Phase 4 Quietly Killed The MCU Solo Movie – Screen Rant

The early Marvel Cinematic Universe focused on creating solo, origin films like Iron Man and Thor, but the MCU’s Phase 4 has changed that.
Phase 4 launched the next great saga of the MCU and introduced the Multiverse, but it also effectively marked the end of the franchise’s classic solo hero movie. The franchise has come a long way since its humble beginnings with Iron Man, Phase 5 opens with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and a slate full of super hero team up projects. The MCU is getting it's next big bad in Jonathan Major’s Kang the Conqueror, who is set to be an even more dangerous and menacing threat than Thanos.
Coming off the heels of Avengers: Endgame, expectations were high, which was only aggravated by the MCU having to take an entire year off due to the global pandemic. Thus, Phase 4 inherited a difficult challenge and was, in turn, faced with some polarizing responses as trepidations mounted that the juggernaut franchise could be cracking at the seams. However, the real problem with MCU’s Phase 4 might be that audiences weren’t fully prepared for the significant shifts happening in the MCU. Amidst the turmoil, Phase 4 produced some of the most creatively and thematically intriguing projects in the entire MCU, breaking from defining patterns and forging a new path onward.
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Phase 4 has shown that the Multiverse Saga is operating differently than the Infinity Saga. Importantly, it hasn’t repeated the classic formula of making a standard solo film as best exemplified by the early days of the MCU. Nowadays, the movies are largely team-ups, whether in name or spirit, because that’s simply what’s necessary for the franchise. By transitioning away from these solo projects, Phase 4 improved the MCU. Even Black Widow, despite being the character’s first solo movie, was structured unlike others by being set in the past, effectively placing it in Phase 3 in terms of the timeline, and focusing on setting up new characters and stories.
The main exception to this notion is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It was the closest to the classic solo origin film, and it’s likely going to be one of the last of its kind in the MCU. For the most part, it was insular to itself, yet in the post-credits scene when Wong, Banner and Captain Marvel reveal an incoming threat, its scope expanded exponentially to set up a new team-up in Shang-Chi 2 and/or Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. The standard now is for each new project to tease future MCU projects and spin-offs, and especially with the expansion on Disney+ with new serial content, Phase 4 saw the MCU move beyond its former structure and foundations.
This change to the classic formula didn’t start in Phase 4, Phase 3 was where the shift started and for good reason. Importantly, Phase 3's purpose was to lead into Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Thus, the key figures were already established and were well into their own film series. The only solo films in the phase were Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel, both of which were true to the style. Everything else was building the overall story arc with even Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming functioning differently from a traditional origin story since they were introduced in Captain America: Civil War first.
A big function of Phase 3 was to set up the upcoming conflict with Thanos, something Phase 4 is doing even better with Kang by having him feature in various non-Avengers projects first. There just wasn’t the need or place for the type of solo film the MCU made a name for itself with in Phases 1 and 2. Though audiences didn’t know it at the time Phase 3 foreshadowed how the MCU would need to evolve in order to continually present a cohesive and engaging spectacle.
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Starting with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Phase 5 keeps this trend going. Among the slate for the next two years are many movies clearly geared towards team-ups and collaborative action regardless of if there’s one character’s name in the title. Encompassing all the TV shows and films, Phase 5 is clearly focusing on continuations as nearly everything is either a sequel or picks up on established storylines. The only contender for the classic solo film is Blade, though given Phase 4’s development of the MCU’s supernatural side it seems likely that even Blade might have a more broad approach and focus on setting up a Midnight Sons team-up.
It’s interesting to note that due to its production shake-ups, Blade is now set to close out Phase 4. This seemingly places it in a similar position to Ant-Man in Phase 2 and Spider-Man: Far from Home in Phase 3 which followed the big event films, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Endgame respectively. In Blade’s case, it’s Thunderbolts, which is an intriguing prospect for a major event film given its eclectic cast of characters. Regardless, even Blade will presumably play an important role in furthering the Multiverse Saga through clever and unexpected connections to other properties, like how Kang might relate to Ms. Marvel and Shang-Chi.
It’s for the best that these solo films have been largely transitioned out. They were naturally essential in building out the foundations of the MCU early on by giving most of the main heroes their own films. They allowed for the MCU to test the waters with audiences and develop its signature tone and aesthetic. However, the MCU has evolved far beyond its 2008 origins. A genuine and intimate solo film would be exciting, yet that’s not what the audiences want or what the larger story requires. Future films will continue to take a team-up or at least team-up adjacent approach, especially for the various Phase 6 movies yet to be revealed.
Phase 4 didn’t simply excise these types of films from the franchise’s future, but rather it featured their transformation into something better. The shift has made Disney+ home to such stories, whether in the TV shows and/or the Special Presentations. 2022 specifically saw Disney+ explode with entertaining solo-style projects from the likes of Werewolf by Night to Ms. Marvel. Such a change has allowed the MCU, and especially the movies, to become less formulaic, allowing for more creative freedom. Team-ups and event films easily guarantee interest and thus, big profits at the box office. In favor of such, the MCU will function differently in Phase 4 and beyond.
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Bradley Prom is a writer and a University of Minnesota alum living in Los Angeles with a deep love for the movies, television shows, games, books, and stories that have inspired and provoked him throughout his life. He grew up on Star Wars, Justice League, Jurassic Park, Pokémon, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and Avatar the Last Airbender – to name a few or seven. In adulthood, his passions and tastes have evolved to include other fantastical tales, reality tv, and comedy. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Bradley has a great appreciation for queerness in all forms throughout all facets of entertainment and modern culture. He hopes in developing his own stories and shows, he will help see such representation grow and evolve.


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