The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continues to expand. Six (untitled) movies have now been added to their Phase Four stage, in addition to the three that have already been scheduled for release in May, July and November 2020 (also untitled). One of those is poised to be Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 3, which director James Gunn has confirmed is being released that year.
The aforementioned six films are due to hit us between 2021 and 2022 – so what could they be? In the absence of concrete info, we've come up with some suggestions of our own...
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
1. Black Panther 2
This is surely inevitable, for several reasons. Black Panther has already roared to $1.1 billion at the global box office and is currently Marvel's best-reviewed movie with 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Also, studio chief Kevin Feige recently confirmed that sequel talks are now going ahead.
Aside from all of that, it'll be the vital continuation of the Wakandan mythology. Having been properly introduced in Black Panther, the extraordinary African kingdom also plays a critical part in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. In the trailer, we see Captain America (Chris Evans) standing alongside T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he leads the battle against the armies of Thanos (Josh Brolin). Some are now speculating that T'Challa's home may act as a possible base of operations in forthcoming Marvel movies. Watch this space...
2. Black Widow
The standalone Scarlett Johansson movie has been on the cards ever since she made her debut in 2010's Iron Man 2. Since then, the project has stalled – surprising given Black Widow's prominence in the Avengers and Captain America blockbusters. But with Hollywood having turned a corner in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, maybe now is the time for assassin Natasha Romanoff to get the movie she deserves.
And it's not as if Johansson is an untested property – after joining the MCU, she subsequently helped propel 2014 Luc Besson action thriller Lucy to more than $400 million worldwide, so she's clearly a box office draw with the right material.
3. Doctor Strange 2
Given the enthusiasm that greeted his 2016 debut, it's odd that any conversation surrounding Doctor Strange has gone quiet. Instead, more emphasis has revolved around his ensemble roles, both substantial (in the upcoming Infinity War) and fleeting (his amusing cameo in last year's Thor: Ragnarok).
So where's his sequel? After all, Tony Stark only had to wait two years for his, following the release of 2008's Iron Man. Benedict Cumberbatch's mystical sorcerer supreme gathered great reviews for his visually arresting use of inter-dimensional magic, and the movie amassed $677 million worldwide. Not bad given the relative lack of character recognition.
A follow-up would expand on the visual potential of Strange's extraordinary powers, unlocking further aspects of his mind and also the dimensions he tampers with.
4. Captain Marvel 2
Many questions surround the future of the MCU. It's been confirmed that several key characters are going to be killed off in either Infinity War or its 2019 sequel, or possibly both. This ties in with contractual obligations: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth's all expire following the release of Avengers 4. Feige has stated, "There are two distinct phases... Everything before Avengers 4, and everything after". That could pave the way for relatively new faces to take over.
One character who is bound to assert themselves in Phase 4 is Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers), played by Room Oscar-winner Brie Larson. A fighter pilot altered by alien DNA, she will in fact be making her big-screen debut at the tail-end of Phase Three, in 2019's movie of the same name.
While we await the first trailer and details, we imagine that Danvers will become a key figure in the development of the Marvel franchise going forward, as it increasingly looks towards equal gender representation (also with the Black Widow movie).
5. Ant-Man 3
Paul Rudd's shrinking superhero Scott Lang made his debut in 2015. This year's sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp is Marvel's first post-Infinity War release. So it's safe to assume that he makes it out of the latter film alive. Although a more overtly comic and lighthearted character than many of his Marvel stablemates, there may be a way to up the stakes when it comes to continuing his story in Phase Four. (Providing he isn't squished in Avengers 4, that is.)
Lurking in the background of the Ant-Man movies is Lang's troubled relationship with his ex-wife and daughter. Maybe that could be exploited for dramatic purposes, allowing Rudd to generate serious emotion as well as big laughs. After all, the Iron Man and Captain America movies steadily gained in complexity as they advanced, so there's no reason not to expect that here. According to Den of Geek US, Rudd describes his contract as a "3-plus-plus" deal, so he's probably not going anywhere yet.
6. The Killmonger movie
This is a bit of a speculative one, but stick with us. Although Marvel haven't yet fashioned a standalone movie that flashes back to a deceased character's life, this could be one of the ways they rejuvenate their formula.
Black Panther villain Killmonger may have died at the end of that movie, but such was his popularity (he was acclaimed by many as the best MCU baddie so far), we imagine that Marvel won't want to let that potential go to waste.
Not only would it allow fan favourite actor Michael B. Jordan to return to the fold, it could also fill in the backstory alluded to in the movie. We know that Killmonger derives his name from a fearsome reputation as a mercenary – a standalone movie could transport us directly into that period, showing how his plan to usurp the Wakandan throne first took hold.