As Marvel Studios announces its Phase 4 roster at their recent San Diego Comic-Con panel, one thing is more noticeable than ever. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand in the next two years, the MCU will be more diverse than it ever has been before. With multiple female-fronted entities and racially diverse collectives leading Shang-Chi and The Eternals, Marvel is making strides as it slowly moves away from White-Male orientated stories which have dominated this cinematic universe since its conception with Iron Man over a decade ago.
Phase 4 kicks off with the long-awaited Black Widow movie. The only female in the original Avengers line-up she finally gets her own solo gig, perhaps due to the success of this year’s Captain Marvel, Marvel’s first solo-female led movie. Reports list Rachael Weiss as Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johannson) foe Iron Maiden, alongside Yelena Belova, Natasha’s co-operative, played by Midsommar’s breakout star Florence Pugh. After months filming in Budapest filling in for Russia, this looks to be a female-led spy thriller, and will finally provide fans with the screen time they’ve desired for Natasha for years.
Phase 4’s last entry Thor: Love and Thunder will also showcase Marvel’s strongest women with Natalie Portman returning to the franchise as Jane Foster, this time taking over the mantel of Thor herself, as based on some of the most recent runs of the comics in which a cancer ridden Jane is deemed worthy enough to be gifted the lightening god’s power. Tessa Thompson is also set to return as Valkyrie, the new KING of Asgard, who Thompson says is looking for her Queen, perhaps confirming that she’ll be the first openly-queer character on the big screen.
Women aren’t the only ones taking the spotlight. 2021’s Shang-Chi will be the studios first predominately Asian-led film. Officially Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it stars Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu in the titular role alongside rising Asian-American star Awkwafina in a yet unnamed role. This standalone movie will be following 2020’s Eternals, focused on a race of immortal beings who have lived on Earth for centuries, shaping and influencing societies and civilisations. Set to be the next super-group of heroes most likely joining the Guardians of the Galaxy now that the original Avengers have passed on the gauntlet (literally), this cast features Hollywood legend Angelina Jolie, alongside rising star Richard Madden, and deaf actress Lauren Ridloff.
And it’s not just in front of the camera things are changing. More female directors have been assigned for Black Widow, with director Cate Shortland, and the Eternals, with Chloe Zhao. Thor: Ragnarok Maori director Taika Waititi also returns to head its follow-up Thor: Love and Thunder. And it’s not just the movies that are being diversified. After the successes of the diverse Agents of SHIELD and Marvel’s forays on Netflix with the Defenders universe, Marvel’s properties scheduled for new streaming platform Disney+ will also continue to showcase a wide variety of superheroes. Anthony Mackie gets his first outing as the first African-American Captain America in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, due for release Autumn of next year. Fans at SDCC were also ecstatic to hear that Kate Bishop will also be joining the MCU in a Hawkeye solo TV series set for 2021.
— Jeremy Renner (@Renner4Real) July 21, 2019
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to be a booming financial success, it seems that Marvel president Kevin Feige is now prepared to take bigger risks and introduce more diverse and dynamic heroes to this shared fictional universe. One that represents its broad audience better and shows the world a more representative catalogue of characters, changing the face of Marvel away from conventional male-driven stories, and shaping it in a more progressive direction for the years to come.