A&E: Students await Marvel’s Phase Four

The year 2021 brought forth an emergence of content from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and along with it, an uprising in fan activity. Both theater-installed movies and the new Disney Plus shows have attracted the attention of viewers across the globe. Some at SCHS expressed their likes and dislikes about the progression of Phase Four so far.

One of the most praised pieces of the MCU was the most recent release, “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Stated to be a top-five favorite among students across campus, the events that took place in the movie sent shockwaves through the Marvel community, including sophomore Noah Barlahan, who expressed his reaction.

“I saw theories about the different Spidermans coming, but I didn’t really believe it,” Barlahan said. “I really liked the callbacks to the old Spidermans fixing their mistakes, like how Andrew Garfield saved MJ. That was one of my favorite parts of the movie.”

For Barlahan, “No Way Home” depicts a sense of nostalgia alongside the skillfull character development and emotional portrayal. It also is a source of theories for the future material of Phase Four.

Freshman Toby Seng predicted that hints placed in “Spider-Man” may foreshadow events to come. For example, there was a brief mention by the original Spiderman, played by Toby Maguire, of his best friend turning against him, ensued by a fatal battle. Seng shared that there may be a possibility that Ned, the current Spiderman’s best friend, may become a villain as well.

“It looks like they’ve spent a lot of time planning out every single movie,” Seng said. “There’s so many easter eggs, little hints… Ned might become a villain because they foreshadow that.”

Occurring after the movie was the trailer for a much anticipated sequel, “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness.” It displayed multiple appearances of characters originating from other content, including Wanda Maximoff, also known as Scarlet Witch, placed in a scene where she floated in a meditative stance, thought by audiences to be casting a spell.

Sophomore Romina Blanco hypothesized that Wanda is to become a villain in the “Multiverse of Madness” after her last appearance on the show “Wandavision,” where she, in a similar state, cast a spell using the Darkhold, the infamous and immensely powerful witch’s spellbook.

“She’s gonna have a good backstory with her kids that came out of Wandavision,” Blanco said. “She wants to get them back.”

During the scene in the trailer, Blanco also noticed that the tips of Wanda’s fingers were black, a stark reference to a scene from the last episode of the series.

“It was supposed to be showing how Agatha in Wandavision also had her fingertips black,” Blanco said. “It was like I’d confirmed that she was going to be a villain.”

The trailer also contained a quick clip of another character, one already known in the MCU to be an antagonist: the dark Doctor Strange, also known as Strange Supreme. Those who have watched the animated “What If?” series are aware of his narrative, including sophomore Lucas Bates, who had more insight into the events and characters that took place in the show.

“I know we’re going to be seeing more of evil Doctor Strange because of the second ending clip in ‘Spiderman: No Way Home,’” Bates said. “But I’m also excited and hoping to see the Ultron that gets the Infinity Stones.”

The huge mention of the multiverse concept has had fans connecting different shows and movies of Phase Four into a single timeline, or many alternate ones. The series “Loki” reveals the masters and mechanisms behind time: the Time Variance Authority and the subsequent destabilizing of it.

Bates predicted a possible situation between Loki and the recent releases.

“(Loki) probably ties in with what’s happening with Doctor Strange,” Bates said. “If all the timelines are branching off, then that’s gonna create new realities. We can see that Doctor Strange was having problems with those alternate realities.”

Despite the enthusiasm, “Loki” has also attracted bouts of disapproval. Junior Aliya Kabir felt that the show’s main relationship was an unnecessary addition.

“I feel like they really did Loki wrong to make it so that he would get romantically involved with this other version of him,” Kabir said. “I get the part where it kind of emphasizes his narcissistic character traits – that’s what people say. But still… I remember feeling very grossed out about it.”

The critiques of Phase Four range from excitement for new characters to disappointment in content quality. Blanco appreciates the cast improving in regards to gender and race but is hesitant toward recent storylines.

“I definitely think that they stopped the focus of how they portrayed women in the MCU,” Blanco said. “Diversity-wise, has been good, but plot-wise, I think they need to… it’s kind of like when a series has too many seasons, and (…) it stops making as much sense. I feel like Eternals went too far.”

Kabir had a similar take, believing that Phase Four lacked fluidity and organization.

“They’re introducing so many new concepts to it, so it makes it feel difficult to follow through,” Kabir said. “Like with Eternals – how that’s gonna tie into everything… It’s underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time because they’re introducing so many new characters at the same time while we’re still kind of mourning the loss of the past characters.”

Barlahan also described a perspective explaining the recent outburst in MCU content creation.

“I don’t know if I necessarily agree with this critique, but I’ve heard from my friends that Marvel is kind of just spewing out a lot of movies and TV shows,” Barlahan said. “It’s kind of like they’re just doing it for the money now. They’re being commercialized.”

Regardless of Marvel’s intentions, many fans are eager for the advancement of Phase Four.

As far as expectations, many have anticipated the return of Thor along with his involvement with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Seng hopes for more from Shang Chi and a development of Spider-Man, and his hypothesis for a new group of heroes facing a Thanos-level villain is shared by numerous others.

“I’m really excited for Phase Four,” Barlahan said. “But one thing I can say after all the Endgame stuff, it’s kind of hard to pick (the series) back up.”

Phase Four has reigned in praise, surprise and enthusiasm from fans, and SCHS students are looking forward to up-and-coming releases. Barlahan’s dedication to the MCU is still going strong, especially after the concluding of Phase Three. The Marvel corporation’s content has left an imprint, and the introduction of Phase Four, despite the risk, holds the opportunity to continue to do so.

“MCU is my favorite… it’s not really a genre, but my favorite type of movie,” Barlahan said. “As soon as I see an MCU movie, I have to watch it. It’s really what started me to watch movies.”