Phase Four pushed the MCU into a new medium. Phase Four Allowed for more distinct and standalone stories. With the reception of Phase Four, the limit of what audiences want and can handle becomes clearer.

Marvel Studios has been on top of the superhero genre for over a decade, with one of the greatest runs for a franchise ever. This is primarily due to interconnectivity on a massive scale and a consistent quality that has never been seen on screen. The Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s reign over cinema seemingly peaked with Avengers: Endgame‘s record-breaking box office total and closed a chapter on the studio’s first saga, which centered on the infinity stones.

Phase Four featured Marvel’s most divisive round of projects yet and a debut on television. Major players like Iron Man and Captain America have also taken a backseat, with new and supporting heroes getting the spotlight. Phase Four might’ve been hit-and-miss for some; however, it was still an essential step for Marvel Studios to take for a few reasons.

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Phase Four Pushed the MCU Into a New Medium

After a COVID reshuffling, Phase Four launched on Disney+ with WandaVision, the studio’s first TV series. WandaVision was well received by fans, but the studio would struggle to capture that excitement in its following projects. However, Marvel entering a new medium allowed a new type of storytelling that couldn’t be told on the big screen.WandaVision and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law are key examples of that with their sitcom and legal drama approaches. Other series like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier took the six-hour movie route that’s also been seen in Moon Knight, Hawkeye, and Loki. Marvel Studios also embarked on animation for the first time with What If…? with more to come.

The television medium tends to reflect the issue-to-issue storytelling in comics the best, and the MCU telling stories in that fashion has made it closer to the source material than ever before. Not every TV series has made the same impact on the audience as the films have. Still, Marvel has found success in the television medium with WandaVision and Loki — that’s a win for the superhero studio previously known for its film output. The MCU has always had limitless potential, and that’s more true now than ever since it has conquered a new medium.

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Marvel Studios Is Telling More Distinct and Standalone Stories

Part of the thrill of following the MCU is the interconnectivity. It makes every project required viewing. That’s not always the case in comics, nor should it be. Phase Four has allowed new stories to be told in a different medium and more filmmakers like Chloé Zhao and Sam Raimi to twist the Marvel Studios formula and do something fresh with their authorship. The formulaic approach to projects has long been a common complaint with Marvel Studios projects, but the studio has since broken away from that with Phase Four. Michael Giacchino’s Werewolf by Night special is the most radical example of Marvel Studios doing something completely different with its old-school feel, and it was effective. Fans are now open to different types of stories to be told within the MCU, and that has always been a key to its longevity.

Marvel has taken plenty of chances in the past with different genres, but it has never felt more evident than in Phase Four, and that’s a good thing. Marvel Studios had the luxury of playing with its universe because the brand had never been more successful. Kevin Feige and co can gather what has worked and what hasn’t to move the MCU forward into its next era.

Marvel Studios has also been able to introduce a plethora of new characters like Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel, who fans have been longing to see. Bringing in those new heroes expands the universe and, more importantly, allows for more diversity. Black Panther spearheaded this in the previous phase, and now other cultures get to see themselves represented in the MCU with films like Shang Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings or a series such as Ms. Marvel. Diversity continues to be a promising and important direction for Marvel Studios, not just regarding the types of stories but with those who inhabit them.

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Marvel Studios Now Knows How Much Audiences Can Handle

Given the MCU’s unprecedented success, the volume of projects continued to increase. The studio produced more projects with Phase Four than in the first three phases combined. The addition of TV had a lot to do with the massive increase, and while some projects have struggled critically, Marvel Studios’ box office returns still present success. Spider-Man: No Way Home was the studio’s most successful solo film, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever also producing strong results. Phase Four grossed 5.7 billion dollars amid a pandemic that disrupted the box office for Black Widow, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals.

Following the studio’s largest output to date, Disney CEO Bob Iger has since revealed there will be a slowdown for the MCU in the future. Given how much there’s been to keep up with, it’s clear some audience members have fallen off with no Avengers film in sight until 2026. Marvel Studios can now determine the right amount of projects for Phase Five and beyond based on the massive output produced during Phase Four for future success.

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It can be easy to see Phase Four as nothing more than a step down in quality, given how much quantity there was. However, projects like WandaVision, Loki, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings sit among Marvel’s best work. Projects like Thor: Love and Thunder, Eternals, Moon Knight,and otherscould also gain some more appreciation from fans over time as the Multiverse Saga continues to play out. There’s been some uneasiness with so many unresolved storylines based on how many projects there have been. Still, if there’s one thing Marvel Studios often delivers on, it’s a satisfying payoff.

Marvel Studios was built on experimentation and risk, and Phase Four was a time to revamp their universe and take it into a new era. There are plenty of lessons Marvel Studios can learn from, and some are already being implemented. Marvel Studios could’ve continued to tell the same types of stories they have been telling with the same core heroes. However, the studio needed to disrupt its status quo after Avengers: Endgame to sustain its groundbreaking success.

 Marvel Studios’ Phase Four didn’t resonate with fans as much as past phases, but the direction was an essential one to go in after Avengers: Endgame.  Read More