5 MCU Phase 1 Mistakes Are Being Repeated In Marvel’s Phase 4

MCU phase 4 is making the same tired mistakes as MCU phase 1. All this, despite having years of experience on their side. Even after a somewhat desolate post-pandemic theatre landscape, Black Widow and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have been box office successes. The presence of Eternals and Tom Holland’s third outing in Spider-Man: No Way Home before the end of 2021 will strengthen these releases. They were further marking a highly anticipated festive blockbuster period that Marvel releases will dominate.

It’s been all about setting up origin stories for the MCU’s key players so far in phase 4, with Natasha Romanoff confronting her past in Black Widow and Shang Chi establishing a canonical framework for his eponymous hero in Legend of the Ten Rings and Shang Chi Due to the pivotal events of Avengers: Endgame, these entries, when taken as part of the ongoing MCU narrative, feel like hollow placeholders to many viewers.

Captain America, Iron Man and Thor

Avengers: Infinity War remains a cherished part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon, and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America aren’t so easily forgotten either.

Given the current state of the MCU narrative, it appears that Marvel’s phase 4 is doomed to repeat the mistakes of MCU phase 1. Phase 4’s current state feels like a rehash of the first film series, with generic and underpowered villains, stupid retcons, and a stale formula. The MCU’s phase 4 is repeating five of phase 1’s most egregious errors.

#1 Phase 4’s Secondary Villains Are Overly Broad in Scope

While the grandiose scale and originality of Marvel’s The Avengers made waves in 2012, some of the lazier plot elements were masked by the impact on the superhero genre. An excellent example of this is the Chitauri, who are introduced by the trickster god Loki and look like a copy-and-paste job of CGI. When the Avengers poorly use the Chitauri lack diversity in design, it reduces the Chitauri race to nothingness compared to Loki, despite them being Thanos’ army of choice.

The Eternals

Marvel’s Eternals, which will reveal the first look at the evil race known as The Deviants, made the same mistake by including a generic set of secondary villains. The omnipotent Celestial Arishem The Judge has already been shown in the Eternals previews, making the Deviants look like a relatively insignificant threat to the Eternals given the Celestials’ canonically world-altering abilities.

No matter how many Deviants there are, it’s likely that most of them will be used as pawns in an Eternals vs Deviants MCU conflict that has a soulless feel to it because of the presence of their leader, Kro.

#2 Phase 4: Being overly concerned with the future

However, before The Avengers, the MCU was unable to pique the interest of a broader audience, as the films that came before it had done. The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 are two early MCU films that feel particularly stilted and uninspired, even though both movies go to great lengths to establish the backstories of their respective titular heroes. As a result, there’s little room for a cohesive story in either of these phase 1 films, which are more concerned with connecting to the broader MCU through a series of disconnected scenes.

Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow feels like a rehash of phase 3 setup and callbacks to give the espionage-based plot meaning and weight in an already ridiculously superpowered MCU. Even though Black Widow and Shang-Chi have relatively low power ceilings compared to demigods like Thor and Carol Danvers, attempting to seamlessly integrate them into the same phase as these characters feel forced.

#3 The Break-Neck Retcons of Phase 4 Films and Television Shows

Even in the MCU, it is impossible to set up every character’s backstory perfectly from the start due to the ever-changing nature of film production. But due to the previously mentioned rigidity of the MCU’s phases, narrative edits are frequently implemented as sudden, out-of-the-blue retcons. When The Avengers take on Loki in 2012, the film decides to retcon all of Edward Norton’s character’s struggles from The Incredible Hulk in favour of Banner suddenly controlling his ability, which is the first appearance.

WandaVision, Loki, the falcon and the winter soldier

Astonishingly, The Avengers makes a retcon of its own, with The Hulk initially being shown to have little power over his transitions. Unfortunately, Marvel’s Eternals appears to be repeating this horrible habit by retconning the Infinity Stones and making them seem insignificant once more. There is no longer an Endgame-level threat due to Thanos’ snap being reversed. The emergence has begun, which means the Infinity Stones are no longer tied to phase 4.

Phase 4’s Big Bad Villains are Boring

The main antagonist Vanko barely registers as a credible threat to Tony Stark in Iron Man 2, the MCU’s prime example of a poorly executed villain. ‘Big Bad’ characters in the MCU, such as Thanos, are far more potent than the current Marvel heroes, so their battles have high stakes as well as heft and gravitas to it.

There are several uninspired and uninteresting primary villains in Phase 4 of the MCU. However, making it appear as though the studio has forgotten this golden rule. Another example is Shang-The Chi’s Dweller in the Darkness. This is where the Dweller is given no backstory or explanation of its power before being soundly defeated by Shang-Chi’s team.

Over-Reliance on “The MCU Formula”

It’s been five years since The Avengers debuted in theatres in 2012, and only a handful of MCU and Marvel canon instalments have been able to top it. To summarise, the framework is as follows: reintroduce any necessary backstory. Assemble a team of heroes. Put them through hardship.

Reform the team to take on a significant threat to their existence. And finally, sprinkle in some comic relief along the way to keep things light and entertaining. While the success of this short template is undeniable, the tried-and-true formula of the MCU has grown stale throughout its four stages since its inception.

Phase 4 was well-positioned to try something new with its structure following the conclusion of Endgame. This is so, given the dissolution of The Avengers and the introduction of the new Eternals plotlines.

So far, it’s been a structural carbon copy of phase 1, with Shang-Chi and Black Widow introducing superhero teams that weren’t necessary to the otherwise linear plots in phase 4. While being familiar is a welcome emotion for any franchise to elicit, it should not be at the expense of narrative substance. This, of course, is what the current MCU phase 4 seems all too willing to pay for.