Will the MCU’s Phase 4 Be Shorter Than All of the Prior Phases?

Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) changing its pace — taking the fast lane to the finish line, as opposed to sticking to its slow-boil formula? While Phases 1 through 3 were quite lengthy, how many films were in each phase, and will Phase 4 be the shortest phase to date? Let’s go through the previous phases — the date ranges and installments constituting each — to compare history to the Phase 4 slate. 

MCU Phase 4
The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four is announced | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Phase 1: 2008 — 2012 

Phase 1 — starting with Robert Downey’s Jr’s introduction as Tony Stark / Iron Man, and ending with The Avengers, took the greatest amount of time compared to the other phases. 

Marvel Studios was developing the foundation; thus, a great deal of attention went into figuring out how the narrative would proceed. Without a strong origin point, ensuring a successful rising action, climax, and conclusion becomes quite difficult. 

While the phase took several years to reach completion, only six movies contribute to the early journey: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (sort of), Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers. 

Phase 2: 2013 — 2015

Phase 2 went down a little bit faster than the prior round, but it still traverses three calendar years and includes six movies as well: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. 

The phase works to bring our heroes together, formally developing their independent arcs before teaming them up once more (now as an established group of heroes capable of saving the day as a unified force). While most of the Avengers are focused on the build-up to Ultron, the second phase also allows the MCU to spread its wings. The landscape entered other galaxies via the Guardians and it introduced Ant-Man — a pivotal connection to Stark due to Hank Pym. 

Phase 3: 2016 — 2019 

Phase 3 was the ultimate culmination of the Infinity Saga, as Thanos eventually made his entrance and posed a threat so great that our beloved team of heroes couldn’t beat him the first time around. The Phase included 11 films, starting with Captain America: Civil War and ending with Spider-Man: Far From Home. The phase divided our Avengers and brought them back together; it worked to further deepen the polarity existing between Stark and Rogers, yet also augmented the mutual respect laying underneath the surface. 

Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange joined the game — three characters who will prove pivotal in the MCU’s future. So, what about Phase 4.

Phase 4: 2020 — 2021 

Phase 4 will be the shortest phase to date when considering its timespan, as all the other ones took multiple years to reach completion. However, due to the introduction of small-screen streaming installments, the Phase can accomplish more in less time via a conversation between the two platforms (TV and cinema). 

With multiple movies and TV shows coming as part of Phase 4, the phase will feature more content than all the prior phases in a shorter amount of time. From She-Hulk and WandaVision to Hawkeye, Shang-Chi, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, this phase will be a high-speed rollercoaster with several twists and turns along the way.