Some 14 years now since the sea change moment of 2008’s Iron Man and the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the MCU is still an entertainment and marketing machine of incredible complexity and box office value. With the full might of the Disney juggernaut behind it, the MCU continues to dominate the box office on a yearly basis, while also becoming the premiere content that anchored Disney+ throughout 2021 with the launch of series such as WandaVision and Loki. The studio closed out 2021 on a high note, in fact, as the December release of Spider-Man: No Way Home absolutely demolished expectations, taking in $1.7 billion worldwide during the height of the Omicron variant outbreak to become the sixth highest-grossing film of all time.
But that’s old news, now: What about 2022? What films can we expect to see make their way to multiplexes throughout this year, hopefully in a post-pandemic era? What new series, miniseries and TV specials, meanwhile, will we be able to enjoy on the small screen from the comfort of our own homes?
The Disney/Marvel machine is of course very busy, with dozens and dozens of projects at some stage of development, but here we’re focusing specifically on every project that is expected to release before the end of this calendar year, 2022. Here’s a brief synopsis of each project headed our way in the next 12 months or so.
The MCU feature film slate for 2022 is actually slightly sparse, thanks to the backlog of production issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic that are still being ironed out. It includes three keystone films, following the continuing Phase 4 plotlines of Doctor Strange, Wanda Maximoff, Thor, and Black Panther in particular.
Director: Sam Raimi
Release date: May 6, 2022
Deeply connected to the multiverse-plumbing explorations of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Loki and WandaVision, Multiverse of Madness will see Doctor Strange embracing his role as the Sorcerer Supreme as he contends with the consequences of the rapidly expanding world of alternate dimensions that surrounds the MCU. Various performers/characters from previous Doctor Strange entries will appear, such as Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who looks to be taking on a bigger antagonist role here. Notably, the film appears to be a co-starring role for Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, following the events of WandaVision and her embrace of “chaos magic” in becoming a Scarlet Witch.
Production of Multiverse of Madness has been a long and fraught affair, slowed down by both COVID-19 production issues and personnel challenges. It was originally meant to be directed by original Doctor Strange director and co-writer Scott Derrickson, who was announced as Multiverse of Madness’ director in 2018, but he subsequently left the project in Jan. of 2020, citing “creative differences,” just before the pandemic began to upend film production. He was eventually replaced with veteran presence Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Evil Dead), making this Raimi’s first directorial credit in 9 years, since 2013’s Oz the Great and Powerful.
Director: Taika Waititi
Release date: July 8, 2022
Following his well-loved first trip to the MCU in 2017 via Thor: Ragnarok, director Taika Waititi returns to the hot seat for follow-up Thor: Love and Thunder. The film picks up where the post-Endgame Thor leaves off, giving up his ceremonial role as the leader of Asgard to Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, while apparently going off to adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy. However, events related to his own source of power presumably draw him back into the fold in Love and Thunder, as this entry notably brings back the character of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who hasn’t been integral to a Thor story’s plot since 2013’s much-derided Thor: The Dark World. Now battling cancer, Jane somehow inherits the powers of “Mighty Thor” in this installment, mirroring an arc in the comics series.
Various MCU characters from both the Thor series and wider world are expected to appear, such as Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Groot (Vin Diesel) and The Collector (Jeff Goldblum), along with Christian Bale as new antagonist Gorr the God Butcher. Footage has been curiously absent on this film, but you have to expect a trailer must be coming soon.
Director: Ryan Coogler
Release date: Nov. 11, 2022
Director Ryan Coogler makes his much-awaited follow-up to the global smash hit of Black Panther with sequel Wakanda Forever, sadly hampered by the tragic and unexpected passing of star Chadwick Boseman. The loss of such a prominent part of the MCU and the title character of this series meant that Wakanda Forever effectively had to be rebuilt from the ground up, and there’s much about it we still don’t know, from who will inherit the mantle of Black Panther, to even a rough plot outline.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill, with one of the most popular suggestions being that Wakanda Forever will explore the high-tech nation introducing itself on a world stage, only to run afoul of an old enemy in the form of the seemingly mythical, underwater kingdom of Atlantis. This option would presumably introduce longtime Marvel hero/antihero Namor the Sub-Mariner, who is effectively the Marvel version of Aquaman, and potentially see a war for Vibranium between the two high-tech kingdoms. Granted, this is all just pure conjecture at this point. At the very least, fans should be comforted by the fact that producers have insisted that there will be no cringe-inducing, disrespectful CGI version of Chadwick Boseman.
Returning performers for Wakanda Forever include Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke and Angela Bassett. They’re joined by newcomers Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, and (potentially) Tenoch Huerta.
Release date: March 30, 2022
This six-episode miniseries premiered on Disney+ in March and is focused around one of Marvel’s most idiosyncratic characters, portrayed by A-lister Oscar Isaac. It’s yet another case of a very minor comic book character being given a much bigger role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Moon Knight is a story about identity, as Isaac portrays Marc Spector, “a mercenary who suffers from dissociative identity disorder,” who is “drawn into a deadly mystery involving Egyptian gods with his multiple identities, such as Steven Grant.” In the comics, the character thus struggles with whichever personality is in control at any given time, gaining superpowers when he’s under the control of Egyptian moon god Khonshu, taking on the mantle of Moon Knight. As a character, Moon Knight has sometimes been compared with the likes of Batman, if Bruce Wayne had multiple personality disorder.
debuted to critical acclaim, and seems like another big MCU streaming hit as of this moment.
Release date: Mid 2022
A 10-episode series with a first episode that is expected to arrive sometime in mid-2022, She-Hulk feels like it will probably be somewhat lighter fare than the likes of Moon Knight, and we would anticipate it to display more of the modern MCU’s comic sensibilities. It is rather funny, after all, to think that Bruce Banner’s cousin would just so happen to also become an, er, “Hulk,” but that’s exactly what happens.
She-Hulk stars Orphan Black frontwoman/acting powerhouse Tatiana Maslany as lawyer Jennifer Walters, who is indeed the cousin of super scientist Bruce Banner. As an attorney, she specializes in cases involving superhuman powers, but we can assume that some sort of accident involving Gamma radiation results in her becoming exactly that herself. Various Hulk figures will pop in, including Mark Ruffalo as everyone’s favorite version of Bruce Banner, along with Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky/Abomination, last seen in his monstrous form in a brief cameo within 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. New stars on She-Hulk include Ginger Gonzaga, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and The Good Place’s Jameela Jamil as She-Hulk rival Titania. Filming wrapped in late 2021.
Release date: Mid 2022
A show that will no doubt be important for the portrayal of Muslims on TV, Ms. Marvel revolves around the heroine known as Kamala Khan, who debuted back in 2014 as one of the genre’s first Muslim superheroes. Kamala Khan is a Pakistani American teenager from New Jersey, who comes to realize that she bears the genes of the evolutionarily advanced “Inhumans” subset of the Marvel population, which comes with a slew of powers that include shape-changing and matter manipulation. In the comics, Khan inherits the mantle of Ms. Marvel from none other than Carol Danvers, who of course went on to become the same Captain Marvel we know from Brie Larson’s portrayal in the MCU.
Ms. Marvel stars actress Iman Vellani as 16-year-old Kamala Khan, along with Aramis Knight of Into the Badlands as Kareem/Red Dagger, and performers Saagar Shaikh, Rish Shah, Matt Lintz, Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur. It’s intended as a six-episode miniseries, with filming concluding in mid-2021, but we’ll likely see plenty more of Kamala Khan, as she is expected to appear in Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels, which is currently slated for 2023.
It remains unclear if Marvel/Disney will acknowledge the Inhumans angle in particular, given the spectacular TV failure of the Inhumans series in 2017.
Release date: October 2022
This one still hasn’t been confirmed in any official capacity, but there were reports at the end of 2021 that Marvel was planning an as-yet untitled Halloween special of some kind, obviously intended to premiere in October of this year.
There are few details on what this special might entail, but rumors were that Marvel was looking to cast a Latino lead, and that it might possibly adapt the property Werewolf by Night. Originally created in the 1970s, the series follows a man cursed by lycanthropy, albeit one who is able to transform into a werewolf at will. However, the original comic’s protagonist is a member of the Hopi Native American tribe, and one wonders if Marvel would dare to change the ethnicity of the character, with the possibility of a backlash from Native American viewers. We’ll likely see within a few months what Disney actually has planned for Halloween.
Release date: Late 2022
Another project with obvious ties to Captain Marvel, Secret Invasion is a six-episode miniseries revolving around the shape-shifting alien Skrulls, who were introduced as antagonists in that film before being quickly redeemed. The nature of their involvement in this series, on the other hand, may again be more sinister—the official synopsis says only that “a sect of shapeshifting aliens, the Skrulls, have infiltrated all aspects of life on Earth.”
Then again, the series is also bringing Sam L. Jackson’s Nick Fury back into the fold working alongside the Skrulls, and it’s hard to believe he would really be on the side of any true villains. Ben Mendelsohn will likewise reprise his role as the leading Skrull Talos first seen in Captain Marvel, and they’ll be joined by MCU stalwart Cobie Smulders, who has perhaps survived more improbable events than any other character without superpowers. They’ll be joined by another impressive cast, which includes Kingsley Ben-Adir, Olivia Colman, Emilia Clarke, Killian Scott, Christopher McDonald and Carmen Ejogo.
Filming on Secret Invasion is still in the process of wrapping up, but we’re hopeful to still see this series hit Disney+ before the end of 2022.
Release date: Late 2022
This silly little project is technically the first “TV special” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if such a thing can really even be said to exist anymore in the era of streaming services. Regardless, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is supposed to be a 40-minute, live action special that will take place between the events of Thor: Love and Thunder and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is scheduled for 2023. It actually sounds like a bit of a passion project for returning director James Gunn, as he reportedly pitched a holiday special for years before finally being able to film this one.
With allusions to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special that seem pretty obvious, the special is rumored to include Groot returning to his home “Planet X,” which can’t help but evoke Chewbacca returning to see his family for “Life Day” in the Star Wars Holiday Special. We would be expecting a self-aware satire of the long-lost art of TV holiday specials. Can we get a musical number, perhaps?
All the expected cast members should be returning for the live-action special, including Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff. An interesting inclusion is Zoe Saldaña’s Gamora, who is obviously no longer alive in the current MCU continuity following the events of Infinity War. We’ll have to see if this is flashback footage, or if a true resurrection is in the cards.
Release date: Unknown 2022
A second season of Disney+ animated conjectural series What If…? has been confirmed, but it’s unclear when exactly it is expected to arrive—we would assume it would have to be late in the year, but we also wouldn’t be surprised to see this project ultimately get bumped to 2023. Regardless, the second go-round of What If…? is said to consist of nine episodes, and will be heavily impacted by the multiversal tinkering of Multiverse of Madness and Loki in particular. Literally anything might be in the cards here as a result.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident genre geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more film writing.