By Jack Dignan
With so many news reports on it lately, and Phase Three just one week away from kicking off, it seems only right that I share with you all my predictions for what comes next. The Marvel films are some of the biggest money makers of all time, the fan base always ecstatic to see their favourite heroes up on the big screen, myself included. What started in 2008 with Iron Man has now evolved into twelve movies, all critical and box office successes, some more so than others.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is split into phases, each of them building up to a big event, usually an Avengers movie, although Phase Two changed that slightly. Phase One began with Iron Man, shortly followed by The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. The following year kicked off Phase Two with Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and finally, Ant-Man, which was originally intended to be the start of Phase Three.
Over the next three years, Phase Three will be underway, kicking it off with the game changing Captain America: Civil War, which hits Australian theatres in just one week. From there, we get Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 and finally, Inhumans. The roster is bigger than ever before, continuing old stories and starting new ones, but where this universe goes after that is a mystery, Kevin Feige giving hints, but never saying anything specific. Here's where I think the films could go.
The Obvious Choices
It is highly unlikely that my guesses for Phase Four will be the final lineup, but that doesn't mean I won't be completely off. For instance, Marvel love to do sequels. They don't like to use their characters in one-off storylines, but would rather continue their story and flesh out their characters, usually over the course of three solo films and a handful of other appearances. With that in mind, sequels to some solo movies are practically inevitable, so the following films are rather obvious choices for Phase Four.
Doctor Strange is set to hit theatres this October (or November in some countries) and after our first teaser last week, things are looking good, but that is to be expected with Marvel. The film sees Benedict Cumberbatch taking on the role of the sorcerer supreme, a neurosurgeon who's in a car accident that breaks his hands, making him unable to fulfil his job duties. Strange goes in search of the Ancient One, where he not only regains the ability to use his hands, but also gains a few magical powers as well. It's hard to say where a sequel may go, seeings as how we hardly know what's going to be happening in the first film, but with several decades worth of material to go off of, it's rather likely that Marvel will be following this film up, sooner rather than later, especially if the film gets raving reviews.
Fans have been after a Black Panther movie for quite some time now, and he's due to appear in Captain America: Civil War next week, so I'm sure that'll gain him a tonne of new fans and potential readers. In 2018 he will be getting his own solo movie, directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station), whose last two movies were beyond brilliant. Based on the reception of his inclusion in Civil War, and the talent behind his solo movie, Black Panther 2 is going to be a likely addition to Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I have a strong feeling this first Black Panther movie will predominantly take place in T'Challa's home, Wakanda, so a Black Panther 2 could likely see the character going back and forth between Wakanda, which was first seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron last year, and somewhere a little more mainstream. Again, it's really too early to predict plot points, but a sequel is probably going to be happening.
It's the comic nobody read, but the movie everybody loved. Guardians of the Galaxy took a lot of people, myself included, by surprise. They were a bunch of c-grade characters not many people had heard of, but with James Gunn in the directors seat, the film was chaotic fun and unlike any Marvel movie we'd seen before. Vol. 2 is currently filming, and I have no doubt this second installment will be a bigger hit than the first, so a third film is practically inevitable. Vol. 2 is set to introduce the character of Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff, and Chris Pratt's Star-Lord has been confirmed to be appearing in one or both of the Infinity War movies, so when it comes to Vol. 3, anything goes. Avengers crossovers seem unlikely, and I like how distant this series feels, but maybe a change of the roster will be in order, especially if Star-Lord decides to stay and help The Avengers after making his appearance. Could we see a new character take the lead? It seems unlikely since Chris Pratt is such a household name, but Marvel have proven that they'll get us to watch anything, and the comics have worked without his character, so it's not impossible.
Captain Marvel (AKA Carol Danvers) is set to appear in her solo movie in 2019, the second female led Marvel movie after Ant-Man and the Wasp is released the year before, but even then, that movie is only co-lead by a female, so Captain Marvel should be something special. We're yet to hear much about the movie, not even casting, but it is three whole years away so there's still plenty of time. She may not be the most well known superhero around (yet), but I have strong faith that this movie is going to be a smash hit. Not only is her character extremely interesting, but it's going to be the tie-in between the two Infinity War movies, presumably leading into a significant event in the second movie, so it's a film fans are not going to want to miss, and a sequel may be appearing late into the fourth phase, if all goes well.
He's one of the biggest superheroes ever, and now that he's finally back at Marvel, there's no way they won't be using him to his full potential. He's unsurprisingly meant to be the standout aspect of Civil War, and with Spider-Man: Homecoming being released next year, we're going to get the Spider-Man we deserve. The plot is still very hush hush about Homecoming, but I have complete faith in it, and yes, the title continues to grow on me. It's going to be something different and fun, and I think Spider-Man could even go on to work as a potential leader of the Avengers in future instalments, given how well he sells movies. As for the sequel, there's plenty of story arcs to choose from. Vulture is rumoured to be appearing in Homecoming, so I feel like someone along the lines of Carnage could make for an interesting follow-up, and with the growing popularity of Spider-Gwen, I wouldn't be surprised if she makes an appearance in the not-too-distant future, or maybe even Black Cat, who is also a fan favourite.
With the obvious choices out of the way, it's time to get into some other films that could potentially make their way onto the big screen. Phase Four has been hinted at as being a brand new saga, Phase Three wrapping up the whole Infinity Gauntlet storyline and giving some of our favourite characters a sendoff, so with Phase Four, they're going to have to change things up for the best, and these are the films I think have a strong possibility of happening.
Ant-Man was a better movie than any of us were expecting, even the biggest of Marvel fans. Many even liked it more than Avengers: Age of Ultron, and after seeing both of them numerous times, I can sort of see where they're coming from. One of the coolest moments in the film was the post credit scene, which featured Hank Pym taking his daughter, Hope van Dyke, to see a new suit he's made for her. "It's about damn time," she says, a smile on her face, and she's right. It is about damn time. We will first see the character suited up in Ant-Man and the Wasp, coming out in 2018, and if the character gains enough appeal, a solo film could be a possibility, and with the ambiguousness of her mother's fate (her mother was also the Wasp in the comics), the film could even see two characters try on the suit. By the time Phase Four comes around, Ant-Man would've appeared in five different movies, and while it would still be cool to see him helping out, The Wasp is a character interesting enough to continue this story, and hey, she might even make an appearance in Infinity War, which would be awesome.
Marvel has never been one to shy away from the sci-fi side of things. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of their biggest hits, the original Avengers movie saw Iron Man flying off into space, Thor: The Dark World took place almost entirely on other planets and Thanos, the big bad guy they've been teasing for four years now, is most certainly not from Earth. I am particularly fond of the character of Nova, a teenager chosen at random by an alien species to go up into space and inherit a bunch of cool powers. In the comics right now, Nova is a kew member of the All-New, All-Different Avengers, and if Phase Four is trying to head in this direction, the inclusion of Nova is a no brainer, and hey, if they really wanted to, they could introduce him in Guardians of the Galaxy, allowing audiences to be familiar with him before giving him a solo movie, much like they're doing with Black Panther.
Okay, hear me out on this one. Secret Wars is a comic series that was rebooted last year, shaking up the entire comic universe for good, leading to the ultimate restart on all of the current comic book titles. By the time Phase Four comes to a close, we will be getting ready to witness our fifth Avengers movie, and by that stage, Marvel can't just keep doing the same thing over and over and over. They have to keep the audience excited and on their toes, and what better way to do this than with Secret Wars? For those unfamiliar with the comic, it sees the Avengers facing off against alternate versions of themselves, colliding together two comic book universes into one. This may be a little too complex for a direct adaptation, but with some modifications, things could work well. Fox, the company with the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four (yes, that includes Deadpool) has recently come out and stated that they wants the X-Men universe to crossover with the Avengers, so what better way to do this than through Secret Wars. X-Men could be in one universe, the Avengers in another, and then all of a sudden.... BOOM! The two universes have become one, Marvel get to share the rights for X-Men, and neither of the franchises need to alter their plans for their current lineup of movies. The world will finally be at peace, and hey, this also allows for characters like Galactus and Silver Surfer to appear in the MCU, which is definitely where they belong.
The Dark Horses
The eight previously mentioned films are all serious contenders for a spot in the Phase Four lineup, but there's still plenty of options left for them to choose from, and if Marvel keep going the way they're going, each phase will increase in the amount of films chosen, so who knows, maybe there'll need to be more than ten films in the next lineup. These final two films are ones I consider to be dark horses. I'd love to see them on the big screen, but whether or not they'll happen remains to be seen.
Ever since her appearance in Iron Man 2 back in 2010, fans have been begging Marvel for a Black Widow solo movie, yet to this day, we still don't have one. She's one of the most interesting and complex characters in the MCU, yet she's only ever made appearances in other films. Why? I'm not sure. But it's ridiculous. I really do wish I could've put her solo film in either of the other categories, but the fact of the matter is that a solo Black Widow film, for some reason, is not a definite possibility, especially since the character has been on-screen for six years now and could very well be making her final appearance in Infinity War. But I, and many other fans, will remain hopeful, and maybe we'll be getting a Black Widow movie, or even a Netflix show, in the near future.
Will this happen? I honestly have no idea. Would it be cool? Absolutely. Like I've already mentioned, Marvel are trying to change things up for the next phase of their Cinematic Universe, and what better way to do this than by giving the mantle of Thor over to somebody else. More specifically, to Jane Foster, an already established character in the MCU who, currently, possesses the power of Thor in the comics. Theoretically, if Thor were to be killed of in an upcoming movie, his powers wouldn't just be thrown away. They'd be given off to whoever else is worthy, and this just so happens to be Jane Foster, Thor's love interest played by Natalie Portman. Jane won't be returning to the MCU for Thor: Ragnarok, so a comeback in Phase Four could likely see her gaining powers she never thought she'd have.
The amount of possibilities for Phase Four is ridiculous, but as both a comic book fan and a movie fan, I know I can't wait to see where they're heading. Maybe some of these films will happen, maybe none of them will. Only time shall tell. Personally, I don't think they're going to announce the fourth phase for at least another year, but thankfully, we have eleven more films to enjoy before this fourth phase even begins. The future of the MCU is looking glorious. Stay tuned to Director's Cut Movies for all your Marvel news and reviews.