Marvel’s Phase Four Has Begun

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Marvel has been gearing fans up for the future of the MCU since their 2019 Comic-Con panel where they announced the movie line-up.

Dhriti Prakash

Content Warning: “Wandavision” to “Eternals” spoilers ahead!

The events of “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” had Marvel fans in shock back in 2019. Unfortunately, they were left to their curiosity for months longer than expected due to the pandemic putting future Marvel productions on hold. But finally, on Jan. 15, 2021, the first part of Marvel’s new era, better known as “phase four” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was released. 

This was Matt Shakman’s “Wandavision,” one of many new Disney+ original shows. It depicts the life of Wanda and Vision, two secondary characters from the Avengers, living a seemingly normal suburban life, and fans were enthralled. Rotten Tomatoes called it a “wonderfully weird and strikingly bold step into the small screen,” noting that this was the MCU’s first TV show. 

After the week-by-week episode release was over, Marvel dropped their second show, “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” in March, letting fans know what happened to Captain America’s beloved sidekicks Sam and Bucky. This was followed by one more show in June, “Loki,” allowing viewers into the life of Thor’s trickster brother after he disappeared with the tesseract back in “Avengers: Endgame.” It seemed Marvel was creating these shows in order to allow secondary characters a chance as the protagonist. 

The original start to phase four was actually meant to be a movie, “Black Widow.” However, due to the pandemic-related theater closings, its release was put off until Jul. 9, 2021. 

In “Black Widow,” Scarlett Johanson skillfully acts through a post-”Captain America: Civil War” Natasha Romanoff facing her past (or rather, those who controlled it) and her life as a spy. The movie was highly anticipated and in turn achieved more than $80 million in the US box office during opening weekend, the most for any movie released mid-pandemic at the time. 

Shockingly enough, fans were… unamused. “The New York Times”’ Maya Phillips wrote she’d “hoped ‘Black Widow’ could be deadly and fierce, but it ultimately slides just under the radar.” “NPR” said it ended up “lacking bite.” It was given a 6.7/10 star rating on IMDB, while other Marvel movies have always kept above seven stars, sometimes even above eight. This was because fans felt that her story did not live up to its potential and did not get its full glory in the movie.

Black Widow” was followed by Marvel’s first Asian-led film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” released on Sep. 3. “Kim’s Convenience”’s Simu Liu starred as Shang-Chi, telling “Screen Rant that “it was an extreme pleasure to be a part of the MCU, and if and when the call comes for me to return to the universe, I will be more than ready.” 

In the movie, Shang-Chi has to, as Marvel describes, “confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.” 

The comedy-filled action movie did phenomenally amongst audiences, earning a 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and grossing over $94 million on its opening weekend. Wong, also recognized as Dr. Strange’s sidekick, made a few appearances throughout the movie, bridging the gap between the new character and the rest of the Avengers. 

Nov. 5 held the most recent release in the Marvel franchise. “Eternals,” directed by Chloé Zhao, depicted a team of immortal — or better yet — “eternal” alien superheroes sent to protect the Earth from another species called “deviants.” 

The cast was the most diverse one that Marvel viewers have seen, with actors from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, a deaf character, and a queer character. Fans, especially those who felt underrepresented on screen, were jovial about this, but the movie itself elicited a very negative reaction. Many said the movie felt messy, empty and pointless. “Vulture Magazine”’s Angelica Cade Bastién called it “nobody’s film,” saying that “with ‘Eternals,’ Marvel proves itself to be nothing more than a staid, black hole.” 

“Eternals” is the worst rated Marvel movie in the franchise, earning only 47 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. One moment that fans doted over, though, was the signature Avengers post-credit scene. Harry Styles made an appearance, introducing himself as Eros, or “Starfox,” who is canonically Thanos’ brother who later joins the Avengers.

Marvel has been gearing fans up for the future of the MCU since their 2019 Comic-Con panel where they announced the movie line up, as well as Nov. 12 on “Disney+ Day” where the company announced upcoming TV shows, many of them introducing brand new characters. 

A Disney+ show titled “Hawkeye” will be the next release, with the first episode dropping on the platform on Nov. 24. This will be followed by “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the third installment in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man series, releasing on Dec. 17. 

Some other films to come in 2022 include “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Thor: Love and Thunder,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and a variety of TV shows including “She-Hulk,” “Ms. Marvel,” and “Ironheart.”

It seems that Marvel’s plan after the heartwrenching events of “Avengers: Endgame” is to expand their cast into something more diverse and powerful. They also will ingrain the idea of the multiverse into the plot, as mentioned in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the newly released trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and the title of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Fans and viewers are excited to see how the overall story will develop from here.