The Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase 5 and Beyond

Comic drawing of Captain America
Thomas Martin

Who doesn’t love a Marvel film? The ‘80s soundtracks, the comedy, the action. Both as stand-alone films and an entire Cinematic Universe, they are iconic. Kicking off in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s ‘Iron Man,’ the Marvel Comic Universe has exploded into the most popular, profitable, and impactful fictional universe in the world. Thomas Martin discusses the exciting future of Marvel. 

The ‘Universe Building’ approach has made the Marvel Universe near-omnipresent. Phases 1, 2, and 3 were largely successful:

  • Phase 1: debut films, first ensemble Avengers movie, SHIELD and HYDRA stories
  • Phase 2: backstory development, dealing with consequences from ensemble movie actions
  • Phase 3: expanded characters, set up future story arcs, frictions within the ensemble

The intertwined nature is incredibly complex, but put simply, each movie ticks all the boxes regarding an individual character story as well as including other film’s characters to enhance the movie, as well as enhancing the overall story arc. This is my best interpretation, anyway (I tried). On a side-point, Marvel movies also became famous for their post-credits scene, or better put – as I witnessed in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – there’s a scene after the initial cast credits, and then there’s a complete post-credit scene.

After the climaxes of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which saw the epic clash against Thanos, Marvel Phase 4 marked the end of the ‘Infinity Saga’ and the start of the ‘Multiverse Saga’. Starting with Black Widow which was released on July 9th 2021, this was followed by the film-releases of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, to name a few. Regarding TV-releases, WandaVision was released on January 15th 2021, followed by The Falcon and the Winter Solider, Loki, and so on.

Phase 4 experimented with different way of telling stories, such as with the sitcom-style of WandaVision

The reason I have listed these Marvel Phase 4 productions is the reception from these was mixed. In Empire’s Spoiler Special podcast, Richie Palmer – who is the production and development head of Marvel Studios – said that Phase 4 is a ‘reaction’ to the past events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. This Phase, however, differed from the previous three phases, as content has been split between cinematic releases and Disney+ releases, which does reduce the box office returns. Moreover, occasionally titled the ‘Filmmaker Phase,’ Phase 4 experimented with different way of telling stories, such as with the sitcom-style of WandaVision.

Phase 5, and it has only just begun, will look like this: film-releases will see Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which was released on February 17th 2023, followed by many others, such as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, The Marvels, and Captain America: New World Order. The new, Multiverse Saga, will focus on the new villain ‘Kang The Conqueror,’ who was introduced as ‘He Who Remains’ In Loki Season 1, and who returned in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, said in his interview with Entertainment Weekly, ‘I do think one of the powerful aspects of being at Marvel Studios is having these films and shows hit the zeitgeist’ This zeitgeist he refers to is the unprecedented impact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had on pop culture and media in the West. Generation Z, for example, has grown up with Marvel, with its characters showing the importance of morality, doing the right thing, and moving on from your mistakes. Marvel Studios has created a set of characters that anyone can relate to, and since 2008, the role model nature of these characters are entrenched in the psyche of cinema-goers. Aiding this, and a factor which is probably one of the strongest that impacts the success of Marvel, is the commercial aspect. Target, the Disney Store, and a plethora of other retailers make millions from selling merchandise.

After Endgame, the literal emotional climax of bubbling Marvel excitement finally dissipated, and many speculated what the future would hold for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Other ‘cinematic universes,’ such as the one in Star Wars, are not as relatable as the Earth-based defenders of the Avengers, who continually grow, learn, interact with one another. Personally, I would stress the comedy element of each Marvel movie that differentiates it from being purely content for comic fans only; anyone can dip in and enjoy regardless of age. As a result, the films have roughly grossed nearly $25bn.

After Endgame, the literal emotional climax of bubbling Marvel excitement finally dissipated, and many speculated what the future would hold for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, I would state, based on the evidence presented above, that Phase 5 and 6 will guide this Universe into new territory, despite being clipped in Phase 4 by the lack of stars in, among others, Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans. ‘Kang The Conqueror’ is poised, as of writing, to being a fantastic villain for our heroes to unite against.

The Marvel future is bright, for now at least.

Thomas Martin

Featured image courtesy of Marjan Blan via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In article video courtesy of Marvel Entertainment via YouTube.com. No changes were made to this video. 

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