As you know, Walt Disney and Marvel went a little nuts yesterday, tossing a surprise Ant-Man sequel into the Phase 3 lineup, mixing around the Captain Marvel and Black Panther release dates, and offering three more “untitled” films for 2020 which will presumably be the first three films of “Phase 4.” What could those Phase 4 movies be? Well, that’s for a little further below.
First of all, I understand the frustration of those annoyed that Captain Marvel has been pushed back yet again. Back in October of 2014, Marvel made their big Phase 3 announcement; they made a big deal out of Captain Marvel being their first female-centric superhero film. And since that October 29th announcement, it has been shifted back twice. The initial release date was July 6, 2018. Then, in February, Marvel and Sony made a deal that would allow Spider-Man to both join the MCU and get a solo film that would take place within the Marvel universe. Said film rearranged the entire Phase 3 schedule, and Black Panther got moved to the July 6, 2018 slot and Captain Marvel ended up on November 2, 2018.
And now today, Marvel is shifting Captain Marvel a third time. With Marvel and the Ant-Man moving into the Black Panther July 6 slot, the Chadwick Boseman adventure got moved to February 16, 2018 (on the very lucrative Presidents Day weekend and right in the middle of Black History month, for what that’s worth). Captain Marvel, which to be fair, has no script, no director, and no star, got moved to March 8, 2019. While that is technically “International Women’s Day,” it’s also a less safe release slot and represents the second time that the female-led superhero film has been pushed back on account of a male-driven entry.
Yes, hopefully Ant-Man and the Wasp will be a two-hander of sorts, but the fact remains that going from a female-led film to a “the lady gets second billing in the title” sequel to a male-centric original isn’t all that comforting. Although at least Captain Marvel will be safe if Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. goes and slots The Batman on November 2nd as was rumored awhile back. And it’s a little disconcerting, if understandable in terms of production schedules and what is or isn’t already planned out, that the female-centric film and the black-centric film keep getting their release dates tossed around on account of whatever new film magically joins Phase 3 at the last minute. But, c’est la vie.
Here’s what I’d like to talk about for the moment. Those three Untitled Marvel movies, which I presume are not Cameron Crowe’s entry into the Marvel Universe (“starring Billy Crudup as the Golden God!”) are of course either the first three movies of Phase 4 or, depending on how Inhumans fits into this, the second, third, and fourth entries into Phase 4. Ah yes, Phase 4, which will be Marvel’s awkward transitional season where the characters all adjust to college life and the writers struggle to find convincing reasons to keep the core ensemble together (Loki is like totally a good guy now, and half the action takes place away from Avengers HQ and instead at Bruce’s new school where he struggles to fit in). For now, we are all, of course, speculating about what those films might be. But here’s a modest proposal to anyone at Disney or Marvel who cares: Don’t tell us.
Don’t leak it (if it can be helped), don’t announce it, don’t tease it in any of the upcoming Phase 3 credit cookies. Don’t give us any idea of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe will look like until after Avengers: Infinity War is as close to being released as possible. Obviously this is somewhat fantastical. Unless Marvel is able to utterly keep a lid on negotiations and gossip, some of this stuff will get out. And since the first “unknown” Phase 4 films will start dropping a year after Avengers: Infinity War part II, Marvel will have to basically keep a lid on everything until a year out. So what’s the benefit of that, you ask?
Well, for one thing, it will make Marvel’s SDCC presentation in 2019 (or their 2019 D23 Panel, pick your poison) the biggest most crowd-pleasing presentation in recent memory, as they will basically be laying bare what comes after “the end of the current story” after said story has ended. And of course, from a consumer point-of-view, it will allow Marvel and Disney to keep a genuine sense of mystery about how the “end of the end” will play out. If we already know what movies will make up Phase 4, then it will be that much easier to surmise what does or does not happen in the two-part finale. And since the general audiences who make up the vast majority of the box office riches for these films don’t necessarily care about the years-in-advance publicity, it won’t hurt in the least in terms of getting general moviegoers excited when the time comes.