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Here's Why 2021 Will The Best Year Ever For Superhero Movies

There's no doubt that we're living through the age of the superhero movie. After decades of considering comic book adaptations to be niche interests and following an experimental period of stop-starts in the aughts, the last ten years of blockbuster cinema have been defined by the dominance of primary-colored, super-powered smash-em-ups — with works from Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. topping the box office time and again.

Since efforts from Iron Man director Jon Favreau, Dark Knight trilogy helmer Christopher Nolan, and the original Spider-Man trilogy filmmaker Sam Raimi legitimized the superhero film genre, we've seen the entire spectrum of cinematic efforts under the umbrella of summer action movies. Established comic book characters have been used for everything from meditations on mortality (like Logan) to eye-popping farces (like Thor: Ragnarok). The past decade has delivered some of the most influential superhero movies of all time — but in the wake of the Avengers storyline wrapping with Endgame, we've stumbled upon something we haven't seen in ages: 2020 is a fallow period for superheroes at the cineplex.

This year was always going to feel a bit emptier after Marvel wrapped up the years-long Infinity Saga; a conclusion always brings with it a bit of casting about for what comes next. However, the coronavirus crisis has deepened that sense of the void; film productions have shut down and the release schedule has quite literally emptied out as cinemas close their doors. Barely any superhero movies are still scheduled to debut in 2020, where once the year was meant to be huge for the genre.

Like the constantly reviving and rebooting comic book heroes they're based on, the superhero movie genre won't be down for long. Expect to emerge out of the doldrums of 2020 to a boom of comic book action in 2021, as next year looks like it'll be the best year of superhero movies we've ever seen.

Marvel fans will see new faces on the big screen in 2021

The first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe placed emphasis on the Avengers team. Phase 1 set up the building blocks for the Iron ManCaptain America, and Thor mini franchises, and ended with 2012's The Avengers. Phase 2 continued to focus on Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and the God of Thunder, and only folded in two non-Avengers films in Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. Phase 3, the largest MCU phase yet, incorporated the most solo films outside of the Avengers squad yet (like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man: Homecoming) — but it still had its sights set on Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame being the defining films of the phase. As such, fans have gotten used to seeing a collection of characters appearing on screen, without much variety sprinkled in throughout the years. Of course, the MCU was telling the Infinity Saga cross those initial three phases, and though the argument can be made that sticking to the same cast of characters was worth it, there's no doubt that the deep backbench of characters and stories that Marvel had to offer were left for later dates.

The post-Endgame landscape looks different, and Marvel in particular seems to be entering Phase 4 with the aim of shaking up who and what makes an MCU movie. Marvel Studios will spend 2021 setting up two new properties centered around characters fans haven't yet seen on screen. 

The first is The Eternals, based around the titular immortal race of super-beings, which will hit theaters on February 12, 2021. Starring Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Hit Harington, an impossibly jacked Kumail Nanjiani, and more, The Eternals will set out to tell the story of immortal beings who have to protect the Earth from their evil and equally ancient counterparts, the Deviants. In addition to adding to Marvel's roster of on-screen characters, the film is already generating good will for its decision to include the MCU's first openly gay couple, as Henry's Phastos is a gay man married to a character played by Haaz Sleiman.

On the subject of opening up the Marvel universe, the MCU is also getting its first Asian lead in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Top-lined by Simu Liu and featuring a predominantly Asian cast, the film tells the story of Marvel's kung-fu master Shang-Chi, a tale that Marvel head Kevin Feige has said the studio has wanted to tell for quite a while. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to debut on May 7, 2021.

Marvel won't be the only studio debuting new movie superheroes in 2021

In 2021, Warner Bros. (alongside DC Entertainment) and Sony Pictures will also be unveiling on-screen adaptations of beloved characters that might not be familiar to superhero fans who don't go so far as to venture into their local comic book store. 

Marvel's biggest rival, DC, will flex its ability to pull in big name stars, dropping a megaton bomb of A-list talent when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson shows up as Shazam's nemesis Black Adam. In line with past villain-focused efforts like Joker and Suicide Squad, the Rock will get his own standalone movie, entitled Black Adam, to state his case for standing in opposition to Zachary Levi's lovable heroBlack Adam is slated for release on December 22, 2021.

Sony will continue to kick around in the Spider-Verse, giving Jared Leto yet another shot at a darker comic book character in the upcoming film Morbius. Michael Morbius — later otherwise known as Morbius, the Living Vampire, is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who accidentally turned himself into a vampire-like creature while attempting to cure his own blood disease. Like his fellow kinda-sorta vampire Blade, Morbius' thirst for blood makes him skirt the line between hero and villain. Morbius is as likely to fight with Spider-Man, the vigilante he's collided with on a number of occassions, as he is to fight alongside him. Scheduled to launch on March 19, 2021, Morbius seems poised to impress.

2021 will also bring fresh takes on familiar properties, plus long-awaited comic book sequels

2021 won't just be a year of experiments and newcomers, as big-name comic book heroes and villains will make their returns to the silver screen via sequels and brand-new film adaptations. 

The summer months will see the launches of long-awaited sequels to Venom (officially named Venom: Let There Be Carnage) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (the currently untitled Spider-Man 3). While the follow-up film featuring Tom Hardy as Venom and Woody Harrelson as Carnage will debut on June 25, 2021, the third Spidey flick starring Tom Holland as the web-flinging vigilante will premiere on July 16, 2021.

In August, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment will take another crack at the Suicide Squad, the group of DC Comics baddies who took their initial turn on the big screen in 2016. Guardians of the Galaxy franchise writer-director James Gunn is the mastermind behind 2021's The Suicide Squad, said to be both a sequel to and a reboot of director David Ayer's original effort from a few years ago. Mark your calendars for The Suicide Squad's premiere on August 6, 2021.

A few months later, the studios will release another fresh take on a well-known property: director Matt Reeves' The Batman, a noir-tinged Bruce Wayne tale that repositions the Gotham hero as the world's greatest detective. Robert Pattinson stars as Batman, and though fan reaction to his casting was mixed (to put it lightly), Pattinson seemed eager to take on the role — and more arthouse weirdos taking on the world of superhero films can only be a good thingThe Batman will fly into theaters on October 1, 2021.

In 2021, villains like Venom, Black Adam, and the Suicide Squad will be given time to shine. Heroes like Shang-Chi and the Eternals will finally get their due. Whether you're looking for interesting new ways of telling old stories or entirely new alleys being explored by novel artists coming into the fold, 2021 is going to be one for the books.