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Kevin Feige digs into Phase 5 of the MCU: 'Fantastic 4,' 'Blade,' 'Thunderbolts,' 'Spider-Man 4' & more
Don't expect every title in the Multiverse Saga to tie back into the multiverse.
Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially kicks off this Friday (Feb. 17) with the wide theatrical release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. As you've no doubt seen from the parade of marketing materials, the film seriously begins to lay the groundwork for the next big comic book crossover event — Avengers: The Kang Dynasty — which implies Earth's Mightiest Heroes joining forces to battle an inter-dimensional warlord known as Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors).
That film leads directly into Avengers: Secret Wars the following year, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Before we reach May 2025, there's still plenty of ground to cover in the Multiverse Saga, whose trajectory Kevin Feige was kind enough to track in a lengthy interview with Entertainment Weekly.
"Not every film in the Infinity Saga focused on the Infinity Stones or Thanos, and it'll be the same across 5 and 6," explained the lead MCU architect, who is coming up on 23 years at Marvel Studios. "But we're gearing up. People will get a taste of this in a big way in Quantumania as we lead to Avengers: Secret Wars, which I'm extremely excited for ... The storylines that weave together through Phase 5 and 6 into Secret Wars and the opportunities that the multiverse brings storytelling-wise, it's a whole new aspect to the MCU."
Head below for a breakdown of the biggest big screen beats to expect from Phase 5 and beyond...
The Next Big Bad
While Feige had been mulling over the idea of making Kang the next Big Bad after Thanos (Josh Brolin) for quite some time, the studio chief wasn't fully convinced until early test screenings of Quantumania.
"He's the highest-testing villain we've ever had in any of our friends and families [screenings]," Feige revealed. "That's really saying something with a movie like this. Even early on without the effects, Jonathan is his own effect. He was working from the start. It's always one of the fun rolls of the dice that we do at Marvel, which is to say: 'Hey, we're going to make multiple movies around this character, and we're going to start before the audience has even had a chance to meet him.'"
Here Come The Mutants (???)
Now that Disney has the screen rights to the X-Men, it can begin to introduce the mutant side of the Marvel Universe. Feige, however, has been rather cautious so far, easing fans into the idea with small teases in Ms. Marvel and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
"Part of the fun is that I've been at this company for half my life, and we're just now tapping into arguably one of the biggest aspects of the publishing history," he added. "It's pretty remarkable, and it's a testament to the house of ideas and what Marvel publishing has done these 80 years. The question is how to do it and when to do it, and that's something we've been working on for years. Now we know. But we're not going to talk about it."
While a full-on X-Men project has yet to be announced, the MCU will get a heavy dose of mutant action in November 2024 when Deadpool 3 brings Wade Wilson into the Disney-owned canon with Marvel Studios' first R-rated comic book movie. So far, Hugh Jackman (reprising Wolverine one last time) and Emma Corrin (playing a mystery villain) are confirmed to star alongside Ryan Reynolds.
Carol, Kamala & Monica
Brie Larson's Captain Marvel returns this summer in The Marvels from Candyman director Nia DaCosta. This time around, Carol Danvers will receive a helping hand from Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) — both of whom made their MCU debuts on the television side of things.
"It's picking up directly after the end of Captain Marvel 1, not in timeline but in story," Feige said, teasing that the plot deals with the Kree-Skrull war that takes center stage in the upcoming Secret Invasion series on Disney+. "There's something immensely powerful about seeing Monica and Kamala and Carol together in a frame," he continued. "To me, it's only akin to the first Avengers movie and seeing the six of them together in a frame. It's chill-inducing. They're so great together, and they all have different histories with one another."
President Thaddeus Ross
After years of ruthlessly clawing his way to the top — whether it was hunting the Hulk or masterminding the Sokovia Accords as Secretary of State — General "Thunderbolt" Ross will occupy ultimate position of power in Captain America: New World Order as president of the United States, Feige revealed. Harrison Ford is set to play the character following William Hurt's passing last year.
"With Harrison, you think about Air Force One, and you think about some of his confrontations with the president in Clear and Present Danger. There's a dynamic between President Ross and Sam Wilson. They have a history together, but in this film, we'll be seeing the dynamic between Captain America and the president of the United States in a way that is just incredible."
Directed by Julius Onah (The Cloverfield Paradox, Luce), Anthony Mackie's first big screen outing as the Star-Spanged superhero arrives in theaters May 3, 2024. The script was penned by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier writers, Malcolm Spellman and Dalan Musson.
At D23 Expo, Feige announced that a number of morally vague characters — Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), and John Walker (Wyatt Russell) — would band together under the leadership of Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in a standalone Thunderbolts movie.
"They are barely heroes," he noted during the conversation with EW. "None of them would consider themselves heroes. When your de facto leader is Bucky Barnes, that's sort of all you need to know. That's the trickle down. But again, it goes to the amazing work that [casting director] Sarah Finn has done across the whole MCU. You've got David Harbour and Florence Pugh and these people who are at the top of their game and popping in everything they're doing. They're already here and established in the MCU, and we get to build the movie around them."
Jake Schreier (Brand New Cherry Flavor) has been tapped to direct the project, which opens in late July of 2024. Black Widow scribe Eric Pearson is writing the script.
Marvel's First Family
One of the most anticipated films currently in development is the MCU's introduction of the Fantastic Four, a classic team we got a small taste of in Multiverse of Madness. Not scheduled for a theatrical debut until February of 2025 (two whole years from now!!), the movie will be directed by WandaVision alum Matt Shakman, who gave up Star Trek 4 in order to return to the Marvel family.
While new casting rumors seem to crop up every day, Shakman recently told Collider that no actors have been hired yet. "We are early in our process there," he said. "We have nothing to announce right now, and certainly, when we do we'll let you know."
"Fantastic Four is the foundation for everything that came after in the comics," Feige told EW. "There's certainly been versions of it [on screen], but never inhabiting the storytelling of the MCU. And that's something that is really exciting for us. People will start to hear more about that soon. We plan on that being a big pillar of the MCU going forward, just the way they've been in the comics for 50 or 60 years."
Odds and Ends
Feige also touched on the future of Tom Holland's Spider-Man, stating that a post-No Way Home story is in place. "We have big ideas for that, and our writers are just putting pen to paper now," he teased. And last, but most certainly not least, the head Marvel honcho provided an update on the Mahershala Ali-led Blade movie (hitting theaters in late 2024), which is scheduled to kick off its Atlanta-based production within "the next 10 weeks or so" under the captaincy of director Yann Demange. Ali's badass vampire hunter made a brief vocal cameo in the post-credits scene of Eternals, which seemed to hint at the formation of the Midnight Sons.
Wanna catch up on the previous phases of the MCU? Keep an eye on the SYFY schedule for frequent Marvel flicks on the calendar. Want to go even deeper into the Marvel fault? Catch the 2003 Hulk film streaming now on Peacock.