Marvel Studios has a major dilemma on its hands after delaying the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 due to Disney's firing of James Gunn.
Because the superhero powerhouse has settled into a production schedule that sees the release of three films per year, there now is an opening on Marvel's 2020 calendar. So what will they do to fulfill that void, now that the Guardians have been delayed indefinitely?
These issues aren't new for Marvel Studios, as they previously had conflicting visions with the original Ant-Man director Edgar Wright, who walked away from the project weeks before filming began. The studio rushed to secure Peyton Reed, who inherited the project and made minor changes to the script with the aid of Paul Rudd and Adam McKay.
But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a different beast altogether. As writer and director, Gunn turned in a script for the production before Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn dropped the axe. And given how many of his colleagues in Hollywood, including the film's principal cast, have spoken out in support of Gunn and called for the House of Mouse to reverse their decision, it doesn't seem like anyone is rushing for the opportunity to take over the billion dollar franchise.
So that leaves Marvel Studios having to fill a hole, likely rushing another production to make that film's release date. Given how secretive Kevin Feige has been about Marvel's slate after Avengers 4, there's little concrete evidence for what we can expect. But various bits here and there have provided some clarity.
Marvel tends to balance their slate with new characters and established franchises, with this year seeing the first solo Black Panther movie, the third Avengers movie, and the second Ant-Man movie.
Fans have long clamored for a Black Widow movie with Scarlett Johansson's character, and it sounds like the ball is finally rolling on the Avenging Assassin getting her first solo movie. That could possibly take the place of Guardians 3 if the script is finalized before the end of the year.
A long-awaited sequel to 2016's Doctor Strange has been rumored for a long time, with recent news of production starts and a pay increase for star Benedict Cumberbatch. That movie would fill the hole and act as Marvel's "established" play for 2020.6comments
Marvel is also rumored to be looking at The Eternals, though they seem further behind on that film than the others with only a writing team attached. There's still a lot of work to be done in pre-production for a franchise that is essentially a blank slate.
Disney still has three Marvel movies scheduled for release in 2020, including May 1st, July 31st, and November 6th. We'll get a better idea of what's coming together as we get closer to the premiere of Avengers 4 in May 2019.