Warning: The following story includes major spoilers about the fates of various characters in “Avengers: Endgame.”
The release of “Avengers: Endgame” marks an ending of sorts for the first three “phases” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or at least for the core team that first assembled for 2012's “Marvel’s The Avengers.”
After the events of “Endgame,” Black Widow and Iron Man are no more and Captain America is a senior citizen. Hawkeye and Hulk are both in mourning while Thor, at least, seems optimistic about the future, climbing aboard the Guardians’ spacecraft for destinations unknown (or, if Star-Lord gets his way, likely anywhere in the universe Gamora might be).
Disney CEO Bob Iger told the Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that the studio will likely jump-start a new franchise beyond the “Avengers” before clarifying that it “doesn’t necessarily mean you won't see more ‘Avengers’ down the road. We just haven't made any announcements about that.”
He added: “Given the popularity of the characters and ... the franchise, I don’t think people should conclude there will never be another ‘Avengers’ movie.”
Whether or not there will be superhero team-ups as stuffed with heroes as the “Avengers” films, Marvel has already announced plans for several stand-alone movies featuring characters introduced in the MCU’s current Phase 3 including Spider-Man, Black Panther and Doctor Strange. (While all those characters were turned to dust by the villainous Thanos at the end of last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” it didn’t take a super-psychic to predict they’d be revived in “Endgame.”)
At an “Endgame” event in Shanghai, Kevin Feige confirmed that “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which was co-produced with Sony and will be released in July, will conclude Phase 3. The film is set to introduce Spider-Man ally Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the villain group the Elementals. Marvel exec Amy Pascal told Fandom in 2017 that the film would start “a few minutes after ‘Avengers 4’ wraps as a story.”
So what's next as the Marvel Cinematic Universe enters Phase 4? Nothing is known for certain except that the first as-yet untitled release from the studio will hit theaters on May 1, 2020 followed by a second 2020 release on Nov. 6. The following year will see releases on Feb. 12, May 7 and Nov. 5.
In 2022, Marvel will again release three films in one year, with prospective openings scheduled for Feb. 18, May 6 and July 29.
That being said, here’s what we know so far.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy 3’
Marvel has revealed that a third “Guardians of the Galaxy” film is in development with James Gunn reinstated as director. That film had been expected to come out sometime in 2020, though production will now start after Gunn's completion of DC sequel “The Suicide Squad.” A burning question post-“Endgame”: Will the “Guardians” threequel include Thor? And should they change the name to “Asgardians of the Galaxy”?
Marvel previously announced it would release a solo "Black Widow" film, which has been in development for years. Given the fate of the character in “Endgame,” it will likely be a prequel, furthering Natasha Romanoff’s back story that was previously hinted at in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Jac Schaeffer was hired to write the script in 2018 with Cate Shortland named as director that July. In February, Ned Benson was brought on to rewrite the script. Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour and O-T Fagbenle have joined the cast. Filming is expected to begin in June in the United Kingdom, which makes this the likely first 2020 release.
Marvel has also met with multiple screenwriters for a story about the Eternals, a fictional race of cosmic beings. In 2018, Feige said the group was "one of many, many, many things that we are actively beginning to have creative discussions about to see if we believe in them enough to put them on a slate."
Matthew and Ryan Firpo were brought on as screenwriters with Chloé Zhao named as director. Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani are among the names floated as likely cast members. Filming is set to begin in August in Atlanta, which would suggest it will get the second 2020 release slot.
A Shang-Chi film focused on the martial arts master is also reportedly in the works, which would be the studio's first film led by an Asian character. No casting has been announced but Chinese American writer David Callaham was hired to write the script with Destin Daniel Cretton (who helmed Brie Larson’s breakout turn in “Short Term 12”) attached as director.
‘Black Panther 2’
And it only makes sense that there will be a follow-up to last year's "Black Panther" after that film's staggering box office haul. Director Ryan Coogler will reportedly return to write and direct a sequel, according to an Oct. 2018 report from the Hollywood Reporter. Look for it to hit theaters in 2021.
‘Doctor Strange 2’
In December 2018, the Hollywood Reporter broke the news that “Doctor Strange” director Scott Derrickson finalized a deal to return for a sequel. Marvel is still on the hunt for a screenwriter for the project, though the studio is reportedly hoping to begin production in spring 2020 for a potential May 2021 release.
While promoting the indie “Little Woods,” Tessa Thompson mentioned discussion of a fourth “Thor” film, with “Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi tapped to return as director. “I don't know how real that intel is, but I hear that the pitch has happened,” she said.
Other likely sequels awaiting confirmation include a “Captain Marvel” follow-up, continuing adventures of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and — although we haven’t even seen the sequel yet — a third MCU “Spider-Man.” (Since Spidey is under Sony, his release date wouldn’t be included in Disney’s mysterious plans.)
Additional MCU story lines are planned through 2028, spanning 20 films “that are completely different from anything that's come before — intentionally,” Feige told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014.
Beyond the big screen, there are major plans in the works for Disney's upcoming streaming service Disney+, which is set to debut Nov. 12.
Multiple “cinematic” limited series have already been announced including Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in a series called “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” which is expected to launch in the first year of the service, and the Scarlet Witch and Vision joint series “WandaVision” and Loki solo series, both expected to launch in year two of Disney+.
The events of “Endgame” raise questions about all of these projects — when the film ends Sam was handed Captain America’s shield, Vision was still dead and Loki was either dead or somewhere undisclosed in space thanks to the Tessaract — but we’re not holding our breath for answers to those soon.