MCU Phase 4: What Marvel Studios Is Focusing on Instead of the Movies

Once the entire universe is at stake, it’s a little hard to imagine where to go next. So fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) eagerly awaited how the franchise would follow Avengers: Endgame. Marvel’s goal was to shift in yet another new direction with the long-awaited Black Widow and cosmic epic Eternals. But instead, Marvel Studios isn’t focused on movies at all.

The Marvel Studios booth at the D23 Expo in 2019
The Marvel Studios booth at the D23 Expo in 2019 | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

2020 is the first year in more than a decade without any new MCU films

Following 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, MCU fans expected a 10-month wait without any new movies. At the time, this felt like a reasonable break after Marvel released three big movies in a five-month period. But of course, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delayed those plans. The studio ultimately pushed Black Widow to 2021, marking a new milestone.

For the first since since 2009, Marvel Studios released not a single new movie in 2020. In context, Marvel released both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, followed by 2010’s Iron Man 2. During that period, the company laid out plans for The Avengers. Since Iron Man 2, the MCU has produced 20 movies. Now that streak has come to a screeching halt.

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Marvel Studios is turning its attention to television instead

Amid the pandemic, Marvel has remained committed to giving its films an exclusive theatrical release. Many other blockbuster movies — including DC’s Wonder Woman 1984 — have experimented with different release strategies. With theaters closed and its films in varying states of development, Marvel hasn’t wasted this time away from the big screen.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and his team are focused on the upcoming Disney+ series. The MCU already planned to launch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye in Phase 4. As a THR source points out, “the movie machinery is well-established,” giving Marvel freedom to channel its resources elsewhere.

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‘WandaVision’ will be an integral part of Marvel’s Phase 4 plans

Certainly, another key reason why Marvel feels confident making its Disney+ shows the priority is the accessibility of streaming services. Although theaters are largely still out of commission, streaming services have thrived during the pandemic. So — while it’s not what Marvel expected — Disney+ turns out to be the perfect way to kickstart Phase 4. And it starts with WandaVision.

Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, WandaVision premieres Disney+ on Jan. 15, 2021. And fan reaction to trailers has been strong, in part because of how different it feels from everything else in the MCU. In fact, fans expect it will key up the formal introduction of the Marvel multiverse. As such, it could be the ideal starting point for Phase 4 of the MCU.

Olsen is already signed on to reprise her role in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. And recent updates on the MCU’s Spider-Man 3 indicate the multiverse story will continue there as well. Although it’s unclear if this is the case, Marvel fans know by now that — more often than not — the studio knows what it is doing.