How Marvel’s Phase 4 Is Its Most Inclusive Lineup Yet

Marvel’s Phase 4 slate for 2020 and 2021 generated a ton of excitement, and not just for the movies themselves. With Marvel being king of the world right now — sorry, James Cameron — the studio aims to set an example in more ways than one. 

For 11 years now, Marvel has been a model of world-building, interconnecting characters and stories to lead to the colossal success of Avengers: Endgame. Now Marvel wants to broaden its horizons with more diverse characters and genres, having faced some criticism for being a boys club.

Marvel hires more women

Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The most prominent new example of Marvel’s female focus was Natalie Portman wielding Thor’s hammer, for Thor: Love and Thunder, which is scheduled for November 2021. That’s notable because Portman had been displeased that Patty Jenkins left Thor: The Dark World going on to direct Wonder Woman

A woman is not directing Love and Thunder – that’s Taika Waititi, who directed Ragnarok. However, both of Marvel’s movies for next year will prominently feature women in front of and behind the camera. The Black Widow solo movie, due May 1, marks the MCU’s second female lead movie after the mega-successful Captain Marvel. That film was co-directed by a woman, Anna Boden, and Cate Shortland is following in her footsteps with Black Widow. Joining Scarlett Johansson in the cast are Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh, and David Harbour. 

Moreover, Disney’s second movie for 2019, The Eternals, is also directed by a woman: Chloe Zhao. That movie also has a strong female presence, including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek in the cast. 

Marvel diversifies in race 

In February of last year, the MCU’s first movie to feature a predominantly black cast, Black Panther, became the studio’s biggest success until Endgame. In February of next year, the studio aims to capture the Asian audience with Shang-Chi and the Legend of The Ten  Rings, with Simi Liu

This helps not only with representation but also in the box office, where studios are making more of their money. Marvel’s grosses are even higher overseas than they are in this country, which is why Avengers: Endgame is the number one box office hit worldwide, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens is still number 1 in the United States. 

Marvel also announced its own version of Blade, starring Mahershala Ali. A release date has not been announced, but that movie will cater to two particular audiences: the African-American audience and the horror audience, who will eat up the vampire of elements of that story. 

More genres for Marvel 

Speaking and horror; Marvel’s second film of 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, doesn’t explicitly promise horror, but it’s certainly possible with a multiverse and with madness. 

Still another genre is possible with that November’s Love and Thunder. Tessa Thompson talked up her character Valkyrie, as being the MCU’s first openly gay superhero, so it’s entirely possible that Love and Thunder could play like a romantic comedy, which would be new for Marvel. 

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said increasing diversity was a deliberate goal. Cinemablend quoted a podcast in which he spoke on the matter.

“[Black Panther] is the beginning. That it worked out as well as it worked out has encouraged us to head in the direction we were going to head in anyway. But you look at that film, it is incredible. That movie would not have been what it was if everyone sitting at the table looked like you or me. And that is true for all the movies. As Marvel Studios has grown, it is the same thing, almost half-man and half-woman … When you have diverse voices, you get better stories and you get more exciting stories, you get more surprising stories. And that is something that is very clear.”