Marvel Studios has a lot of projects in the works. Secret Invasion, Eternals, and Moon Knight, to name a few. We’re nearing the end of 2021, and our team thought it would be good to give our take on all the Phase 4 projects left. But first, let’s give a quick overview of Phase 4 so far.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the following Marvel Studios projects: WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Black Widow, What If…?. If you have not watched or finished any of the aforementioned TV series or films, stop reading now. The preview of new content for the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in Part 2.
When Marvel Studios’ WandaVision was announced at Comic-Con 2019, fans instantly knew it was going to be a hit. The release date was announced in November 2020, and 2 months later, on January 15, 2021, the first 2 episodes of WandaVision finally premiered. People everywhere were talking about Wanda Maximoff in a sitcom, if Mephisto would pop up, and whether Wanda’s quirky neighbor Agnes was really Agatha Harkness.
Since then, WandaVision has become a cultural phenomenon, Elizabeth Olsen a household name. The series has garnered nearly 1 billion views worldwide to date. In mid-July 2021, the series received 23 nominations for the Television Academy Awards, including a nomination for Outstanding Limited Series. The number of nominations was the the second-most, after The Mandalorian and The Crown, which both received 24.
The impact that this show had for the MCU as a whole was that Wanda Maximoff was formally introduced as the Scarlet Witch for the first time, and introduced a whole new range of powers and abilities to the MCU, magic. We had already known sorcery from the first Doctor Strange film, but WandaVision introduced magic as a whole, including Chaos Magic, which seems to be the category of the Scarlet Witch’s powers. The show also introduced Billy and Tommy Maximoff, which in the comics, are Young Avengers that go by the names Wiccan and Speed.
An often overlooked detail are the two post-credit scenes in the final episode of WandaVision. The less notable one, which finds Wanda in a remote cabin in the mountains, where she’s studying the Darkhold intensely. As a result of that, she hears Billy and Tommy scream for help. We’re led to assume that this is the scene that will lead into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The second post-credits scene finds Monica Rambeau in the aftermath of the Battle of Westview, and when she is asked to go into the movie theater by an FBI agent, that very same FBI agent turns into a Skrull. This sets up Secret Invasion mainly, but also The Marvels.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie is The Falcon. Sebastian Stan is The Winter Soldier. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier opened 2 weeks after the finale of WandaVision, to extremely high hopes. The release date was announced at Disney Investor Day 2020, it was revealed to be March 19, 2021. While it was a good series, it wasn’t WandaVision level, so this series received a lot of flak it didn’t necessarily deserve.
Even though that was the case, it topped the Nielsen rankings, at #1 for several weeks. It also was the second-most watched premiere on Disney+ ever, after Loki. WandaVision was third. In mid-July 2021, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was awarded 5 Emmy nominations.
The ramifications for the wider MCU that this series provided were threefold. First, Sam Wilson took on the mantle of Captain America. Second, this introduces yet another potential Young Avenger to the MCU, Eli Bradley, grandson of Isaiah Bradley. In the comics, Eli goes by Patriot.
Last, Zemo is transported to the Raft, where he could be recruited for the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers. Val now has an impressive list of candidates for her team, consisting of John Walker Zemo.
The post-credit scene finds Sharon Carter in a US Senate hearing, where she is recruited back into government intelligence agencies. She is given a squad of her own, and access into the government database. She leaves the hearing. Immediately after, she calls her “contact”, saying that she has access to government databases, and to start lining up buyers. Could this “contact” be the same contact that Sonny Burch mentioned in Ant-Man and the Wasp? Knowing Feige, anything is possible. This comes after the reveal earlier in the episode that she is the Power Broker, which could potentially set up Armor Wars, or, as many fans have been speculating, Secret Invasion, if this Sharon Carter is revealed to be a Skrull.
Where to start? Marvel Studios’ Loki is arguably the best streaming television series ever. From score to story, Loki shines in every category. The casting is off the charts. Tom Hiddleston is the only returning character from the MCU, everyone else is new.
The casting of Owen Wilson as Mobius M. Mobius is flawless, so is the casting of Gugu M’batha Raw as Judge Ravonna Renslayer. To name a few more, Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains and Sophia Di Martino as Sylvie. The score, composed by Natalie Ann Holt, was EXTRAORDINARY. The script, crafted by Michael Waldron, was so good that Kevin Feige hired him to pen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Kate Herron, the director, captured the elements of the settings and story feels perfectly.
Every part of Loki was done to the best of Marvel’s ability. Top 10 MCU project, some say Top 5, and a few even go as far as to say Top 3. Every week that a new episode of Loki released, it was #1 or #2 on the Nielsen charts. Views well surpassed 1 billion per episode, and it was the most-watched premiere on Disney+ ever, surpassing WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and The Mandalorian. Unfortunately, the series concluded too late to be considered for the 2021 Emmys, but fingers crossed for as many nominations as possible in 2022.
What we learned from this series, WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, is that Marvel Studios is crafting stories for Disney+ that focus more on individual character development, and less on wider MCU repercussions. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any impact on the MCU. In this show, there is actually quite a lot of it.
The event that has the biggest impact on the MCU is Sylvie killing He Who Remains, thereby freeing the multiverse. She also ends up letting infinite variants roam free, and starting another multiversal war. This sets up Loki season 2, What If…? season 1, What If…? season 2, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Other things include the introduction of yet another Young Avenger, Kid Loki. Man, Feige is really fast-tracking this team.
It also sets up the possibility of other characters’ variants in the MCU, an example being a report we heard last year, that Tom Cruise would play a variant of Iron Man in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Before its’ release, Black Widow was delayed 3 consecutive times. From May 1, 2020 to November 6, 2020. Then from November 6, 2020 to May 7, 2021. And then finally, from May 7, 2021 to July 9, 2021, with the Disney+ Premier Access announcement. While it’s not the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s certainly one to remember. Florence Pugh shines in this action-packed blockbuster, with Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, and Ray Winstone as the supporting cast.
While this is Scarlett Johansson’s film, we already know the character of Natasha Romanoff so well, so it’s hard for Johansson to remain dominant throughout the film. Director Cate Shortland does a great job of turning the script into something presentable, as Head Writer Jac Schaeffer didn’t do the best job on Black Widow, even as she masterminded WandaVision.
The film has the biggest domestic gross of the year, but still sits somewhere in the Top 5 for worldwide gross, since China has so far neglected Black Widow. In its premiere week, it took in $60M in domestic gross, $80M in international gross, and $50M in Premier Access revenue. It was #3 in its’ premiere week on the Nielsen streaming charts. However, the film could be an Oscar contender for the Best Visual Effects category, but likely no more than that.
There is a very small MCU footprint in this film, but that’s to be expected, the film is mainly a prequel. The sole impact is that Val shows up in the post-credit scene, telling Yelena that Clint Barton was responsible for Nat’s death, and sends her to hunt Barton down. 1) This makes Yelena a very strong contender for whatever team Val is putting together, whether it’s the Thunderbolts or the Dark Avengers. 2) It leads into the Hawkeye TV series, which premieres November 24th (covering in Part 2). We’ll see her in Hawkeye. Yelena indicates that her and Val have met previously, which raises questions. What Yelena was up to in the years between being freed from the Red Room, to when she was at Natasha’s grave.
What If…?, Marvel Studios’ first venture into the realm of animation, does not fail to prove its’ worth. From the first episode, we can see just how good the voice acting is. The first episode seems basically like Captain America: The First Avenger, but with a twist. However, it’s important to note that the tentacled villain at the end of the episode is NOT Shuma Gorath.
Notes From Episode 1
In a recent interview, a showrunner on What If…? confirmed that characters that hadn’t yet appeared in the MCU would NOT appear in What If…?. Even as he’s slated to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Shuma Gorath hasn’t appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe YET, so he won’t appear in What If…?. More likely that it’s just some random tentacled Hydra god.
In any case, it will be exciting to see what What If…? provides over the course of 7-8 weeks, through the next 8 episodes. I’m particularly excited for the Spider-Man zombie hunter and the Doctor Strange episode. And remember, we will see some of these characters in live action, some are coming sooner than you’d expect…..
This is Part 1 of Marvel Studios: All Upcoming Projects And Our Take On Them. Part 2 is live now, accessible in the link below. In the next part, previews of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, and Spider-Man: No Way Home will be featured.