THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED BY CULTURE OF GAMING ON BEHALF OF MB DIGITAL MEDIA.
Following the release of Avengers: Endgame, the emotional climax to the Infinity Saga that brought twenty-two superhero movies to a spectacular end, you’d forgive Marvel for sitting back and taking a break. After all, it’s currently the highest-grossing movie of all time. Then Spider Man: Far from Home gave the team an appropriate epilogue, in which they could tie up all those loose ends and answer many of the questions we left the cinema with after sitting through Endgame’s three hours of action and heartbreak.
Surely it was a case of job done, for now at least. With Marvel characters everywhere you look, from Spider-Man lunch boxes to Marvel Ultimate Alliance video games to Iron Man online slots, you’d think Kevin Fiege would be happy, but clearly, he still wants more. Tina Turner may think that we don’t need another hero, but Fiege appears to disagree…
Phase Four announced at Comic-Con
There have been endless rumours and speculation as to what would be next on the mighty Marvel roaster, making Fiege’s appearance one of the most anticipated events at San Diego Comic Con – and he didn’t disappoint. Announcing no less than ten new Marvel movies, he found a fine balance between characters old and new, while also managing to tip his hat to the zeitgeist of inclusivity and girl power, #metoo and #timesup.
It was no surprise to find a whole bunch of numbered follow-ups in the mix, with Marvel cashing in on previous successes. Breakout black superhero hit, Black Panther, is rewarded with a second film for Chadwick Boseman and friends, while the equally ground-breaking first-featured female hero, Captain Marvel, also gets a second film. The rather less politically correct Guardians of the Galaxy gets a third outing, with James Gunn finally reinstated at the helm despite his troubled past.
The only surprise in the established characters roster was the Fantastic Four reboot, trying once again to breathe life into a franchise that has remained defiantly lifeless thus far. After all, no one really believed that the X-Men franchise was truly over with X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Sure enough, the mutants are back with the unimaginatively titled New Mutants in the spring.
New kids on the block
Amongst the new faces we find The Eternals, a group of immortal beings with human features and very superhuman powers. The cast includes Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and the last man you’d expect to be a superhero, Kumail Nanjiani. The Eternals also features Marvel’s first deaf hero, in the form of deaf actress Lauren Ridloff. Continuing the inclusive theme, Phase Four will also feature Marvel’s first Asian-American superhero, Shang-Chi, as well as their first openly gay hero, as Tessa Thompson’s Valkarie comes out following hints of bisexuality in previous films.
There is a strong female presence in the new slew of films, with Scarlett Johansson getting her own origin story despite (spoiler alert) her demise in Endgame. Natalie Portman even gets to wield Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjölnir, in Thor: Love and Thunder, with a welcome return for Taika Waititi in the director’s chair after his huge success with Thor: Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson also return, doing their best to put the box office flop of Men in Black: International behind them.
A refreshing change
Given how much money Marvel has made with films about straight, white, male characters, it is refreshing to see them using their box office clout to push a more forward-thinking, inclusive agenda. It would have been very easy to shy away from controversy and play it safe – as they have largely done thus far – so to see characters of different ethnicity, physical ability and sexual orientation represented is to be admired and applauded. If the reactions to Black Panther and Captain Marvel are anything to go by, both comfortably passing the $1bn mark, they will attract a whole new legion of fans without losing too many of their core followers. The Marvel family, it would seem, are a tolerant and welcoming bunch.
Whether they can match the epic levels of the Infinity Saga, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. With a decade of characters and storylines to play with, that was perhaps ‘peak-Marvel’ that will never be repeated. That said, few had any idea when Iron Man first landed, that we were witnessing the start of something so big. Perhaps in ten years’ time, we will be looking back on Shang-Chi as the start of a whole new saga.