Spanning across 11 years, three phases, and 23 movies, the Infinity Saga marks a truly unique form of cinematic storytelling. We’ve watched as the foundations of this universe were forged in early movies, from Iron-Man being kidnapped by the Ten Rings to Thor’s banishing from Asgard. We’ve witnessed the Avengers forming to protect New York from Loki, only to turn against one another under the pressures of the Sakovian Accords in CAPTAIN AMERICA:CIVIL WAR (2016). Heroes have been avenged, galaxies have been guarded, dimensions have been opened and closed, and time has been travelled through. But now that it’s all over, what comes next?
Each phase of the MCU marks a chapter, often leading to an “Avengers-level event”. As it happens, each phase also serves as an act for the larger saga. Phase 1 introduced us to the Avengers in their individual movies such as IRON MAN (2008) and THOR (2011). This phase culminated in the joining together of the Avengers in THE AVENGERS (2012). Now as we look to the future, Phase 4 will represent a new saga. So, what can we expect?
With SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019) marking the end of Phase 3, and therefore the official end of the Infinity Saga. It is time to look ahead to Phase 4. Luckily, we already have a solid understanding of which movies to expect.
Here is a brief list and description of the MCU Phase 4 movies:
BLACK WIDOW (2020)
This movie, which is due for release this year, will mark the character’s return. Sadly, Natasha Romanov won’t be returning through some magical undoing of her sacrifice on Vormir. Instead, this prequel will explore the character’s actions after the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, taking audiences on a journey into the depths of Romanov’s past, back before she became an Avenger.
THE ETERNALS (2021)
Very little is known about the plot of this movie, but we know it follows an immortal race of beings who have watched from the shadows on Earth, only to step into the light after the events of AVENGERS:ENDGAME (2019). With actors such as Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden taking on main roles, this is certainly bound to be an action-packed tale.
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (2021)
We’ve touched on the Ten Rings in IRON MAN and IRON MAN 3 (2013), but this movie will finally reveal the true identity of The Mandarin. The storyline may be unknown, but expect martial arts and incredible combat scenes, given the main character’s skills in these areas.
SPIDER-MAN 3 (2021)
This movie is such a mystery that the title hasn’t even been revealed yet, although we can imagine that it will include the word ‘home’ in some form. We last saw Peter Parker’s alter-ego being revealed to the public by the Daily Bugle’s infamous J. Jonah Jameson, so it’s safe to assume that we’ll witness the repercussions in this instalment.
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER (2022)
I’m sure we’re all excited to see Taika Waititi and Chris Hemsworth return following the bizarre and comical THOR: RAGNAROK (2017). Hopefully this will also mean the return of the beloved Korg as well! Love and Thunder will also see the return of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). We’ll also see Christian Bale’s first appearance in the MCU as the movie’s villain, not to mention the potential involvement of some or all the Guardians.
DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)
Doctor Strange is becoming a more and more prominent character within the MCU, having now appeared in his own movie, THOR: RAGNAROK, AVENGERS:INFINITY WAR, and AVENGERS:ENDGAME. We’ve touched on the idea of the multiverse in several MCU films, but that’s not the unique thing about this DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) sequel. It’s set to be the universe’s first horror flick! Given the possibilities that exist within the multiverse, it’s not surprising that the occasional nightmarish creature or alternative version may show up.
Now that we’ve covered the movies we know are coming within the next couple of years, we can allow our imaginations to run wild. We can, of course, expect the greats to return. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 (2021) is already in the works, as is BLACK PANTHER II (2022). However, there are some newer opportunities lurking just beyond our view.
With Disney’s recent buy-out of Fox, characters such as the Fantastic, X-Men, and Deadpool are all able to take their place within the ever-expanding MCU. While these characters are likely to take a bit of a backseat, at least for the time being, we can expect hints of their appearance to begin within any of the Phase Four movies. For fans of the previous incarnations of these characters, don’t expect to see Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy returning as Professor X. The only character who will likely remain the same is Deadpool, and let’s face it, nobody could replace Ryan Reynolds!
There are some fun fan theories about who we might be seeing though. Real life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt have been pegged as Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Whether this will ever be the case remains to be seen. It’s been rumored that the Fantastic 4 will make an appearance towards the end of Phase 5, so we still have a long wait until then. But with so much source material to play with, especially given the arrival of these characters to the MCU, who will the next big villain be?
The Next Thanos
Through the Infinity Gauntlet saga, we witnessed the gradual revealing of all the infinity stones. Perhaps more importantly, we discovered the identity of the being hunting them down for rather nefarious reasons: Thanos. Given that we’ve now watched the rise and eventual defeat of this cosmic threat, how will the MCU’s next villain be different?
The only way that Disney can keep the next MCU saga unique, is to find a threat with a completely different approach. We’ve heard fans rooting for Galactus, who we saw in FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (2007). Personally, I believe that we should be looking closer to home for our next villain. We’ve seen Dr. Doom in multiple Fantastic 4 movies, just as we’ve seen Norman Osbourne is multiple Spider-Man movies. But could these characters be given a unique storyline that sets them up as incredibly powerful villains? Or do we need a new threat, perhaps one that hasn’t been explore within superhero movies before?