You have to respect Marvel Studios‘ forward planning. They spent a decade slowly setting up Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, gradually putting the pieces into place until the audience was invested in every character and setting. It’s a slow burn that other studios failed to emulate in their rush to create their own cinematic universes, with Warner Bros. disastrously rushing into Justice League way too early. But now forces beyond their control are messing with their carefully laid plans.
I’m talking, of course, about Coronavirus, which has caused them to dramatically rewrite their release schedule. In a nutshell, everything has been moved back a slot and Marvel are breaking several of their rules and traditions. This means that Black Widow, originally scheduled to be released on May 1st, will now land on November 6th. That’s The Eternals‘ old date, which will be taking Shang-Chi‘s old date and so on.
But the reshuffle has an impact beyond just the movies. Marvel’s Disney+ lineup will have plot elements that are both informed by and inform the films. For example, if something is established in The Eternals that is referenced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, then it means the latter will need to be delayed.
On another level, it means that 2020 will only see one MCU movie hit cinemas. The last time that happened was in 2012 with The Avengers, which dominated that year. Similarly, it’ll be the longest gap between MCU movies since The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. Those movies were separated by just under two years, but Spider-Man: Far From Home and Black Widow will have a 14-month gap. While I don’t think this will stop the MCU’s momentum, it’s certain to slow it down a bit.
And, naturally, the Coronavirus delay means future events like the arrival of the X-Men and Fantastic Four are likely to take that much longer. Let’s just be thankful that this came in 2020 and not 2019, as the prospect of Avengers: Endgame being postponed for six months would have driven Marvel fans absolutely insane.