With the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home still garnering positive feedback from both casual fans and hardcore enthusiasts of New York’s most famous wall-crawler(s) months after its release, it’s no surprise that people are looking towards the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe projects with sky-high expectations.
Marvel Studios plans to venture further into Phase Four of the MCU timeline, with a promising list of movies slated for a theatrical release and shows to be streamed on Disney+ throughout 2022. It seems to be quite a busy year for the MCU, introducing characters never before portrayed in live action and expanding fictional worlds audiences are already familiar with.
Moon Knight (March 30, 2022)
In the comics, Moon Knight is generally the persona of Marc Spector; a mercenary killed in Egypt on a job excavating a tomb who was subsequently resurrected by the ancient Moon god, Khonshu, and bestowed with supernatural abilities in the process. Upon his return to the United States, Spector begins fighting crime on the streets of New York as the vigilante Moon Knight. Spector also suffers from dissociative identity disorder and assumes different alters, such as millionaire Steven Grant and cab driver Jake Lockley.
The Disney+ series will seemingly stray from its comic book origins with a synopsis on Marvel.com reading, “Moon Knight follows Steven Grant, a mild-mannered gift-shop employee, who becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life. Steven discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector.” However, Moon Knight will not lose all its comic-accuracy; the costumes in the show will be remarkably similar to those in the source material. Artist Declan Shalvey, who originally designed Moon Knight's iconic Mr. Knight look in his 2014 run with Warren Ellis, tweeted his reaction to a released promo image.
Hello Mr. Knight… Seriously, this is NUTS. I drew something out of my brain, and now it’s a real thing in a TV show…? Such a surreal feeling… I can’t quite describe it.#MoonKnight #MrKnight pic.twitter.com/8KQTCsuZDs
— Declan Shalvey (@declanshalvey) February 12, 2022
Kevin Feige, the producer of Marvel Studios, recently confirmed the speculation that the 6-episode miniseries would embody darker and grittier themes in an interview with Empire Magazine. He says, “it’s loud and brutal” and “we’re not pulling back,” leading to increased speculation that Moon Knight’s tone will be on par with the fan-favorite Netflix original series Daredevil. Moon Knight has since then officially received a TV-14 rating.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6, 2022)
For those familiar with Marvel’s tradition of inserting mid-credits and/or post-credits scenes after the end of a feature film in theaters, audience members would have seen the first trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness after watching No Way Home. Multiverse of Madness stars two of the highly-contested, hotly-debated candidates for the title of strongest Avenger: Wanda Maximoff, The Scarlet Witch and the self-casted star of her own spooky sitcom Wandavision, and Stephen Strange, the brilliant neurosurgeon turned sorcerer who's most recent magical endeavor was performing a massive hard reset on the entire population as per the wishes of Peter Parker.
After casting a formidable spell that shatters the multiverse into instability, Strange seeks Wanda’s help in restoring the balance of all realities and they embark on a journey together through the intricacies of magic and madness. Fans might have caught glimpses of America Chavez aka Miss America accompanying the magic users, who is actually from an alternate reality herself and boasts the ability to travel interdimensionally via star-shaped portals.
A second trailer for the film was released on Super Bowl Sunday and notably, the voice of Patrick Stewart, who previously played Professor Charles Xavier in the Fox X-Men franchise, can be heard professing to tell the "truth" to a handcuffed Strange as he seemingly awaits the verdict for his crimes from some sort of elite council (likely the Illuminati). This scene alone has fueled rumors that MoM will be packed with cameos and perhaps even bring in more of Fox's X-Men characters into the MCU, possibly Jean Grey and Wolverine.
Both trailers already emulate a kind of haunting vibe, but Kevin Feige has long debunked rumors about MoM being a horror film, describing it to Collider in 2019 as more of a “big MCU film with scary sequences.” Sam Raimi, who is coincidentally no stranger to the horror genre, is the director.
Ms. Marvel (June 8, 2022)
A newer character introduced by Marvel in 2015, Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American teenager from New Jersey. She's a prolific fanfiction reader and writer, and an enthusiastic fan of Carol Danvers and her superhero alter-ego, Captain Marvel. Kamala is navigating through the relatable ups and downs of friendships and family life until she acquires superpowers of her own.
These powers will be vastly different from the ones Kamala possesses in the comics; rather than being able to expand her limbs like elastic, Kamala will form Green Lantern-esque constructs like a giant fist-presumably through some form of cosmic energy or technology. Ms. Marvel will definitely explore how Kamala's ethnic and cultural identity influences her superhero antics, first alluded to by a voiceover in the Disney+ Day Special where she remarks, "it's not really the brown girls from Jersey City who save the world."
Ms. Marvel is directed by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Meera Menon: a team of accomplished filmmakers who each have a unique Muslim and/or Pakistani background that will help try to establish proper representation in the show.
Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8, 2022)
The fourth of the gradually redeeming Thor movies, Thor: Love and Thunder will reportedly be based off of Jason Aaron's 2015 Mighty Thor comic run, which follows Jane Foster as she takes on the mantle of the Goddess of Thunder while simultaneously undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. Natalie Portman will reprise her role as Jane after a temporary hiatus from the MCU, alongside the expected Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie.
Christian Bale has crossed franchises altogether from DC to Marvel, trading his Batman cowl and cape for white robes and probably prosthetic tentacles to play the alien Gorr the God Butcher. The film will also feature several members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, suggesting space shenanigans and zany humor to be very prevalent in this plot.
Natalie Portman wields Mjolnir at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con. via Screen Slam / YouTube
A new look at the costumes for Thor: Love and Thunder has been released via the marketing of toys, such as action figures and LEGO sets. Thor's decked out in a royal blue breastplate accented with gold while Jane's hair has been lightened several shades to blonde and she sports her own version of Asgardian armor.
Are you worthy of these new Marvel Studios' Thor: Love and Thunder items? ⚡ https://t.co/qF86yuvg5C
— Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) February 21, 2022
She-Hulk is the alter-ego of Lawyer Jennifer Walters, who became a more intelligent and contained version of the Hulk after receiving a life-saving blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner that injects gamma radiation into her body. Promo footage released on Disney+ Day back in November offered a little insight into Walter's day-to-day activities but avoided showing her as her green-skinned counterpart, and the few shots we did see completely excluded her face. MCU OG Mark Ruffalo will continue as Bruce Banner as he guides MCU newcomer Tatiana Maslay as Jennifer Walters through controlling the impulses and rage that cause She-Hulk to breach through. The duo appears together at the end, reenacting a scene from the 1978 The Incredible Hulk television show where Walters turns straight towards the camera and warns, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
Jennifer Walters and Bruce Banner are the dream green team. via Marvel / Disney+
Tim Roth will return once more as Abomination after making a brief cameo in Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings earlier this year, but the main villain will actually be Jameela Jamil's new Titania: She Hulk's equally-strong arch-enemy in the comics. She-Hulk has been categorized as a legal-comedy with director Kat Coiro describing the show as "playing with a more comedic world" during an interview with The Wrap, so we'll certainly get to see the quirks of Walter's day job tackling superhero-related cases in court.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11, 2022)
After Chadwick Boseman's death, Marvel has confirmed they will not be recasting or digitally replicating T'Challa but the cast and crew is extremely dedicated to paying tribute to Boseman's legacy in the new film. Lupita Nyong'o, who portrays Nakia and developed a close, genuine friendship with Boseman when working together, told Yahoo Entertainment that director Ryan Coogler has approached the writing and production process in a way that is "so respectful of the loss we've all experienced as a cast and as a world." She adds that, "[Boseman] left us a lot of light that we’re still going to be bathing in. I know that for sure."
Kevin Feige revealed to Deadline that Wakanda Forever would delve into the "mythology and the inspiration of Wakanda," while simultaneously "honoring and respecting the ongoing learnings and teachings from Chad as well." The film will also introduce Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, a 15-year-old genius and engineering prodigy who creates her own Iron-Man armor to become the superheroine Ironheart, alongside familiar faces from the first Black Panther such as Letitia Wright as Shuri and Winston Duke as M'Baku.
— Lupita Nyong'o (@LupitaNyongo) <a href="https://twitter.com/LupitaNyongo/status/1494060914005319680?refsrc=twsrc%5Etfw">February 16, 2022
Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special (December 2022)
One of the more ambiguous projects on this list, the only confirmed information about Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special is that it is a 40 minute canon television special centered around everyone's favorite cosmic found family and filmed concurrently with Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3. It also contains important context for the movie, whatever that may be, and will serve as a preview of sorts for GotG Vol. 3 before it releases in 2023.
In an interview clip from The Collider, writer and director James Gunn chuckles that he's "almost jealous" of the attention the Holiday Special is receiving in comparison to its feature film counterpart, but still praises his script as "really funny and really good."
However, Gunn has been a bit cryptic about his actual intentions for the Guardians and this tweet is no exception.
In my incredibly subjective & admittedly often odd opinion, we'll be introducing one of the greatest MCU characters of all time. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GotGHolidaySpecial?src=hash&refsrc=twsrc%5Etfw">#GotGHolidaySpecial https://t.co/CipO64ZpoC pic.twitter.com/qnVkVr7w10
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) October 2, 2021
Fans were quick to throw around big names, like the intergalactic hero Nova and even Santa Claus. Yes, Santa Claus: old Saint Nick himself is actually the most powerful mutant to be detected by the Cerebro and is strongly postulated to possess Omega Level abilities. Alas, we'll have to wait for the holiday season to discover who this mystery character is.
Secret Invasion (2022)
In keeping with the theme of the title, not much about Secret Invasion has been revealed to the public besides the cast: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and Ben Mendolsohn as Talos. While other actors and actresses such as Killian Scott and Emilia Clarke have signed onto the project, it is currently undisclosed which Marvel characters they will be portraying.
When asked about her new film in a Jimmy Fallon interview, the Game of Thrones old-timer joked that she was "convinced there is a man outside [her] house" undercover from Marvel's security team, making sure she doesn't reveal any confidential details. Leaked set pictures have spread across social media and rumors are circulating about Emilia playing Abigail Brand, the commander of a counterterrorism agency specializing in extraterrestrial threats called S.W.O.R.D. In the latest episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Jackson voices his admiration for his Secret Invasion co-stars while they were on-set in London to host Josh Horowitz.
Please enjoy Samuel L. Jackson gushing like a fanboy about working with Olivia Colman (and the insane cast of SECRET INVASION) pic.twitter.com/Ufsgo4ZIJT
— Josh Horowitz (@joshuahorowitz) March 16, 2022
A brief entry on Disney.com describes Secret Invasion as about "a faction of shape-shifting Skrulls who have been infiltrating Earth for years," which is directly inspired from the comic event of the same name where Skrulls invade Earth and covertly steal the identities of beloved heroes to take out prominent figures in power and facilitate their plan of conquering humanity. Skrulls were initially introduced in Captain Marvel as a peaceful race and operated as allies of humans, when it was revealed at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home that Skrulls Talos and Sora were impersonating SHIELD agents Nick Fury and Maria Hill on their behalf while they were vacationing up in space.
The sudden shift from Skrulls being a trusted friend to a devious foe will be explored through "tapping into paranoia elements of the Secret Invasion comic series," according to Kevin Feige during an interview with ComicBook.com.
Nick Fury's signature eyepatch is MIA. via Marvel / Disney+
The MCU will undoubtedly continue to experience massive success throughout 2022, but this chapter of the beloved franchise in particular simply feels different. A new quality that these Phase Four projects will hopefully bring to the table is being more faithful to original comic book characterizations and storylines, rather than just corporatizing them to rack up viewer engagement.
That's just one of the many factors, amongst stark contrasts in production tones, innovative screenplays and never-before seen characters that fuel my excitement towards the upcoming Marvel releases. And like many other fans, you will definitely find me anxiously awaiting the premiere of Moon Knight on Disney+ in a couple of days.