The Marvel Cinematic Universe rode an extreme high into the end of Phase Three, with the massively successful Avengers: Endgame followed by Spider-Man: Far From Home. Screen Junkies put up an Honest Trailers video of the entire MCU franchise up to that point, and while the video series often points out things wrong with the movies it’s watching, in this case, the trailer looked to the future.
In the trailer, Screen Junkies compared the MCU to rock bands. They called Phase One the „conventional pop songs,“ Phase Two as „experimental“ and „boundary-pushing,“ and Phase Three the „we can do no wrong“ phase. However, it then predicted that Phase Four would be the „puking in the gutter, wondering where it all went wrong“ phase. How close was Screen Junkies to the truth?
MCU’s Phase Three Was Going to Be Impossible to Beat
When the MCU’s Phase Four hit, the company had to know there would be a drop after Avengers: Endgame. Many fans believed that the MCU made Spider-Man: Far From Home a Phase Three movie to help show the new normal in the MCU after the Blip and introduce this world before Phase Four started. However, there were several things that happened when Phase Four arrived, and some of them had nothing to do with Marvel.
MCU’s Phase Four Was Inconsistent Based on Reviews
There was a year wait between Spider-Man: Far From Home and Black Widow, thanks to theaters shutting down during the pandemic. By the time the movie arrived, it received lukewarm reviews at best, and fans seemed almost disinterested in a movie that took place before the war with Thanos even started. There was also the fact Marvel did something different with Phase Four. In the first phase of movies, Marvel clearly led to a big moment with The Avengers. In the next two phases, Marvel showed how all the movies connected, even with those off Earth, like Guardians of the Galaxy. That didn’t happen in Phase Four.
Every movie in Phase Four told self-contained stories. Black Widow was a flashback movie meant to introduce Yelena Belova and give Black Widow the movie Natasha deserved. Movies like Shang-Chi and Eternals mentioned the Blip but otherwise had no connection to any other movies in Phase Four or the previous Marvel Phases. Spider-Man: No Way Home was a tremendous success, but both Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder were polarizing at best for fans. What resulted was the first MCU movie with a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes with Eternals at 47 percent. Thor: Love and Thunder had a lower Rotten Tomatoes score than even Thor: The Dark World, and the second Doctor Strange movie only reached 74 percent. Was this the MCU „wondering where it all went wrong?“
However, were the MCU Phase Four movies really that bad? For the audience score, the second Doctor Strange movie had an 85 percent, and Eternals had 78 percent, 31 percent higher than the critics‘ score. Critics had complained that the MCU wasn’t trying anything new, and all the movies felt the same. In Phase Four, Marvel put out a lot of movies that didn’t require watching everything to keep up, and they all felt different. As a result, the same reviewers bombed the movies. On top of that, the two highest-ranking MCU movies of all time on Rotten Tomatoes were Phase Four movies No Way Home and Shang-Chi. It also doesn’t take into account the Disney+ streaming shows. What If…? broke 90 percent for critics and fans, while Ms. Marvel was the highest-rated MCU project ever, with a 98 percent fresh rating.
What Could the MCU’s Next Two Stages Be?
It might be fun to consider the MCU puking in the gutters and wondering where things went wrong as many hair metal bands did in the 1990s after Nirvana showed up. However, while this is nowhere near the truth based on critics and audiences on average, it could lead to what might be next for the MCU. The next phases for many rock bands include making big comebacks or even taking it further to polarize fans even more. Marvel already promised the connective tissues of movies would return in Phase Five, starting with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and it will all lead to the battle with Kang and Avengers: Secret Wars in Phase Six. Even if the MCU can’t match the Infinity Saga, it wouldn’t be smart to bet against the company coming back stronger than ever with the next two Avengers movies.