To check to what extent Marvel’s Phase 4 does not seem to have a very clear course, you just have to add the number of hours it has been invested in telling whatever it is you are trying to tell: 18 months, six movies including the brand new ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’, and seven series on Disney+. A colossal effort that is still not very clear where it is taking us. Not knowing it is not a problem, of course: the problem is whether they will know it at Marvel.
Lots of Phase 4, little fun. Phase 3 lasted just over 26 hours. The 4 already has more than 55 if we count the series, that is, more than double. And there is still a long way to go: if everything goes according to plan, four more movies and four series. But if you ask any fan, it is doubtful that they will be able to define in a single sentence what this phase is about, what its narrative core is. Of course, here, as with everything, there are nuances.
Nuances because in Phase 1 it was not very clear what the story that would end up telling would be, although it was already pointing in a certain direction. On the one hand, interwoven characters in different films, noted from the appearance of Nick Fury in the inaugural ‘Iron Man’. On the other hand, Thanos is already present in a corner of ‘Avengers’, and closing that first phase by granting him the category of great demiurge of the villains’ plan. And it is very possible that, following this line, this Phase 4, as scattered as it may seem, is already targeting issues as well.
And more nuances in the opposite direction: perhaps since ‘Iron Man’, Kevin Feige’s head has already fantasized about the idea of a shared universe (after all, that idea is decades old in comics), but It would just be a project. For Phase 4, the idea of the MCU is practically instituted: his first film -‘Black Widow’- is, in fact, the prequel to a character who has died, something of a conceptual complexity impossible in Phase 1.
And ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ is to blame for everything? Why so much hate? No, ‘Love and Thunder’ is not the cause, but we could say that it is a symptom of how clueless Phase 4 is. Before its release, rumors followed one another, trying to predict what connection the film would have with the MCU: multiverses? The return of any of the races of omnipotent creatures introduced in ‘Eternals’? It has finally been something like that, but not quite, and we have met Eternity, a primordial being that in the comics contains all the multiverses and all the Marvel stories and that here is used more as an anthromorphized place.
And there is room for a future thematic evolution of Phase 4: Eternity can grant the title of Captain Universe, an identity that characters such as Spider-Man, Daredevil, Hulk or Silver Surfer have carried in the comics. And the Mask of Eternity, carved from the same substance as his body, grants nearly unfathomable powers, a bit in the vein of the Infinity Gauntlet. That is to say, there is a path there, relatively connected with the Celestials presented in ‘Eternals’, about the primordial and practically omnipotent creatures of the Marvel universe, which could be exploited.
Avengers are missing. But that is not going to happen, because in fact, in the post-credits sequences of ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ a thematic turn is pointed out that betrays part of what was seen in the first four phases of the MCU: Valhalla is not a metaphor, but a very real space. That opens the door for the deaths of Hendall and an important character in this installment not to be permanent, because they can be rescued from that space.
A dangerous perspective, considering that until now, characters like Iron Man, Black Widow, Mercury, Yondu and many others, Marvel killed them very dead. That is to say, ‘Love and Thunder’ opens the door to changes that would betray the tone of the previous phases and with which Marvel could be experimenting (see ‘Wandavision’ and the goings-on with Vision’s death) to give the MCU a more narrative manageable and less ruthless.
That in any case, does not mean that the great drama of the project right now is its clear lack of direction: the movies and series multiply, and with it, the characters. But at the same time, there are no Avengers that bring together the most important and serve as a nucleus to order and, eye, prioritize the dozens of possibilities that open up nonstop. The Avengers are more than a group: they are a meeting point for the maze of possibilities in the MCU. And for now, erratic movies without a clear direction like ‘Love and Thunder’ seem like they’re not going to lead to a new Endgame. Which by itself is not a problem, but… how long will fans put up with that indeterminacy?
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