Doctor Strange, The Eternals, Black Widow, Thor and Blade lead the charge for Marvel’s Phase 4
One of the most awaited panels at San Diego Comic-Con is always the MCU panel. Fans around the globe either watch it live and in-person or stay up into the small hours to get the latest news and information direct from the horse’s mouth. Every year leading into SDCC, there are rumours flying about regarding exactly what will be announced or revealed this time. The past two years have been lean, due to the double punch of ‘Avengers: Infinity War‘ and ‘Avengers: Endgame‘. This year, however, after the success of ‘Endgame‘ and ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home‘ and the climax of Phase Three, all eyes were on Marvel to see if they would announce anything to do with Phase Four. And boy, did they deliver in spades.
Opening with a video trailer for The Infinity Saga, the MCU’s head honcho, Kevin Feige himself strode onto the stage to tell the assembled masses that “The Infinity Saga is complete”. Standing beneath the logo for The Infinity Saga, Feige brought out his entire roster of staff from Marvel Studios to great applause and appreciation. After the furore died down, Feige announced that ‘Endgame‘ would, finally, become the biggest film of all time. It may have led the world into thinking it would fall just short of achieving the mammoth feat but, thanks to the overseas market, the film has done what it set out to do, bring the curtain down on the past ten years and 22 films of the MCU and to topple ‘Avatar‘ as the worlds biggest film of all time.
Moving on and starting to announce Marvel’s plans for Phase Four, Feige started with November 2020 and the release of ‘The Eternals‘. Much speculation had been made that the characters would be coming in this new phase of movies and so it turned out to be. Starting with the film’s director, Chloe Zhao, the cast of the upcoming production were brought out onto the stage. Beginning with acclaimed Scottish actor Richard Madden, the cast includes Bryan Tyree Henry, Kumail Nanjiani and Selma Hayek. But then and confirming the rumours that have been doing the rounds, Feige brought out Angelina Jolie to a massive round of applause and cheering from the hall. The films logo was unveiled for the first time and Jolie was quoted as saying she was ‘going to work out and work ten times harder’ for the film.
Next, the hall was treated to the reveal of the logo for the soon to be released Disney Plus streaming services show, ‘The Falcon And The Winter Soldier‘. The logo’s reveal led to a chorus of applause of hollering, due to the fact that it contains Captain America’s shield in it, tying the show into the climax of ‘Endgame‘ this past summer. Actors Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan took to the stage to tremendous applause to discuss the show. Mackie himself brought out the legendary shield, quoting it was ‘Heavier than he expected’. Both he and Stan exchanged the shield between them during the events, maybe dropping a hint to the watching audience of what may be to come. But an unexpected surprise was revealed when it was announced acclaimed german actor Daniel Bruhl was returning to his role as Baron Zemo in the show, becoming the shows main villain. In addition, he was shown in Zemo’s classic attire of a purple mask and coat.
Next up came the announcement of ‘Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings‘. Again, already previously rumoured to be incoming, the film was finally announced. Actor Tony Leung was announced as taking the villain role as the Real Mandarin. Those of you who recall ‘Iron Man 3‘ will remember that Sir Ben Kingsley played the role of The Mandarin in the film, only to be exposed as an out of work drunken actor and fraud towards the film’s climax. Actor Simu Liu was announced as portraying the lead character of Shang Chi while actress Awkwafina has also been cast in an undisclosed role. The films logo was shown and the film is due to open on February 12th 2021.
Next up was the announcement of another show for the Disney Plus streaming service in the guise of ‘WandaVision‘. Walking onto the stage came actor Paul Bettany and actress Elizabeth Olsen. The show’s logo was shown and the series takes place after the events of ‘Endgame‘, which came as a bit of a surprise as Bettany’s character of ‘Vision’ was killed off at the end of ‘Infinity War‘ and didn’t feature at all in ‘Endgame‘. In addition, the character of Monica Rambeau, a child in this years ‘Captain Marvel‘ movie will be a character in the new series as an adult.
Next up was another series coming our way in the form of ‘Loki‘. Once again the logo for the show was shown as actor Tom Hiddleston made his way to the stage to thundering applause. The actor gave his usual charismatic and winning grin to the assembled hall. The show will be more of a comedic nature, given that its main character is the god of mayhem.
Director Scott Derrickson appeared on stage as it was announced that Doctor Strange would be returning to our screens again. This time, however, explained Derrickson, they would be making the first scary MCU film. The film’s title was announced as ‘Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness‘. Even though the film will be more horrific in nature, Derrickson explained that the film would still fit within the realms of a PG-13 rating. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch took to the stage to represent the film and dropped a bombshell. Not only will he be again portraying the main character but, to the surprise and delight of all Marvel fans across the world, that he would be joined by Elizabeth Olsen in the film as Scarlet Witch. Ms Olsen herself took to the stage, joining her co-star to the rapture of the hall. It was announced that the film will take place after the events of ‘WandaVision‘, leading to the speculation that the tv shows will all be connected to the upcoming slate of films. Again, the film’s logo was shown for the first time and released online.
Marvel’s first official animated series was announced next. Entitled ‘What If…?‘, the series has gained the vocal talents of Jeffery Wright in the character of The Watcher and many of the actors and actresses from the Marvel films will be lending their vocal talents to the animated project also. Again, the logo for the series was displayed.
Next up came actor Jeremy Renner as a Hawkeye series was announced. Renner will again be playing the character of Clint Barton and the show will also feature Kate Bishop. The show will also explore more of Barton as his Ronin persona as seen in ‘Endgame‘.
We got confirmation earlier on Friday that a fourth ‘Thor‘ film was coming and this was expanded on next. Actor Chris Hemsworth and actress Tessa Thompson took to the stage as the film was revealed to be officially titled ‘Thor: Love And Thunder‘ with a great 1980’s rock band inspired logo to boot. The assembled were shocked by the appearance on the stage of actress Natalie Portman. Portman famously stated that she hated filming of ‘Thor: The Dark World‘ even going as far as saying she only appeared in the film as she was contractually obliged. Her character of Jane Foster has been absent from the MCU ever since the second Thor film. Her character has been mentioned in the films that have followed and stock footage of Portman as Foster was used in ‘Endgame‘. Rumours of a thaw in her relationship with Marvel came after it was revealed Portman recorded new lines for ‘Endgame‘ and the actress appeared at the film’s U.S premiere. Then the announcement was made that Portman’s character will become the first female Thor in the film, based on the comic book run created by Jason Aaron. Thompson was quoted as saying her first order as King Of Asgard was to find her queen, almost certainly confirming the rumour that her character Valkryie would be the MCU’S first LGBTQ character. Portman also held Thor’s hammer aloft for the crowd, whipping them into a frenzy.
Finally (or so we thought) came the cast for the upcoming ‘Black Widow‘ standalone movie. The film will be the first to be released in Phase Four. The eagerly awaited logo for the film dropped to tremendous applause. The director and cast took to the stage at this point. Scarlett Johanssen told the audience that she was ‘Looking to wipe out some of that red in my ledger‘, quoting a line from the very first ‘Avengers‘ movie. Actor David Harbour was asked if he was excited to expand his fan base by appearing in an MCU film to which the Stranger Things actor answered quite simply ‘Yes‘. A teaser trailer for the film was shown, showing the film to appear to be in the vein of the Jason Bourne movies. It was also revealed that Taskmaster will be the villain in the film.
Kevin Feige then once again took to the stage to say that, sadly time had run out for the reveal of what the MCU had in store for us, apologising for not talking about Black Panther 2, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.3, Captain Marvel 2, Fantastic Four and some mutants (X-Men) that were on the schedule too. But then, Feige said he had one more person to appear on the stage from the wings.
Two-time Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali strolled onto the stage to great acclaim. In his hands, he was clutching what appeared to be a baseball cap. Like most of the others on the stage that had been announced already and had baseball caps on, it was assumed that Ali was simply joining in and appearing to announce his appearance in one of the already mentioned projects. Kevin Feige asked what Ali had in his hands and asked him to put it on. We all expected the cap to have the logo of one of the other projects printed on it. We were all wrong and we were in for a complete shock.
Ali put his cap on and the lights went out. The sound of a sword echoed throughout the hall. And then, they hit us with it. The logo appeared on the screen.
Mahershala Ali is BLADE! We heard the news that Wesley Snipes was circling a new Blade project but nothing became of it. Nothing was coming out from Marvel about a new Blade movie. And they shocked not only the assembled in the hall but fans across the world. We never saw it coming. You want to give the MCU fans a huge shock? You’ve just done it! This piece of news was the biggest highlight of the entire panel by a mile and that was no easy feat. Even though I was hoping for a new Snipes Blade adventure, if you’re going to recast the role and reboot the character, you’ve got it completely spot on. Ali is a tremendous actor and in my eyes, will make a fantastic Daywalker. It remains to be seen what direction Marvel goes with the character, either sticking by their PG-13 mantra which I think would be a mistake or go full out R Rating which is where the character belongs and would thrive.
The panel came to its conclusion and as the assembled stars, directors and main players in the MCU left the stage, the audience gave their overwhelmingly positive reaction to what they had been told and what had been revealed to them and the watching world. Marvel had once again pulled the rug out from under everyone’s feet and again stood tall at San Diego Comic-Con. It remains to be seen if they make an appearance at next years event after their epic reveals this year but even if they don’t, they have left us with a feeling of excitement we didn’t think we would get again.
And now, the waiting and the countdown starts again.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Indiana Jones and Horror movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!