Total Film

PHASE 4’S LACK OF FOCUS

The MCU feels rudderless right now. Maybe that’s a good thing?

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Following Avengers: Endgame – the culminatio­n of 11 years and 22 films’ worth of interconne­cted storytelli­ng – was always going to be a tricky business. With the Infinity Saga, Marvel Studios achieved what no other film franchise has in history: crafting a cohesive, constantly expanding big-screen universe that always felt purposeful. So why does Phase 4 still feel aimless?

It started well with WandaVisio­n, a series with something meaningful to say about grief, that served as a smart love letter to sitcoms, and establishe­d Wanda Maximoff as the Scarlet Witch – a character so immensely powerful in the comics she can rewrite reality with merely a word, something that will no doubt come into play in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. But with The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Black Widow and Loki, the cracks have started to show.

There’s no longer a sense that the ride we’re locked into is moving inexorably forward, always building to something grander. Part of the excitement of seeing a Marvel movie over the last decade was the propulsion – the promise that each entry was a piece in a bigger puzzle. The importance of Samuel L. Jackson’s ‘Avengers Initiative’ cameo in Iron Man cannot be overstated in keeping everyone’s gaze firmly focused on the next Marvel fix.

Phase 4, however, with its prequels (Black Widow), pocket dimensions (Loki) and character pieces (TF&TWS) still feels like it’s going nowhere. Part of the reason is just how unwieldy the MCU has become. In the next four to five years, Marvel will release 12 films and 12 TV series – more than Phases 1 through 3 combined. It’s no surprise their laserlike focus has become more diffuse.

Who knows when or if we’ll see an Avengers-like team-up again. But is this (whisper it) a good thing? It’s hard to imagine even mighty Marvel pulling off the Endgame trick twice, while freeing filmmakers to tell stories that don’t have to tie into a bigger whole in a major way can only open up more creative avenues. It may even make those ‘it’s all connected’ moments more impactful if they come along less frequently. The MCU has always been an experiment in cinematic storytelli­ng; it’s only right the experiment­ation continues. JF

‘THE MCU HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN EXPERIMENT IN STORYTELLI­NG’

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