Jane Foster in Thor 2011
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Ranking Marvel's absolutely bonkers Phase 4 announcements from SDCC 2019

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Jul 20, 2019, 11:00 PM EDT

As Pietro Maximoff might say, "What, you didn't see that coming?" No, we did not see it coming. We probably should have, but an already emotional day full of surprises at San Diego Comic-Con did not prepare us for the insanity that Marvel Studios unleashed at its Saturday panel.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 is here. And it's blowing our minds.

Some of the projects Marvel announced weren't too surprising — we've slowly been getting news about a few of these upcoming shows and movies, though it's still nice to get some more details and premiere windows.

Black Widow is happening, yes, no duh, but appearances on stage from Scarlett Johansson's co-stars David Harbour (Stranger Things), Rachel Weisz (The Lobster), and Florence Pugh (Midsommar) were a welcome surprise. The Disney+ television series Falcon and the Winter Soldier was not a surprise, and neither was Loki ... though confirmation that the show will focus on the stone-stealing Loki from Avengers: Endgame was a cool bit of information.

So what were we really surprised by?

Well, let's go through and rank the seven biggest announcements on a scale from "Wow, really?" to "ARE YOU KIDDING ME, GET RID OF THE KIDS, OH BRANDON ROUTH ABOVE, GOD IS REAL!!!!"

Eternals official logo


We knew this one was rumored, and we'd heard some of the rumored cast as well — a rumored cast that has been lying their butts off about this for months now.

At last, one of the crazier assemblies in the MCU is a done deal. Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and, wait for it, Angelina Jolie. All of them, together, in an MCU film. We knew it was possible, we just didn't think it was probable. We did not see this coming.

Eternals premieres in theaters November 6, 2020.

Black Panther

Captain Marvel 2/Black Panther 2/Guardians 3

We knew that all three of these movies were coming. That's not the surprise here.

The surprise is that they barely got a mention. No higher, further, faster. No Yibambe. No... whatever Star-Lord says. Nothing. We thought these three films would be highlights of the panel. Instead, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige tossed them off at the end.

The way he announced these hotly anticipated sequels? We did not see it coming.

Marvel What If official logo

What If?

This was the big surprise on the television side of things. Not only is it going to be the MCU's first foray into animation, but it's also going to formally introduce the Watchers. One Watcher in particular — and he'll be voiced by Jeffrey Wright (Westworld).

Also in the cast? Apparently every MCU actor out there. Since a Watcher is the main character (and it's their job to watch over the multiverse), we're thinking that multiverses are very much going to be a thing in this show. This came out of nowhere. We did not see this coming.

What If...? is expected to premiere on Disney+ in Summer 2021.

Shang-Chi official logo

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

An honest-to-goodness Mandarin story, with no Trevor Slattery in sight? Apparently, yes. Though we hear that his Lear was the toast of Croydon (wherever that is), Ben Kingsley's less-than-menacing version of this iconic villain in Iron Man Three was not the real deal — we found that out in the 2014 direct-to-video short "All Hail the King" and have been wondering about the real Mandarin ever since.

Well, here he is! Tony Leung will play him, and Simu Liu will play the heroic Shang-Chi. He'll be the first Asian-American leading man in a Marvel movie, and oh, I almost forgot — Awkwafina is going to be in the movie, too.

This was hugely surprising. We did not see this coming. We hoped, but we did not know. Now we know.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings premieres in theaters on February 12, 2021.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness official logo

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Staying with the notion of mutliverses for a moment, here we have this little nugget of a movie, previously known as Doctor Strange 2. Not anymore! Now it sounds like a rollercoaster Guillermo del Toro would build in his backyard! We're not complaining!

Feige and Benedict Cumberbatch made it clear that the "madness" aspect of the title is going to be taken literally — they are going into full-on horror territory here, in a way that the MCU hasn't really done before.

Another huge surprise was the reveal that Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) would be in the movie, and that her story here would lead directly out of her own television spin-off, WandaVision.

Doctor Strange and Wanda Maximoff together in a multiverse-based horror movie? Nope! Did not see this coming.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness premieres in theaters on May 7, 2021.

Blade Official logo


Sometimes Mahershala Ali just waltzes onstage at the end of a panel about the MCU, completely unprompted. This causes people to wonder what he's doing there. Is he taking a really late victory lap for his work in the first season of Luke Cage, or is it something else?

It was something else.

Blade is back. He's a part of the MCU now, and he's going to be played by the Oscar-winning Ali.

Who had money on this being revealed at the panel? Oh, that's right, NO ONE. This came right out of nowhere-land and slapped us all across the face. Ali is perfect casting, vampires now exist in the same cinematic universe as Night Monkey, and we did NOT see this COMING.

Blade does not yet have an official premiere date.

Sophie Turner Dark Phoenix

The oh so casual namedropping of Fantastic Four and 'mutants'

This one we probably should have seen coming, but we didn't think Feige would go there. We definitely didn't think that he'd go there in the way that he did. Right at the end of the panel, (right before the huge Blade reveal), he just said, "Fantastic Four, mutants."

Yes, sir? Excuse me? Might you say that again? We think it bears repeating.

It's no secret that Disney ate and swallowed Fox, and that the MCU now has access to both the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. It's going to be some time before we see any of those properties in the MCU, but this, right here? This was Feige's first shot. His first shot and Dark Phoenix is still warm in the grave. New Mutants is still re-shooting or something.

We didn't think Feige would say these words, yet say them he did. Didn't. See It. Coming.

Thor Love and Thunder official photo

Thor: Love and Thunder

Yeah, okay... what?

First we have the title of this next Taika Waititi-directed Thor movie, which is definitely not Thor 4, Fthor, Tor Fhour, 4 Thor 4 Furious, Thor: Keepin' it Real, or any other silly nonsense. Instead, we got the reveal of some truly glorious nonsense: The movie will be called Thor: Love and Thunder. You can almost hear the words being spraypainted on the side of a van!

According to Waititi, "There's nothing more powerful in the world than love and thunder." Don't know if that's true, but we'll buy anything that this man sells.

Tessa Thompson will be back as Valkyrie, and according to her, the King of Asgard has some ideas for a Queen.

All of that would be enough, but then? Then...they dropped a big damn hammer.

This movie is doing a spin on the "female Thor" arc from the comics. They're doing that arc with Jane Foster. And you know what else? Natalie f*****g Portman is coming back to the role.

Waititi even handed her the hammer while they were onstage together. The fact that Portman had anything whatsoever to do with Avengers: Endgame was surprising... but this? Still processing this. Still processing.

Natalie Portman is back in the MCU, and back in a big way.

We did not see that coming.

Thor: Love and Thunder premieres in theaters on November 5, 2021.

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