SAN DIEGO – “Avengers: Endgame” may have closed a chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the blockbuster factory is only expanding in scope and diversity.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige led a marathon presentation at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday night, announcing plans for the first two years of “Phase Four,” which will include Natalie Portman taking up the hammer as Thor, making Angelina Jolie an immortal for “The Eternals” and rebooting “Blade” with Mahershala Ali.
Parent company Disney said Saturday that “Avengers: Endgame” would become the highest-grossing film of all time this weekend. It was just $500,000 behind the decade-old $2,789.7 million record set by James Cameron’s “Avatar” as of Friday, and “will close this gap by tomorrow,” Disney said.
The stars assembled in the San Diego Convention Center as Feige ticked through the release calendar for 2020 and 2021 movie by movie, giving official cast lists, release dates, titles and logos for everything from “Black Widow” to the “Doctor Strange” sequel, “Thor 4,” “Shang-Chi” and “The Eternals.”
Jolie, who is playing the character Thena, was joined by her “The Eternals” cast mates, including Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek and Brian Tyree Henry, as well as director Chloe Zhao.
It is set for release on Nov. 6, 2020, after “Black Widow” kicks things off on May 1 with Scarlett Johansson, as well as “Stranger Things” breakout David Harbour, Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh. Audiences got a look at some early footage from the Cate Shortland-directed film showing Johansson and Pugh in hand-to-hand combat.
Marvel also revealed that newcomer Simu Liu will be playing the lead role in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and coming to theaters on Feb. 12, 2021. He will star alongside Awkwafina and Chinese actor Tony Leung, who is playing The Mandarin.
The third film of 2021, after “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which director Scott Derrickson said will be Marvel’s “first horror movie,” is perhaps the most anticipated: “Thor 4.”
Portman, who played Jane in the first two Thor films, will be re-emerging as the female Thor. She ran out on stage to thunderous applause and accepted the hammer from a kneeling Taika Waititi. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will also be returning for the Waititi-directed “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which is set for release on Nov. 2, 2021.
This year alone, three of the top five movies are Marvel properties: “Avengers: Endgame” is No. 1, “Captain Marvel” is No. 2, and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is currently No. 5 after just three weeks in theaters. And combined, with over $22.3 billion in worldwide earnings, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is by far the most successful franchise of all time.