One week after Nomadland helmer Chloé Zhao made history by becoming the second female filmmaker — and the first woman of color — to win the Best Director Oscar, Marvel Studios dropped the first footage from her inaugural comic book blockbuster, Eternals. Teasing glimpses of the movie's star-powered superhero cast, including Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden and a super-buff Kumail Nanjiani, were dropped in the middle of a three-minute highlights reel that celebrates the past, and future, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe... a future that includes Ryan Coogler's Black Panther sequel, now officially called Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Billed as "Marvel Studios Celebrates the Movies," the video, featuring a vintage voiceover from the late Stan Lee, is also designed to tempt coronavirus-wary moviegoers back into the multiplex as theaters continue to reopen. The first salvo in Phase 4's 10-movie lineup is the long-delayed Black Widow, which seems poised to pass the baton from Scarlett Johansson's dearly departed Natasha Romanoff to Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova — a change that also happened in the comics.
Unlike the rest of Marvel's newest phase, the Cate Shortland-directed film is debuting on July 9 both in theaters and as a Disney+ Premier Access title. The next MCU blockbuster, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is going the theatrical route only (at least for now) when it premieres on Sept. 3, as will the rest the company's fourth phase.
Eternals in particular looks like a movie built for the big screen, with some of the same ultra-wide landscapes that defined Nomadland, as well as Zhao's equally acclaimed earlier film, The Rider. In a recent interview with Variety, Marvel head honcho, Kevin Feige, raved about seeing the MCU filtered through the director's unique vision, and teased her "very bold and very ambitious sprawling 7,000-year story of humanity and our place in the cosmos.”
"What she talked about was really fighting for practical locations, for practical elements — yes, in a movie that is full of visual effects and characters with extraordinary powers, but doing as much as possible on far-flung locations," Feige continued. "And that starts to reap benefits visually immediately." He also mentioned that, despite being an ensemble movie, Chan emerges as the stealth star of Eternals. "If there was a lead in this ensemble, it is Sersi, it is Gemma Chan. We looked at and read all sorts of women for that part. And ended up really believing that Gemma was best for it. And thankfully, she’s proven that to be the case in the final movie."
With Marvel's post-Eternals adventures still in various states of production, the footage gets sparser as the video continues. Instead, the video focuses on staking out release dates so moviegoers can plan their ticket-buying accordingly: Spider-Man: No Way Home arrives on Dec. 17, followed by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on Mar. 25 and Thor: Love and Thunder on May 25.
Taika Waititi's return to the Thor franchise — which brings Natalie Portman back as well — is where the Phase 4 line-up stopped when Marvel unveiled their plans at San Diego's Comic-Con three years ago. But the studio is now ready to move forward, and the barrier-breaking Black Panther series is leading the way. King T'Challa's signature salutation provides the title for Coogler's sequel, which premieres July 8, 2022.
Of course, Chadwick Boseman's tragic passing means that T'Challa himself won't be present in the second Black Panther movie. Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment recently, Lupita Nyong'o — who is returning as Nakia — discussed the importance, and the difficulty, of carrying on without him. "His passing is still extremely raw for me, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like to step on set and not have him there. But at the same time we have a leader in Ryan, who feels very much like we do, who feels the loss in a very, very real way as well. And his idea, the way which he has reshaped the second movie is so respectful of the loss we’ve all experienced as a cast and as a world."
Another sequel getting a title refresh is the second Captain Marvel film, which will be known as The Marvels when it flies into theaters on Nov. 11, 2022. Directed by Candyman's Nia DaCosta, the film is expected to re-team Brie Larson's cosmos-dwelling heroine with Teyonah Parris's Monica Rambeau, aka Photon, who gained her powers in the blockbuster Disney+ series WandaVision. Iman Vellani is also expected to appear as Ms. Marvel, whose own streaming series premieres later this year.
Jumping ahead to 2023, Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lily are re-teaming in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania on Feb. 17, with James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 following on May 5 and the teasing prospect of Marvel's first family, the Fantastic Four, coming after that. (Left undated for now is Mahershala Ali's debut as the vampire-hunting bloodsucker, Blade, suggesting that film will be part of Phase 5.)
In case movie lovers were looking for one reason to head back to theaters, Marvel just gave them 10. And Twitter is loving the wealth of MCU content to come.
Black Widow launches Marvel's big-screen Phase 4 lineup in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 9.
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