2021 and the MCU: Marvel’s Heroes Back in Action

The year 2020 has been a bummer for movie fans across the board, with almost all major tentpole action series either finding their release dates moved or—in the case of DC’s Wonder Woman 1984—shifted from wide theatrical released directly to home streaming services. But while all the major studios have had to return to the drawing board in an attempt to get their films back on the radar and accessible to die-hard fans, no group as been more disappointed than those of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the catastrophic economic shifts brought on by COVID-19 and its tremendous impacts upon major theater chains and movie studios, 2020 was the first time in over a decade that not a single MCU entry saw theatrical release—and many were already set for distribution. Beginning with the highly-anticipated Black Widow—the first Marvel entry since the major storyline changes brought about in Avengers: Endgame—all the films of the MCU found themselves pushed back to new release dates and indefinite movie limbo. And in the tragic case of the Black Panther series, the untimely death of its leading man, Chadwick Boseman, also left yet another open-ending question as to how Marvel was going to address the dramatic changes now needed to their planned sequels. As 2021 now comes upon us, YouTubers have taken begun offering updates, commentaries, and new theories as to what the new year will hold for the heroes of the MCU. According to YouTuber The Cosmic Wonder, Marvel executives have remained steadfast that, at least in the case of Black Panther, no new actor will assume the role left vacated by Boseman, as recently revealed by the studio. The Comic Wonder commented:

It does seem like Black Panther may already be dead in the MCU, according to Marvel’s Executive Vice President, who did an interview recently and talked about what they are going to do [with the movie] … She said, ‘Our king is dead, not only in fiction, but also in real life.’ That line right there [implies] that Black Panther is dead in the MCU.

As the real world has changed so drastically over the course of 2020, the loss of Chadwick Boseman hits particularly hard to MCU fans, as his turn as Black Panther marked the single biggest cinematic success for an African-American-led comic book film series—and once which garnered wide-spread critical acclaim. In an attempt to pay tribute to the fallen leading man, The Cosmic Wonder continues by noting that Marvel Studios will not even subject fan to an on-screen death, allowing both the actor and character of T’Challa the honor of not having their character re-cast or tainted by CGI fill-ins—much like Christopher Nolen’s own mandate of not replacing Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker in his Dark Knight follow-up. The YouTuber added:

What this probably means is we won’t be seeing any type of on-screen death—no CGI, no nothing. In fact, when the movie starts, it will probably pay a tribute to not only Chadwick Boseman, but to [character] T’Challa, as well. And from there, they’ll movie on and a new Black Panther will come into play.

According to noted YouTuber Grace Randolph at Beyond the Trailer, Marvel has, in fact, continued their pre-production schedule for Black Panther 2—although executives have remained tight-lipped regarding how Boseman’s death with be handled within the sequel. Randolph reported:

Black Panther 2 will start shooting in July—a six-month shoot. That’s incredibly long, and I hope that they’re building in potential COVID breaks there, but that’s a really long shoot … It must be quite an ambitious project.

Only a week after the first few rumors regarding the future of Black Panther and the fate of beloved T’Challa. "Honoring Chadwick Boseman's legacy and portrayal of T'Challa, Marvel Studios will not recast the character, but will explore the world of Wakanda and the rich characters introduced in the first film," Disney wrote on Twitter on December 8. The following day, as predicted by numerous YouTubers, MCU mastermind and Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige addressed the decision during a livestream of Disney's annual investor day, claiming that he wanted to "acknowledge the devastating loss of a dear friend and member of the Marvel Studios family."

Moving on from Black Panther, Randolph continued her MCU updates with insider knowledge that another hotly-debated entry within the Marvel Universe, the next Deadpool film, is back on the studio’s radar—now that the character has been added to the Disney-owned MCU from its original home at the adult-content-friendly Fox Studio. With Ryan Reynolds returning, but now as a Disney-owned character, Randolph continued that the series may offer a shift in tone:

Deadpool 3 [is] finally seeing some movement, as Disney finally started to mobilize its Fox brands … I was supposed to report back in August that Disney+ would be adding an ‘Adult Section’ … and so, Deadpool, Predator, and Alien are once more valuable to the mouse! … Suddenly, Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote Deadpool and Deadpool 2 quite successfully, are out…

YouTuber The Cosmic Wonder shared Randolph’s sentiments regarding Deadpool’s next sequel, adding that new rumors confirm the movie will successfully establish the Deadpool character into the wider-reaching MCU with no compromise to the more adult-driven themes and content of the popular character. Cosmic Wonder added:

The big questions that people have been wondering are ‘How exactly is Deadpool going to go from the Fox universe to the MCU?—and what, exactly, is Deadpool 3 going to be about? Is it going to be retconned, or will Deadpool just simply break the fourth wall and acknowledge that he has, indeed, swapped universes?’

In his commentary, The Comic Wonder reported that new theories include a creative justification for the character’s new cinematic home, adding:

According to a leak that was found online … Deadpool might actually show use what he was up to during the events of Avengers: Endgame—and, as it turns out, the snap might actually be how Deadpool ends up in our main Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Cosmic Wonder continued:

[The rumor is] that it will be titled something along the lines of Deadpool: Retcon and will be set during the ‘snap.’ The film will open with the entire supporting cast of the Deadpool franchise being ‘snapped away’ … Deadpool will assume that this happened due to him time-traveling at the end of Deadpool 2, and will attempt to fix it. The running joke is that Deadpool has always been in the MCU…

Aside from the Black Panther sequel and ambiguous future of Deadpool, the MCU also has over a dozen new films and streaming series ready for a 2021 launch. According to The Cosmic Wonder, the with Marvel Studios and Disney having to juggle their release dates throughout the coming year, as the Scarlett Johansson-driven Black Widow had been bumped as the first entry in Marvel’s “Phase 4,” the first actual entry for the year will be the upcoming Disney+ streaming original, WandaVision, which directly follows the events of the theatrically-released Avengers: Endgame. He added:

May 1 has come and gone and we did not get Black Widow—but instead, the first Marvel project that we are going to be getting to kick-off Phase 4 is going to be the WandaVision series coming to Disney+ … What should be next in line is The Falcon and The Winter Soldier series; however currently, we do not have a release date for it … Production was put on pause due to the pandemic, but production did resume and now we are in post-production for the series.

The YouTuber Comic Book Resources shared that enthusiasm, while offering additional updates on the coming sequel to another of the MCU’s biggest recent hits, Captain Marvel. According to Comic Book Resources, the next Captain Marvel film could potentially work as a backdoor launch of the MCU’s acquisition of the X-Men characters, by introducing the previously-Fox-owned Rogue character into the new film—as the villain. Comic Book Resources reported:

One of Marvel’s most complicated relationships could make it to the MCU when Captain Marvel meets Rogue … For some fans, this is what the ‘shared universe’ is all about, as only in a ‘shared universe’ could the mutant Rogue meet the star-powered Captain Marvel—and then have one of the most epic fights in Marvel Comics … Now, with mutants on the horizon for the MCU, fans might get to see the origins of the Rogue we know and love from the comics and cartoons.

While such fan theories are yet to be confirmed by either Marvel Studios or their new parent company, Disney, according to YouTuber Den of Nerds, 2021 will be an exciting year for all MCU fans; with DC allowing for their next Wonder Woman film to be released simultaneously both in theaters and on a paid streaming service, the next crop of Marvel films could follow that strategy. The Den of Nerds concluded:

There have been so many different reports right now of different productions for Marvel Studios that are shooting all over the place—and this includes Thor, Moon Knight potentially going into production, Miss Marvel … Doctor Strange 2 currently shooting, Spider-Man 3 shooting, She-Hulk shooting, and on and on and on … And I do believe that Black Widow will come out at the date that it is currently scheduled—May 7, 2021.