Essays · Movies

What’s Next For The Marvel Cinematic Universe?

The MCU is just beginning.
Black Panther Infinity War
By  · Published on April 26th, 2018

For 10 years, Marvel has been building towards Avengers: Infinity War. After 18 feature films and a number of shorts, this is the main event. Does that mean the end for the Marvel Cinematic Universe? No, actually, this is just the latest part of its evolution.

Infinity War could mark the beginning of the end for the legacy superheroes of the franchise. Some performers, such as Robert Downey Jr., have become tired of playing the same character for over a decade. Contracts are expiring, and it’s time to move on.

What does that mean for the future? Expect Marvel to unleash sequels to some of their biggest second-tier successes and also introduce more new characters into the fold. Here’s everything we know so far:

Coming Soon

Ant-Man and the Wasp — July 6, 2018

The Ant-Man sequel will have a story set before Avengers: Infinity War, presumably detailing the events after the title superhero is released from prison at the end of Captain America: Civil War. Returning to the fold will be Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, and director Peyton Reed. This new story will see Ant-Man balancing his family life against the expectations of a superhero. The title identifies the newest wrinkle in this Ant-Man story. Lilly is getting a much bigger role this time around. The Wasp is going to be joining in on the action and will be Ant-Man’s equal. The film’s main goal will be the search for the original Wasp, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne, who disappeared into the Quantum Realm and never came back. We saw that Ant-Man was able to get there and return in the first film, so now he should be able to find her. Meanwhile, the team will have to deal with new villains Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), while Laurence Fishburne also joins the cast as the original Goliath.

Captain Marvel — March 8, 2019

Captain Marvel brings with it a lot of new achievements to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This will be the first female-led film in the entire MCU. It will be the first co-directed by a woman as well. Yes, star Brie Larson and co-director Anna Boden (working with partner Ryan Fleck) are bringing a signature Marvel character to the big screen. Captain Marvel will be an origin story taking place in the 1990s. This allows the story to exist before Infinity War as well. The Marvel villains known as the Skrulls will be the main nemesis as an alien war between them and the Kree is brewing. MCU favorites Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson will be in this one as well, while its being a prequel allows killed-off Guardians of the Galaxy villains Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and Korath the Pusuer (Djimon Hounsou) to also appear. The cast also includes Jude Law as Mar-Vell, plus Ben Mendelsohn, Gemma Chan, and Lashana Lynch. Here is an opportunity for Marvel to make a killer female-led superhero film, while simultaneously, putting a ribbon on characters that appeared in Phase One and Two of the MCU. Not bad for an origin story.

Avengers 4 — May 3, 2019

Infinity War ends in a way that sort of sets up Avengers 4, but we still don’t know exactly what to expect with the direct follow-up. We’re not even sure what the title will be. All we can do is assume that the principal cast of Infinity War will be back in the fold with the addition of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel and maybe minus whoever has died in the first outing against Thanos (in comic book stories, nobody is permanently dead). Even if certain major players return after Infinity War, this next big installment is sure to be the last dance for many of the original Phase One heroes.

Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 — July 5, 2019

When we last saw Spider-Man, he was busy revealing his identity to Aunt May. That relationship will likely be a bigger part of Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 (There is no way this will be called Spider-Man: Homecoming 2). The sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming will kick off Phase Four of the MCU. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man/Peter Parker will return with Zendaya as MJ, Jacob Batalon as Ned, and Marisa Tomei as May. In addition, Spider-Man is going global for his next feature, though we’re not sure what that means. He will be trying to handle life after the events of Infinity War and Avengers 4 and attempting to return to his “normal” life. Of course, he’ll wind up having to defeat some unrevealed new villain. Fans are hoping for Kraven or Mysterio, anyone but another Green Goblin. Holland has at least three solo Spider-Man movies contracted, so expect his character to be around for awhile.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol Laughing

Definitely Happening

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — 2020

This will be the first time in MCU history that the same director will helm all three films of a superhero trilogy, and it makes complete sense. So much of the DNA of Guardians of the Galaxy comes from James Gunn. The music selections, humor, and heart are all a success because of the man behind the camera. Assuming that the Guardians all make it out of Infinity War and Avengers 4, the large cast will permanently bring Mantis (Pom Klementieff) into the fold and head out on another wild adventure. Guardians has been concerned about the parentage of the characters, so don’t be surprised if this third story looks more into the family history of our heroes. We might even see the addition of Adam Warlock for the third film as well.

Black Panther 2 — TBD

Black Panther is the most successful title in the MCU yet, so there is little doubt that a sequel is forthcoming. It isn’t so much a question of if Marvel will make a sequel, but rather when we can expect it. One of the biggest concerns right now is getting director Ryan Coogler to return for the sequel. Collider asked Kevin Feige about the sequel, and while the deal isn’t done yet, Marvel is motivated to make it happen. The expectation would be for most of the cast to return, but Marvel and Coogler will have to try extra hard to find a villain as compelling as Killmonger.

Captain America Civil War Black Widow

Black Widow — TBD

After years of fan expectations, Marvel finally started work on a Black Widow script back in January. While the film wasn’t given the greenlight, hiring screenwriter Jac Schaeffer to put something together is a step in the positive direction. Rumors about a potential Black Widow film heated up during a Scarlett Johansson interview with Ellen DeGeneres. According to Indiewire, the actress expressed interest in continuing her adventures with the character. “I think there’s room for it,” she said. “The only way to do it would be if it were something that we’ve never seen before that was really groundbreaking and incredibly badass. I think if anyone could make that happen, my boss Kevin Feige could. He’s a visionary.” Rumors shared by Screen Rant suggest the film would be another prequel, set in the early 2000s before the character’s introduction in Iron Man 2, and possibly co-star Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier.

Rumored / Assumed

Doctor Strange 2 — TBA

It has been quite a long time since the solo Doctor Strange outing. While the other assumed sequels have been teased in some fashion, nothing has been said about the continued adventures for the doctor. The original was directed by Scott Derrickson and starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. When a film has done the kind of business Doctor Strange did, Marvel is quick to announce a sequel, but times have changed. In a conversation with Vulture, Kevin Feige said, “We are getting a lot of Strange in Avengers: Infinity War.” Given that the character has only appeared in his own film and Thor: Ragnarok, there is a good chance he survives Infinity War and has a sequel of his own. But Marvel is letting the two Avengers movies play out before they announce too many movies, including this one.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Glenn Close

Nova — TBA

Rising quickly in the last few days is the possibility of a Nova movie. During a press event for Infinity War, Feige talked about the character and how his connection with the Guardians of the Galaxy universe made him a natural to join the MCU. The Nova Corps were seen in in the original Guardians, represented by the goofy and lovable Corpsman Dey (John C. Reilly) and stern Nova Prime (Glenn Close), but Nova himself was nowhere to be seen. He has superhuman abilities including enhanced strength, flight, and resistance to injury. He has been likened as a mix between Spider-Man and Green Lantern. Once more popular than the Guardians, Nova is a prime hero that Marvel could (and should) develop for the next phase of the MCU.

Eternals — TBA

Kevin Feige name dropped another possibility for a future MCU installment during the Infinity War press event. He told The Wrap, “Eternals is one of many, many, many things that we are actively beginning to have creative discussions about.” The Eternals aren’t really known outside their connection with Infinity War villain Thanos. They are a genetic offshoot of early humanity. The comic book series has never been a big hit, with the latest attempt to bring them back being in 2009. This would give Marvel a clean slate of heroes to work from and create a whole new series of stories.

Moon Knight

Moon Knight — TBA

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken obscure properties like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man and turned them into blockbusters. One of the hardcore fans’ more requested lesser-known characters to enter the fray has been Marc Spector, aka Moon Knight. There have been hints of his existence in Captain America: The Winter Solider and Netflix’s The Defenders, yet there hasn’t been any news of him being introduced beyond an Easter egg. The comic book series written by Jeff Lemire and art by Greg Smallwood continues to draw fans, and with Kevin Feige admitting to Screen Rant that he has the character on his mind (possibly to show up “five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now?”), we can bet Moon Knight will show up on screen eventually.

X-Men? Fantastic Four? Silver Surfer?

Other news involving the MCU surrounds the addition of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to the fold. Assuming that Disney’s acquisition of Fox goes through, there will be some time until those characters join the fray. Feige recently said not to expect Fox characters to join the MCU in Phase 4 at least.

Plenty more will be speculated about if not revealed over the coming months, as the events of Infinity War will be a big clue into what heroes will get future films.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.