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Marvel Wins Comic-Con, Providing a Sneak Peak at Its Next Phase

All throughout San Diego Comic-Con 2019, there was a feeling of anticipation hanging heavily in the air. Some studios chose to sit out the massive pop culture and genre celebration this year, either preferring to keep their cards close to their chest or feeling better served by other avenues of promotion.

Of course, the consensus among fans was that with Marvel Studios returning to Comic-Con after a one-year absence, and especially in the wake of capstone release Avengers: Endgame’s shattering of all manner of box office records, there would be highly anticipated announcements about “Phase Four” of the studio’s interconnected-world release slate. This too may have factored into other studios’ decisions to steer clear of Comic-Con, in order to avoid being left in Marvel’s wake.

That turned out to probably be a good idea. Launching from the gathering’s prime Saturday Hall H early evening slot, Marvel did not disappoint, introducing big stars and new faces alike, and making news with both several formal announcements and hints of future productions. The entire

With Black Widow, the stand-alone spin-off of Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers character, already halfway through production, her appearance at Comic-Con was no big surprise. But the appearances of Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Madden and many others helped whip the Hall H audience into a frenzy. The party atmosphere achieved full actualization when Benedict Cumberbatch took the stage one day after his 43rd birthday and was serenaded by fans and costars alike.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige confirmed release dates and a couple of other key details for five movies. Black Widow and The Eternals, the latter directed by The Rider’s Chloé Zhao, will both bow in 2020, to be followed in 2021 by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder.

Shang-Chi, to be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, looks to be an especially ambitious play at the further expansion of Marvel’s commercial and cinematic-cultural dominance. As the first Asian-led film from Marvel, it is already being compared, from a social perspective, to Black Panther. Chinese-Canadian Simu Liu, who had a screen test less than one week before appearing at Comic-Con, will star in the title role, and face off against the villainous Mandarin (a role previously riffed on by Ben Kingsley’s charlatan character in Iron Man 3), to be portrayed by Tony Leung.

Director Scott Derrickson proclaimed his Doctor Strange follow-up to be “the first scary MCU film,” and also noted that the events of the upcoming TV series WandaVision, starring Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, will tie directly into his sequel. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Portman’s return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following a small cameo in Endgame, as the new female Thor, also had fans abuzz.

Feige noted that Black Panther 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and Captain Marvel 2 were all on track, without revealing details about their potential release schedule. He also said The Fantastic Four is coming, along with the X-Men, though, again, without any firm commitments — leading one to believe it would be at least 2022 before these erstwhile 20th Century Fox properties get folded into the MCU.

Of course, in addition to announcing a lot of movies, Marvel is contributing plenty of shows to the Walt Disney Company’s new, forthcoming Disney+ streaming service, so Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan appeared to talk about the first of these shows, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, teasing the inclusion of Baron Zemo as its main villain. Further out on the horizon, launching in 2021, Paul Bettany and the aforementioned Olsen talked about WandaVision, which will explore Scarlet Witch’s emotional state after losing Vision. Tom Hiddleston also appeared briefly to chat about Loki, which looks to take place following his character’s theft of the Tesseract in Endgame. Narrating a short sequence for What If, Jeffrey Wright was announced as the Watcher, a cosmic being who oversees the multiverse and sees different versions of familiar stories. Jeremy Renner, meanwhile, showed off an animated teaser for Hawkeye, in which his bow-and-arrow marksman will train another hero with no superpowers.

Wrapping things up, and taking a cue from former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ penchant for “one more thing” surprises, Marvel then brought out two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali onstage to announce he’d been cast as iconic vampire hunter Blade. It brought the house down, seemingly setting the stage for a healthy continuation of Marvel’s market dominance.