As the might of the MCU has steadily grown over the last decade, fans have grown accustomed to never being more than a few months away from a new film, with three releases a year now the norm.
But then coronavirus happened - and as a result, by the time Black Widow comes out next year, it will have been almost two whole years between Marvel movies (in truth, we probably all needed a bit of a rest after Avengers: Endgame).
The good news is that when the cinema industry finally gets back into business, Marvel is planning to release no fewer than SIX FILMS in the space of a year to get us back on track.
Here, Media Mole previews what to expect from the films of Marvel's Phase Four.
Release date: May 7, 2021
Status: Complete, awaiting release
Director: Cate Shortland
What we know: Set primarily in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War (and somewhat obviously, before the events of Avengers: Endgame), Black Widow follows Natasha Romanoff in fugitive mode as she gets drawn into a dangerous conspiracy that ties into events from her past (cue flashbacks). Johansson has previously stated that "family" will be a theme in the film and in the official trailer, she is seen referring to newcomer Pugh - a fellow Black Widow - as "sis". Spoiler alert: there are also suggestions that Robert Downey Jr could have a cameo as Iron Man.
Watch the trailer below:
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Release date: July 9, 2021
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
What we know: The newest entrant to the Marvel world, Shang-Chi is a martial arts expert often referred to as "the Master of kung-fu". The film - the first Marvel movie to have an Asian lead - will see the superhero take on the villainous Mandarin, who is the leader of a terrorist organisation known as The Ten Rings. The MCU has previously teased the arrival of the Mandarin, with Ben Kingsley memorably playing an impostor version in Iron Man 3.
Release date: November 5, 2021
Starring: Angelina Jolie (Thena), Richard Madden (Ikaris), Kumail Nanjiani (Kingo), Lauren Ridloff (Makkari), Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos), Salma Hayek (Ajak), Lia McHugh (Sprite), Don Lee (Gilgamesh), Kit Harington (Dane Whitman), Gemma Chan (Sersi), Barry Keoghan (Druig)
Director: Chloe Zhao
What we know: This film follows a race called the Eternals - immortal aliens who have lived on Earth posing as humans for thousands of years. After the events of Avengers: Endgame, the Eternals reunite to fight off a threat from their malevolent counterparts, the Deviants. The movie will also mark the first MCU film to portray a gay superhero - with eternal Phastos, a "cosmic-powered inventor", having a husband and a child.
Spider-Man: Far From Home sequel (title TBC)
Release date: December 17, 2021
Status: Currently filming (November 2021)
Starring: Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Zendaya (MJ), Jon Favreau (Happy), Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds), Marisa Tomei (May Parker), Jamie Foxx (Electro), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man - rumoured), Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man - rumoured)
Director: Jon Watts
What we know: The third standalone Spidey movie under the MCU umbrella promises to be a very interesting affair if rumours are to be believed, with both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield slated to return as Spider-Man in a storyline that would see the different versions of the superhero from different universes unite. The theory is given weight by the confirmation that Jamie Foxx's Electro, who previously battled Garfield's web-slinger, is part of the new film.
Thor: Love and Thunder
Release date: February 11, 2022
Status: Pre-production, filming to begin in January 2021
Director: Taika Waititi
What we know: Very little is known about the next standalone Thor outing, save for the confirmation of the big cast returnees - Portman taking on Jane Foster in a female incarnation of Thor; Thompson as Valkyrie, newly-crowned King (yes) of Asgard; and Bale as the villain of the piece. Diesel has also revealed that characters from The Guardians of the Galaxy will appear - fitting in with the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame and suggesting that the likes of Chris Pratt's Star Lord could be part of the cast.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Release date: March 25, 2022
Status: Pre-production, filming to start this month
Director: Sam Raimi
What we know: The second standalone Doctor Strange movie will see the superhero continue to investigate the Time Stone, research that is interrupted by a new enemy, "resulting in unspeakable evils being unleashed". Olsen will be back as Scarlet Witch and the character's new TV series for Disney+, WandaVision, will directly set up the new movie, which will also have ties to the Loki TV spinoff.
Black Panther 2
Release date: May 6, 2022
Director: Ryan Coogler
What we know: Although not confirmed to be part of Phase Four, the second Black Panther movie has been in the works for over two years but its status now remains up in the air following the tragic death of lead actor Chadwick Boseman in August. The team at Marvel have since confirmed that they were unaware Boseman had been battling cancer as they prepared the script for the film, with tentative plans to begin filming in March 2021. Fans have launched a campaign to convince Marvel not to recast the character, meaning that the project could be potentially axed entirely.
Captain Marvel sequel (title TBC)
Release date: July 8, 2022
Status: In development
Starring: Brie Larson (Captain Marvel)
Director: Nia DaCosta
What we know: Also not officially confirmed to be part of Phase Four but firmly on Marvel's release schedule is a follow-up to the hugely-successful Captain Marvel, which grossed over $1.1 billion (£840 million) at the worldwide box office when it came out in 2019. Somewhat inevitably, next to nothing is known about the new movie, although it has been confirmed that it will be set in the present day.