Regardless of how it happened, this Avengers: Endgame detail is just one more example of the many layers of storytelling that make this movie so great. Just like how Avengers: Age of Ultron set up the Moljnir twist (even if that was never director Joss Whedon’s plan), a million other little moments throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe paved the way for the final battle with Thanos and helped make that finale all the more powerful to watch.
Here are all the superhero movies we would’ve enjoyed so far in 2020, had the world not been struck by a global pandemic. From the very beginning, 2020 was a relatively quieter year for superhero cinema, but the release schedule did harbor a quiet promise. The MCU was hitting the reset button after concluding their Infinity saga, kicking off Phase 4 and the franchise’s Disney+ era, while the DCEU was working towards an exciting new direction amid frantic calls for the Snyder cut of Justice League to be released. The 2020 superhero slate may not have inspired the same rip-roaring excitement as previous years, but with established heroes alongside exciting newcomers, it certainly had potential.
Had» being the operative word there, obviously, as while the Hollywood machine usually keeps turning regardless of real life events, the coronavirus pandemic swept in and ground the world to a halt. Movie production was frozen and theater doors were closed. Studios were left holding a packed 2020 slate and no theatrical method of distribution, creating only two choices: release digitally for fans to watch at home, or delay. Most have opted for the latter, but 2020 has still managed to squeeze out a select few superhero movies. New Mutants finally hit theaters (and immediately wished it hadn’t) and Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot had its theatrical run cut short before releasing digitally.
The vast majority of 2020’s superhero roster, however, has been pushed back until later in the year or even 2021, the big blockbusters especially. But in an alternate section of the multiverse where corona is still delicious beer and «social distancing» is something you do when planning a massive online gaming session, which superhero movies have already been and gone?
Despite plenty of excitement around the MCU’s Phase 4 announcement, the new era of Marvel movies was set for an inauspicious start with the Black Widow solo movie. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff made her MCU debut in Iron Man 2 and emerged as one of the franchise’s leads thanks to 2012’s The Avengers, but despite deafening calls for a Black Widow solo venture, the SHIELD operative was restricted to supporting roles in team-ups and the Captain America series. Eventually, Black Widow was fixed for May 2020, bridging the gap between Phases 3 & 4, but Romanoff was one of the many casualties in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, adding an odd post-script to Johansson’s solo debut. Black Widow will take place in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War which, ironically, is probably when the movie should’ve been released instead of 2020.
In a sense, the pandemic has come at a reasonably good time for Marvel, with a natural narrative break following Spider-Man: Far From Home. Disney would’ve found themselves in a far trickier position had COVID-19 hit in the agonizing gap between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Consequently, the Mouse House has moved Black Widow back from May 1st 2020 to November 6th. In September, it became clear that normality would not be resumed in time for that rescheduled date, and Black Widow was delayed once again to May 7th 2021, more than a year later than originally planned. One would assume that Black Widow’s current release date is far enough away to ensure a full theatrical release is plausible, but people said the same about the November slot. If the effects of COVID-19 rumble on into 2021, Disney do have the option of releasing Black Widow on Disney+, and while they would surely loathe to premiere such a major movie digitally, every Black Widow delay also pushes back the rest of the MCU slate.