Marveling at the Future: Recapping The MCU's Big Reveals

Let's not beat around the bush -- 2020 has been a rough, horrible, God awful, absolute abomination of a year (was that detailed enough of a description?). As such, it would be disingenuous of me to say that getting some surprise movie and entertainment news magically makes everything better. It can, however, give us all something to look forward to as we head into 2021. And last Thursday night, on Disney's annual investors call, that's exactly what we all got from Marvel Studios. Leading up to this event, the expectation had been that we'd receive a few updates on existing projects and learn of maybe a couple new ones at most. What we got, though, was much, MUCH more. Let's dive in, shall we?


Back when Marvel Studios first introduced its plans to incorporate original series into its hugely successful Cinematic Universe, the first show that was supposed to drop on Disney Plus was The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The global pandemic obviously derailed that plan, as filming for virtually all Hollywood projects, including Marvel's, was rightfully halted in the best interest of everyone's health and safety. Truthfully, Marvel's entire 'Phase 4' release timeline was thrown off by this crisis, as the two cinematic projects set to release this year, Black Widow (May) and Eternals (November), were ultimately pushed back to 2021. As it turns out, between big screen and streaming projects, this is the first year since all the way back in 2009 where we won't have at least one new piece of MCU content. There's no use in lamenting over that, though, as we are now less than one calendar month away from continuing this epic storyline that left us with a crazy cliffhanger at the conclusion of 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home. 2021 & '22 are both set to become very big years for the MCU.


Is that enough buildup for you? Cool. But before we get into the announcements from last Thursday night, let's touch on the updates we received on what we already knew was coming. As I alluded to earlier, we're closing in on our first new entry into the MCU in nearly 18 months; however, the timeline has shifted, as it's now WandaVision that will kick off things on Disney Plus on January 15th. Now, does this mean that WandaVision takes place before the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Not necessarily, as we've seen before with Marvel that release order doesn't necessarily mean chronological order (for example: Guardians of the Galaxy volumes 1&2 were released three years apart and with other movies in between, but technically took place within months, if not weeks, of each other). Regardless, it's now WandaVision that will carry the distinction of being the first property outside of the 23 film timeline to be considered MCU canon. You may be thinking, "hey genius, what about the Netflix shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, or ABC programs like Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?" Well, I'm glad you asked; I didn't forget about anything, but according to Kevin Feige himself, nothing that has transpired (to this point) outside of his movies ever happened in the MCU. You may have enjoyed them, but for continuity's sake, they don't exist.


Glad we covered that. So, like I mentioned, we now have a brand new official release schedule for the MCU's 'Phase 4' and beyond, as well as some new trailers and first looks! Let's explore the new timeline first, keeping in mind that it includes both Disney Plus series and film entries. WandaVision, as I covered above, will be released on January 15th. If you're unfamiliar to Disney Plus and considering subscribing exclusively for Marvel content, you should know that it operates differently from Netflix. To the delight of binge watchers everywhere, Netflix drops entire seasons of its original series on drop days. People who are eagerly anticipating these releases can churn through an entire new season (and callously post spoilers on social media) way before breakfast time. Well, Disney Plus doesn't give you that instant gratification; rather, it takes you back to the "old days," where people waited an entire week for a brand new episode of their favorite shows! WandaVision, like all other original programming on Disney Plus, will be following suit, meaning that we will get an episode each week for just under two months (there will be 6 episodes in total).


While it was great to get a new trailer and also have the series' debut date officially confirmed (it had been pushed back more than once), this isn't exactly the breaking news that I had teased you with. Fair criticism, but I wanted to make sure that I covered absolutely everything. So, what comes next, you ask? None other than the aforementioned series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which was confirmed for a March 19th release (and also debuted a new trailer!). Like Wanda and Vision, Sam and Bucky will get 6 episodes to tell their new story, with each installment coming weekly. Marvel fans get double the entertainment in the month of May, as not only will everyone's favorite God of Mischief make his return in Loki (view the new trailer here -- completely forgot that Owen Wilson was cast in this show), but we finally get to see Natasha Romanoff's swan song in Black Widow. Unlike the rest of the properties that are set to release during the first half of 2021, we didn't learn anything new regarding Black Widow last Thursday night. That's fine by me, by the way, as I would rather go into a movie not knowing too much and we've already gotten a few trailers as it is (this movie was supposed to come out more than 7 months ago, don't forget).


But anyway, back to our home viewing updates: an extremely popular series in the world of Marvel Comics that had been confirmed for an on-screen adaptation, What If...?, was confirmed for release in the Summer of 2021 (no exact month has been announced, however, so that could really be anytime from June through August). If you're unfamiliar with the concept, the trailer explains everything, but I'll cover it here as well: this isn't necessarily a "new" entry into the MCU timeline, but rather an interesting spin on how events could have been changed if something (or things) had played out differently. The legendary Jeffrey Wright, who you hear narrating the trailer, is playing The Watcher, a character whose role throughout Marvel Comics is literally to watch events play out and not interfere with them.


Ms. Marvel, which had been previously announced and recently cast its lead character, was confirmed to debut on Disney Plus in late 2021 (again, vague on the exact date, as this could be anytime from September through December, but given what we're about to cover next, I'd say early Fall is a safe bet). Hawkeye, which is presumed to be Jeremy Renner's final MCU appearance as the titular character, was also confirmed to premiere on Disney Plus in late 2021. Given the safe assumption that Marvel won't want its series overlapping with one another, I'd look for Hawkeye to drop either shortly before or just after Thanksgiving 2021. Hailee Steinfeld, who had long been rumored for the role of Kate Bishop, was finally cast within the last month and has been spotted filming over the past few weeks. Also coming out around that time is Eternals, which has been confirmed for a November 5th, 2021 release. Like Black Widow, its release date wound up being delayed by exactly one year. Many fans were hoping that we'd get our very first trailer for this film, but to no avail. The wait continues!


That's not all for 2021 MCU projects, however; we've covered eight thus far (two films and six Disney Plus series), but there are set to be ten entries in total just next year alone. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which was originally supposed to hit theaters this coming February before the world stopped spinning, is set to release on July 9th. It was originally pushed to May, but that release date now belongs to Black Widow. This means, if you're keeping score at home, that Shang-Chi will wind up releasing four months before Eternals does, despite the fact that it was initially set to drop 3 months after it. Does this mean anything in the grand scheme of things? Who knows, and I may have just wound up confusing you more than you already had been before. Sorry about that.


FINALLY, the movie that everyone has been obsessing over lately: the yet-to-be titled 'Spider-Man 3.' Everyone and their mother, including people from previous incarnations of the character, are rumored to be involved in this film. We covered this possibility in a post exactly one month ago (just sayin'!) and, as of right now, the movie is still slated to be released on December 17th, 2021. Depending on when you're reading this post, that's almost exactly one year from now. Fans who were wishing to get more juicy details about this movie probably shouldn't have gotten their hopes up, as it's important to remember that Spider-Man films are still SONY properties at the end of the day (anyone know when their investor call is?!?). However, Kevin Feige still managed to give us all a little something to tide us over, as he did confirm that both 'Spider-Man 3' and WandaVision will tie in directly to Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness (more on that later). While Benedict Cumberbatch's confirmed casting in 'Spidey 3' implies that already, others (including myself) are taking his statement to be our first real confirmation that there could be some "Spider-Verse" themes at play here.

Are you keeping up? Good -- I know, it's pretty exhausting, but also exciting, right?!? So anyway, that was 2021. Yeah, JUST 2021. Marvel has had a lot planned for us post-Endgame, but given the delays caused by the pandemic, we're now getting a ton more than we anticipated throughout 2021-22. Let's dive into 2022 now, which has a bunch of properties set to drop (at least seven, if not more, in total). Like 2021, some things that we had revealed to us last Thursday night were updates on or confirmations of projects we already knew to be in the pipeline. However, some are brand new! Let's break down each of them below:


Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness

Our first MCU property to drop in 2022, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, is set to release on March 25th. Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen had been confirmed for some time to be reprising their roles as Doctor Stephen Strange and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, respectively. It was confirmed on Disney's Investors call, however, that Benedict Wong (Wong), Rachel McAdams (Dr. Christine Palmer) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo) would all be returning as well. The most exciting reveal, though, was the announced casting of Xochitl Gomez, who will play America Chavez. It had been previously rumored that Marvel was looking to cast a Latina actress for this role, but it had not been confirmed, nor did we know when her first appearance would be. The cat's out of the proverbial bag now, though, which has fans even more excited than before for this Sam Raimi directed flick.


Thor: Love & Thunder

We've been getting news on this film little by little over the past few months, including the rumor that the one and only Christian Bale would be joining the cast in a villain role. Bale's involvement was finally confirmed last Thursday night, however, and he'll be playing none other than Gorr the God Butcher! This is an absolutely legendary character from the Thor comics, and I couldn't be more excited to see one of my very favorite actors play him. Jaimie Alexander, who played Lady Sif in the first two Thor films but was absent from Ragnarok, is back to reprise her role in this one. Chris Pratt and Vin Diesel are also confirmed to be returning as Star-Lord and Groot, meaning that we'll get at least a little bit more from our Asgardians of the Galaxy style team-up. And, not that this needs to be confirmed, I'd also like to remind everyone that Natalie Portman is indeed returning to kick some serious ass as The Mighty Thor/Jane Foster. Love & Thunder hits theaters May 6, 2022.


Black Panther II

We knew this movie was still moving forward, despite the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman, but certain details were still up in the air. Kevin Feige confirmed last Thursday night, however, that Boseman's role of King T'Challa would not be re-cast and that the film will find a way to pay tribute to him. Feige went on to say that "Chadwick Boseman was an immensely talented actor and an inspirational individual who affected all of our lives. His portrayal of T'Challa as the Black Panther is iconic and transcends any iteration of the character in any other medium from Marvel's past. It's for that reason we will not recast the character." Feige claimed that in order to honor the legacy that Chadwick helped them build, Marvel Studios would "continue to explore" the country of Wakanda and "all of the rich and varied characters introduced in the first film." Black Panther II is the film's official title and it will once again be written and directed by Ryan Coogler, who Feige said was "hard at work on the film now." There was no word whether Marvel is considering going the same route that Lucasfilm did with Princess Leia following Carrie Fisher's death and using a combination of past footage, audio and CGI in order to portray T'Challa for a (presumed) on-screen death. Whatever Marvel chooses to do, this film is sure to be emotional; it will release July 8th, 2022.


Captain Marvel 2

The fourth and final MCU film set to drop in 2022 stars the phenomenal Brie Larson, who returns as Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel 2, set to be directed by Nia DaCosta. No plot details were disclosed last Thursday night, but we did learn that Iman Vellani, recently cast as Ms. Marvel for the Disney Plus series, would be joining the film. Whether or not this means Larson herself will also cross over into the Ms. Marvel series has yet to be revealed. An adult version of Monica Rambeau, who will be first seen in 2021's WandaVision played by Teyonah Parris, will also be featured. Captain Marvel 2 is set to hit theaters on November 11th, 2022.


Updates On Disney Plus MCU Series...

Finally, we have some series set to hit Disney Plus in 2022. It had been previously reported, but now confirmed, that Tatiana Maslany would be joining the MCU to portray Jennifer Walters in the She-Hulk series. For those unfamiliar with the character, Walters is a cousin of Bruce Banner and receives a blood transfusion from him in the comics. This, unsurprisingly, leads to her receiving the same temper and green complexion as Banner's alter ego, The Hulk. One can only assume that a similar origin story will take place in the show, especially with the confirmation last Thursday that Mark Ruffalo will indeed appear on screen. Also returning for the first time since 2008's The Incredible Hulk is Abomination, played by Tim Roth. While She-Hulk has no official release date, it is expected to release in 2022, along with the Moon Knight series. The only real update was that the series is confirmed to be exploring titular character Marc Spector's struggles with mental health, the first time Marvel has really addressed a theme of this nature on screen. However, no official release date was announced, nor was the rumored casting of Oscar Isaac publicly confirmed.


Okay, I buried the lede deep enough - it's time for NEW STUFF!!! Exact release dates were not announced for any of these new projects last Thursday night, but who cares?!? So, without further ado, let's rattle them off, shall we?


Secret Invasion

Any fan of Marvel Comics had to be absolutely GEEKING OUT at this announcement. While it's uncertain when exactly this series will take place, it will star Samuel L. Jackson as the one and only Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn as the Skrull Talos. No exactly release window is set for the series at this time, but the story itself is something that Marvel has been hinting at for a while. At the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, we see Fury up in space "working" on some sort of secret project (possibly S.W.O.R.D.) with the Skrulls. Talos had been impersonating him, presumably at Fury's request, down on Earth. I assume that we'll find out just how long we've been watching an imposter Nick Fury during this Disney Plus series. How many other Marvel characters have been Skrulls this whole time? We'll likely find that out as well. Crazy!


Ironheart

This is an extremely cool Marvel Comics storyline that I was hoping the MCU would get to eventually, and it looks like they have. While the release date is unknown, we do know that Dominique Thorn has been cast as genius inventor Riri Williams, aka Ironheart. In the comics, Williams develops one of, if not THE most advanced suit of armor since Tony Stark invented the Iron Man suit. What's even cooler? Tony Stark's consciousness servers as Riri's AI (like how JARVIS and later FRIDAY serve as Tony's in the films). Could a certain well-known goateed actor return to the MCU in an off-screen voice role? I'd absolutely love it -- we'll see.


Armor Wars

I'd have to imagine that this series and Ironheart will be closely, if not directly connected. Don Cheadle is returning to reprise his role as Colonel James Rhodes for Armor Wars, which will be released on Disney Plus sometime in the future. This is another classic Marvel Comics storyline about Tony Stark's worst fear coming true: what happens when his tech falls into the wrong hands? This concept was briefly touched upon WAYYYY back in Iron Man 2, when the U.S. Military confiscated Tony's tech, not knowing that Hammer Industries had teamed up with Whiplash to corrupt it. Could Justin Hammer be making his return to the MCU to try it again, or does another famous Marvel villain get a shot at it?


The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Okay, this doesn't appear to be anything that will have big implications on the overarching MCU story, but it could still be a lot of fun. The Guardians of the Galaxy are getting a holiday special directed by James Gunn. Ironically, this will come out before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which we received no real update on last Thursday night (we received no updates on Mahershala Ali's Blade film, either, which isn't relevant to this topic, but I wanted to make sure that I mentioned it). It's not certain if every single member of the Guardians will be appearing in this special, but it's something that James Gunn joked to Kevin Feige that he wanted to do, so now it's here. This holiday special will be released on Disney Plus in December of 2022.


I Am Groot

Like it's companion above, this doesn't appear to have major consequences on the MCU and its future, but for fans of Baby Groot...he's getting his own show! I Am Groot, which was announced to be a series of short films, will show Baby Groot along with "several new and unusual characters." Given that Groot is back to being a 'teenager' now, it's likely that this series won't be Marvel canon, but it will probably be a big hit with Marvel's younger fans! The release date for this series is unknown, but it will be on Disney Plus like all the rest of them.


Also revealed last Thursday night were some updates on future MCU films that had been previously confirmed, including one that EVERY big Marvel fan is eagerly anticipating...


Fantastic Four

We've got a logo! And a director! YES!!! Announced nearly two years ago, Fantastic Four is officially coming to the MCU and will be directed by Jon Watts. If that name is familiar to you, it's because he directed both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Fans have been clamoring for updates on this film for a while now and, while these minor updates won't remotely satisfy them, it's a start. Now, we all wait with baited breath to find out who will be cast to play Marvel's First Family on the big screen (*cough paging John Krasinski and Emily Blunt cough*)!


Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

We knew that Ant-Man was getting a third solo film, but now we have an official title and some other details. Peyton Reed is returning once again to direct the third Ant-Man film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The title suggests that we will once again be exploring the intricacies of the Quantum Realm on the big screen. Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Evangeline Lilly (Wasp), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet Van Dyne) will all return to reprise their roles. Cassie Lang, now a teenager after the events of Endgame, has been re-cast as Kathryn Newton joins the film, replacing Emma Fuhrmann. Jonathan Majors will portray Kang the Conqueror, but we may see him even earlier than this film, as rumors continue to persist that Kang will debut in the Loki series.


Well, that's all, folks! That was a lot to take in, I'm really proud of you for getting all the way to the end here. What upcoming MCU project(s) are you looking forward to the MOST after reading this piece?!? Which of them would you fast forward time just to be able to see? Feel free to sound off in the comments or tweet me (my handle is below).


- Mark (@MarkPiselli13)

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