June 5, 2023

Marvel Studios spent 10 years fixing the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s Phase 2 issues, but the first release of Phase 5 already ruined it. The MCU has been criticized recently for its most uneven phase yet, Phase 4. Marvel Studios will undoubtedly want to correct MCU Phase 4’s mistakes in the near future with the help of both theatrical releases and the different formats that Disney+ allows. A template for the MCU’s correction of Phase 4 can be found in how Marvel handled its Phase 2 issues.

The MCU’s Phase 2 was made up entirely of movies, as Disney+ only came into play during Phase 4. Marvel Studios’ Phase 2 movies included: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. While Chris Evans’ second Captain America movie and director James Gunn’s first Guardians of the Galaxy are two of the MCU’s best movies, most of the other films had varying degrees of issues. Marvel fixed many of those Phase 2 issues over the last decade, but, unfortunately, the first release of Phase 5, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, has already dampened the efforts.

WandaVision, Shang-Chi & Loki Fixed MCU Phase 2 Problems

2021 was a big year for the MCU. Not only did it see Marvel and Sony’s joint production, Spider-Man: No Way Home, dominate the box office thanks to the combined strength of Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield as their versions of Spider-Man, but it was also the year the MCU corrected many of its Phase 2 movies’ mistakes. In charge of addressing Marvel’s past issues were the Disney+ series WandaVision and Loki, as well as the MCU debut of actor Simu Liu as the title character in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

First up was WandaVision, which allowed Marvel to dive deep into the past of Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff before she became the Scarlet Witch. The series expanded upon Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s snippets of Wanda’s past, showing Scarlet Witch’s early life, with her parents dying due to a Stark Industries missile. Seeing more of the family’s daily life, as well as the scene where a young Wanda and Pietro wait for their death at the mercy of a rocket that never goes off, added a much-welcomed level of depth to the twins’ story in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Then came Loki, a series that focused on a variant of Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief, taken from The Avengers, learning about his main MCU version’s fate, death by Thanos’ hand, and coming to realize that he needed to change. Loki made Thor: The Dark World better in retrospect by including an emotional ride when Loki was shown his future by the TVA. Loki learning of his mother Frigga’s death and how he was partly responsible for it broke him. The moment, as well as Loki seeing him becoming friends again with his brother Thor, adds a new level of depth to Thor: The Dark World.

Finally, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings made Robert Downey Jr.’s last solo movie as Tony Stark, Iron Man 3, better. Shang-Chi’s MCU debut brought along with him the real Mandarin, an important villain from Marvel Comics that had initially been thought to be the main foe of Iron Man 3, only for the movie to pull a fake-out and say it was an actor, Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery, pretending to be the villain. Shang-Chi’s father was revealed to be the real Mandarin, with Kingsley returning as Slattery, who had been captured by the villain for impersonating him, providing a satisfying end to Iron Man 3‘s misdirection.

MCU Phase 5 Made A Phase 2 Movie Worse

Ant-Man stuck in the ground in 2015 movie.

The first release of the MCU’s Phase 5, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, walked back on the work Marvel had been doing to correct its Phase 2 issue. The trilogy finale, which had everything in it to be the biggest Ant-Man movie in the MCU, ended up being a major blunder, both financially — as the lowest-grossing Ant-Man movie — and critically. Quantumania damaged the franchise, something that goes against Phase 2’s solid Ant-Man. Now, fewer people will be interested in the franchise as a whole, and those who go back to watch Ant-Man will do so knowing that Quantumania falls short as a finale.

What MCU Phase 5 Can Learn From Phase 4

Kang in front of Marvel character art.

Phase 5 needs to learn a few lessons from both Phase 4 and the latest Ant-Man movie. Phase 4 included a whooping total of 17 projects over a two-year span. That fast-paced release of projects affected the overall quality of the MCU, as Phase 4 contained some glaring VFX issues, as well as uneven scripts, which led to the recently-concluded phase being the most criticized in MCU history. Marvel appears to already be correcting those issues by slowing the release of MCU content on Disney+, which allows more time in development to get the story and VFX right so that the MCU’s Phase 5 does not repeat Phase 4’s mistakes.

The MCU’s Phase 5 can also copy what worked for Phase 4’s 2021 releases in the aspect of correcting issues from a previous phase. The way Marvel handled Phase 2 could be reemployed during Phase 5 so that the MCU can touch upon poorly received projects such as Thor: Love and Thunder and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, making those movies better through the characters’ adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s Phase 5.

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