Except for the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special, the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four ended with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This was a very different phase for Marvel, and it was something that polarized many fans. Instead of connecting movies from one to the next, this phase was more like a series of graphic novels, each telling its own individual story. However, the MCU isn’t just about phases; it is also about sagas.
What Are the MCU’s Phases?
The MCU is organized into phases based on when each film and Disney+ show was released. The phases are also organized into sagas, which tell larger overarching narratives. So far, there have been four phases that are part of two distinct sagas. The first three phases combined early to create the Infinity Saga, and soon the newer movies will lead to the Multiverse Saga. The Infinity Saga built up and wrapped up in Phase Three, while Avengers: Secret Wars will wrap up the Multiverse Saga in Phase Six in 2026. Fourteen years into the MCU, some fans might have forgotten how the phases led to these overarching sagas.
Phase One of the MCU saw the studio introduce new heroes to the movie world. It all began with 2008’s Iron Man, who was popular in Marvel Comics but remained mostly unknown outside of cartoons in the ’90s. After this, the MCU brought in more legendary Avengers, namely Thor, Hulk and Captain America, and this all led to the creation of The Avengers, with the Black Widow and Hawkeye joining the group. The entire purpose was to introduce new heroes and then slowly bring them together.
After the MCU introduced the new heroes, Phase Two saw the character develop further. There were hints of Thanos in Phase One, and Phase Two saw this threat grow. Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor got solo movies, while Avengers: Age of Ultron showed them all fighting a world-threatening menace again. However, Phase Two also introduced new puzzle pieces for the Infinity Saga with a cosmic team in Guardians of the Galaxy and a hero who played an integral role in the saga in Ant-Man.
That led to Phase Three, where the Infinity Saga played out in full. The phase saw the Avengers fracture in the very first movie, Captain America: Civil War. After this, new heroes joined the MCU to fill out the heroes’ side in the fight with Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Captain Marvel. The cosmic world expanded, and Ant-Man received another movie. Finally, it was time to fight and beat Thanos, and Phase Three ended with Spider-Man: Far From Home, which showed the repercussions of the Infinity Saga.
How the MCU’s Phases Affect Its Storytelling
There have been complaints about MCU Phase Four because many fans don’t think it has followed the storytelling structure of the first three phases. However, it has followed it pretty closely. Much like the first three phases followed the story of the Infinity Saga, the next three phases will tell the Multiverse Saga, and they have started in much the same way. The first movie was Black Widow, but this was more about introducing one of the new heroes to the MCU, Yelena Belova.
After this, the MCU introduced several new heroes for this new saga. This included Shang-Chi, the Eternals, Kate Bishop, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, a new Black Panther, and America Chavez. While some projects lacked interconnectivity, the first phase didn’t really connect until the heroes all teamed up in The Avengers. This phase lacked a major team-up moment, but the rest was still in line with how the MCU builds its sagas. It also stuck with the format of Phase Two by furthering the development of pre-existing characters like Doctor Strange, Thor, Falcon/Captain America, and Winter Soldier.
MCU seems to be developing Phase Five to do what Phase Two did. It will further the development of previously introduced characters. Echo, Sam Wilson’s Captain America, Ant-Man, Ms. Marvel, Ironheart, Daredevil, and more will get their own movies and streaming series to build them into the cohesive unit needed to fight Kang the Conqueror in the Multiverse Saga. While there is still no Avengers movie, there will be the Thunderbolts movie and The Marvels. Those will lead into Phase Six, where the Multiverse Saga will play out and complete.
It might seem that MCU’s Phase Four has been directionless, but that is not true at all. This phase played out like the beginning of the Infinity Saga. The MCU introduces characters in the first phase of a saga. By the second phase, the company integrates these characters into each other’s stories and brings the main villain to the forefront. Finally, the third phase pays it all off and allows the heroes of the MCU to save the world once again.