Phase Four begins releasing in January, and the revolutionary crossovers of “Infinity War” and “Endgame” will be tough to match. Marvel has announced 14 releases across both film and TV, so the question is, are they going for quantity or quality?
1. “Thor: Love and Thunder”
The third main man in the MCU is coming back for a fourth film. The first two Thor films were far from breath-taking, but Marvel didn’t give up. Chris Hemsworth played the role of the Asgardian perfectly: Fans fell in love, and he kept coming back. In “Thor: Ragnarok,” director Taika Waititi gave the god a film worthy of his brilliance: packed full of humor, action and family drama. He incorporated Doctor Strange and the Hulk perfectly and introduced the character Valkyrie — played by Tessa Thompson — who will also appear in the upcoming film. Another recurring character will be Jane Foster — played by Natalie Portman — who will no longer merely be Thor’s love interest.
As in the comics, Jane Foster will become the new Thor after Thor Odinson becomes unworthy of Mjolnir. Thor is unworthy of his hammer because the villain Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is right: Gods are unfit to rule and only cause upheaval in the universe. Don’t worry though, Thor will still have his ax, Stormbreaker, which is stronger than Mjolnir but does not have the worthiness enchantment. When Thor becomes unworthy, the hammer summons the next worthy person: Jane Foster. However, at this time in the comic storyline, Jane Foster is also battling cancer. Straining herself to fulfill her duty is pushing her medication out of her body and effectively killing her.
This sounds all well and good, but didn’t Marvel already do the whole unworthy Thor storyline? The Thor films are coming full circle: Thor struggling with his worthiness, fighting Loki and being in love with Jane Foster; moving to Thor being a badass, getting a haircut and finding his family with the Avengers as well as resolving his relationship with Loki; now Thor is back to struggling with his unworthiness and Jane is back again.
It may well be that “Ragnarok” remains the best of the Thor movies. However, this Phase Four film is directed by Taika Waititi, who made “Ragnarok” into the comedy masterpiece it is. It could be that the worst thing about “Thor: Love and Thunder” will be its name.
I have mixed feelings about Jane Foster. I am glad that Marvel hasn’t brought her back to continue her mundane role as Thor’s love interest: She was incredibly dull and forgettable. In her new role, she may develop a better personality and actually be a great character. Although, I will be bitter that Thor Odinson may be taking a backseat. Hopefully, the two will team up: Jane with Mjolnir and Thor with Stormbreaker.
Speaking of recurring characters, since Lady Sif (a great character who — in my opinion — is underrated), Valkyrie and Jane Foster will all be in this film, there will undoubtedly be a “girl power” moment at some point. This could go one of two ways: either incredibly cool and inspiring or extremely cheesy and overdone.
“Thor: Love and Thunder” will release on Feb. 18, 2022, as the sixth and final film in Phase Four.
The God of Mischief finally died for real, protecting his brother and fighting Thanos. However, Marvel didn’t dare to eliminate Loki completely, creating a TV series for the fan-favorite where he is still alive in an alternate timeline. A trailer for this TV series has recently dropped, and it is a little confusing. Briefly, Loki is arrested by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) for disrupting the timeline and as a form of community service has to work as an enforcement officer for them.
In the trailer, we see Loki on a plane, looking a hell of a lot like Tom Hiddleston, before jumping out — linking to DB Cooper perhaps? The release date will be sometime in May 2021 and having Loki work for a multiverse-spanning company leaves a lot of room for him to potentially reappear in other Phase Four releases. However, keep in mind that if this happens, Loki won’t be the same one we remember so fondly who sacrificed himself for his brother.
The danger with giving Loki a TV show instead of a film, like Black Widow, is that the show runs the risk of having too many episodes, not enough action and consequently becoming a lackluster disappointment. I don’t think this will happen, though. Tom Hiddleston is a great actor, and this show allows alternate Loki the space to develop as his own character, no longer linked to his older brother. Who knows, later on, Loki may explore his Frost Giant heritage.
3. “Black Widow”
When Black Widow died, Marvel poured their heart and soul into making it as emotional as possible. I cried. If Marvel hadn’t announced her film, there would’ve been an outcry.
I was extremely excited for the release trailer: Still, it wasn’t what I expected. I was hoping for a film following Natasha’s training, her growing into an assassin and eventually ending with her meeting Fury.
What we got was a hint of her ballerina-assassin past and a whole lot of family. It isn’t what I wanted, but it has a lot of potential. Scheduled to release on May 7, 2021, I expect this film will be no “Black Panther” but no “Captain Marvel” either, thank goodness. Great: not fantastic. I suspect this will be the case for much of Phase Four. This is a shame as Black Widow is finally getting her own film that has been so long in the making.
The villain of this Phase Four movie is Taskmaster, who controls the Red Room, where Natasha and her sister received their brutal training. Taskmaster is on the hunt for Natasha and Yelena, sending a group of brainwashed Red Room assassins to kill them.
One thing I can say is that the casting for her sister and Red Guardian will make for a better movie. The trailer begins with Yelena Belova explaining that she tells people her sister is a science teacher, and the two clearly have good chemistry that demonstrates a strained but loving relationship. This differs from their relationship in the comics where the two were rivals. After graduating from the Red Room, Yelena Belova was chosen to be the new Black Widow as Natasha was no longer loyal to Russia. Eager to prove she was better than Natasha, she interfered with her missions. This drove Natasha to work with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury.
In the comics, Red Guardian (who Russia hoped would be their version of Captain America) was married to Natasha. However, it seems the movie is taking a different approach, making him a paternal figure to Yelena and Natasha. The character will be played by David Harbour, and from his small role in the trailer, he will play it very well with a mix of humor and emotion. Not so sure about the mother though, but she was barely in the trailer, so I reserve my judgment.
Moving on, Marvel seems to be on a streak of poor titles (literally) for Phase Four. “Thor: Love and Thunder” is cringey enough, but Doctor Strange’s movie — “The Multiverse of Madness” — sounds just as bad. It is unjustifiably cheesy and sounds like a poorly made children’s animated show.
Additionally, Marvel is releasing a second Captain Marvel film in Phase Four. “Captain Marvel” as a film was just bleh, and Brie Larson’s role in “Endgame” was minimal. All she did was rescue Tony Stark and Nebula, which the Avengers could have probably done if she hadn’t existed. Captain Marvel, as a character, is unnecessary. The best thing about the first film was the cat. I will not be watching the second one but will give the rest of Phase Four a chance.
All in all, “Thor: Love and Thunder” has equal potential to be good or bad. “Black Widow” looks good but is a wasted opportunity to explore her past in more detail fully, and Loki’s series is just an excuse to reintroduce him into the MCU while developing his character yet again.