"Let's talk about Phase Three." With these momentous (and much-awaited, we might add) words, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige kicked off a ground-breaking one-off event themed around announcing the title of each and every instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's latest sub-franchise of eagerly anticipated superhero films. Taking place in the El Capitan Theatre, Los Angeles, on Tuesday October 28th, the much-discussed gathering in question played host to hundreds upon hundreds of near-starved fans, each of whom were naturally anxious to discover what's coming next.
Two days on, and it seems a reasonably safe assertion to proclaim that the studio delivered tenfold on their prolonged teasing of major changes aplenty for their prized multi-medium universe. Whether it was in the form of female-led or non-Caucasian-led big-screen outings (Black Panther and Captain Marvel fulfil those respective roles, for those wondering), a two-part Avengers crossover event to match DC's recently-announced duo of intertwined Justice League motion pictures - the latter of which will in fact go head-to-head with the tantalisingly-named Infinity War - Part 2 come 2019 - or a pair of voyages to the unknown with both Doctor Strange and Inhumans, Feige and company left nothing up to chance here, confirming the extent to which they've mapped out their multi-faceted saga of high-octane heroism and colossally intricate story arcs in such style that they might as well have rolled the various never-before-seen title cards down a full-scale catwalk. Enough of our justifiable expression of utter admiration for Marvel's sustained ambition (not to mention their continued dedication to interacting on an unparalleled level with their ever-loyal fandom), though - let's get down to business and reveal the slate in full (feel free to weep tears of unrestrained joy afterwards if necessary):
- CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (May 6th, 2016) - As previously rumoured by Variety, here we'll see the titular American Avenger face off against Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man (and Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther, potentially - more on him later!) in a confrontation for the ages whilst simultaneously dealing with the aftermath of The Winter Soldier's politically charged storyline and the emergence of the infamous - due in no small part to the comic-book arc which gives this third Captain America outing its sub-title (credit to Feige for pulling the wool over our eyes by calling it Serpent Society at first) - Superhero Registration Act to boot.
- DOCTOR STRANGE (November 4th, 2016) - Remember that rumour which did the rounds last week surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch's supposed ascension into the role of the Sorcerer Supreme? Well, as it happens, said leak mightn't have been as unlikely as it originally seemed at the time of its emergence, although a few i's need to be dotted and t's crossed before anything's official on that front. All the same, though, to know for certain that Scott Derrickson is hard at work on bringing Jon Spaihts' screenplay to life (with the help of a little magic, of course) is more than enough to go on for now.
- GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 (May 5th, 2017) - Like Civil War, we knew this one was on the way sometime in the foreseeable future thanks to James Gunn's revelation of the development of a sequel to this year's best loved sci-fi comedy at Comic-Con 2014, but what we didn't know until this week is that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (or whatever the follow-up ends up being called come release day) will hit two months earlier than planned, leaving a certain Asgardian epic to take its original place...
- THOR: RAGNAROK (July 28th, 2017) - Talk about foreshadowing, eh? In case readers haven't heard the term "ragnarok" before, it refers to the mythical End of Days, namely an apocalyptic event which has befallen Asgard on multiple occasions in the realms of Marvel's comic-book universe. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are both confirmed to reprise their roles as Thor and Loki respectively here, but don't be surprised in the slightest if only one of them (if that!) makes it out of their latest fraught quest alive!
- BLACK PANTHER (November 3rd, 2017) - Feige hasn't exactly been shy about voicing his infinite enthusiasm for the aforementioned King of T'challa, making his fully-fledged début in a standalone MCU outing - which will follow hot on the heels of his arch-nemesis' purported first appearance in Age of Ultron and his own brief appearances in Civil War - more of a pleasant confirmation of the influence which Marvel Studios' commander-in-chief holds over their ongoing release strategy.
- CAPTAIN MARVEL (July 6th, 2018) - Can anyone hear that sound? No? We're not surprised - it's the sound of silence. To be a little more specific, it's the intangible noise one hears when a thousand voices cease their cries of discontent at superhero film helmers' seemingly phallo-centric approach to bringing comic-book characters to the big-screen, and it has all come about thanks to DC and Marvel's unveiling of their respective Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel adaptations. Jesting aside, we fail to see how this development could possibly be viewed in a cynical light, not least since Carol Danvers - the character who'll inherit the other Cap's mantle in the MCU - is amongst the latter publisher's most coveted constructs and if that's not justification enough, then Scarlet Johannson's sublime work as Black Widow should be all the evidence we need to warrant a production of this ilk.
- INHUMANS (November 2nd, 2018) - Spider-Man and the X-Men may well be staying put at Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox for the time being, yet as ever, that's not stopping Feige from venturing as close to the quasi-fantastical realms of the latter team of mutants (a word which in itself is a major taboo for Marvel given Fox's ownership of the word in relation to their remarkably popular X-series) as possible. Whereas the vast majority of MCU motion pictures centre on a single death-defying defender of the weak, Inhumans will introduce literally dozens of new constructs into the mix, with each of them no doubt set to play a vital role in the final pair of blockbusters featured on this list...
- AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR - PART 1 & PART 2 (May 4th, 2018 & May 3rd, 2019) - Ultron, believe it or not, is essentially small fry as a threat to the Earth's Mightiest Heroes when juxtaposed with the Master of Death, Thanos himself. First glimpsed back in 2012's Avengers Assemble, this near-omnipotent adversary made a long-awaited return in Guardians of the Galaxy earlier this year before revealing himself to possess all six Infinity Gems within his iconic gauntlet during a sensational teaser trailer shown only to event-goers on Tuesday. Word has it that Infinity War will act as a "culmination" to - by then - over a decade's worth of high-flying adventures, bringing together each and every major character featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far in order to rally against an enemy who'll bring the Nine Realms to their knees in an instant should he be left unopposed. Enjoy trying to cope with three tiresome years of waiting, folks...
All of this apparently wasn't more than enough to keep us going until Avengers: Age of Ultron, though, since Feige then went on to partake in a Q&A with the press regarding Phase Three and the wider future of his Cinematic Universe (trust us, the franchise isn't going anywhere post-2019 at this rate). Given that we're charitable folks here at On-Screen, we've done our dear readership the profound courtesy of compiling each and every one of the man with a plan's potentially crucial comments into one comprehensive guide. No thanks necessary, of course, but flowers and chocolates won't be refused...
- ON BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH'S ALLEGED ACQUISITION OF THE ROLE OF DOCTOR STRANGE - "If that had been confirmed, we would've announced him today."
- ON BLACK PANTHER'S ROLE IN CIVIL WAR - "He is definitely a big part in Civil War. We will meet him for the first time in Civil War, in costume."
- ON GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2'S NARRATIVE - "Is Groot going to be small? Is Groot going to be big? Is Cosmo going to come back, will he speak? What's that duck doing after he took that swig? Where is the Collector? All of those questions we like having fun with, when [director] James Gunn returns from Tokyo, [...] we'll start to go through with him."
- ON HULK'S PRESENCE IN PHASE THREE - "I'd say Hulk is going to appear in many of those movies, particularly all the Avengers movies leading up to [...] Infinity War. [...] What happens with a standalone Hulk film? [...] We'll see."
- ON THE RUMOURS OF SPIDER-MAN'S INDUCTION INTO THE MCU - "No. Anything that wasn't specifically and obviously announced today is either not true at all or still rumoured until it's worked out."
Before all of these explosive motion pictures arrive in cinemas, however, there are still vital chapters of Phase Two for us to bear witness to: Avengers: Age of Ultron, which - by our reckoning, at least - will land in UK cinemas on April 24th, 2015, and Ant-Man, the latter of which will crawl into our auditoriums on July 17th, 2015.