After 18 months off, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is back in full swing with its first two Disney+ series "WandaVision" and "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" having completed their runs. The hugely popular franchise took an unexpected hiatus thanks to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down both production and movie theaters, causing Marvel Studios to delay its films and Disney+ TV series all the way out of 2020.
Below, here is a rundown of all the films and TV shows (the first under the Marvel Studios banner) that will stream or hit theaters (some at the same time) this year, and how we think they could — or already have — affect the larger MCU.
"WandaVision" (Jan. 15) •
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany return as Wanda Maximoff and Vision, the latter of which is still definitely dead. The first MCU TV series for Disney+ finds Wanda's reality-bending powers transporting the pair into the idyllic (and fictional) town of Westview, where they attempt to live out a sitcom-inspired lifestyle. •
How it affected the MCU: The series introduced the grown-up version of Monica Rambeau from "Captain Marvel," who now has superpowers of her own thanks to walking in and out of The Hex a bunch of times. Additionally, the series introduced us the organization known as S.W.O.R.D., while Kathryn Hahn debuted as the witch Agatha Harkness. We got double the Vision with a White-colored version flying around somewhere after he regained memories from the Vision that lived inside The Hex, who is now dead... again. The series ended with Wanda finally taking the moniker of The Scarlet Witch, which is sure to attract the attention of Doctor Strange (given Olsen is set to appear in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness").
Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan return as the title characters, who will have team up despite not really enjoying each others' company. "Falcon and the Winter Soldier" will see them battle against the anarchist group known as the Flag-Smashers, while the U.S. government tries out a new Captain America. •
How it affected the MCU: As pretty much everyone expected, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is now the new Captain America (and is presumably getting his own solo movie). After his brief and extremely unsuccessful turn as the government-sanctioned Star-Spangled Man, John Walker (Wyatt Russell) now goes by U.S. Agent. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) took a villainous turn as the Power Broker and Julia Louis-Dreyfus debuted as the mysterious Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who figures to play a big role going forward.
Despite seemingly dying three times -- the last one for good -- Marvel is still not done with Tom Hiddleston's trickster god. This series follows the Loki that used the Space Stone to disappear during the Avengers' Time Heist, so he didn't have that whole redemption thing yet. •
How it could affect the MCU: Given that Loki in the MCU is still very much dead, this alternate-timeline version will not only introduce us to the TVA (Time Variance Authority), it will also start to seed just how weird and vast the MCU's multiverse could become. It could also help explain if Steve Rogers had any help when he returned all the infinity stones at the end of "Endgame" and how he was able to hop back into the main timeline to give Sam his shield after growing old in his new, alternate universe-life with Peggy.
"Black Widow" (July 9 in theaters and on Disney+) •
The movie that was supposed to kick-start the MCU's Phase 4 is the first film that will finally hit theaters this year, though now it's getting a simultaneous release (for those who want to pay extra) on Disney+. Scarlett Johansson returns one last time as Natasha Romanoff in a film that is set between the events of "Captain America: Civil War" and "Avengers: Infinity War." She teams up with her Russian family from the Black Widow program, including Red Guardian (David Harbour), a Russian version of Captain America, to battle the Taskmaster. •
How it could affect the MCU: While we think this will mostly be a send-off for Romanoff -- it's set between two previous movies and we already know the eventual fate of her character -- we'll probably learn some new things about the Black Widow program we didn't know before. However, given that Florence Pugh's Yelena is set to show up in "Hawkeye," this film will likely set her up to be the new Black Widow.
The first animated series in the MCU will tell one-off stories that play out major events if they happened differently. Examples include "what if" Peggy Carter took the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers and Yondu picking up T'Challa instead of Peter Quill. Jeffrey Wright will voice a character known as The Watcher. •
How it could affect the MCU: The series is non-canon so it won't have any larger ramifications, but it will still be cool to see Peggy as Captain Britain and T'Challa as Star-Lord.
"Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" (September 3) •
Newcomer Simu Liu makes his debut as Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist. The film also stars Awkwafina, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung, the latter of which plays a new character Wenwu, Shang-Chi's dad and the (real) Mandarin, the leader of the Ten Rings organization. •
How it could affect the MCU: With apologies to Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian, we'll finally meet the "real" Mandarin in "Shang-Chi." In "Iron Man 3," the Mandarin was an invention of Killian's, who hired out-of-work actor Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) to play a fictional terrorist. The Ten Rings were also the group that captured Tony Stark in the first "Iron Man" movie, so we'll likely learn a whole lot more about this group that unwittingly started the Avengers.
Iman Velani will star as the teenage superhero, Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, a Pakastani-American who became the first Muslim superhero in Marvel Comics.
How it could affect the MCU: Kamala Khan will become the first character introduced in a Disney+ series to reppear in an upcoming film (Monica Rambeau was introduced as a child in the first "Captain Marvel"). Like Parris, Velani will reprise her role for "Captain Marvel 2," which makes sense given the two's comic book ties (Khan names herself after Carol Danvers' superhero).
An immortal race that has been on Earth for thousands of years comes out of hiding to battle their nemesis, The Deviants. It features Angelina Jolie, Selma Hayak, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani and Bryan Tyree Henry. •
How it could affect the MCU: We're not quite sure just yet, but the logline references that some kind of tragedy that happens following the events of "Endgame" is the catalyst for the story. Also, they've been on earth for 7,000 years, so they probably know some stuff we don't.
"Hawkeye" (Late 2021) •
Original Avenger Jeremy Renner returns as Clint Barton, who trains Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to be the new Hawkeye. He also has to come to grips with his murderous turn as Ronin. •
How it could affect the MCU: We'll bet this is another swan song for an OG Avenger and just as much of a set-up for Kate Bishop to take on a larger role in the MCU. Maybe we'll finally learn about Budapest?
Tom Holland is back for a third adventure that will feature a ridiculous cast that includes the likes of Jamie Foxx's Electro and Alfred Molina's Otto Octavius, who are known for appearing in films featuring other Spider-Men like Toby McGuire and Andrew Garfield. Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange fills the required older guy mentor role in this one. •
How it could affect the MCU: Given Strange's involvement, the characters appearing from non-MCU Spider-Man films and that this will also tie-in some way to "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness," expect some multi-verse hopping weirdness in this one. It could be the last time we see a "Spider-Man" film in the MCU, given that odd joint-custody between Marvel and Sony.