What We've Learned From Marvel Studios' Phase 3 Announcements

Less than two weeks after Warner Bros.' massive reveal of its upcoming DC Comics-based film slate, Marvel Studios kept things competitive by blowing the roof off of Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre with the announcement of their entire Phase 3 slate of films. In addition to confirming "Doctor Strange" -- with a release date -- it gave subtitles to the next "Captain America" and "Thor" films and heralded the coming of two heroes Marvel fans have been aching to see on the big screen: Black Panther and Captain Marvel.

Now that we have a map of where the Marvel Cinematic Universe will go after 2015's "Age of Ultron," here are the biggest takeaways from Marvel Studios' announcement list.

Civil War Is Coming

A lot of people assumed that Robert Downey Jr.'s addition to the previously subtitle-less "Captain America" sequel meant that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was heading down a divisive path. After a fake out wherein Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige initially revealed Cap's May 6, 2016 sequel to be subtitled "Serpent Society," the film's real title stood revealed: "Captain America: Civil War." Future big screen rivals Downey Jr. and Chris Evans appeared onstage to help make the announcement, one that seemingly ensures that the third "Captain America" film will have as big of an impact on the larger MCU as this year's "Winter Soldier" did. Since the game-changer comes so early in the phase, it's likely that whatever event drives Steve Rogers and Tony Stark apart will be felt in every film leading up to the "Avengers: Infinity War" one-two punch.

We Can Talk About "Doctor Strange"

Stephen Strange's solo film has been an open secret for the past few years. Feige has long mentioned him as one of his favorite characters and the Sorcerer Supreme was even name-dropped in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." The film even found a director in Scott Derrickson and had a rumored release date attached to it, but Marvel Studios resisted confirming the film throughout convention season. Now, after a lot of speculation, Marvel has finally announced that the Derrickson-directed "Doctor Strange" will arrive in theaters on Nov. 4, 2016. But just because we can welcome "Strange" to the MCU family doesn't mean we can do the same for the film's alleged leading man; Marvel did not confirm Benedict Cumberbatch's previously reported involvement, implying that the ink on that deal is not quite dry yet.

Phase 3 Is Huge

There are going to be almost as many films in Marvel's Phase 3 as there are in Phases 1 and 2 combined. With "Ant-Man" acknowledged by Feige as the end of Phase 2, from "Captain America: Civil War" to the second "Avengers: Infinity War" film, there are nine total films in Marvel's next set of superhero movies. Phase 1 and Phase 2 had six each. Prior to this announcement, it seemed safe to assume that Marvel would keep phases in half-dozen-ish chunks, with Phase 3 running from the third "Captain America" to whatever film was scheduled for May 4, 2018 -- the date now home to "Avengers: Infinity War Part I." Instead, possibly because of the pressure felt to wrap up character trilogies for Captain America and Thor in addition to injecting the Universe with fresh blood, Phase 3 stretches into 2019. This phase also brings about a change for Marvel's release date strategy; starting with "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" (May 5, 2017), Marvel will start releasing three films a year.

Chadwick Boseman Is Black Panther

Boseman, an actor who's played real-life legends like Jackie Robinson and James Brown, will get to play a legendary comic book character when he dons the mask and claws to become the Black Panther. This announcement is important for a number of reasons, the first being that it immediately squashes the months -- or possibly years -- of speculation as to which actor would suit up as the Wakandan hero. The hubbub surrounding the "Doctor Strange" leading man has been pretty huge, with new actor names tossed around seemingly every day. Marvel preemptively silenced any Panther casting rumors by announcing Boseman -- set to play a major role in "Captain America: Civil War" -- along with the character's solo film. The announcement is also important because it signals that Marvel is finally ready to diversify their leading roles. After a dozen solo films headlined by white men, "Black Panther" will mark Marvel Studios' first non-white lead; it will also feature the first Black lead in a mainstream superhero film since "Blade: Trinity" (based on a Marvel character but pre-dating the Marvel Studios era by four years) in 2004. Marvel will beat DC's "Cyborg" to the big screen; that film, starring Ray Fisher, is set to debut in 2020. This announcement, of course, also furthers speculation that Andy Serkis is playing Panther arch nemesis Ulysses Klaw in "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

Carol Danvers Is Captain Marvel

In addition to having a non-white lead, Marvel Studios announced its first female lead film; and the first film starring a female Marvel character since 2005's "Elektra," released by 20th Century Fox. Captain Marvel will punch holes in the sky on the big screen on July 6, 2018. DC will set the bar for the modern female hero film a year earlier with "Wonder Woman," but that's no reason to view Captain Marvel as a runner-up. There's room for multiple female lead movies at both studios. Feige also reiterated that this Captain Marvel will indeed be Carol Danvers. This settles a long raging debate amongst fans as to whether or not a live-action version of Carol would follow the same "Ms." to "Captain" trajectory that played out in the source material. While the character could still show up in a Marvel film prior to 2018 as Ms. Marvel, the Carol Corps -- the collective title for the highly passionate fans of the Kelly Sue DeConnick-written comic book series -- can take comfort in knowing that when she flies solo for the first time, it will be as Captain Marvel.

There Will Be Inhumans

Considering the Inhumans' increased profile at Marvel Comics over the past year, theories have been running rampant that Black Bolt and friends would eventually appear in a Marvel Studios movie. The arrival of super-powered -- and non-mutant --characters like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and the introduction of the Kree in "Guardians of the Galaxy" seemed to validate those suspicions. While we still have to wait and see if Wanda and Pietro's powers have otherworldly and Inhuman origins, we do know that the Royal Family will be getting their own film on Nov. 2, 2018. More so than any other announcement, it looks like this one could have strong ties to ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," which may be doing a lot of the heavy lifting in introducing the Inhumans into the MCU.

In With The Old, In With The New

In addition to newbies like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, the Inhumans and Captain Marvel, Phase 3 will continue the adventures of old favorites like Thor, Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The juggling of franchises as they wind down, ramp up or launch helped expand this phase to ten films, but it's possible a few of these characters won't be around for more. Thor's subtitle, "Ragnarok," hints that the god's third film could have a sense of finality to it when it opens on July 28, 2017. Even if Thor and Cap see their trilogies close similarly to Iron Man's, Marvel still most likely has one more "Guardians of the Galaxy" film after the sequel. Marvel did bump the movie up to a May 5, 2017 release date, a month usually reserved for the biggest of the big Marvel movies.

Don't Forget Thanos

With all of the new characters and actors and subtitles flying around, it might be easy to forget that there's one big bad villain lurking in the background. It's been over two years since Thanos first made a cameo appearance in the post-credits scene of "Marvel's The Avengers," and it looks like the mad tyrant's plans will be set into motion when "Avengers: Infinity War Part I" opens on May 4, 2018. Seeing as how the confrontation between the Avengers and Thanos will have been building for six years at that point, it actually makes sense that this epic showdown will spill over into a second movie opening on May 3, 2019. The name itself is a bit of an odd choice, as "Infinity Gauntlet" is the much better known and well regarded of the "Infinity" stories. But don't read too much into that -- odds are it was decided that "Infinity War" just makes for a better movie title and echoes well with "Captain America: Civil War." Plus, Marvel doesn't always adapt the specific stories they reference with the subtitles, as evidenced by "Avengers: Age of Ultron." What we can expect, however, is for the two "Infinity War" movies to adapt the comics' sense of scope, and with 20 previous Marvel movies to draw from, it could be massive.

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