The Multiverse Expands: The MCU Returns

After a weathering a full year of no major releases from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic book and superhero film fans had much to celebrate last week, as Marvel President Kevin Feige shocked viewers during a live podcast from Disney’s “Investor Day” by offering more updates on the future of the MCU’s upcoming Phase 4, as well as Phase 5, then anyone could expect. With 23 films having already solidly established the MCU’s huge roster of heroes and villains, 2021 looks to be an extravagant, multimedia tapestry of multiverses and story arcs that traverse the cinema screen, streaming platforms, and television. With more information than fans could have dreamed, YouTube commentators quickly rushed to offer their predictions and feedback on Marvel’s exciting new announcements—and prepared Marvel fans for the changes and twists that bring 2020 to a close. YouTuber The Cosmic Wonder was just one of many fans who had been expecting only a few crumbs of new updates regarding the Phase 4 slate of the coming year, but summed up the pleasant surprise of the wealth of information, stating:

Last week at Disney’s “Investor Day,” Marvel shocked us all. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige revealed a ton of new projects coming to the MCU and revealed part of Phase 5 … Now, we were expecting a WandaVision trailer and, possibly, a first look at The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Instead, we got all of that—plus 30 minutes of new Marvel content.

According to The Comic Wonder, while it had previously been announced that the next MCU “phase” would be commencing with the Dinsey+ original series, WandaVision, Kevin Feige’s timeline of Marvel stories took off into unexpected and exciting territories quickly. The YouTuber continued:

It starts with WandaVision and it says that [the show] is launching on Disney+ on January 15 of 2021 … Marvel Studios’ first series that continues to expand the MCU—Wanda Max Maximoff and Vision are ‘two superpowered beings living idealized suburban lives, but begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems…

According to YouTuber ComicBookCast, one of the most anticipated entries in next year’s MCU series is the continuing adventures of Thor, as the primary character is not only of the original Avengers, but for filmgoers aiming to catch-up on all the new MCU characters that have been added over 2019, Thor’s presence also provides a certain amount of comfortable familiarity—and a guaranteed, loyal audience of Marvel fans. ComicBookCast commented:

Formerly, February 11 of 2022 was going to see Thor: Love and Thunder, but that is no longer the date as the film has been delayed May 6 … meaning that Marvel Studios now trusts Thor enough to be the biggest film of the year and, specifically, the one that drives all the hype in early May.

YouTuber Den of Nerds added that, while much of the information surrounding the new entry of the Thor series had been confirmed previously, one new aspect—the inclusion of Christian Bale, hopping into the MCU nearly a decade after his iconic run as DC’s Batman in Christopher Nolan’s game-changing Dark Knight films. The commentator stated:

As far as the future MCU movies go, like Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder, not much was said. The only crazy thing there was the confirmation that Christian Bale was going to be playing Gorr the God Butcher … We’ve been kind of speculating that for a while, but it’s nice to know for sure. Now we can really extrapolate some cool ideas out and theorize what that means.

As had previously been rumored for months following the tragic and untimely death of Black Panther leading man Chadwick Boseman, the sequel’s new storyline and primary character had been regarded as one of Hollywood’s biggest mysteries. During the Disney event, however, Feige did confirm at least some of the circulating information regarding the new film, as ComicBookCast noted:

That means that Black Panther 2, which was scheduled for May 6 of 2022 is, obviously, going to get delayed … [making] the new release date July 8 and, as we recently learned, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther will be retired and someone else will continue the legacy.

In following the chronological slate order according to the official Disney press releases, The Cosmic Wonder noted that following the WandaVision official “kickoff” at the end of 2021, the Disney+ streaming service is remaining the primary source of new content while theater chains continue to organize their own release strategy in the wake of the pandemic. The YouTuber added:

Then we have The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, they say kicking off on Disney+ on March 19 2021—a new series starring Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka ‘The Falcon,’ and Sabastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, aka, ‘The Winter Soldier.’ [Here], the pair that came together in the final moments of Avengers: Endgame team up ‘on a global adventure that tests their abilities and their patience…

According to The Cosmic Wonder, the return of Tom Hiddleson in his iconic turn as Loki, now in his own series, is one of the most highly-anticipated MCU story continuations going straight to streaming. He added:

[Loki is] set to debut on Disney+ in May 2021 and featuring the god of mischief ‘as he steps out of his brother’s shadow in a new series that takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame.

As ComicBookCast noted, 2021 is now slated to end its string of new MCU content with the second Captain Marvel film, a major rearrangement of the film’s initial release plans:

[This] brings us to Captain Marvel 2 … Formerly on July 8, but now coming out on November 11. Well, that’s interesting—a November release for Captain Marvel [film] is certainly unique. I definitely hadn’t expected that, and it feels weird because it doesn’t feel like a November movie, but this will work [since] this will be another big hit for them going right into Christmas, which fits.

If recent rumors surrounding the next Spider-Man film prove to be true, and original actors from outside the MCU—Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield—both return as Peter Parker from their respective cinematic universes, than the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could be viewed as a form of “key” to unlocking where the MCU is planning on taking the multiverse theme across their galaxy of characters, as noted by ComicBookCast:

Now, the other good news is that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is still remaining in its March 22 release date … I mean, that’s great because it seems that that film is on-schedule.

In summing up the surprises revealed during the Disney “Investor Day” event, YouTuber Den of Nerds remarked that the success of the next Spider-Man film could have a direct effect on the tone and style of the proposed Fantastic Four reboot, as that film’s announcement—perhaps Kevin Feige’s biggest surprise of all—has now officially added Spider-Man director Jon Watts to its helm. Den of Nerds concluded:

The only other crazy thing there was [Feige] just name-dropping the Fantastic Four, showing us the logo—which, actually, is pretty freaking awesome—and announcing that Jon Watts, the guy who directed all of the MCU-Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, is going to be the director of the Fantastic Four … And the thing that is crazy about that is that Feige just drops that [update] at the end and it was the thing that was trending. It’s the thing that took over.