I’ve mostly been following along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as they’ve plotted their course from Avengers: Endgame through Phase Four – otherwise known as the Disney+ era. Of the Phase Four properties, I have yet to watch:
- Spider-Man: No Way Home – because honestly, this movie is impossible to find without buying the DVD/Bluray outright, which I’ll probably end up doing. I feel like I’ve absorbed most of the major spoilers through pop culture osmosis, however, so there’s that.
- Thor: Love and Thunder – which, if you’ve been here recently, you know I was excited about. I still am. I just need to get to a theater.
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – because it’s not out yet, but is definitively the best MCU trailer ever.
- What If…? – because I wasn’t that interested or into the animation style.
- There are also the upcoming She-Hulk and Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, neither of which strike a chord with me at this point.
- I am also on episode 6 of Ms. Marvel – but I had to write this post instead of watching it!
Obviously, I haven’t watched everything, but from what I’ve and heard about Phase Four, I have some thoughts. Specifically, I have reservations about the wider story that Marvel seems to be building, or crucially, not building to this point.
Seriously, just watch that trailer if you haven’t yet. Or if you have.
Spoiler warning – From here on out, I will talk freely about Phases Four, Five, and Six (and previous phases) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
To me, Phase Four feels like a bunch of individual stories with very little connective tissue. There have been some very good origin stories (Shang-Chi) and some moderately good passing of various torches (Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Hawkeye). There are tons of really interesting new characters, such as Yelena, Oscar Isaac’s multiple personalities, Kamala Khan, alternate timeline Loki, Sylvie, and Shang-Chi. And I’ve had a lot of fun watching most of these people do superhero things.
What feels sorely missing is the feeling that we are actively building towards something bigger. Phase One was all origin stories for the first Avengers team that were independent of each other, but used specific characters, like Nick Fury or Coulson, to tie them together and build anticipation.
Now, I’m fully aware of the announcements Marvel just made for Phases Five and Six, respectively, telling us that we are building towards Avengers: Secret Wars and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. Those are coming alongside a lot exciting titles over the next few years, but I’m not really interested in stories that haven’t come to the screen yet.
What I want to know is how all of the characters we have seen so far coexist in their world. How can they coexist without any overlap? Why was no one aware of what Wanda was up to for a few canonical years in isolation? How did two Egyptian gods coming to life over the Cairo skyline not elicit some response from Dr. Strange, or anyone else?
Who or what will be binding these characters together, aside from Kang the Conqueror as the eventual Big Bad and the Secret Invasion as the Big Crisis?
Marvel hasn’t tried to start planting these seeds yet, at least not with any consistency. Loki met a version of Kang. Dr. Strange (and Kamala?) have traveled the multiverse. Captain Marvel, Wong, and Hulk are interested in Shang-Chi’s Ten Rings. Nick Fury is still off-world. Hints have been dropped along the way, but it’s really not clear at this point how they’re all related. Will half of the superheroes be off fighting Kang while the others deal with the Secret Wars? Or will all of them come together in two gigantic team-ups?
I know the overall path because Marvel has told us, but not really because that’s what the storytelling has shown us. With Phase Four wrapping up this November, it feels like an assortment of stories, rather than the beginning of a new saga.
Those are my feelings on the MCU. What are yours? Have you enjoyed Phase Four?