The MCU is known for playing the long game which includes some fake-out twists in the Infinity Saga, but Phase 4 is finally paying off some of those.
Marvel is revisiting its biggest MCU fakeout twists in the Infinity Saga and paying them off in Phase 4, including one of the most controversial – the Mandarin. The MCU took an inadvertently extended break after the Infinity Stones debacle had been resolved due to the coronavirus pandemic. While kicking off this new era of storytelling was delayed significantly, work never stops for Kevin Feige and his team as there’s a string of movies and TV shows already confirmed for the franchise to run until at least 2023.
This checks out with Marvel Studios’ knack for playing the long game and considering the success of its first three Phases, it appears as if there are no intentions of changing their creative process moving forward. It’s only rapidly expanding its portfolio with more big-screen projects on the way, coupled with several exclusive Marvel shows for Disney+. So while Marvel Studios is notorious for keeping details about its projects firmly under wraps, the announced slate of projects offers an idea of what to expect from the MCU in the foreseeable future.
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So far, Phase 4 storytelling has been focused on Disney+ projects with WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier having wrapped up their respective first seasons. But, eventually, MCU films will catch up with Black Widow, Shang-Chi, and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home all releasing this year. From there, a long list of big and small screen projects will follow. While most of these stories move the universe forward, some of them will also revisit some concepts introduced in the Infinity Saga which were mainly used for plot twists and spin them differently.
The MCU Multiverse
The idea of the Multiverse was first floated in films such as Doctor Strange and Ant-Man; it was also hinted at in Avengers: Endgame, but it was Spider-Man: Far From Home that explicitly included it in its narrative. However, as it turns out, it was something that Quentin Beck and his team of disgruntled former Stark Industries employees came up with as part of his fake persona as Mysterio — supposedly a superhero from a different universe who found himself in the main MCU. In his vulnerable state, while still grieving the death of Tony Stark, Peter Parker bought the idea, allowing the villain to earn his trust and eventually convince him to hand over E.D.I.T.H. which allows its owner to access Stark’s database. Beck was eventually busted, with Spider-Man learning that everything about Mysterio was fake.
However, the web-slinging hero is about to finally learn that the multiverse is real. While it wasn’t properly established in WandaVision as originally perceived, the concept will factor in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which is confirmed to narratively connect to Spider-Man: No Way Home. This might be how players from Sony’s separate Spider-Man films can appear in the upcoming Jon Watts’ threequel. So far, Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 and Jamie Foxx’s Electro from Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are expected to be involved in the film. Meanwhile, there have been persistent (and persistently denied) rumors that both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will also make a cameo, reprising their own roles as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 introduced Tony Stark’s nemesis from the comics, The Mandarin — only for him to be a fake version of the character. The Mandarin has been lurking in the MCU shadows since the its inception; he’s the leader of the terrorist group Ten Rings who abducted and planned to kill Tony Stark in Iron Man. Eventually, the organization also helped Ivan Vanko seek revenge in Iron Man 2. Given the set-up, the Mandarin’s promised debut in Iron Man 3 was eagerly anticipated but, in arguably one of the most controversial plot twists in the franchise, the character turned out to only be an actor named Trevor Slattery who was hired to play the part by the threequel’s real antagonist, Aldrich Killian.
The reveal was executed seamlessly, but it caused a wave of backlash from those who were hoping that the iconic Marvel comic book villain will finally make his live-action debut. This motivated Marvel Studios to correct course and reveal in the One-Shot, All Hail The King, that the real Mandarin actually exists, only waiting to make his presence properly known. It took eight years to finally deliver on this tease with the villain set to officially debut in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Also known as Wenwu, he will go up against his son, Shang-Chi in the upcoming Destin Cretton-directed film. The arrival of the true Mandarin also means that more information will be learned about his group, the Ten Rings. So while Iron Man will no longer be around to battle his print nemesis, at least the MCU is doing the character justice by properly debuting him.
When it was announced that the Skrulls and the Kree were going to debut in Captain Marvel, the initial assumption was that the former will be the villains of the film just as how they’re typically depicted in the comic books. However, Marvel Studios subverted expectations and made Talos and his people the oppressed while the Kree hunted them down. At the end of the film, Carol Danvers, who was brainwashed to believe that she’s a Kree, went with the shape-shifting aliens as they look for a proper and peaceful settlement. The Skrulls seemingly remain allied with the good guys in the MCU as Nick Fury continues to work with them. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, it’s revealed that he’s tapped the help of Talos and his wife Soren posed as the former S.H.I.E.L.D. director and Maria Hill when Peter Parker dealt with Mysterio. Simultaneously, the one-eyed spy was out in the cosmos supposedly establishing S.W.O.R.D. with the help of other Skrulls. WandaVision‘s post-credits stinger re-emphasized his working relationship with the green aliens when he sent one of them to pick up Monica Rambeau.
But not all Skrulls are good and the MCU will soon learn that through the upcoming Disney+ series, Secret Invasion. Carol and Fury have been incredibly lucky to come across trustworthy ones like Talos. That being said, as useful as their shape-shifting abilities have been for good, it also poses a big threat – it can easily be used for nefarious purposes. This is was exactly what led to the Secret Invasion storyline in the comics which will be the primary source of inspiration for the show of the same title. Anyone on the franchise now can be an identity-stealing Skrull and operating to cause disruption and chaos for the aliens’ benefit. Having an extensive and sometimes convoluted narrative, adapting this print arc through the streaming platform allows Marvel to really explore the story perhaps even via several seasons.
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- Black Widow (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
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