Marvel assiduously built toward “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame,” delivering a massive two-part, five-hour-plus, every-hero-imaginable conclusion to the Thanos saga in 2019. The result was a staggering commercial success, bidding farewell to a pair of signature characters who helped launch this run of movies in the process.
What could the studio possibly do for an encore? Phase 4, the latest chapter in Marvel’s cinematic march, was intended to address that, serving as what amounted to a multi-movie palate cleanser while resetting the table by introducing new characters and capitalizing on existing ones.
As dazzling as the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” footage unveiled at Comic-Con looked, losing Boseman created a no-good-answers dilemma for the sequel, clouding the future of a franchise that after the first movie appeared poised to be a major linchpin of Marvel’s plans.
Finally, buoyed by its enviable movie track record, Marvel not only aggressively supplied Disney+ with original shows but chose to treat them as further extensions of its universe, adding to the logistical hurdles associated with that.
The movies outlined for Phase 5 and the glimpse provided of Phase 6 indicate that Marvel is eager to restore the epic scope associated with the story that culminated in “Endgame.”
The fact that Marvel dominated trending topics and overshadowed other high-profile commodities at Comic-Con reflects its enduring strength. Even a more mortal Marvel is still playing an extremely strong and enviable hand.
Nevertheless, there’s something to be said for focusing on individual titles, without fretting about their place in the larger MCU. Just getting the Fantastic Four right — finally — seems like a formidable objective, beyond dwelling on the sequels and cameos that they can do in the films that follow.
It’s worth noting, too, that the comic books Marvel has used as its foundation regularly churn out world-threatening threats. Movies take a few years to make, meaning each individual film already faces the daunting task of hatching a plot capable of bearing that weight.
Marvel’s success has owed a great deal to the fact that its movies are seen as events by fans, and the connectedness of its universe has undoubtedly contributed mightily to that dynamic.
As is so often true in Hollywood, though, a blessing can turn into a burden. For now, the studio would be best served by delivering some really satisfying movies and letting the rest of the equation follow.
Accomplish that, and by 2025 we might look back and say that Marvel was just going through a phase.