The Marvel Cinematic Universe expands beyond the big screen with new projects coming to both Disney+ and Hulu, while Fox wraps up its X-Men run and Sony expands its Venom-verse.
Riding high off a series of billion-dollar box-office blockbusters and the culmination of its multi-year, multi-film, multi-franchise "Infinity Saga," Marvel is heading into a major transitional year in 2020.
Not only is the MCU itself stepping boldly into "Phase Four," with a fresh lineup of new films and character sequels and the need for a new "big bad" after Thanos, but the franchise is taking a fresh approach to its projects on the small screen.
"Runaways" just kicked off its final run on Hulu and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is wrapping its seven-season run this summer. And after already scrapping basically every other television series across a myriad of networks and streaming platforms over the past year or so, the MCU is coming to Disney+ and Hulu in a bold new way.
First, Disney+ is going to become the official small-screen home for limited-series explorations of some of its big-screen characters -- featuring the same movie-star talent -- like the Falcon, the Winter Soldier, the Scarlet Witch, Vision, Hawkeye and more. Plus, there are new characters debuting there as well, and it all kicks off in 2020.
Then, the more sinister and supernatural side of the MCU is set to flex its muscles over on the more mature-friendly Hulu platform as characters like Ghost Rider and Morbius are looking to set this streaming platform ablaze.
2020 also sees the culmination of Fox's tumultuous run with the X-Men franchise before they eventually get folded into the MCU, as well as Sony's latest attempts to build its own Marvel-style universe, this time spinning out of the success of the "Venom" film.
Check out everything coming to screens big and small from the madcap world of Marvel Comics below and start marking your calendars:
Already more than two years since it was filmed (and two years beyond its initial release date), many Marvel fans had written off ever seeing this film that has been described as a superhero horror film, figuring that it would never survive the Disney purchase of 20th Century Fox, where this gestated and was born as a part of the studio's dreams of an MCU-sized franchise based around the X-Men.
Already it was tweaked from a "Breakfast Club" young-adult style to focus more on the horror elements in the wake of the success of "It." What was originally intended to kick off a trilogy of films is now intended to serve as the final chapter of the Fox X-Men saga. Early screenings were well-received, and fans have been anxiously awaiting the film, hoping it's more alike in quality to "Deadpool" and "Logan" than, say, "X-Men: Apocalypse."
"Black Widow" (May 1)
Another film fans have been clamoring for over literal years, Scarlett Johansson finally takes center stage in a movie all her own ... only after the events of "Avengers: Endgame," that fact may raise more questions than anything else about the film.
The movie also kicks off the next phase of the MCU after "Spider-Man: Homecoming" put a bow on the Thanos-driven "Infinity Saga." That means anticipation will be high. And after a longer-than-usual hiatus between films, Disney and Marvel are certainly hoping that all that anticipation will bring fans out in droves to see how they set up a much more eclectic lineup of films for this fourth phase of cinema's most successful franchise.
Building out of the Venom-driven franchise that Sony is now banking on, Marvel's vampiric Morbius takes center stage, as portrayed by Jared Leto. "Venom" found success by shirking the traditional superhero format for a more horror-driven take -- without straying too far from its roots -- so Morbius is a good fit to continue in that darker cinematic direction.
Not nearly as popular a character in the Marvel comics themselves, Sony is clearly banking on its connections to their Venom-verse and its cast, including Leto, Matt Smith and Tyrese Gibson. If fans can shake off their disdain of Leto's take on Joker for "Suicide Squad," they could find he's a very good fit for the dramatic "living vampire" role this film demands. Despite the success of "Venom," Sony needs this one to be a hit in order to convince investors a Venom-verse is a viable thing ... or they might try to strongarm Spider-Man back away from the MCU.
"Venom 2" (October 2)
Just a few months after "Morbius" attempts to expand the Venom-verse, Tom Hardy returns as the titular anti-hero, only this time he'll be facing off against his greatest foe from the comics: Carnage. Woody Harrelson, perfectly cast, returns as the redneck serial killer who becomes bonded with the spawn of the Venom symbiote, becoming one of the most dangerous villains in the Marvel Universe.
Already a blockbuster franchise after just one film, Carnage is arguably the more popular of Marvel's symbiotes, so this should be a virtual guaranteed success. The good news for Sony is that this film can serve as a buffer in case Morbius underperforms, quickly proving that there is still life in this franchise, even if they don't quite crack the formula of stepping outside the "Venom" umbrella.
"The Eternals" (November 6)
If you thought "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Ant-Man" were huge MCU gambles ... well, you'd be right. But they're nothing compared to The Eternals. This is a pivotal time for the juggernaut franchise as "Endgame" was a natural ending point to a decade of film-making. Now, despite their track record of success, there is no "Avengers" build-up and so the MCU is looking to reinvent itself with a bit of the old and a bit of the new.
The Eternals (and Shang-Chi) represent the new -- along with those Disney+ series -- as it focuses on a race of immortal alien Celestials protecting humanity from their evil counterparts. It's pretty strange and heady stuff, but the MCU has pulled it off before. And with Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani and Kit Harington, among others, in the cast, they're certainly stacking the film with talent.
Currently scheduled to air in mid-2020, the flagship MCU television series held off the launch of its final 13-episode season until after Marvel wrapped its "Avengers: Endgame" saga, so that may serve as some indication that it plans to deal in some way with the aftermath of what went down in that film.
At the same time, it also will be dealing with some of the time travel elements that have already cropped up, including a peek into the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D. In fact, we last saw the team warped back to 1931, and there's every chance they'll skip their way back into the present (or future?) giving us glimpses of several different eras of the MCU along the way.
"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier"
The biggest gamble yet of the MCU will be realized with the release of the first film spin-off as an original Disney+ limited series. Promised to have big-screen budgets and big-screen stars (this one features Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprising their roles), "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" is but the first in several upcoming original Disney+ MCU series featuring characters old and new.
Perhaps even more so than any of the upcoming films, this one picks up the story after the events of "Avengers: Endgame," which monumentally left both characters in vastly different places as heroes and in their lives. It looks like a huge gamble, but based on the ridiculous success already of Star Wars' "The Mandalorian," this might just be a no-brainer for Marvel after all. It's definitely a great way to expand the storytelling possibilities of the main MCU saga beyond a few films a year.
Without a firm release date, and with a future already in doubt, "Helstrom" is the next Marvel project headed to Hulu. Unlike "Runaways" and "Cloak & Dagger," though, this series appears to be part of an intentional brand expansion by Disney and Marvel into the more mature-friendly Hulu, which they also essentially control.
The idea is to build around the "Spirits of Vengeance" franchise, which is largely Ghost Rider (who is slated to get his own series as well here) and many of the other supernatural characters of the Marvel Universe. Hopefully that means Disney won't be in a hurry to cancel it as it canceled all of the Netflix series and previous Hulu series, seemingly as part of its Disney+ consolidation. Scheduled for 2020, there is not a more specific launch date available.
"Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur"
One of the most adorable and marketable properties Marvel has, Lunella Lafayette is the world's smartest living person and also just 13 years old, to the frustration of many of Marvel's adult geniuses. She befriends -- and shares a mental link with -- a gigantic red dinosaur and goes off on science-driven adventures from her neighborhood in New York.
Heading to Disney Channel proper, this animated series comes from Laurence Fishburne's production company. Already a huge crossover success as a comic book, and one that has successfully drawn in African-American readers and young girls, "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" has been screaming for the animated treatment since their 2016 premiere. Scheduled for 2020, there is not a more specific launch date available.