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What’s Next for The Marvel Cinematic Universe

What’s in a name? Well, if we’re judging by the names of the upcoming movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), then there is a heck of a lot to learn from a name.

In fact, let’s talk about the names (titles) of those upcoming MCU films, which announce a wildly different look and feel for the MCU over what has come in the last ten years. First, a reminder of the movies that were recently announced:

Based on the movie titles, the MCU is clearly going into wildly different directions. The titles suggest the MCU will embrace a 70s sense of pulp fun with movies such as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

It’s not unusual for the MCU to draw from classic storylines and characters but this recently announced slate suggests they are leaning in like Michael Jackson in the Smooth Criminal video. Shang-Chi, for example, is a heavily 70s inspired character with the tone, feel, and action of 70s-influenced kung-fu flicks.

Likewise with Doctor Strange. Already among the trippiest of the MCU films to date, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness suggests that marvel is saying, “OK, we’ve given you space gems and talking raccoons, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

The MCU has long been known for injecting fun into each and every movie. But 70s-inspired characters like Guardians of the Galaxy were given casts that reflected the modern takes on the characters. The new slate of titles suggest the MCU will wholly embraced the throwback-infused pulpy fun of the characters.

The titles suggest more genre-stretching possibilities as well. The last 3 phases of the MCU got weird as well, but there was linear structure to them if you squinted hard enough. Intro Character…Have them appear in another movie…Pull them all together as Avengers.

So, while it’s confirmed that the new Phase 4 slate will certainly apply some of that winning formula, it also suggests a roadmap that won’t necessarily be a deliberate build toward the Avengers. New team-ups and connections are suggested and that comes with new possibilities.

The interconnectivity is being tweaked and played with. Marvel announced 10 projects for Phase 4, all delivered to fans quickly between now and the end of 2021. Half are going to Disney+.

Disney+ shows like WandaVision come with a title that suggests the same pulpy throwback vibe, plus Scarlett Witch is confirmed for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. We’re being teased with pulpy adventures as well as multi-platform storytelling. It’s a good time to be a nerd.

The MCU is like a box of chocolates. The MCU gets criticized for its “house style,” but the reality is the house style has made it far and away the most successful franchise of all time. Plus, the MCU plays with genres all the time!

Let’s not forget that Captain America: Winter Soldier was an espionage flick, while Ant-Man was a straight up heist movie, both still firmly within the house style.

The upcoming titles suggest further flavor for the MCU. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings suggests a straight up action-oriented kung-fu flick, while Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been confirmed as the first MCU horror flick.

Expect Black Widow to be espionage influenced, but who knows what we’ll get with The Eternals? If MCU cosmic stories has shown us anything, it’s that we should be prepared for anything. But the point is we’ll be treated with distinct styles that also fit within a house style. It’s a fine line to walk, but darned if the MCU hasn’t done it 23 times now.

Will the pulpy titles and the suggested genre styles make the MCU feel less cohesive than before? Maybe. Who cares? After 23 movies, we’ve certainly learned to trust what they throw at us.

But, listen, we haven’t even talked about Thor: Love and Thunder, which may have the most beautifully metal subtitle, while still being directed by the gloriously wacky Taika Waititi, who brought us the gloriously metal and wacky Thor: Ragnarok. My point being that it sure seems like the MCU has learned what works, so they’re sticking to it, while also letting the stories go in wildly new directions.

When do the tickets go on pre-sale?

Click here to take a deep dive into what is planned on the Disney+ platform.

Click here to read about the greatly exaggerated death of the MCU.