Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) launches this week with the wide release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The film is supposed to help pave a firm direction for the MCU with the introduction of the next big bad of the MCU, Kang the Conqueror, and will culminate with the next Avengers films, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. What should be noted is that the next Avengers films will be part of Phase Six, so Phase Five will serve to set up the grand finale of the so-named Multiverse Saga.
Many MCU fans are hoping that after the mixed results of Phase Four that Phase Five will course correct for the MCU and keep the cinematic universe on top. There were many issues with Phase Four such as a lack of focus, films and TV shows that were not as high in quality as the previous MCU offerings, and so on. There were also many successes and material that Phase Five and Six will build upon, especially with the introduction of the Multiverse concept. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is rumored to dwell on this with the inclusion of Kang, who is a time-traveling villain.
There are many reasons why Phase Four of the MCU was not as revered as previous phases. Given the success of the MCU, there has been increased pressure by Disney to Marvel Studios to create more films and TV shows (the TV shows were a new feature for the MCU beginning with Phase Four) at a faster rate. This overstretched the capability of Marvel Studios to maintain the level of quality with previous MCU projects. Adding to the release pressure was the COVID-19 pandemic which severely affected productions and created delays, which we’re are still grappling with today. Then there were the expectations of fans and the fact that many of the MCU products simply were not as appealing since popular characgters like Iron Man and Captain America were absent. Many of these issues still remain as Marvel Studios plows ahead with Phase Five of the MCU, but hopefully they are better prepared to meet the challenges.
When being critical of Phase Four it is important to realize that it did a lot more to help set up the Multiverse Saga. Films like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness were important to the Saga, as well as TV shows like Loki and What If…? Phase Four also set up plot lines and characters that will be further explored in Phase Five and beyond. Both TV shows will have second seasons as part of Phase Five, which will dive even deeper into the concept of time travel and alternate realities. The second Doctor Strange film also introduced the plot line of Incursions, where traveling to different realties will ultimately cause them to collide and destroy one another. This was a major plot line in Marvel Comics that culminated with the second Secret Wars mini-series event. With a title like Avengers: Secret Wars it is certain that the upcoming film will be a loose adaptation of the comic book mini-series. By now, given how well received Marvel Comics storylines were adapted in MCU films, even if they were adaptations in name only, the Secret Wars film will also be acclaimed.
Aside from Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania the only Marvel film that directly deals with the Multiverse will be Deadpool 3, which is due next year. This film is technically not part of the MCU or Phase Five, but it reportedly will deal with Deadpool and Wolverine traveling through alternate realities and it’s fairly certain that the two will visit the MCU. There are also rumors that a third Doctor Strange film is in the works, which will deal with Incursions as seen in the post-credits scene of the last Doctor Strange film. But if this film is made it most likely will be a part of Phase Six as the Multiverse storyline starts to ramp up.
The remaining Phase Five films and TV shows will either be about new characters (Blade, Daredevil: Born Again and Thunderbolts) or continue individual stories that, as far as we know, doesn’t involve the Multiverse (Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, The Marvels, Captain America: New World Order, Echo, Secret Invasion, Ironheart and Agatha: Coven of Chaos). However given the subtitle of Coven of Chaos, it is possible the Agatha Harkness TV show might have something to do with the Incursions or the Multiverse.
There is also the wildcard to consider for Phase Five: another MCU Spider-Man film. In the past, Spider-Man films have never been part of official MCU film announcements. That is because the film rights to the superhero are held by Sony Pictures, who is off trying to launch their own cinematic universe based on Spider-Man characters. But given the huge success of Spider-Man: No Way Home and that many consider it to be the best Phase Four film, it is obvious that Sony is planning a fourth MCU Spider-Man film. Will it be produced in time to make it part of the Phase Five slate? That is unknown at this time. If filming starts later this year, it is possible the film will be completed in time to be scheduled for a 2024 release and be part of Phase Five. Otherwise, the fourth MCU Spider-Man film will be part of Phase Six.
Given that Phase Four of the MCU was not as well received as previous MCU films, Phase Five of the MCU will be subjected to greater scrutiny by fans. In other words, Phase Five of the MCU has to deliver much more than Phase Four. The people behind the films and TV shows are aware of this and will do their best to deliver the same quality product that were so revered by fans in the past. While some expectations have been lowered for the MCU and superhero films and TV shows it is unwise to count out Marvel Studios and the MCU at this point.