Being a Marvel fan is hard enough, but being a South African Marvel fan with no access to Disney+ is even harder.
Especially once you realise that a few shows and films have been released as part of what has been dubbed “Phase Four” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (now multiverse), and as each month goes by, you fall further and further behind with everything that has been going on.
The trailer to the upcoming Spiderman movie was released a few weeks ago, amid much fanfare, and many have declared their intentions to head to the cinema to see the movie.
But with all that has transpired in recent months, will you even understand what on earth is going on?
Watching films back in the day used to be simple. Films that formed part of a franchise progressed in a pretty straightforward manner, but Marvel came and flipped that on its head.
Now, in order to have a full understanding of what you’re watching, you would need to have seen the movie’s prequel, the TV shows and mini-series in between, and a few YouTube explainers.
This is not meant to put you off, however, so here is your quick and easy guide to the latest part of the Marvel Multiverse.
What is the MCU?
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) refers to the media franchise and shared universe of films centred on a series of superhero films produced by Marvel Studios. This later grew to include television shows.
The films in this universe are based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The stories, however, sometimes differ from those in the comic books.
The films can, and do, stand separately from the comics. But, the comics are worth reading for a richer experience.
The MCM consists of Phase One through Phase Three and the films in this era are collectively known as “The Infinity Saga.” They start with Iron Man (2008) and end with Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019).
There are countless lists on the internet listing every Marvel project in order, to help viewers map out how to watch the stories in chronological order.
What is Phase Four of the MCU?
Phase Four of the MCU refers to the films and television series produced by Marvel Studios set to be released between 2021 through 2023.
According to various reports, it is the first phase in the franchise to include television series, starting with WandaVision, which premiered in January 2021.
The first theatrical film in this phase is Black Widow, which was released in July 2021, but had its release date changed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Phase Four Marvel TV series
The TV series in this phase of the MCU consists of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and What If…?, which is currently streaming.
While they all work as stand-alone series, one thing you should always remember about the MCU is that it is all connected.
Upcoming Phase Four shows include Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Secret Invasion, The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special, Ironheart, Armor Wars and an Untitled Wakanda series.
Phase Four Marvel movies
After Black Widow (2021), additional MCU Phase Four movies include Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (currently in theatres), the highly anticipated Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, The Marvels, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and yet another reincarnation of Fantastic Four.
So, while you can go watch Spider-Man: No Way Home after having seen 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home and nothing else in Phase 4 of the MCU, it would make a lot more sense as to why the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is now the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse (MCM), featuring characters from different superhero films that were never originally part of the MCM.
It would also help paint a clearer picture ahead of the next Dr Strange film.
The saddest part of all this is not the hours of great entertainment you have waiting for you.
It is the fact that you will have to wait until about 2022 to catch up on the MCM the legitimate way when Disney+ officially launches in South Africa.