Marvel Comics numbering system in which each major shift in the Marvel Universe leads to a new # 1 issue and volume that does not reboot but marks a change in direction, and often creative teams. While Phase 1 deliberately built to The Avengers, and occasionally felt confused by that need to come from A to B, the latest lineup of films and series, at least from their titles and formats, to be more self-contained and thus more driven by endless possibilities, and maybe even a few more risks. While there's still the interconnectivity that we've come to love, like the Disney + series Wanda vision leading into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Loki dealing with the ramifications of the Loki who escaped during endgameIt looks like we're looking at a candy box, each bringing a different flavor to the MCU.
As successful as Marvel Studios has proven to be, the development of a cinematic universe at this scale. One of the common complaints about Marvel Studios is its implementation of a house style, and hiring directors to shepherd a unified producer-driven vision, while they are just established to make a little bit of their distinctive styles and directorial trademarks enough to have developed them. The MCU, as exciting as it often is, has not necessarily been auteur friendly.
But looking at the lineup of directors for their upcoming feature, Cate Shortland (Black Widow), Chloe Zhao (The Eternals), Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi), Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange), and Taika Waititi (Thor), and you have a collection of filmmakers who have honored their voices, delivered distinct styles, and are working with characters that fit into their filmographies. Shortland proved adept at character-driven works. Zhao is a filmmaker of immense empathy who provides a window of understanding for stereotypes and expectations. And Cretton is a social-minded filmmaker drawn to emotionally-honest portraits of dysfunctional families. They each look like perfect fits to explore their properties. And Although Derrickson and Waititi are not new to the MCU, the horror angle of the Doctor Strange sequel, and the news that Waititi wants to be writing the latest Thor feature himself, suggesting that they too want to have more prominent voices in their films, and hopefully offer distinctive styles between each entry.
It's not just directorial voices that are offering distinction in Phase 4, so it's the attention to inclusivity. Black Widow. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Shang-Chi. Wanda vision, the new Doctor Strange. Hawk Eye, and the new Thor each offering a much needed and desired perspective to the MCU, be it a diverse cast, female superheroes, an Asian-American hero, a Black Captain America, a female Thor, and an LGBTQ character. Each of these reads the world that we exist in. As Stan Lee said in Stan's Soapbox in Avengers no. 74 (1970), "It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul. The MCU has proven to be sound in body and in mind, but the phase – none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us – events 4 lineup looks to be a unique experience by the words of the two characters and creators that will allow to discover the soul of the MCU and all it can accomplish with.