Marvel's announcement of its Phase Four slate came without an Avengers film. To many, this came as something of a surprise. After all, every Marvel Cinematic Universe phase, up until this point, had come packaged with at least one big ensemble film that culminated all the themes of that phase together in one neat package. However, this time, Phase Four ends with Thor: Love and Thunder, not a team-up movie at all.
That said, Marvel Studios President and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige has confirmed there will be more team-up events in the future. In fact, he has the next five years of MCU content all mapped out, and with the advent of the Disney+ streaming service on top of cinematic ventures, it's clear the next phase of Marvel films will be loaded with new characters and adventures. But what can we tell about the upcoming films? What stories are they building toward?
Well, we can't tell for absolute certain yet, but, by looking at what's on the itinerary, it's clear something is coming.
The Next Two Phases
We already know the full slate for Phase Four, as well as multiple films coming in Phase Five. From this, we can potentially determine what big event Feige and company are planning, both in the cosmic sense and the down-to-earth sense.
On the ground level, we have the Avengers reorganizing themselves. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will establish the new Captain America, while others, like Spider-Man 3, Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel, will introduce the next generation of heroes, who will either supplement or replace the old guard. On top of that, we also have the introduction of vampires, as seen with Blade, as well as the potential return, at some point, of the Netflix Defenders. This establishes that life on Earth will feature new characters, some inspired by the older Avengers, to defend the planet from whatever threats loom on the horizon.
Then, of course, there's the presence of Ant-Man 3, which will no doubt allow Cassie Lang to assume the mantle of Stature. And, with Kate Bishop being introduced in Hawkeye and rumors of Wiccan appearing in WandaVision, it appears highly possible that whatever team-up film occurs will lead to the creation of the Young Avengers.
However, the MCU won't just be sticking to the streets. Films like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Black Widow and Black Panther 2 will go on far-flung adventures across the globe. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness will take the titular Doctor and Scarlet Witch across the Marvel Multiverse. Loki, Thor: Love and Thunder, Captain Marvel 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will further explore space (and possibly a few other realities). And as for Eternals? There's so much going on there it's hard to narrow down what won't be covered in this centuries-spanning saga. And this is without speculating about the potential of the Fantastic Four and X-Men films.
The Potential Team-Up Movies
As mentioned before, Wanda will be appearing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness following the events WandaVision. This indicates that many of the films will lead into smaller team-ups.
This also aligns with the natural progression of things in the MCU thus far. At first, team-ups were primarily relegated to small moments. We saw cameos from other MCU characters occur in films such as Ant-Man, Iron Man 2 and Thor. However, in regards to all-out crossover encounters, Phase Three brought these into view, with both Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnorak serving as almost sub-Avengers team-ups with huge ramifications on the rest of the MCU. In other words, team-ups were not restricted to just the Avengers films.
Furthermore, some films became backdoor introductions to new characters. Spider-Man didn't first appear in the MCU in his own film but rather in Civil War, as did Black Panther. This indicates that a few upcoming films might be used to introduce new fans to new heroes. We can already see this being done with the aforementioned Young Avengers. WandaVision, meanwhile, will introduce an older Monica Rambeau, which, when coupled with the upcoming Ms. Marvel series, has huge implications for the upcoming Captain Marvel 2. Her cast of characters is increasing in new, unusual ways.
Additionally, every Spider-Man film has featured cameos of some sort. What if some established hero starts hunting Spidey down now that his identity is revealed? Perhaps this can be an introduction to the MCU's new interpretation of Logan or a re-emergence of The Punisher in the MCU. These are small possibilities for how character connections and rivalries can be established in the upcoming films, but the real question, ultimately, is how this can culminate in something huge.
A Divided Avengers -- Cosmic and Earthbound
All these films indicate two distinct trajectories for the MCU, each leading to Avengers-level events. There is the Earthbound MCU, in flux following the dissolution of the Avengers. New teams are going to emerge, and all of them are going to have their own different ideas on how to deal with problems. This will become especially apparent when the Fantastic Four and X-Men show up on the scene, as well as the new Young Avengers forming alongside the New Avengers. One of these teams could be the often-rumored A-Force, consisting of several female heroes.
On the other hand, there's the cosmic MCU. Eternals, Loki, Doctor Strange, Thor -- all of these films have potential crossover influence on one another. With the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Captain Marvel 2 offering even more exploration of space, we can potentially see these cosmic titans interact. After all, it's already been teased that Thor will have some adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
But all of this might be bridged together by the coming of the Fantastic Four, known for taking part in both cosmic and earthbound adventures. It's highly possible that, much like in Phase 3, we will see some huge earthbound event (like Civil War) take place simultaneously with a major cosmic catastrophe (like Ragnorak). This will culminate in some sort of event that will bind the cosmic to the earthbound and, with all likelihood, all roads will lead to the Fantastic Four. No other hero team is more well-connected to other heroes than them.
So what will the next event be? It's hard to say, but it's pretty clear we're going to see more smaller interactions between heroes on both fronts that culminate in something huge.