon Knight (TBA)
- Secret Invasion (TBA)
- Ironheart (TBA)
- Armor Wars (TBA)
- The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)
- I Am Groot (TBA)
- Black Widow (2021)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
- Eternals (2021)
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
- Black Panther 2 (2022)
- Blade (TBA)
- Captain Marvel 2 (2022)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (TBA)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
- Fantastic Four (TBA)