Let's Speculate About Marvel's Plans For 2020

We're still in the early stages of Marvel's Phase Three — next week's Doctor Strange is just the second film out of ten — but since Marvel is famous for mapping out its plans well ahead of time, it's impossible not to wonder what's coming in Phase Four. So let's give into that temptation, and spend a bit of time speculating.

Marvel already has three dates nailed down for 2020: May 1, July 10, and November 6. What remains unclear is which titles they're for. Which films can we expect in 2020 and beyond from Marvel's Phase Four? 

Speaking to Collider recently, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige confirmed they're thinking ahead, and in fact they've figured out which movies are coming in 2020.

Marvel has announced 2019 and 2020 placeholders. How much do you guys know what those movies are and just haven't announced them yet or are they still in flux? 

It's a combination. We know what we'd like them to be for 2020. Over the years, where we're aiming we've been lucky enough that it's usually been the same thing but we always leave ourselves the opportunity to bob and weave and adapt if we have to. But we know where we're headed for 2020 and we have ideas and were beginning to solidify the years beyond that.

Feige added that there are "ten films" in Phase Three including Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, which means 2019's Avengers 4 marks the end of Phase Three, and that the films coming after that should be considered part of Phase Four.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

Which Marvel Movies Are Already on the Calendar?

Marvel currently has nine upcoming titles on the calendar:

  • November 4, 2016: Doctor Strange
  • May 5, 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • July 7, 2017: Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • November 3, 2017: Thor: Ragnarok
  • February 16, 2018: Black Panther
  • May 4, 2018: Avengers: Infinity War
  • July 6, 2018: Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • March 8, 2019: Captain Marvel
  • May 3, 2019: Avengers 4

Plus, as mentioned above, three more release dates set aside for titles yet to be revealed:

  • May 1, 2020: Untitled Marvel Movie #1
  • July 10, 2020: Untitled Marvel Movie #2
  • November 6, 2020: Untitled Marvel Movie #3

2020 is pretty far off, so of course these dates could move around. Disney might claim other dates, or relinquish some of these dates, or swap some of them with dates they've got reserved for their other franchises (like Pixar or Disney Animation). But for now, let's assume all these dates are staying put.

While we've speculated before about the possibilities for Marvel's 2020 slate, it seems worth revisiting the topic now that Phase Three is well underway. As Peter has previously pointed out, so far the Marvel movies have come in trilogies. The space between each installment ranges from two years (Iron Man to Iron Man 2) to four years (Thor: The Dark World to Thor: Ragnarok), usually falling somewhere around three years. And which the exception of Iron Man, which had two films in Phase One, it seems like each sub-franchise gets about one film per "Phase."

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Doctor Strange

Which Sequels Could We See in 2020?

With all that in mind, the odds seem good that 2020 will bring a sequel or three to some of the franchises we've seen already.

Doctor Strange is on track to become another big win for Marvel, so a Doctor Strange 2 seems like an obvious next step. Plus, the timing lines up perfectly: any of the 2020 dates will put Doctor Strange 2 within the two- to three-year window for most Marvel sequels.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 seems like another given. The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a hit and there is no reason to believe Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be any different. Again, the timing lines up well, as a 2020 date will put Vol. 3 roughly three years after Vol. 2.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Captain America Civil War

The last time we explored this topic, Black Panther felt like a big question mark. But the character made a huge splash in Captain America: Civil War, and with Creed's Ryan Coogler on board to direct it's shaping up as one of Marvel's most promising upcoming releases. Granted, Black Panther doesn't actually come out until 2018, which would mean Black Panther 2 would have to get going very quickly to open in 2020. But if the character really takes off then it's not hard to imagine Marvel wanting to strike again while the iron's still hot.

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On the next page, let's think about which non-sequels might be coming up in 2020.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Black Widow

Will Marvel Launch a New Franchise in 2020?

Part of why the MCU has been so successful over the past decade is that they work hard to offer a combination of new and old. In that light, I think it's unlikely all three of their 2020 movies will be sequels. Which new franchises might they consider launching, then? The question is complicated by the fact that Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 have the potential to shake up the chessboard in a big way — they could introduce characters we haven't even considered yet. But based on what we know, here are a few possibilities.

Fans have been clamoring for a Black Widow solo film for ages, and earlier this year Feige teased that Marvel was finally "committing" to make one. Scarlett Johansson has also said she's in, and that she'd like it to happen sooner rather than later. Could 2020 be the year it becomes a reality? On the one hand, it's looking likelier than ever that a Black Widow movie is coming in the not-too-distant future; on the other, if Marvel's goal is to introduce an entirely new character in 2020, well, Black Widow is not that.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Ant-Man and the Wasp

Phase Three promotes The Wasp to co-lead alongside Ant-Man, and she's expected to return in Avengers 4. Could Marvel decide to spin the character off into her own solo franchise? I don't think Ant-Man necessarily made the best case for Hope van Dyne as a standalone hero, but who knows — a lot could change over her next couple appearances.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Bucky Barnes Captain America

Now let's get into even more speculative territory. We've wondered before if Marvel might start soft-rebooting some of their flagship franchises by having new characters take over the mantle. Is is possible, then, that we might get a new Captain America movie in 2020 without Steve Rogers? Maybe with, say, Bucky Barnes picking up the shield, as he's done in the comics? It's looking increasingly likely that Black Panther will mark Bucky's first time appearing in a Marvel movie without Steve, and we have heard before that Sebastian Stan is under contract for nine(!) movies. Depending on how things shake out in Black Panther and the two Avengers movies, the BFFs could end Phase Three with Bucky in a position to take over Steve's old job.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Hulk

Technically, another Hulk movie would be a sequel to 2008's The Incredible Hulk, but the character has evolved so much since Ed Norton played him that a Mark Ruffalo Hulk movie would feel like a whole new thing. And that might be even truer after next year's Thor: Ragnarok, which seems to be taking some cues from the Planet Hulk comic book storyline. There's been some confusion about who has the Hulk rights, but over the summer we got clarification that Marvel retains the right to produce a Hulk movie, though Universal might end up distributing it. That's not an insurmountable hurdle considering Marvel and Sony were able to strike a deal for Spider-Man. However, for the purposes of this guessing game, that might rule out Hulk as one of Marvel's 2020 releases — if Universal wanted to release a Disney-produced Hulk movie, they'd probably be the ones to stake out a release date.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Namor the Sub-Mariner

What if we're still thinking too small? What if 2020 brings us a character we haven't seen at all in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The comics feature literally thousands of characters, so trying to guess which ones might pop up in the movies feels a bit like shooting in the dark. That said, there have been rumblings lately that Namor the Sub-Mariner might be back at Marvel Studios, and that definitely seems like one comic fans would be excited to see onscreen. I don't think the odds of a Namor movie are super strong, but — assuming Joe Quesada is right about the whole rights situation, which is not a given — it could be a faint possibility.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Spider-Man

Which Movies Can We Rule Out for 2020?

While it seems a safe bet that Marvel wants to make some Spidey-sequels, the responsibility of claiming a release date for a Spider-Man: Homecoming follow-up would likely fall to Sony, not Disney/Marvel. We aren't saying there can't be a Spider-Man movie in 2020, only that it probably won't take one of the release dates that Disney has set aside.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Captain Marvel

And although we can surely count on getting a Captain Marvel 2 down the line, 2020 seems way too soon seeing as the first Captain Marvel doesn't open til 2019. This one seems like a more plausible bet for 2021 or 2022.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Inhumans

Once upon a time, Inhumans was going to be one of Marvel's 2019 releases. But the film got yanked from the calendar earlier this year and as of yet has not been rescheduled. Feige insists the project is still on, so it is possible that Marvel will be able to get it back on track for 2020. But that does not seem likely, especially since Inhumans is rumored to be a casualty of the growing divide between Marvel's film and TV divisions. The concept is already being explored on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but has merited barely a mention in the Marvel movies.

Marvel 2020 movies - Phase Four / Squirrel Girl

Despite the endless social media campaigns, odds are we'll never see Anna Kendrick — or anyone else — star in a Squirrel Girl movie. The character's already been scooped up for a New Warriors TV project in development from ABC Studios.

Actually, while we're at it, we can probably also rule out most of the other Marvel TV characters. Feige has said that bringing the Netflix characters to the big screen is a matter of "timing," but so far we have not seen many encouraging steps in that direction. So until that changes, I'm going to guess we won't see a movie about anyone from The Defenders or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or that New Warriors show mentioned above, or Freeform's Cloak and Dagger or Hulu's Runaways.