Kevin Feige Interview Gives Clues About Phases 5 and 6

Kevin Feige has a plan for the MCU… maybe. Entertainment Weekly sat down with the president of Marvel Studios for an extensive interview, and Feige talked about what he and Marvel learned from Phase 4 and what we can expect from Phases 5 and 6. Whatever your feelings on the current state of the MCU, the interview is worth reading, despite the softball questions, because it gives some insight into Feige’s mindset. I don’t just want to reprint the whole thing here, but I’ll talk about some of the more interesting things Feige says.

“I didn’t really talk a lot about the overarching themes or direction of Phase 4 until afterward — in large part because we are always adapting and weaving as creative demands and new ideas come up.”

No kidding. Everyone could tell that Phase 4 was flailing about like a cat in a pool. But I don’t believe it was for artistic reasons; I think they had no idea what to do with their franchise following Endgame, especially after discarding half of the most popular characters and neutering the other half, with Spider-Man and Doctor Strange being the two biggest guns left standing. But here’s something interesting: in the past, Feige has said Phase 4 was about introducing new heroes, but when the interviewer asks him about that, he mostly sidesteps answering.

“Kamala Khan, for instance, is a great new character in the pantheon. I’m very proud of the Ms. Marvel show. I also know — and this is a spoiler — she essentially steals The Marvels, which is coming out [July 28]. It makes me excited that people will, I hope, see that movie and then go back and revisit those shows on Disney+. The fun thing about streaming is they are there forever, and people can keep re-exploring them. Moon Knight, same thing. I think there’s a future for that character as we move forward.”

He focuses solely on Kamala Khan – coincidentally the star of one of this year’s MCU films – and he talks about maybe bringing Moon Knight back down the road. But he doesn’t mention Shang-Chi or Shuri or Ironheart or, God forbid, the Eternals. And the phrasing he uses about Moon Knight is telling, too: “I think there’s a future for that character.” Are they picking a choosing which of these new characters to dump? That smoke screen about how successful Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was has been debunked by The Wall Street Journal, and Eternals has become a punchline. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever did well and probably turned a minor profit, but it was nowhere near the blockbuster the original Black Panther was, and it made less than Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. It’s also worth noting that Multiverse of Madness outperformed its predecessor, while Wakanda Forever didn’t. And that’s not to mention the massive success of Spider-Man: No Way Home. To me, this looks like a general rejection of the newer characters and a longing for the heroes audiences fell in love with during the first three Phases.

But I also don’t think it’s as simple as people rejecting anything new. The bigger problem is that the movies showcasing the new characters weren’t good (although, to be fair, I still haven’t seen Wakanda Forever; I can’t muster up enough interest in it without T’Challa). Look at Thor: Love and Thunder, for example; that movie had a strong opening weekend before dropping like a rock because it was an awful movie, and audiences rejected it despite initially wanting to see Thor again. But Thor and the older guys have a redemption curve; people already like them, so they’ll be more likely to forgive a dud here and there if future appearances are better. But Shang-Chi and the other newbies have made bad first impressions; seeing them again could turn people off because they’re only associated with lousy movies.

But maybe that was the point; perhaps Phase 4 was a testing ground for some of these characters, and the ones who didn’t catch on are simply being discarded. Eternals doesn’t tie into anything, and Shang-Chi only does thanks to a post-credits scene with some of the Avengers and Wong, but it can easily be ignored if they want to forget an unpopular character. Doing that in Phases 5 and 6 will be more difficult, though, because Feige announced the plan for them at Comic-Con last summer. I think if any changes happen, they’ll be in the two upcoming Avengers movies, The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars. The Multiverse gives them an out in that regard; if the new heroes aren’t embraced by the audience, alternate-universe versions of guys like Iron Man and Captain America are just a portal away.

The emphasis Feige puts on Fantastic Four is also telling; he calls it “a big pillar of the MCU going forward, just the way they’ve been in the comics for 50 or 60 years.” I think he’s being honest about that and that they’re going to pour everything they’ve got into that movie and those characters. Look at how he talks about the Four and compare it to, say, Blade, which he just kind of brushes past and says it’ll start shooting soon. And his talk about Captain America: New World Order is focused almost entirely on snagging Harrison Ford. But he confirms that they know what the next Spider-Man movie will be. This feels to me like the groundwork for the return of as many of the old guard as they can wrangle. If New World Order doesn’t work out, Feige can – with enough money paid to Chris Evans – bring back Steve Rogers in The Kang Dynasty and/or Secret Wars and have it be like his return in the comic storyline “Siege” and, later, “Original Sin,” where he fights alongside his successor (Bucky in the comics) before retaking his rightful place as Captain America. I’m fairly positive that they’re at least in talks to have several dump trucks full of cash and the deed to an island chain delivered to Robert Downey Jr. And I think it’s a safe bet that Spider-Man, Thor, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, and Ant-Man will be major players in those films – maybe the Hulk, too, preferably in his old, savage, fun form. And I’m sure they’re angling for Deadpool to make at least an appearance, possibly with his new adamantium-laced frenemy.

Sure, this could all be me talking nonsense, and we’re going to see an all-new, all-different team go up against Kang and (presumably) Doctor Doom in the coming Avengers movies. But that’s a big roll of the dice for Disney and Marvel, and if Bob Iger’s recent earnings call comments are an indication, they’re looking to play it safe for a while as they lick their wounds from a couple of years of dwindling box office returns. So, despite this big push for change, I think the Avengers – the classic Avengers – may assemble again.

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