Is Phase 4 of Marvel the worst thus far? Marvel’s excess of content and meandering direction are the reasons why it has become more contentious than ever.
Is the fourth MCU season Marvel Studios’ weakest yet? After wrapping up Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the triumphant box office smash Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame—as well as Spider-Man: Far From Home’s climax—Marvel Studios was forced to consider the future without many of the iconic characters who helped create the MCU’s epic legacy. Many of the surviving characters who contributed to the formation of the original Avengers team were dispersed to the wind in spinoffs, standalone projects, or even turned into villains as Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Natasha Romanoff were removed off the chess board.
Marvel’s “Phase” structure began with 2008’s Iron Man and culminated with 2012’s The Avengers, the team-up that fans had been waiting for. The first post-credits scene starred Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and it left spectators wanting more. The Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Vision, Wanda Maximoff, The Wasp, and The Winter Soldier were all introduced in MCU Phase 2, which culminated in a way with Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Following a persistent narrative that built and teased an inevitable final confrontation with Thanos, Phase 3 of the MCU culminated in the epic conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, bringing in heavy hitters along the way with Black Panther, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, and Doctor Strange. This felt like a carefully orchestrated build-up that paid off audience expectations in a big way.
Trusting MCU Directors So Much Has Been Good AND Bad For Phase 4
In terms of viewer expectations, Phase 4 faced the unpleasant burden of effectively starting over with the next major MCU plot that would run throughout the films (and now TV shows). It’s no easy task to follow in the footsteps of the second-highest grossing film of all time, but considering the success of Phases 1-3 of the MCU, it would appear that Marvel would have a more precise and detailed plan for where the MCU is going. Instead, it seems like new characters and stories are being introduced without any real connection to the larger MCU, and the next major threat, Kang (who was only hinted at in Loki season 1’s finale), has only been briefly seen. This makes fans question whether it is worthwhile to watch every new show and movie, especially since the quality seems to be deteriorating as it goes on.
Marvel Phase 4 Is The MCU’s Most Divisive Yet
Phase 4’s Eternals, directed by Chloe Zhao, is the MCU’s first critically panned film, with a 47 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This was a notable oversight for such a big-budget entry that added new characters and layers to the MCU. In fact, three of the MCU’s four poorest CinemaScore productions—including Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder—as well as three of the MCU’s five lowest-rated films on RT are all from Phase 4. (which was eclipsed by Ms. Marvel). While some of the Disney+ Marvel shows suffered with low budgets and meandering stories, others succeeded in advancing the MCU, making for an inconsistent start for the new way of fusing series with movies. The launch of the Disney+ Marvel shows also proved to be a difficult path for Marvel Studios. Marvel fans in the MCU Phase 4 have been sharply divided by the lack of direction, constrained budgets, meandering, disconnected tales, and the loss of the most beloved characters.
Avengers: Endgame Made MCU Phase 4’s Task Harder
Even while Avengers: Endgame (and Infinity War) gave fans a really epic, satisfying, and stirring conclusion to a decade’s worth of storyline, it will be difficult to top that. Making it more challenging is the removal of several well-known characters, including Steve Rogers/Captain America, Tony Stark/Iron Man, and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff. Particularly Captain America and Iron Man were the team that kept MCU Phases 1-3 together, taking the helm of The Avengers and uniting the heroes under their banner. Their absence in MCU Phase 4 is noticeable because, despite six films and seven TV shows, there are still questions about who will fill their respective positions and no obvious leaders have yet to emerge in the larger narrative.
Marvel Has Too Much Content In MCU Phase 4
It was only a matter of time once Marvel entered the streaming market before the event-based nature of the movies released each year was diminished.
In MCU Phase 4, there is an abundance of content that hardly has time to be consumed. Instead of two to three movies per year as there once were, there are now three to four, and the Disney+ programs are coming every other month. This pattern will continue into 2023 with the release of four films and an undetermined number of television programs, all of which are now combining into a jumble of related and unconnected content with no real suspense as to what will happen next. Ironic as it may seem to complain about having too much of a good thing, an audience may completely lose interest if it becomes repetitive, aimless, and devoid of any genuine stakes or enthusiasm.
Marvel’s Phase 4 Multiverse Is Already A Mess
What Marvel Phase 4 Is Building Towards Is Unclear
Marvel succeeded in creating anticipation for a long-awaited villain to be delivered to the big screen with the release of The Avengers in 2012. After-credits scenes hinted at Thanos, and the entire MCU Phases 1-3 were designed around him in overt and covert ways. In order to build excitement and anticipation for an eventual battle that would take place over the course of many films, a narrative thread connecting the many characters and tales was constructed. Although it wasn’t obvious from the beginning, the MCU was an exciting investment because fans could predict how things would turn out. Fans have no idea where any of it is going now, never alone what the true threat is or who will lead the fight against it, with the exception of a Kang tease at the end of Loki season 1. Who leads the squad, whether The Avengers still exist at all, and what their actual next major danger will be are both unknown. The multiverse’s entrance is intriguing, but so yet it has just been used to revive pre-MCU characters and produce variations of existing ones, which hasn’t really changed the situation.
Is Phase 4 Really The MCU’s Worst?
MCU Phase 4 is the worst phase yet in terms of coherence, character, plot, and execution. MCU Phases 1-3 weren’t perfect, but they had a feeling of cohesion and progressed toward a conclusion as they went along, creating anticipation and whetting fans’ appetites for what was to come next. Even when The Avengers engaged in combat with one another in Captain America: Civil War from MCU Phase 3, the major antagonist/threat was obvious and who The Avengers were was obvious.