A common criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe of late is that Phase 4 is not a cinematic universe; the films don’t connect or feel like they share the same continuity. With the lack of a cohesive villain being built up for the end of the phase, Phase 4 has come across as a garbled mess at best. The main draw of the MCU has always been its interconnectivity and continuity between dozens of movies. With Phase 4 throwing out that successful formula, even the normies are starting to question the health and future of the MCU. However, these valid concerns can be disregarded, according to Marvel producer Richie Palmer, who said in a recent interview on Empire’s Spoiler Special podcast that the connective tissue for Phase 4 is one singular villain, and that villain is trauma. Palmer said:
“Phase Four is all a reaction – and I don’t mean on our part as filmmakers, I mean the characters…It’s a reaction to the trauma of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. We’re still feeling those effects in these movies years later.”
This surprising answer seems meant to assuage fans’ concerns about a lack of continuity and a singular final antagonist. Of course, the repercussions of both Infinity War and Endgame should be a primary focus of the following phase. Still, the emotional reaction to these consequences should not be the connective tissue between films nor the primary antagonistic force that drives the story.
Villains like Thanos, Loki, and Ultron will no longer be the big bads of the MCU’s phases. Now, being a little sad and dealing with trauma is the big villain of a superhero franchise. Many fans may find this answer extremely disappointing; interpersonal conflicts like Palmer refers to seem more at home in cheesy CW superhero series rather than the grounded and successful MCU. If this is indeed the direction that the MCU plans on moving toward, its expiration date will be firmly set in the near future.