The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4 Was An Utter Disaster And There’s A Reason Kevin Feige Killed It At San Diego Comic-Con
Phase 4 of the MCU is in the book and there is only one thing left to say…
On Saturday afternoon, Kevin Feige returned to San Diego’s Comic-Con to announce that Phase 4 of the longest-running cinematic soap opera and theme park ride in the history of movies is over.
He then proceeded to hype up Phase 5 and Phase 6 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before we even start talking about movies and Disney+ shows that you won’t see for another three years, let’s focus on the era that just concluded.
Phase 4 of the MCU was the pound-for-pound worst phase of this over-bloated universe. That’s not just an opinion, according to the box office receipts, I don’t think too many people are excited about the future of the MCU after seeing what they have done post-Avengers: Endgame.
Phase 4’s failures are blamed on the Covid outbreak and shutting down movie theaters across the country. This is a convenient excuse to look past the terrible creative decisions that have been made over the last few years in Marvel Comics and Studios. A deeper dive into this era exposes why not only did Phase 4 never stand a chance of being a success, but why it’s a failure that has already doomed the projects set in the future.
Writer’s Note: We will not be including any of the Disney+ shows as I refuse to accept the notion that you have to watch Disney+ in order to figure out what the hell’s going on with this universe.
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We kicked off Phase 4 with a movie that’s at least eight years too late and ended with a lawsuit. Because Kevin Feige is a complete genius, Phase 4 began with a solo film for a character who was killed off two movies ago.
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was the first sign that Disney and Marvel had no creative direction post-Endgame. In what was a one-off film, Scarlett Johansson gets upstaged in her own movie by co-star Florence Pugh in what turned out to be a complete headache for Disney.
Not only did they not get a return for their $200 million production investment into this film, but their decision to pull the movie from theaters and put it on Disney+ cost even more money as their star Scarlett Johansson sued the company for breach of contract; it was later settled out of court.
A film that profited nothing and cost everything was the worst possible start for Phase 4 and it didn’t get any better from here.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings wasn’t a complete disaster, but it also wasn’t a complete success. The film signaled that Phase 4 was going down the road of representation as a form of marketing.
The first Asian superhero in the MCU was a big part of the draw. The film was thought to be a home run in the Chinese market but the star of the movie, Simu Liu, made some comments that upset the Chinese Communist Party which crippled the film’s chances in the market.
Story-wise, there were no stakes in this film that affected the overall narrative of the MCU. Audiences began to realize that they didn’t have to watch all the MCU movies because there was no story connecting the movies.
The next Phase 4 movie is the worst movie in the history of the MCU. Several years ago, Marvel struck lightning in a bottle with the Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of lesser-known comic book characters that became loved by audiences.
Marvel tried the formula again with the release of Eternals, this time they added a little bit of diversity and inclusion in order to bring audiences in, and the film flopped. Despite bringing in $400 million, it didn’t even come close to hitting its break-even mark making it a rare flop for the franchise.
The movie also proved that Disney’s relationship with China had soured, as the country rejected diversity and inclusion initiatives that included LGBTQ characters in the films. Marvel Studios looked at 2021 as a failure due to Covid restrictions, but the quality of their films wasn’t getting any better.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
What’s better than one Spider-Man? Three Spider-Mans in one movie.
Whether it was nostalgia bait or member berries, no one can deny the success that was Spider-Man: No Way Home as it grossed almost $2 billion at the global box office. The film was by far the most successful film in the Phase 4 era.
There’s only one problem, this film is under the Sony umbrella and not Marvel Studios.Marvel Studios only got 25% of the profits versus the 75% that went to Sony, meaning that their most successful venture post-Endgame was a co-production with another studio.
Not to mention, the film’s success took a sledgehammer to the narrative that Covid was the reason of the previous three films flopping at the box office. The only real good news for Marvel Studios is at least they didn’t do Morbius.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a mess of a film before it made its way into theaters. Writer C. Robert Cargill and Director Scott Derrickson wanted to go in a different creative direction with this film. The duo wanted to create the MCU’s first true horror movie using the characters of Wanda Maximoff and Doctor Strange as a selling point.They were told no by Disney and left the film to create the hit movie “The Black Phone.”
Instead, Marvel brought in Sam Raimi and the guy who wrote four episodes of Rick and Morty to save this picture.Narrative wise this film may have done more harm than good by introducing the Multiverse which will be used as a plot device for future MCU films.
Box office wise, the film was a success, but it was a big drop-off from what Spider-Man did just months earlier. The word of mouth about the movie itself wasn’t very good causing a steep drop-off at the box office.
Everyone thought the MCU was back after the success of the last two movies however they were ignoring one massive problem. A problem that was exposed in its next movie.
Thor: Love and Thunder
Anyone who tells you that Marvel Studios was not expecting anything less $1 billion from one of the founding fathers of the MCU’s Avengers team in a movie that they put $250 million of production budget into is in denial. Thor: Love and Thunder was a terrible movie, and despite the fact that it made over $600 million at the box office as of this writing, the film is still on pace to lose money given the massive production and marketing costs attached to it.
Much like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Love and Thunder had a massive drop-off at the box office due to bad word of mouth. Story-wise, the film doesn’t connect with any of the previous films before it. With no guarantee that Chris Hemsworth is going to come back for Thor 5 in the future, there’s also no setup here to get you excited for what’s next.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The first Black Panther movie was a smash hit with African American audiences striking lightning in the bottle with the promotion of the first black superhero movie in the MCU. However, Chadwick Boseman passed away after a secret battle with cancer.Instead of recasting the role or foregoing the sequel altogether, Marvel Studios decided to make a Black Panther film without Black Panther. A film that’s only going to focus on the female Wakanda soldiers as they take on a race led by a reimagined Namor?
Will Marvel find the same success they had four years ago? It’s too early to answer that question right now but with the way things are going with the MCU, optimism may be a luxury.
It’s no surprise that Kevin Feige has said that the MCU Phase 4 is over effective immediately. There is no genuine optimism or excitement about MCU films moving forward. The people who are obsessed with comic book movies are going to watch them regardless, but Marvel needs something new and needs it fast to get the masses interested in its future.
With the announcement of Phase 5 and Phase 6, the reaction to this news has been underwhelming. At this rate, if you’re already sick and tired of superhero movies nothing about these upcoming projects are going to change your mind. Whether superhero fatigue or economic downturn, people are choosing to spend their time and money elsewhere which is bad news for Marvel Studios and Disney’s stock price down the line.
Phase 4 is over, but that won’t stop Marvel Studios from milking the MCU cow until the dairy turns pink.