The pandemic juggled the release calendar, but Marvel Studios returns to theaters with its pop-culture credentials firmly intact, having launched a trio of buzzworthy series featuring other Avengers-connected characters — “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and currently “Loki” — for Disney+, its parent company’s streaming service.
Still, unproven characters always pose a bit more of a risk, and the two films due in the next four months will be followed by a steady stream of sequels: In order of the company’s release plans, Spider-Man in December 2021; Doctor Strange, Thor, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel in 2022; and Ant-Man and the Wasp and Guardians of the Galaxy in 2023.
In the eyes of many Marvel fans (including this one), perhaps the greatest opportunity presented to Marvel going forward hinges on taking something old and making it new again — or rather, getting it right after disappointing adaptations.
Disney acquired Fox’s entertainment assets two years ago, and has already announced a Fantastic Four revival, a title with a very long reach that, along with X-Men, seemingly creates a host of possibilities to excite longtime Marvel fans.
As one of the original movie Avengers, saying goodbye to Black Widow and its star Scarlett Johansson (actually introduced as the character in “Iron Man 2” more than a decade ago) does indeed seem like closing a chapter of Marvel’s world-shattering run over the last 13 years.
With much of the original team having moved on, it’s a somewhat different Marvel now, and a long way back to when the company gradually assembled the pieces of “Avengers,” an audacious gamble at the time.
As the climactic battle in “Endgame” made clear, the cast has grown considerably since Marvel’s cinematic beginnings. For that reason and others, the company still looks plenty powerful as it marches into this next phase.