Part 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the place are we?

SPOILER ALERT: This story covers the top of a number of titles printed by marvel studios in 2021 and 2022, from “Wanda Vision” by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

On the very finish of 2021’s ‘WandaVision’ – the inauguration of Marvel Studios’ post-‘Avengers: Endgame’ slate of titles, collectively referred to as Part 4 – we see Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) quietly sipping tea by the facet of a lakeside cabin, recovering from the traumatic occasions of the collection finale. Nevertheless, because the digital camera descends into the cabin, we see Wanda astral projecting herself as a Scarlet Witch so she will research the Darkhold, a e book of corrupting darkish magic. All of the sudden, she hears the voices of her two misplaced sons and the display screen goes black. By the point the episode aired in March 2021, we had been questioning how this might occur and what Wanda would do subsequent.

Fourteen months later, these questions had been answered within the Marvel Studios function movie “Physician Unusual within the Multiverse of Insanity”: Wanda has heard variants of her boys someplace within the multiverse, and it causes her to interrupt her head on the lookout for a strategy to get again to them.

This sort of prolonged – and, for some, controversial – character evolution has been the promise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its inception. It supplied audiences with the emotional rewards of long-form storytelling beforehand restricted to tv, and Disney with the monetary rewards of a franchise able to churning out two to 3 blockbuster movies a 12 months, raking in additional than $22 billion in worldwide field workplace receipts within the course of.

However whereas Marvel has significantly increased its production for part 4, releasing 11 Disney+ collection and theatrical options in slightly below 18 months, that sense of a bigger cohesive narrative woven via every title has been missing. As a substitute of the gradual escalation of the Infinity Saga, it isn’t but clear the place Part 4 is heading – if, certainly, it is headed in a single path.

Definitely, the Multiverse performed an important position in a number of Part 4 titles, beginning with the Disney+ collection “Loki,” which ended with a single timeline fracturing into an infinite variety of alternate realities. This instantly fueled the Disney+ animated collection “What If…?” in addition to setting the stage for multiversal mayhem within the “Spider-Man: No Approach Dwelling” and “Multiverse of Insanity” options.

Up to now, that is all it has been: a really entertaining mess. And even setting apart the truth that Physician Unusual (Benedict Cumberbatch) was already studying concerning the Multiverse 5 years earlier than “Loki” in his 2016 function debut, the Multiverse performed no half in any of the opposite Part 4 titles. .

As a substitute, the MCU conjured up 10 separate narrative threads with no clear relationship to one another, solely two of which have to date carried on via different titles. The primary: Wanda’s aforementioned journey between “WandaVision” and “Multiverse of Insanity.” The Second: Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) is given marching orders on the finish of ‘Black Widow’ to kill Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), whom she abandons throughout ‘Hawkeye’ as she and Clint share their grief on the demise of Natacha Romanoff.

As for the remainder? (Deep breath!)

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” ends with a number of antagonists – Wyatt Russell’s John Walker, Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Valentina Allegra Fontaine – nonetheless alive and loosely ensconced within the US authorities with no apparent function past floating malfeasance. Valentina is the one who provides Yelena the order to kill Clint in “Black Widow,” however we nonetheless do not know who Valentina works for or what she desires to perform.

“Loki” ends with the emergence, off-screen, of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), a determine with Thanos-sized ambitions to rule the multiverse as a lot as potential. However we can’t meet him till “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which is presently slated to open in February 2023. (Kang’s variant demise, He Who Stays, is what sparks the multiverse into the primary place.)

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” ends with Wong (Benedict Wong) telling Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) that these titular rings are alien and even older than he is aware of – and, what’s extra, they’re calling for…one thing…within the cosmos.

“Eternals” ends with a celestial god turning to stone within the Indian Ocean, inflicting one other celestial, Arishem (David Kaye), to seem simply outdoors of Earth and saying that he has positioned all the planet in lawsuit for its very existence. Does anybody on earth different that the Eternals have no idea this trial? Are any Avengers curious concerning the big stone determine that instantly rose from the ocean? Not clear! (Oh, and Harry Types — Harry Types! — materializes as Thanos’ attractive brother, Starfox.)

“Hawk Eye” ends with the reappearance of Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), the primary villain of Netflix’s Marvel collection “Daredevil.” Fisk has an extended historical past with Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), who’s getting her personal Disney+ spinoff collection, “Echo,” however we do not but know if Fisk will seem on that present, not to mention Daredevil (Charlie Cox), who confirmed up for a humorous scene in “No Approach Dwelling.” Will any of this tie into different MCU titles? Maybe. Perhaps not.

“Spider-Man: No Coming Dwelling” ends with Unusual erasing all reminiscence of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker from the multiverse however don’t reminiscence of Spider-Man, as Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) seems contained in the MCU simply lengthy sufficient to go away behind a drop of Venom’s alien symbiote goo.

“Knight of the Moon” the latest Disney+ collection, ends with no clear connection to the MCU let or not it’s past a passing reference in Episode 3 to Madripoor, town of thieves featured in “Falcon and Winter Soldier.” In truth, the present even means that Oscar Isaac’s title superhero may really be a concoction of his personal fractured thoughts. Probably not? Reply foggy, ask once more later.

“Multiverse of Insanity” ends with Clea, a personality we have by no means met earlier than performed by Charlize Theron – Charlize Theron! – showing in entrance of Unusual on a New York avenue, opening a portal to the Darkish Dimension and convincing him to affix her in diving inside.

After which there are the remainder of the MCU titles due this 12 months and subsequent – “Ms. Marvel” and “Thor: Love & Thunder” first in June and July – which may introduce much more new dangling plot threads in Part 4.” Ms. Marvel’s hero Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) will seem in ‘The Marvels’ in July 2023, whereas Guardians of the Galaxy may have a task in ‘Thor: Love & Thunder’.

Evaluate all that to how the MCU arrange the Infinity Saga: Within the sixth movie, 2012’s “The Avengers,” we met Thanos. By the tenth, 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” we first heard the phrases “Infinity Stones” and absolutely understood that Thanos was decided to gather all six of them. Every subsequent movie has superior this larger story in small or main methods, as we realized that at the least a number of the Infinity Stones had been hiding in plain sight beginning with 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Every part culminated with an “Avengers” film (or two), and every MCU film, albeit an experiment (kind of) on itself, had a compelling sense of ahead momentum and the general narrative goal. Thanos desires these stones, which might be cataclysmically mistaken – our heroes are going to need to cease him.

Eleven titles into Part 4, there are a number of potential Massive Bads – Kang, Valentina, Arishem, Kingpin, even Darkish Dimension Overlord Dormammu – lurking within the Outskirts. However Marvel Studios has but to say if there’s even a grand plan to tie all of those strands collectively.

It might be a function, not a bug. With the explosion of MCU content material on Disney+, there might merely be too many titles to cram into one consolidated storyline, so Marvel will not strive. The introduction to the multiverse even underscores this drawback: if there are infinite numbers of Wandas, Strangers, and Peter Parkers dwelling their very own tales, how may audiences or storytellers all comply with them?

Up to now, this difficulty hasn’t damage Marvel’s backside line. To this point, its options have been about the one dependable field workplace draw throughout the pandemic, grossing over $3.6 billion worldwide; and its Disney+ reveals have all been widespread hits (at the least, as greatest could be measured). Nonetheless, at the least a few of that success has been drawn from the astronomical public goodwill accrued by the Infinity Saga, and on the hope that investing money and time in each MCU title will repay with a mega -“Avengers” model film. all alongside the road.

Marvel Studios, nonetheless, has but to announce an “Avengers” film. The one one that is aware of for certain if or when that may occur is Marvel’s Chief Artistic Officer. Kevin Feige. But when previous precedent is any indication, the primary to return can be the Might 3, 2024-dated Marvel film, which can doubtless be introduced throughout San Diego Comedian-Con in July or D23 Expo in September.

There’s, nonetheless, one conceivable thread that might deliver all of Part 4 collectively: The Younger Avengers. Avid MCU watchers have seen that a number of younger superheroes — or characters who turn out to be superheroes in Marvel comics — have been launched over the previous 12 months and a half, together with America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) in “Multiverse of Insanity”, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) in “Hawkeye”, Child Loki (Jack Veal) in “Loki”, Eli Bradley (Elijah Richardson) in “Falcon and Winter Soldier”, Billy Maximoff (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy Maximoff ( Jett Klyne) in “WandaVision” and, subsequent 12 months, Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) in “Quantumania”.

Collectively, these characters make up the Younger Avengers within the comics. One in every of their enemies – and, oddly sufficient, members – is Kang the Conqueror.

In order that’s a chance for the path of part 4. That also does not bear in mind what is going on on with Arishem’s trial, Valentina’s storylines, Shang-Chi’s rings, Venom’s goo, Kingpin’s machinations, or Clea’s darkish dimension. However perhaps Feige is aware of he wants Marvel’s youth to construct the way forward for the MCU.

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