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Kevin Feige: The biggest Marvel surprise? That the Phase 4 surprises were actually surprises

By Caitlin Busch
Kevin Feige and Scarlett Johansson

Very few people could have anticipated what happened at Marvel Studios’ Saturday night panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, much to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige’s enjoyment. Similar to how the superhero powerhouse teased Phase 3 in 2014 (which, ahem, saw a few changes along the way), Feige stepped onto a massive stage on Saturday night to thunderous applause and revealed Phase 4.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4, a 10-part television and movie extravaganza, will take us through at least the end of 2021. One by one, Feige revealed the projects that will be ruining our collective lives over the next couple of years and then brought out the cast members who will be portraying our heroes. Those 10 movies and TV shows are: Black Widow (May 1, 2020), Eternals (November 6, 2020), Falcon & Winter Soldier (Fall 2020), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (February 12, 2021), WandaVision (Spring 2021), Loki (Spring 2021), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 7, 2021), What If…? (Summer 2021), Hawkeye (Fall 2021), and Thor: Love and Thunder (November 5, 2021).

Beyond those titles, Feige also dropped some bombs: “mutants” (aka the X-Men) will be joining the MCU, we will absolutely be getting a new Fantastic Four movie, and two-time Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali will be portraying Blade at the front end of Phase 5.

When SYFY WIRE spoke with Feige directly after the panel, he was overjoyed by the crowd’s response to every single announcement.

“When you have 7,000 people screaming, it’s pretty awesome and pretty amazing,” he said, smiling.

From there, Feige listed off his favorite responses: The confirmation of the Eternals cast, including superstar actors Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden; the love everyone has for Captain America/Falcon actor Anthony Mackie and the Winter Soldier’s Sebastian Stan, as well as Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Paul Bettany (Vision), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange); and the announcement that newcomer Teyonah Parris will be portraying a “grownup Monica Rambeau.”

The real winners, though? Ali as Blade and the big, shocking reveal that Natalie Portman would be returning to portray Jane Foster — only this time, she’ll be wielding the hammer as a female Thor.

Natalie Portman, Taika Waititi, Kevin Feige at SDCC 2019

It’s truly rare for something this big to stay under wraps, especially when it’s something this big from Marvel. Even the Eternals cast members weren’t too huge a surprise, as news of most of the actors being in talks to join the MCU had leaked months beforehand.

“I’m glad there were surprises,” Feige said. “You don’t always get to surprise in this business. And both of those things [Ali as Blade and Portman as Thor] have been in the works for a long time. Natalie in particular — that deal’s been done for six or seven months. And then it didn’t leak! I was very pleased about it.”

Another big surprise of the night was what the upcoming slate lacked: Namely, another Avengers movie. While we did get confirmation that several MCU heroes will be crossing over into other properties — Scarlet Witch will be joining Doctor Strange in his sequel and plenty of MCU actors will be appearing in the animated What If…? series — none of these new projects are a true Avengers-style team-up.

When asked if there’s another Avengers movie down the line, Feige referenced Marvel’s comics, saying that he and the studio are always striving to emulate them.

“When you meet new characters and seeing those new characters meet other new characters, that’s fun,” he continued. “And to me, it’s not just world-ending stakes; it’s not just snapping out half the universe that makes an Avengers movie an Avengers movie. It’s the incredible ensemble and taking people who are completely different from one another and throwing them in a room together and seeing what happens.”

It’s not a true confirmation of another Avengers crossover, but it’s something to dream about. Plus, the idea of not putting Doctor Strange in a room with the Eternals, Shang-Chi, and Jane Foster’s Thor? Inconceivable.