In total, Disney said it was unfurling 100 new titles, 80 percent of which would go digital first. Everywhere you looked, a powerhouse franchise was being sliced and diced, rebooted and reborn, from Disney princesses to Star Wars fighter pilots.
Here are four of our favorite developments:
1. The MCU gets to spread its wings on Disney Plus.
Ever since 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” concluded a theatrical phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans have been eager to see which characters (and actors) would cross over into Disney’s streaming series. And the anticipation built: Who would follow in the footsteps of the upcoming miniseries “WandaVision” with Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen?
Now, Marvel chief Kevin Feige has spotlighted a slate of Disney Plus series: Dominique Thorne will be inventor Riri Williams in “Ironheart” (the first Black female lead of a Marvel series). As previously announced, Oscar Isaac will be the title vigilante in “Moon Knight.” Samuel L. Jackson will bring his Nick Fury role to “Secret Invasion.”
But especially exciting is that Don Cheadle will return as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine, now to headline the Marvel original series “Armor Wars” — a title that points to the ’80s Iron Man comic-book arc. Let the battle for Tony Stark’s tech begin.
(Worth noting: “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “Loki” received release dates, with “Hawkeye” due in less than a year.)
2. Star Wars puts a trailblazer in the cockpit.
Despite Kathleen Kennedy being at the helm of Lucasfilm, men have dominated the director’s chair throughout the theatrical history of Star Wars.
Now, Patty Jenkins, the first solo female director to have a $100 million-plus opening weekend (“Wonder Woman”), has been hired as the first woman to direct a Star Wars feature film. With her strong sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” due on HBO Max on Christmas Day, Jenkins isn’t signing on to see her next film projects possibly forgo theaters for streaming.
Jenkins, the daughter of an Air Force pilot, is betting on the return of the theatrical experience of a high-flying adventure with Star Wars’s “Rogue Squadron” — a hopeful bet all the way around.
Also coming to lead a Star Wars project is director Taika Waititi — a welcome talent to the fleet.
3. Can someone finally rescue the Fantastic Four?
Marvel is not backing away from its planned film releases, including “Black Panther 2” (Disney says it won’t recast the late Chadwick Boseman), a third Ant-Man film and the return of Doctor Strange. It’s planning on a return to normalcy for blockbusters, as the Black Panther sequel, “Thor: Love and Thunder” and Captain Marvel 2” are all set to hit theaters in 2022.
Yet especially curious is Marvel’s plan to make a “Fantastic Four” movie that’s actually good, as directed by Spider-Man movie veteran Jon Watts.
The family that started it all in Marvel comics could finally get its due after such a mixed-to-dismal cinematic history.
“The Mandalorian” has become such a beacon for Star Wars’s future as an armada of streaming series that it is spawning spinoffs (“Ahsoka” and “Lando”) and buoying hopes for other series, including “Rangers of the New Republic.”
But the most provocative new move is bringing back Hayden Christensen, Anakin of the Prequels, to play Darth Vader for the series “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
The prospect of Hayden again facing down Ewan McGregor in the title role is cause for a new hope.