The Ultimate Marvel Film Guide: 2020 - 2022

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The Ultimate Marvel Film Guide:
1944-1990 | 1998-2004 | 2005-2009 | 2010-2014 | 2015-2016 | 2017-2019 | 2020-2022

Since 2008 the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the world's box office, with inter-connected stories and each film impacting on events on the next. In each, the heroes save the world from a deadly menace, yet in 2020 these very heroes faced a global threat that defeated their box office success, the Covid pandemic which closed cinemas worldwide. During the time that cinemas closed, the popularity of home streaming services, such as Disney+, surged, encouraging Marvel fans to view their shows from the safety and comfort of their own homes, away from cinemas, which are enclosed spaces where an airborne virus might thrive.

By 2020 through acquiring 20th Century Fox, Disney had reacquired the film rights to not quite all Marvel characters, with the most notable exceptions being Spider-Man, whose rights were held by Columbia Pictures' parent company Sony, with some rights to Hulk and Namor owned by Universal Pictures. This meant that not every film featuring Marvel characters made in this period was part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel was also dedicated to increasing the amount of LGBTQ+ representation within their films, which would have a negative impact on their overall box office success. None of Marvel's films made between 2020 and 2022 would be released in the world's largest film market, China. Consequently this would have an impact on their success.

Marvel Films

Marvel also conceived their films as having over-reaching story arcs and grouped their films into 'phases'. All the films made by Marvel in this period were part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which had failed to capture the excitement of earlier phases and was largely considered anticlimactic following the Infinity Saga. The Marvel Cinematic Universe consisted of the following films to date:

Phase 1:Phase 2:Phase 3:

1. Iron Man (2008)

2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

3. Iron Man 2 (2010)

4. Thor (2011)

5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

6. Avengers Assemble (2012)

7. Iron Man 3 (2013)

8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

12. Ant-Man (2015)

13. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

14. Doctor Strange (2016)

15. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 (2017)

16. Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)

17. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

18. Black Panther (2018)

19. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

20. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

21. Captain Marvel (2019)

22. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

23. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Phase One Complete

Phase Two Complete

Phase Three Complete

Listed below are all the Marvel film adaptations made in this period, with recurring actors and characters who appear in other films shown in Bold. Also mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more female characters who have a conversation together that does not focus on men in general or specific male characters.

The New Mutants (2020)

DirectorJosh Boone
StudioGenre Gilms and Sunswept Entertainment, distributed by 20th Century Studios
PlotFollowing the death of her father and all in her village, Danielle Moonstar is taken to a hospital run by Dr Reyes who informs her that she is a mutant and is now in a home for teenage mutants. Also there are four other teenage orphaned mutants who are learning to control their powers before being allowed to leave the hospital. Yet soon all their nightmares start coming to life and attacking them while they uncover who is really behind the hospital.
Length91 minutes
SettingA hospital for mutant children
  • Danielle 'Dani' Moonstar, Cheyenne mutant attracted to Rahne (Blu Hunt)
    • Powers: Brings nightmares to life
  • Rahne Sinclair, Scottish werewolf attracted to Dani (Maisie Williams)
  • Illyana Rasputin, Russian mutant with a puppet haunted by nighmare 'Smiley Men' (Anna Taylor-Joy)
    • Powers: Sorceress, can manifest a sword, teleport and turn her puppet into a dragon
  • Samuel Guthrie, American mutant who accidentally killed his mining family (Charlie Heaton)
    • Powers: Supersonic flight
  • Roberto 'Bobby' Da Costa, Brazilian mutant (Henry Zaga)
    • Powers: Has fire powers and burns when excited
  • Dr Cecilia Reyes, head of the hospital (Alice Braga)
    • Powers: Creates impenetrable forcefield – used to surround the hospital to prevent any escape
Related FilmsThe X-Men series, particularly Logan1
Bechdel TestEasy Pass
CameosMarilyn Manson voices the Smiley Men

The New Mutants was an attempt to make a trilogy of low-budget superhero film that took the X-Men in a new direction with a younger cast of mutant heroes and is the first Marvel film to have openly gay characters. Filming finished in September 2017. Originally intended to be a horror, the film was toned down during production only for the original release date of 2018 to pass by, followed by reshoots intended to make the film scarier. Release was again delayed as Disney negotiated the purchase of 20th Century Fox and after numerous release dates came and went with rumours implying that the delay in release date was because film was terrible, although the previous X-Men films had failed to do well also2. The film was finally released in August 2020 only to immediately bomb like many films released during the height of the Covid pandemic, recouping less than half its production costs. The proposed sequels stood no chance of being made.

Black Widow (2021)

DirectorCate Shortland
StudioMarvel Studios

In the 1990s a team of Russian agents, including two young girls, posed as a typical American family in order to infiltrate a top-secret project in the United States, successfully stealing mind-control technology. The girls are then sent to Russia's 'Red Room' to be trained as 'Black Widow' assassins, though one, Natasha Romanoff, later escaped and defected to become a SHIELD agent.

Ten years later following the events of Captain America: Civil War Romanoff is on the run from General Ross, who believes she is a traitor. She is contacted by her former adoptive sister, Yelena Belova, who reveals that the Red Room, which Romanoff had thought destroyed, still exists and is using the mind-control technology to create a network of female assassins worldwide who would do anything ordered by General Dreykov. They have a gas that neutralises the effects of the mind control. Can Romanoff and her sister re-unite their former family in order to defeat Dreykov's plan for world domination?

Length129 minutes
SettingOhio 1995; 2016 Norway; Budapest, Hungary; Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, assassin (Scarlett Johansson, Child: Ever Anderson)
  • Yelena Belova, a Black Widow assassin and Natasha's sister in Ohio (Florence Pugh, Child: Violet McGraw)
  • Alexai Shostakov aka Red Guardian, Russia's only super-soldier and Romanoff and Belova's adopted father (David Harbour)
  • Melina Vostokoff, Black Widow, the girl's adoptive mother and Red Room lead scientist (Rachel Weisz)
  • Rick Mason, arms dealer and friend of Romanoff (O-T Fagbenie)
  • Dreykov, Russian general and head of Red Toom (Ray Winstone)
  • Antonia Dreykov aka Taskmaster, Dreykov's assassin daughter who fights using her opponent's techniques (Olga Kurylenko)
  • Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross, US Secretary of State (William Hurt)
Related FilmsAll Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially:
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Avengers Assembled (2012)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Bechdel TestPass
CameosContessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
Post-Credits SceneYes

This film is set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and
Avengers: Infinity War. Ever since the character first appeared ten years earlier there had been calls for a Black Widow film, with more of a spy film feel than the science fiction of other instalments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As with many other Marvel films, a Disney + spin-off series is expected.

This is the first film in Marvel's Phase 4, which to date had included three television series made for the online Disney + streaming service. One of which, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, had first featured the enigmatic character of Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine who appears briefly in this film, although Black Widow had been intended to be released first but was delayed for over a year due to the Covid pandemic. The character of Yelena Belova would also return in Hawkeye.

The film had a surprising lasting legacy when it was released on Disney+'s pay-per-view Premier Access on the same day as in cinemas due to the pandemic, leading to an immediate lawsuit from star Scarlett Johansson. While Johansson's contract entitled her to a share of any cinema revenue, this was not covered by profits Disney acquired from online viewing platforms. She claimed that Disney violated the terms of the contract, with home media releases typically delayed by at least 90 but more often 120 days after cinema debut. The treatment Disney afforded Johansson resulted in an immediate backlash with other actors and directors including the Russo brothers, two of whose films are among the ten most successful of all time, to delay signing contracts with Disney in case they too were treated the same way. Disney have since stated that they will delay releasing films on Disney+ for at least 45 days.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

DirectorDestin Daniel Cretton
StudioMarvel Studios

Xu Wenwu has owned the mystical Ten Rings for thousands of years and these have granted him immortality and the ability to influence history with his terrorist organisation also called the Ten Rings. After learning of Ta Lo, a village on the border of Earth and parallel dimensions, he attempts to conquer it but is prevented from entering by the guardian, Ying Li. The two fall in love and Wenwu choses to live a normal life with his new wife, having two children, until she is murdered after Wenwu's life catches up with him. He then trains his son Shang-Chi to be an assassin while neglecting his daughter Xialing, who secretly learns martial arts regardless.

Years after running away and working as a valet with his best friend Katy, assassins threaten Shang-Chi's life and steal a pendant his mother gave him. He reunites with his sister to warn her only to learn that their father plans to attack the village of Ta Lo, as he believes his dead wife is being imprisoned there. Is this true, or is he being manipulated into attacking, and can Shang-Chi save the day?

Length132 minutes
SettingSan Francisco, Macau and mythical dimension of Ta Lo
  • Xu Shang-Chi, aka Shaun, former child assassin and son of Wenwu (Simu Liu))
  • Kay, Shang-Chi's best friend (Awkwfina)
  • Xu Xialing, Shang-Chi's sister and fight club owner (Meng'er Zhang)
  • Ying Li, Shang-Chi and Xu Xialing's mother and guardian of Ta Lo (Fala Chen)
  • Xu Wenwu, leader of the Ten Rings terrorist organisation named after the rings that give him power (Tony Leung)
    • Powers: Immortality, fighting ability
  • Razor Fist, machete-handed assassin (Florian Munteanu)
  • Wong, Master of the Mystic Arts (Benedict Wong)
  • Trevor Slattery, former actor who impersonated a terrorist (Sir Ben Kingsley)
  • Ying Nan, Ying Li's sister and leader of Ta Lo (Michelle Yeoh)
Related FilmsAll Marvel Cinematic Universe
Bechdel TestPass
  • Bruce Banner aka Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
  • Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)
  • Emil Blonsky aka Abomination (Tim Roth)
Post-Credits SceneBoth mid-credits and post-credits

The original comic book characters had Shang-Chi's father played by the racist Fu Manchu which was later changed to a still heavily-stereotyped character called the Mandarin. The Ten Rings organisation had been referenced in Iron Man and the Mandarin was revealed to be a fake in Iron Man 3, leaving the way for this less offensive character of Wenwu. This was the ninth most-successful film of 2021.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

DirectorAndy Serkis
StudioColumbia Pictures

Raised in an orphanage, in 1996 Frances Barrison aka Shriek, who can use screaming as a sonic weapon is taken away and shot by a green policeman Patrick Mulligan, in the eye as she screams, permanently damaging his hearing. Her boyfriend Cletus Kassidy later becomes a serial killer and, after being caught, is interviewed by Eddie Brock, who from the conversations and with his symbiote Venom's help is able to deduce where Cletus buried his victim's bodies, rebuilding his career. Cletus bites Brock in anger, which leads to his being infected with his own alien symbiote named Carnage. Meanwhile Brock's relationship with Venom is strained, and his ex- fiancée Anne announces she plans to marry Dan.

Carnage and Cletus escape during their execution and rescue Barrison and they plan to murder Patrick Mulligan for revenge. Meanwhile Venom decides to live alone, outside Brock's body. Will Brock and Venom overcome their difficulties and be able to save Barrison from Carnage and Shriek?

Length97 minutes
SettingSan Francisco in 1996 and earlier 2020s
  • Eddie Brock, journalist who unwittingly hosts an alien symbiote named 'Venom' (Tom Hardy)
    • Powers: Strength, speed, agility, healing
  • Anne Weying, Brock's ex-fiancée and lawyer (Michelle Williams)
  • Frances Barrison aka Shriek, Cletus' love-interest (Adult: Naomie Harris, Child: Olumide Olorunfemi)
    • Powers: Sonic Scream
  • Dan Lewis, Anne's fiancé and doctor (Reid Scott)
  • Patrick Mulligan, partially-deaf detective (Stephen Graham, Young: Sean Delaney)
  • Cletus Kasady, serial-killing host of Venom's spawn Carnage (Woody Harrelson, Young: Jack Bandeira)
    • Powers: Similar to Venom but stronger
  • Mrs Chen, runs a little shop (Peggy Lu)
  • Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland)
  • J Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons)
Stan Lee CameoHis face appears on a magazine cover in Mrs Chen's shop
Related FilmsVenom (2018)
Bechdel TestFail
Mid-Credits SceneYes, tying it in to Spider-Man: No Way Home

Andy Serkis was hired as director for this film due to his extensive experience in mo-cap, and he agreed on the proviso that production be based in the UK. Filmed in both London and San Francisco, postproduction on this film was halted due to the Covid pandemic. Filming was also interrupted by filming of The Matrix Resurrections in San Francisco at the same time, which was used to advantage with helicopters being used in that production being filmed and described as police choppers out searching for Cletus. Despite being delayed by a year, on release it was the most-successful film released in cinemas following the Covid outbreak and ended the year as the seventh most successful film of the year3. It is also the shortest superhero film since Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) and had better reviews than the original film.

Eternals (2021)

DirectorChloé Zhao
StudioMarvel Studios

The Eternals are a group of immortal aliens who were sent to Earth 7,000 years ago by a godlike Celestial called Arishem to protect the inhabitants from a race of fierce predators called Deviants. Almost five hundred years after the last Deviant is believed to have died they reappear following a worldwide earthquake, more powerful than ever, and able to kill the Eternals. Can the Eternals defeat the Deviants, what is the truth behind their mission and how does it relate to the forthcoming end of the world in seven days?

Length157 minutes
SettingAcross Earth, 5000 BC – 2021 AD
  • Sersi, museum curator in London (Gemma Chan)
    • Powers: Can transform and change any non-organic object she touches into anything else.
  • Ikaris, Sersi's estranged husband (Richard Madden)
    • Powers: Flight and the ability to shoot deadly beams from his eyes.
  • Kingo, Bollywood star (Kumail Nanjiani)
    • Powers: Can zap energy from his hands.
  • Sprite, 12-year-old girl for all eternity (Lia McHigh)
    • Powers: Can create illusions.
  • Phastos, gay family-man (Brian Tyree Henry)
    • Powers: Can create technology and inventions.
  • Makkari (Lauren Ridloff)
    • Powers: Can move at superhuman speeds.
  • Druig (Barry Keoghan)
    • Powers: Can possess and control the minds of others.
  • Gilgamesh (Don Lee)
    • Powers: Superstrong with powerful fists.
  • Ajak, leader of the Eternals (Salma Hayek)
    • Powers: Can heal herself and others and contact the Celestials telepathically.
  • Thena, warrior (Angelina Jolie)
    • Powers: Can create weapons from thin air.
  • Kuran, Kingo's valet and comic relief (Harish Patel)
  • Dane Whitman, Sersi's love interest and co-worker at the Natural History Museum (Kit Harington)
  • Kro, chief Deviant (Bill Skarsgard)
Bechdel TestPass
  • Eros aka Starfox (Harry Styles)
  • Pip the Troll (Patton Oswalt)
Post-Credits SceneMid-credits and post-credits.

The Eternals characters of Thena, Ikaris, Sersi, Makkari, Phastos are inspired by Greek gods Athena, Icarus, Circe, Mercury and Hephaestus.

Eternals is one of the weakest Marvel Studio films, being largely independent of the main run of Marvel films. As the second-longest film in the series at time of release, it features extra exposition and immortal characters it is difficult to care about while the threat they face is vague until the very end. That said, the film has been praised for diversity, including the first deaf (Makkari, played by deaf actress Lauren Rodloff) and first gay superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film was banned in China for two reasons, as director Zhao has criticised the Chinese government. It also contains a gay character, which has also led to the film being banned in many other countries especially in the Middle East after Marvel announced they would not edit out the few scenes in which Phastos' sexuality is mentioned. As the film features Kit Harrington and Richard Madden, the 'Game of Thrones Curse' rumour continues.

This was the tenth most-successful film of 2021, shortly behind Marvel Studio's other film of the year Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Marvel Studio's domination of the box office seemed threatened as they were both beaten at the box office by two Sony/Columbia Pictures films based on Marvel properties, a James Bond film three Chinese films, a monster mash-up and car flick4.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

DirectorJon Watts
StudioColumbia Pictures and Marvel Studios

Peter Parker and his friends' lives are forever changed after having Parker's secret identity had been revealed by Mysterio and framed for his murder. Parker seeks help from Dr Strange to make everyone forget that he was Spider-Man but after interrupting Strange the spell goes out of control and everyone who knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man from alternate realities begin to be brought to his universe, threatening the fabric of space-time. The only way to repair the damage is by sending those who have crossed to his Earth back to their realities, however Parker discovers that many of the villains left their realities moments before they died and if he returns them then he is dooming them to die.

Length148 minutes
SettingNew York
  • Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, 17-year-old who wants to live a normal life (Tom Holland)

    • Powers: Can climb up walls and has amazing reflexes.
  • Michelle 'MJ' Jones, Peter's girlfriend (Zendaya)
  • Dr Stephen Strange, magical neurosurgeon Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • Aunt May Parker, Peter's aunt and guardian (Marisa Tomei)
  • Harold 'Happy' Hogan, Tony Stark's best friend who loves May (Jon Favreau)
  • Ned Leeds, Parker's best friend with magical talent (Jacob Batalon)
  • Eugene 'Flash' Thompson, Parker's school rival (Tony Revolori)
  • J Jonah Jameson, editor of Daily Bugle (JK Simmons)
  • Characters from the Multiverse:
    • Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire)
      • Powers: Can climb walls, has enhanced senses and speed and uniquely shoots own-generated webs.
    • Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield)
      • Powers: Super-reflexes and gymnastic ability, including being able to climb walls and hang upside-down.
    • Norman Osborn aka Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe)
      • Powers: Experimental strength-enhancing drugs that left mentally unstable.
    • Dr Otto Octavius aka Doctor Octopus & Doc Ock (Alfred Molina)
      • Powers: Has four artificially intelligent tentacles implanted in his back.
    • Flinto Marko aka Sandman (Thomas Haden Church)
      • Powers: His body has been turned into sand; he can control any sand nearby.
    • Dr Curt Connors aka The Lizard (Rhys Ifans)
      • Powers: Transformed himself into a strong, giant lizard.
    • Max Dillon aka Electro (Jamie Foxx)
      • Powers: An accident with electrical cables and electric eels leave him able to control and generate electricity.
Related FilmsSpider-Man films and Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially:
  • Spider-Man (2002)
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Bechdel TestBare pass5
  • Betty Brant, Ned's love interest (Angourie Rice)
  • Julius Dell and Roger Harrington, teachers (JB Smoove & Martin Starr)
  • Wong, Sorcerer Supreme (Benedict Wong)
  • Eddie Broack aka Venom (Tom Hardy)
  • Matt Murdock aka Daredevil (Charlie Cox)
Post-Credits sceneBoth mid-credits scene and post-credits trailer

Originally Sony and Disney's deal regarding Spider-Man had ended following Spider-Man: Far From Home. Sony, who own Columbia Pictures and Disney, who owned Marvel Studios, had announced that they would no longer co-operate on future Spider-Man films, only for a fan backlash led by Tom Holland convinced both companies to change their mind. Disney agreed to fund 25% of the film for 25% of the profit and allow Marvel characters to appear in exchange for Spider-Man appearing in later Marvel Cinematic Universe films. As well as being set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this film features previous live-action Spider-Man characters in a way similar to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) though without any direct reference to that animated film.

Charlie Cox had played Matt Murdock on Netflix series Daredevil (2015-18); this is the first time a Netflix Marvel spin-off actor has appeared in an official Marvel film. Arian Moayed would later again play Agent Cleary in Marvel spin-off series Ms Marvel.

This was by far the most successful film of 2021 at the box office. In fact, both Sony's superhero films of 2021 out-performed all of Disney's Marvel films.

Morbius (2022)

DirectorDaniel Espinosa
StudioColumbia Pictures

Dr Michael Morbius and his best friend since childhood Lucien aka 'Milo' have a rare but fatal blood disease. Morbius, helped by Dr Martine Bancroft, believes an illegal experiment using genetic material from a vampire bat will cure Milo and himself, but instead it turns them into 'vampires'. He also has an uncontrollable blood lust and, if he doesn't drink regularly blood or a synthetic substitute, he loses control and will drink the blood of anyone near.

While Morbius is horrified by what has happened, Milo delights in his new powers. Can Morbius save the day?

Length140 minutes
SettingNew York and Greece, Sony's Spider-Man Cinematic Universe
  • Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto)
    • Powers: Enhanced strength, speed, echolocation, the ability to control bats and the ability to fly
  • Lucien 'Milo' Crown (Matt Smith)
    • Powers: Enhanced strength, speed and the ability to fly
  • Dr Martine Bancroft, love interest (Adria Arjona)
  • Dr Emil Nicholas, Morbius and Milo's father figure (Jared Harris)
  • Alberto 'Al' Rodriguez & Simon Stroud, generic FBI Agents (Al Madrigal & Tyrese Gibson)
Related FilmsSony's Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man and Venom films
Bechdel TestFail
CameosAdrian Toomes aka Vulture (Michael Keaton)
Post-Credits SceneBoth mid-credits and end-credits

This film was delayed by almost two years by the Coronavirus pandemic and it is notable that the film is quite different from the story portrayed in the trailer. Whereas in 2021 the Sony Spider-Man Cinematic Universe films Venom 2 and Spider-Man: No Way Home beat Marvel at their own game, Morbius flopped, making back its production budget but losing Sony a vast sum. Originally released in March 2022, after an ironic internet campaign appeared to praise the film, Sony decided to try releasing the film in cinemas again in June 2022, only for it once again to lose money, leading to an internet campaign saying that all the viewers were inadvertently busy that weekend then and unsuccessfully calling for Sony to release it in cinemas a third time.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

DirectorSam Raimi
StudioMarvel Studios

Dr Stephen Strange has dreams in which he dies trying to save the life of a teenage girl called America and is depressed that Christine, the love of his life, marries another. After spotting a monster attack New York, he realises it is both being controlled by the sort of runes used by witches and chasing the girl in his dream. She tells him that she is being hunted by demons as she can open portals through the multiverse to different parallel universes and that the dream was real but a vision of what happened to one of his parallel selves in a different universe.

Strange goes to speak to Wanda Maximoff for advice only to discover that she is the one behind the attacks. Wanting to be reunited with her two sons, even though they had never really existed in this dimension, she plans to absorb America's power so she can travel to a parallel universe where they do exist and she can live as their mother. The only way to do this is by killing America, and she has been reading evil book the Darkhold that takes a toll on all who read it in order to do so. Wanda destroys Kamar-Taj to get to America, with Strange and America fleeing to a different universe, Earth-838. Wanda 'dreamwalks', controlling the Wanda Maximoff on Earth-838, to try and get America there while Strange is held prisoner by the Illuminati, Earth-838's heroes. This includes that universe's Professor Charles Xavier, Mister Fantastic, Mordo and Black Bolt, as well as a Captain Carter where Peggy Carter received the super-soldier serum rather than Steve Rogers, and a Captain Marvel who is Maria Rambeau rather than her best friend Carol Danvers.

Can Dr Strange, America, Christine and the Illuminati stop the Scarlett Witch from being reunited with her children, no matter the cost? Will the only way to stop her be to use the Darkhold, and what impact will this have on Dr Strange?

Length126 minutes
Setting21st Century Earth six months after Spider-Man: No Way Home, across the multiverse
  • Dr Stephen Strange, former neurosurgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch, also in different dimensions)
    • Powers: Master of the Mystic Arts and powerful sorcerer with sentient flying cape.
  • Wanda Maximoff aka The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, also Earth-838 Wanda)
    • Powers: Wields chaos magic that can change reality and gains forbidden knowledge from evil book the Darkhold.
  • Wong, Sorcerer Supreme (Benedict Wong
    • Powers: Magic and sorcery
  • America Chavez, teenage girl from a different dimension (Xochitl Gomez)
    • Powers: Can open portals between universes when scared
  • Christine Palmer, Strange's ex-fiancée (Rachel McAdams, also Earth-838 Christine)
  • Billy and Tommy, Wanda's sons in Universe 838 (Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne)
Illuminati in Universe 838
  • Charles Xavier aka Professor X (Sir Patrick Stewart)
    • Powers: Telepathy
  • Peggy Carter aka Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell)
    • Powers: Was given super-soldier serum instead of Captain America, has Vibranium shield
  • Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejliofor)
    • Powers: Sorcerer Supreme on Earth-838
  • Maria Rambeau aka Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch)
    • Powers: Same as Carol Danvers' Captain Marvel
  • Reed Richards aka Mister Fantastic (John Krasinski)
    • Powers: Stretchy
  • Blackager Boltagon aka Black Bolt (Anson Mount)
    • Powers: His voice disintegrates anyone who hears him
Related FilmsAll MCU films, plus X-Men, plus Disney+ show WandaVision (2021)
Bechdel TestPass
  • Nicodemus West, hospital colleague (Michael Stuhlbarg)
  • Hamir, Master of Mystic Arts (Topo Wresniwiro)
  • Clea, sorceress from Dark Dimension (Charlize Theron)
  • Pizza Popper vendor (Bruce Campbell)
Post-Credits SceneBoth mid-credits and post-credits scenes

This film is the first to bring many key Marvel characters whose film rights had been owned by 20th Century Fox into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time, even if only in a parallel universe. Key among these are Sir Patrick Stewart who had been playing Professor Charles Xavier in the The X-Men films, with a third actor to play Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four.

Marvel's television series have also played a major part in this film, with references to three different shows. Wanda Maximoff's sons had previously appeared in WandaVision (2021), played by the same children. Captain Carter had first appeared in animated spin-off What If…? (2021) while Black Bolt played by Anson Mount had previous starred in short-lived series Inhumans (2017). Bruce Campbell cameos, having cameoed in every film in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy (2002-7).

Filming was frequently delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and it had originally intended for this film to be released in May 2021, before Spider-Man: No Way Home. In the comics America is an LGBT character and though this is not hinted at during the film other than her wearing a rainbow, she does mention having 'two mothers'. Consequently when Marvel refused to remove this reference, the film was banned in the usual homophobic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and the world's largest cinema audience in China. It was the fourth highest grossing film of 2022, after Avatar: The Way of Water, Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion.

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

DirectorTaika Waititi
StudioMarvel Studios

Dying of cancer, Dr Jane Foster finds her ex-boyfriend Thor's old hammer, which magically has the ability to transform her into a demigod, though at a cost. She joins Thor, Valkyrie and Korg on their quest to rescue kidnapped Asgardian children from the Shadow Realm. They face Gorr the God Butcher, who seeks revenge on all gods for allowing his daughter to die despite their devotion, who has the Necrosword which can kill immortal beings. He also seeks to travel to Eternity, where he believes dwells a magical being who can grant wishes.

Length119 minutes
Setting21st Century Earth and Shadow Realm
  • Thor, Immortal god of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth)
  • Jane Foster, book-destroying scientist and Thor's ex-girlfriend (Natalie Portman)
  • Gorr the God Butcher, former priest of god Rapu (Christian Bale)
  • King Valkyrie ruler of New Asgard (Tessa Thompson)
  • Korg, rocky ex-gladiator friend (Taika Waititi)
  • Zeus, King of all the gods at Omnipotence City (Russell Crowe)
Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, half-human (Chris Pratt)
  • Drax the Destroyer, literal-minded warrior (Dave Bautista)
  • Groot, humanoid tree with limited vocabulary (Vin Diesel)
  • Rocket, bounty-hunter raccoon created by a mad scientist (Bradley Cooper)
  • Nebula, Thanos' daughter with cybernetic implants (Karen Gillan)
  • Mantis, an empath (Pom Klementieff)
  • Kraglin, former Ravager (Sean Gunn)
Related FilmsAll Marvel Cinematic Universe especially Thor films
Bechdel TestPass
  • Darcy Lewis, Jane's former intern and friend (Kat Dennings)
  • Sif, strong female Asgardian warrior and one of Thor's best friends (Jaimie Alexander)
  • Heimdall, deceased guardian of the Bifröst Bridge (Idris Elba)
  • Erick Selvig, astrophysicist and Jane's mentor (Stellan Skarsgård)
  • Asgardian actor playing Odin (Sam Neill)
  • Asgardian actor playing Thor (Luke Hemsworth6)
  • Asgardian actor playing Loki (Matt Damon)
  • Asgardian actor playing Hela (Melissa McCarthy)
  • Hercules, Zeus' son (Brett Goldstein)
Post-Credits SceneBoth mid-credits and end credits

Bizarrely this film's plot is that Jane, dying of cancer, finds and decides to keep the hammer Mjolnir, which belonged to his ex-boyfriend. She then decides to dress in his clothes and give herself his name of 'The Mighty Thor', which is very odd behaviour. Thor is Thor's first name and he and Jane never married, and if they had she would be Mrs Odinson, not Mrs Thor. While some heroes have aliases, such as Iron Man, based on their costumes and thus allowing someone else to be 'Iron Man' if they wear that costume, that doesn't apply to Norse gods. The plot that there is a wish-granting omnipotent being at the centre of the universe also seems odd as it makes all the plots in which the characters collected infinity stones and the like instead of visiting the omnipotent being at the centre of universe seem redundant.

The film was the eighth biggest box office success of 20227.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

DirectorRyan Coogler
StudioMarvel Studios

The King is dead, long live the Queen! T'Challa has died of a mysterious illness and his mother Ramonda inherited the throne of Wakanda, Africa's secretive nation with a futuristic technology based on their monopoly of wonder-metal vibranium. A year later the CIA are using a vibranium detector designed by a teenager and locate the presence of vibranium in the sea, much to the ire of Namor, the leader of an aquatic civilisation descended from refugees who fled the conquistadors. He orders Queen Ramonda to find the scientist who created the vibranium-detector so that he can kill her, which Princess Shuri objects to. She, with Okoye, find the scientist, Riri Williams, with help from CIA Agent Ross, but they are attacked and both Riri and Shuri are kidnapped, leading to Okoye being fired from her post as general.

After Riri and Shuri are rescued by Nakia, Namor attacks Wakanda, killing Queen Ramonda, and saying that he will attack again next week unless the Wakandas agree to help them slaughter everyone else on Earth. During the week Princess Shuri decides to give lots of random characters Iron Man-esque suits, so they can later have their own spin-off Disney + series, and that Wakanda needs a new Black Panther, despite Killmonger having made that completely impossible. She also realises that Namor is vulnerable away from water. Will she become the next Black Panther? Will her tactic of attacking him in the middle of the ocean where he is at his strongest work?

Length161 minutes
SettingFictional African country of Wakanda and under the sea
  • Princess Shuri, scientist wishing to be the next Black Panther (Letitia Wright)
  • Queen Ramonda, mother of T'Challa and Shuri and ruler of Wakanda (Angela Bassett)
  • Namor, King of Talokan, vibranium-possessing underwater people (Tenoch Huerta Mejía)
  • Nakia, T'Challa's love interest and spy for Wakanda (Lupita Nyong'o)
  • General Okoye, leader of Dora Milaje, Wakanda's army (Danai Gurira)
  • M'Baku, leader of the Jubari, Wakanda's mountain people (Winston Duke)
  • Riri Williams, MIT student and inventor (Dominique Thorne)
  • Everett K Ross, CIA agent and friend of Wakanda (Martin Freeman)
  • Ayo & Aneka, Dora Milaje in a relationship (Florence Kasumba & Michaela Coel)
Related FilmsAll Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially Black Panther (2018)
Bechdel TestPass
  • Erik 'Killmonger' Stevens aka N'Jadaka (Michael B Jordan)
  • Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
Post-Credits SceneYes

Chadwick Boseman who played T'Challa aka Black Panther had died of colon cancer in 2020. After considering whether to recast T'Challa, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe had with Spider-Man, Hulk and War Machine, it was decided not to. The character of Namor from Atlantis was introduced, although his film rights are jointly held by Universal which means Disney cannot make a solo film featuring the character. Despite this the sympathetic villain's backstory was changed so he and his people are now Mesoamerican, as well as Riri Williams so that she can have her own Disney+ spin-off series, Ironheart.

As the background characters Ayo and Aneka are seen to be gay the film was not released in the usual homophobic countries, particularly China, but nevertheless managed to become the sixth highest grossing film of 2022. The acting in the film was also highly praised, with Angela Bassett nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

Television Spin-offs

Before Phase 4 there were television spin-offs set in the Marvel cinematic universe that were an additional extra for Marvel fans to watch if they chose, but would have no impact on the films themselves. Occasionally things that happened in the films would be mentioned in these series, particularly on Agents of SHIELD in which the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a lasting impact on the series. Overall, though, before Phase Four television series existed but were not integral. Yet in 2020 this has changed, with the plots of their new television series directly mentioned in the films.

Phase Fours spin offs shown on Disney+ are:

  • WandaVision (2021)
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)
  • Loki (2021)
  • What If...? (2021)
  • Hawkeye (2021)
  • Moon Knight (2022)
  • Ms Marvel (2022)
  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (2022)
  • Werewolf By Night (2022)
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)

Into the Future

Before 2020 the Marvel Cinematic Universe expected audiences to watch one of their films roughly every six months. For most people who regularly either go to the cinema or watch films on home media, Marvel asking for four hours of their time a year is a reasonable amount. Even then in the early days it did not matter to the enjoyment of being able to follow Iron Man 2 or Iron Man 3 if you had not watched the earlier films, same with Thor: Dark World. But since the time of Captain America: Civil War the expectation is that the audience will be familiar with every aspect of the Marvel cinematic universe, and that they will automatically recognise every minor character when they reappear in later films and series. This can be seen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe passed the 100 hours of content at the end of Ms Marvel, with half of it since 2019's Avengers: Endgame and the end of Phase Three. With Disney+ overtaking Netflix to become the world's biggest online streaming service, the trend of expecting audiences to be intimately familiar with an ever-increasing amount of content seems set to increase. While cameos and minor references are a nice way to reward core fans, too much can put off the casual viewer.

1The New Mutants includes footage from that film of the Essex Corporation.2This was another film in the Game of Thrones curse conspiracy theory which speculates that films starring actors who became famous through appearing in Game of Thrones consistently flop.3Following Spider-Man: No Way Home, Chinese films The Battle at Lake Changjin and Hi Mom, Bond film No Time to Die, F9 and Detective Chinatown 3.4The top ten were Spider-Man: No Way Home, Chinese films The Battle at Lake Changjin and Hi Mom, No Time to Die, Fast and Furious instalment F9, Detective Chinatown 3, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Godzilla vs Kong and then Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals.5Aunt May introduces herself to MJ.6Chris Hemsworth's brother.7After Avatar: The Way of Water, Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World Dominion, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and The Batman.

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