The Eve Of Marvel’s Phase Four

MCU Phase 4

It is hard to believe that the last official offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was well over a year ago (Spider-Man: Far From Home). We fans underwent a severe drought thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which left most theaters closed and films delayed. Thanks to the pandemic there weren’t any offerings from the MCU last year unless the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is counted, and there are valid arguments that the show is no longer part of the MCU. However, all this will change later this week with the debut of WandaVision on the streaming app, Disney+.

It feels a bit strange that the MCU event that will kick off its Phase Four will be a TV show instead of a film, but that was inevitable given COVID-19. Black Widow was supposed to launch Phase Four last year followed by the show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but many delays killed that plan. Many believed Disney would air Black Widow during the holidays on Disney+ but that never happened. Instead Marvel Studios and its head Kevin Feige were determined that the cinematic start of the MCU’s fourth phase would happen with Black Widow, which is currently scheduled to premiere on May 7. Of course, this is not guaranteed given the nature of the pandemic. Sure, there are vaccines available but the distribution has been awful and unless it ramps up, at this rate our society will not be protected enough by spring. However, if efforts to speed up vaccinations follow through as promised by President-elect Biden and others then it could be safe for a significant portion of the population to go back to theaters by the late spring or summer. Let’s hope so because there already is a scheduling casualty this year.

Sony announced that its Marvel film Morbius, originally scheduled to be released last fall and moved to this March, will be moved again to October 8 now. This is not a severe delay and will be a better fit given the time of the year and the fact that Morbius stars a vampiric anti-hero. But this is concerning. Does this mean other films will be shuffled again? So far, the MCU films slated for this year (Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals) are still on schedule. What helps is that after Black Widow, the other two MCU films will premiere in the second half of 2021, The pandemic better be winding down by then. If it isn’t, then Disney may not have a choice but to release Black Widow and maybe the other two films on Disney+ to avoid creating a backlog with 2022’s scheduled releases and causing more delays.

With that said, Marvel Studios has quite a trove of MCU fare for waiting fans. Except for the third MCU Spider-Man film from Sony, the MCU films slated for this year may not be eagerly anticipated like Thor: Love and Thunder, but the TV shows coming out this year will more than make up for that until 2022. The 2021 shows will feature beloved MCU heroes and villains played by the same actors and boasting movie-quality production values and effects. However, many of the shows promise to be quite…unique. The trailers for WandaVision have shown that it will be as unconventional and bizarre as Legion or Doom Patrol, which will be a creative boost for the MCU. Although the MCU films are revered worldwide, they can be faulted for following a familiar formula and look. WandaVision, Loki and What If…? should push the envelope and take chances as promised by Feige and Marvel Studios. 

Meanwhile for the more conventional shows, it is rumored that mutants will make their MCU debut in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Some have observed from BTS set photos that part of the show seems to take place in Madripoor, a country heavily featured in the Wolverine comics. The enemy mutant Omega Red is supposedly appearing either in this show or in the Shang-Chi movie. The final TV shows scheduled for late 2021, Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel will debut more modern and popular heroes, such as Kate Bishop and Kamala Khan. 

hawkeye kate bishop and pizza dog

 

Disney+ will premiere new TV shows next year starring other popular Marvel heroes making their live-action debuts. These are Moon Knight (with Oscar Isaac playing the psychotic title hero), She-Hulk (supposedly a legal comedy…the jury is out if this is the case, pun intended), Ironheart (perhaps this will have Robert Downey, Jr. coming back as an AI mentor this time?) and the event series based on important storylines from the Marvel comics Secret Invasion and Armor Wars. One other TV special will be mentioned below.

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Pining For New Superhero Films & TV Shows!

OK, let’s be honest, we need our superhero film and TV fix! By this time, during normal circumstances the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) drought we’re experiencing would have been quenched by the May release of Black Widow and we would have been going wild over the release of Wonder Woman 1984, which would have been yesterday. But nope, a deadly coronavirus had to ruin everyone’s year. *Disclaimer time* This by no means is meant to make light of the pandemic our world is suffering through. No matter what, our lives and well being are more important than being inconvenienced with social distancing, self quarantines, and no new superhero films. We all should continue do our part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus until a viable treatment or vaccine is available.

MCU Backed Up

We have not had a new MCU film since last July’s Spider-Man: Far From Home and we are certainly overdue. It is hard to believe that soon it will be a year since any new MCU material has come out. Sure, there were the Marvel TV shows that came out in the time period such as Runaways and currently Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But they are treated as non-entities by the powers that run Marvel Studios to the point that fair arguments can be made that these TV shows are not part of the MCU and can be ignored. But that is an argument for another day.

Anyway, it is hard to accept that for over a year no MCU film has been released. The last time this happened was in 2009 when the MCU was in its infancy and we had plenty of films that year to keep us occupied!

We also would have had the Disney+ TV show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to look forward to in a couple of months. Originally the program was to stream in August of this year, but that show along with Disney+’s other MCU show for this year, WandaVision, have been delayed because filming stopped earlier this year. The safety of the cast and crew are more important than a schedule but it just plain sucks they could not have finished by the time the pandemic ravaged us. Rumor has it that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier needs to be rewritten and reshot because it supposedly had a storyline about a pandemic and that would not go over well today.

One flaw about the interconnected nature of the MCU is that the films (and soon TV shows) cannot be shown out of order. For example, WandaVision directly leads to the upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It would have been awkward if that film was ready to go before WandaVision was completed but in this case it worked out because the Doctor Strange film has not even begun filming (and its release date has been changed from next year to March 2022). In other words, even though it is a prequel film, Black Widow probably has to be released first before we can see The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and so on. Black Widow has been rescheduled for November 6, 2020. But given the impatient deniers who won’t wear masks or keep social distancing and the ongoing protests it is quite possible that a second wave of the coronavirus will come with a vengeance. So, Black Widow’s new release date is not a guarantee.

Hopefully, Black Widow will not suffer the fate of The New Mutants, a film that has been forever rescheduled. Can anyone believe it was supposed to be released back in 2018? The ironic thing about The New Mutants is that many of us had little interest in the film and gave up on it as a last gasp from the defunct Fox X-Men film franchise. Now, with its latest release date being August 28, 2020, it will be the sole Marvel film fix until the MCU films can be released.

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