So, over a decade and 23 fucking films later an era of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has finally concluded with “Spider-man: Far From Home” premiering last week.
It’s still staggering just how robust this franchise is considering in just eleven years’ time it already has amassed nearly as many films as the James Bond franchise and is arguably a more bankable series at this point than “Star Wars.” Though it’s not a perfect series by any stretch its success is nonetheless tied to its consistent, often magnetic charm and grand action set pieces and Phase 3 showed that it was even capable of some complex and nuanced growth. The third phase tackled deeper more emotional issues for our favorite super heroes while also giving many of its directors more free reign to do as they please with their scripts. Not always perfectly but it was more often than not hugely successful at reaching audiences on a personal level.
(Sometimes with mixed results…)
But as much as “Endgame” was a near perfect sendoff for this franchise, The Mouse isn’t done by any stretch with churning these films out seemingly until the end of time, so with that mind where should Disney go from here since it looks like the franchise will continue on indefinitely?
There’s a lot of ways to envision success for the MCU, and some wheels are already in motion between next year’s “Eternals” and Disney+’s streaming MCU shows but what would it really take for this series to get to the next level? Well this writer has some ideas and is more than happy to share a few of them.
Make the Villains More Prominent (and stop killing them off!)
Less so in Phase 3 but consistently throughout most of the series has been a total lack in quality villain performances and story-telling. Whether they are generic mustache-twirlers, essentially dark mirrors of the hero or just plain half-baked characters, the MCU has really done a disservice to its robust catalogue of rogues by often wasting the talents of great actors and actresses all to just check a box in a super hero script.
And on top of that they are consistently dead by the end of each film giving them no chance for growth in a sequel. I mean it’s not like we haven’t seen that work before right?
(Case in point)
For phase 4, especially in the wake of two thirds of the Marvel’s Holy Trinity out of the picture, villains should take center stage now more than ever. The heroes of this newer, younger and developing Avengers are probably not ready for the responsibility of protecting the world and the universe as evidenced by the near catastrophic mess Spider-man commits in “Far From Home” and to have the villains of this next phase take advantage of that would be a smart move.
These villains need to be prominent, larger than life and command a nuance to them that much of the older films did not have. A character like Norman Osborn for instance could step in to fill the power vacuum left behind by Stark’s shadow as the new tech futurist of Earth but of course without the responsibility and good intentions of Iron Man. Doctor Doom could be a counter to Black Panther’s Wakanda as a polar opposite of nations in Latveria. And bringing on a character like Mephisto could further expand the mystical side of the MCU that started to be explored in “Dr. Strange.”
(But seriously, Marvel Studios, if I don’t get Toby Stephens as Norman Osborn I will riot…)
Either way, these villains need to carry on for more than one film for a change. Only Thanos, Vulture and Loki have managed to get past their first movies but if Phase 4 is going to be more distinctive it needs to have these villains come together in some way, perhaps even a gasp team-up! Having the villains form a super team to fight a younger more inexperienced Avengers could provide for some great drama and welcome change to the usual “fight an army of nameless goons, aliens and/or robots” of the previous era.
In any case, Kevin Feige and The Mouse need to have their sights set on truly developing these villains beyond just simple one-offs and into fully fleshed out characters that can continue to be trouble for our heroes across the series.
Expand the Cosmic Spectrum of the MCU
The MCU is a science fiction series, if that didn’t already occur to you before, what with it’s iron-suited heroes, super soldiers and in these last two phases space aliens. With the latter the next phase really needs to lean into this and all its possibilities.
There’s a wealth of characters and worlds to explore on the cosmic level of Marvel Comics that not just the Guardians of the Galaxy can be a part of and Disney would be smart to bring even more properties into this real estate of the MCU.
It should namely start with Adam Warlock who was teased in the mid-credits scene of “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.” Warlock has long been a favorite character of mind, dating back to reading my dad’s old copies of the Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity Watch. He’s a charismatic character who effectively blends both the cosmic and mystical side of the Marvel Universe together that can lead to a wealth of possibilities across the new MCU. Who should play him is purely subjective at this point but I can tell you right now Zach Efron isn’t even my fourth choice on that particular ladder.
With the Fox deal, Disney also has the option to bring Silver Surfer and Galactus into the mix which they absolutely should at some point. Beta Ray Bill is also said to be making his debut in “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3” who can take over for Thor as Chris Hemsworth will eventually move on from the franchise at some point. Guardians will eventually need to retire too of course which opens up the possibility for the Infinity Watch with characters like Moon Dragon, Maxam and Pip the Troll and don’t tell me any of them wouldn’t work on the big screen. If Rocket Racoon can be a fan favorite Moon Dragon, Pip and Maxam can definitely make it too.
Either way the Marvel Universe is big fucking place and Disney would be dumb to not explore more of it for future franchises.
Make better Original Scores
Johan Goransson’s Oscar win for Best Original Score for his work on “Black Panther” was a watershed moment for this franchise because it showed how super hero music can still be relevant. Imagine Christopher Reeve’s “Superman” without John Williams theme music or Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” without Hans Zimmer’s prominent percussion echoing the legend of Batman. Its not nearly as memorable and I feel the MCU has largely short-changed itself by not putting a higher emphasis on original scores during its decade-long run.
(Bwaaaaaam BWAAAAAAAAAMMMM I can hear this gif)
Phase 3 has definitely done a better job with this of course, Michael Giacchino’s work on Spider-man is solid, Alan Silvestri’s return to Avengers especially the “Portals” scene is epic as hell and again Goransson’s score is part of the reason we knew exactly what was coming next when Cap said “I know somewhere” before we even saw an image of Wakanda. But Phase 4, in my opinion, needs to make this more important as we introduce new characters.
Music has a way of echoing memories and ideas that we’ll immediately associate with an event or in this case a character and with the MCU heading into uncharted territory with what’s looks like even more unique characters, adding memorable music will help audiences identify with them. A catchy tune can go a long way to making a good scene greater just ask the binary sunset in “A New Hope” and it can make a character truly standout.
Imagine the next Avenger’s films if you will as all these new heroes come together on screen all their theme music coming together to culminate in one epic version of the Avengers suite. It will be glorious if done right and the MCU needs to make this happen with inventive composers and film scores in Phase 4.
Save the X-Men for Phase 5
I know with the Fox deal and the whimpering flameout of “Dark Phoenix” fans are clamoring to see what Disney and Marvel Studios can do to bring in everyone’s favorite team of mutants but I say “hold up.”
As much as I would love to see a (hopefully) more faithful rendition of the X-Men I think we need a breather from Professor X, Cyclops, Beast and especially Wolverine. The X-Men franchise has been going on for over two decades and as much as we would all like to see these mutants get some much needed redemption after “Apocalypse” and “Dark Phoenix” I think general audiences need a breather. Yes, The MCU brought in Spider-man barely two years after the “Amazing” franchise which flamed out badly as well but Spider-man, even by its franchise standards, had a considerably smaller catalogue left behind when he made his debut in “Civil War.”
I think teasing the reappearance of the X-Men in Phase 4 is probably fine. Maybe dropping clues on the existence of mutants, maybe mentioning an alternate universe they come from because chances are their backstory will be retconned but either way the X-Men should be left on the backburner for Phase 4.
(Deadpool though? Keep’em coming.)
Make Phase 5 all about the emergence of mutants, build them up as a great new team for the MCU and perhaps even pit them against the Avengers down the road. Either way, let the X-Men have a break for now. They need it after what Fox did to them.
Bring in Diverse New Heroes
Oh, here comes that dreaded word that makes the slimiest denizens of the internet overreact and proclaim they’re not the “oversensitive” ones (in all CAPs of course).
The MCU had its fun with its main cast of primarily white Marvel staples over the past decade and if they’re going to show that they have new ideas and new stories to tell it should begin by bringing in browner heroes.
“Black Panther” was largely a breath of fresh air for the franchise because it told a very personal and relatable story to the society we live, primarily on the struggles of being a minority. The story wasn’t a simple good vs evil tale or nonspecific theme about family and love but of something deeply wrong in the world and it’s the reason it resonated as much it did.
The MCU is already making way for its first Asian American hero in Shang Chi, which is a good start but it shouldn’t end there either. Diverse heroes should be its next flagship for the new era of the MCU. Bring in Amadeus Cho, Ms. Marvel, and hell start teasing Miles Morales.
(And don’t give me that bullshit that black Spider-man can’t appeal to mass audiences…)
I can already hear the idiots shouting at the screen right now about “white erasure” or some other bull shit about reverse racism and/or forced diversity. First of all, these people would bitch about diversity no matter what way it was brought in. If a hero is turned from white to brown it’s “Why can’t they bring in a new brown hero?” If they bring in a new brown hero it’s “Why are they bringing in a new brown hero? No one cares.” And if people do care it’s “Forced diversity.” All I have to say to you people is you keep shifting around the goal posts so much to the point that it makes me wonder what you are actually angry about?
The MCU needs brand new blood and given that it again made a talking Raccoon a fan favorite there’s nothing that tells me this is a bad time to bring in more brown heroes from Marvel’s lesser known catalog. It isn’t that I or even other minority fans hate white heroes (I wrote an entire article on how much I love the MCU’s Captain America afterall) but for the sake of showing that these diverse heroes matter and giving them a chance to shine on the big screen this is needed. It wasn’t long ago that barely anybody knew who Black Panther was, now you have folks throwing up “Wakanda Forever” signs on their Instagram and social media and reading his graphic novels. So, open your mind up a bit and stop being a child about “forced diversity.” Thor was still epic as hell when he brought down Storm Breaker in “Infinity War,” Captain America still inspires patriotism in even the most cynical of souls and Iron Man saved the universe with a snap of his fingers. Your white heroes (and fragility) stories will survive a little spice in this franchise.
How the MCU truly proceeds from here will be interesting. There are already projects in motion of course and fans should probably be excited for it regardless of what I have written here but I do truly hope a lot of these happen in Phase 4. Marvel needs better more consistent villains going forward, the cosmic side of the comics deserves more exploration, better soundtracks will make these movies better, the X-Men need a break, and after 23 movies we could stand add a few more brown people to the mix.
Hopefully The Mouse is listening…
“Huhah! I own all future box office revenue regardless anyways, you peasants. Huhah!”