MCU: Phase 4 Ranked
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has moved past the Infinity Saga and into the Multiverse Saga with phase four. Following more than 20 films during the first three phases of the MCU, Marvel made the move to incorporate original series and special presentations on Disney+ to introduce new characters or advance the stories of already beloved characters. After a delay due to pandemic restrictions, phase four kicked off with “WandaVision” in January 2021 and finished with “The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special” in November 2022. While phase four could be hit or miss, let’s rank the films, series and special presentations of the phase. (Note: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” won’t be included because it’s not on Disney+).
16. THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER
This is not only my least favorite film or entry in phase four, it may be my least favorite entry of the entire MCU. Taika Waititi needs a filter. He has some genuinely funny ideas, but if he doesn’t have someone there to filter out the bad ideas, he ends up throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Following the success of “Thor: Ragnarok” where most of his humor hit, we got this film where I chuckled once or twice, but it just didn’t work. Thor has always been tough to make work and that may be why the series has only one film that most considered good.
15. BLACK WIDOW
Black Widow deserved better than this film. Natasha Romanov deserved better than this film. Scarlett Johansson deserved better than this film. For years, fans had been clamoring for a “Black Widow” solo film. Most were ecstatic to finally be getting one, then the pandemic delayed it. When it finally arrived, it was just a disappointing solo film. Set in the time between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” it was just a mediocre outing. The film was also overshadowed by a lawsuit between Johansson and Disney over the profits because of Johansson’s contract and Disney’s decision to put the film on Disney+ Premier Access at the same time it was released in theaters. It was one of the dumber decisions of Chapek’s tenure as CEO, but, at least it distracted everyone from the pedestrian script Marvel provided for Johansson in her lone solo film.
This is the perfect example of a film that should’ve been a television series. They introduced way too many characters for any of them to be fully developed. It made for a film that dragged because most viewers didn’t care enough about the characters. A series would’ve allowed creators to devote entire episodes to developing each Eternal. It was a mediocre film, but Marvel still gave the world a better version of a “Justice League” film than DC did.
13. MS. MARVEL
The first of the Disney+ Original Series to make my list, “Ms. Marvel” is the only series that I went into with almost no expectations that felt disappointing to me. My real issue is Kamala Khan was forced to face a potential world-ending threat at a point where she is still learning how to develop her powers. That was a villain that should’ve been saved for season two or incorporated into a film. Despite the fact that I didn’t really love this series, I’m still grateful for it. It wasn’t targeted at me and that’s okay. I have plenty of MCU shows and films to watch. I hope this series was inspiring to someone else.
12. SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW
Marvel tried something different, and it was hit or miss. When it hit, it was great. Jen Walters was incredibly endearing, her calling out of internet trolls who criticize projects they have no intention of giving a fair shot was amazing. And, most of her fourth wall breaks were fun. However, the finale was too much for me. Yes, I know she did that in the comics, but it was one of my least favorite comic storylines, so I didn’t really like the leaving her own show to yell at the writers and K.E.V.I.N. Plus, the guest stars were a double-edged sword. It was great seeing Bruce Banner, Wong, Emil Blonsky and Matt Murdock, but all four would overshadow Jen in her own show. It was just too uneven for me to put any higher.
11. THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER
When Marvel and Disney announced the initial three series for Disney+ Originals, this is the one that I was most excited to see. It’s also the one provided me the most disappointment. I loved the Captain America storyline and characters, so I was eager to see where these two would go. But, the effects of pandemic restrictions were obvious throughout. That’s why I’m still hopeful for “Captain America 4” and “Thunderbolts.” I think the characters have potential and were done in by the changes that were forced on production. Still, it’s a disappointing series for me.
10. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: THE HOLIDAY SPECIAL
Drax and Mantis are trying to find the perfect Christmas present for Star Lord in this Disney+ Original Special Presentation. It’s a nice way to check in with our favorite space Avengers before the final film of their trilogy is released. Plus, it’s a better use for them than “Thor: Love and Thunder” was.
9. DR. STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
This film tried to be a horror film that really demonstrated how much Dr. Strange loved Christine Palmer but had to move on. It was a good but not great outing. Everything about it was technically fine, but its story felt superficial. Marvel would do a better job of both demonstrating the failure of the relationship between Strange and Palmer and making a horror property with series and special presentations.
8. WHAT IF…?
Marvel’s only foray into animation during phase four looked like it was going to be completely unconnected, but it eventually found a way to tie into the multiverse. It introduced Captain Carter who was seen again in “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” It found a way to make viewers care about Dr. Strange’s relationship with Christine Palmer, something neither “Dr. Strange” film was able to do. And it finally made Ultron look like the villain he should’ve been in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Tom Hiddleston returns as the God of Mischief in this Disney+ Original Series. This time he has been captured by the TVA as they are trying to prevent variants of heroes and villains from happening. This series suffers from the same problem as “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” as the pandemic caused major issues for season one. Still, it introduced some interesting characters like He Who Remains, who is a variant of the big bad of phases five and six, Kang the Conqueror. It was good and has the most potential for a second season of any Disney+ Original Marvel series, but it just felt like something was lacking. I’m still blaming the pandemic restrictions for that feeling.
6. WEREWOLF BY NIGHT
This was the perfect way to introduce the special presentations for Marvel projects to Disney+. The darker side of Marvel has always been harder to introduce to the masses, but working in a Halloween special that introduces Werewolf By Night, Man-Thing and Emma Bloodstone had the perfect October feel. Plus, it was edited in a way to resemble the schlocky, old-timey horror movies which our a personal favorite for me. And, with the introductions of Blade at the end of “Eternals” and Moon Knight, there’s potential for a “Midnight Suns” project in the future.
5. BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
The cast and crew had an almost impossible task to make a “Black Panther” sequel following the death of star Chadwick Boseman. The film serves as a nice look at loss and grief while still trying to advance the stories of “Black Panther” and the MCU at large. It’s incredibly well done, but as the film serves as a goodbye to Boseman, it may be one some viewers don’t want to revisit as often. That’s completely understandable, but it’s still a nice way to honor their fallen friend.
The very first Disney+ Original Series from Marvel found a way to defy expectations. Despite a notoriously slow start in the first two episodes, “Wandavision” hit its stride by episode four and helped shape the next three phases of the MCU. Wanda’s transition from hero to villain is greatly explained here through her grief following the loss of Vision. Darcy Lewis returned to the MCU after he first appearances in the first two “Thor” films. It set up “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “The Marvels.” And it introduced a breakout character in Agatha Harkness. “Wandavision” had no right to be this good, but it is excellent.
This is the most surprising entry on my list, for me. I went into “Hawkeye” with zero expectations and came away loving it more than I could’ve ever expected. Marvel’s decision to keep it a street level, buddy-cop style show worked in its favor. The threats never seemed too big for two people using bows and arrows. It made me care more about Yelena Belova than “Black Widow” did. Plus, it brought back Kingpin.
2. MOON KNIGHT
Disney tried to recreate the Marvel magic of “Iron Man” by introducing a character non-comics fans hadn’t really experienced with “Moon Knight.” The results was a psychological thriller type series that was fun, but a bit rushed as they clearly had more than six episodes worth of material for the one season. Oscar Isaac played the character perfectly, and Ethan Hawke made Arthur Harrow a compelling villain. If you don’t like psychological thrillers, you won’t like this. But, for my money, it’s the best Marvel Series made for Disney+.
1. SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS
This film feels like nothing else the MCU has done, yet it feels like it fits perfectly within the MCU. It’s a new character that hasn’t been beaten over viewers’ heads. It brings in Wong and the Abomination, giving it a nice connection to “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.” It was a nice palate cleanser after the disappointment of “Black Widow.” And it stands brighter with the addition of “Eternals.” It’s the most fun outing of phase four available on Disney+.
Those are my picks. Personally, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” would beat all of them, but alas, it’s not on Disney+. How would you rank the films, series and special presentations that make up phase four?