Sometimes in life, the stars do not align and not everything can work out the way as one intends. Maybe it is to teach us that hope sometimes is just out of our reach.

Disney threw all their gargantuan features out the window last year into theaters, making over thirteen billion dollars and garnering significant attention and praise. Avengers: Endgame became the highest-grossing feature of all time, and was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Oscars. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker brought over a billion dollars, was a disappointment as a conclusion to a 40-year franchise, and still was nominated for three Oscars. Toy Story 4 made over a billion dollars and won Best Animated Feature. The Lion King and Aladdin remakes, Frozen 2, and Captain Marvel all were part of the top-ten highest-grossing films of 2019, meaning Disney was king and it wasn’t even close.

They have been making a huge bank off the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superhero films, raking in almost 23 billion dollars from 23 films. After three phases of interconnected storylines, solo bouts, and momentous team-ups, the MCU is going in a slightly different direction in Phase 4 and beyond. The bar has been placed ridiculously high, and Disney is out to prove themselves. Black Widow, The Eternals, Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange 2, Thor 4 and more titles will be coming from them within the next three years. Even Disney+ is releasing several TV shows that are connected to the MCU universe. With all that being said, there is now an influx of bad news for this phase and it is becoming a painful mess for Disney and their studios.

Photo Courtesy of Screen Rant and Disney/Marvel Studios

Ignoring the current external circumstances, it all started back when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was set to begin the stage of Phase Four in 2020. James Gunn had worked alongside the Russo Brothers in the two biggest Avengers films and was ready to get fans ready for the next chapter of his series. Unfortunately, old controversial tweets that Gunn made years ago were spread online, and Disney immediately fired him as the director and cut ties. A huge backlash ensued over this decision as actors and directors came to Gunn’s defense, and production for the film was halted indefinitely.

Disney, fortunately, reversed their decision in March 2019 to bring him back, but Gunn already moved over to Warner Brothers and started working on the rebooted Suicide Squad. Once he’s finished, he will come back and work on the respective film, but its release date is unknown and it already started Phase 4 on a bad agenda.

Second, Marvel Studios almost lost Spider-Man. After the success of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Disney and Sony (the owner of the Spider-Man franchise) couldn’t reach an agreement and parted ways. Apparently, Disney wanted more profit coming their way since they were heavily involved in the creative process and production team. Weeks later, they settled another agreement to allow Spidey to stay on for one more solo outing and a team-up film in the realm of Marvel Studios. It was an awful taste to deal with as both sides wanted profit and more creativity, but the reality is Sony is the owner of Spider-Man and Co. If another disagreement goes down, Sony will take him back to their playground and Disney’s proposals will vanish.

Lastly, Doctor Strange 2 (or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) got caught in a terrible predicament when the director, Scott Derrickson, stepped down as director due to creative issues within Marvel Studios. He has a background of horror to his name and wanted to incorporate it in the sequel. Disney objected and did not want to take the risk.  It’s an oddity as Disney incorporating different genres and themes in the past superhero films has worked exponentially for them such as Black Panther (with its progression in dealing with black culture and beliefs) or Captain America: Winter Soldier (in dealing with a political thriller tone). Sam Raimi, director of the 2002-07 Spider-Man trilogy, was open to joining but hasn’t been confirmed (as of this writing).

Add in the production shifts in the Disney+ shows releasing and hapless conditions delaying the whole slate of films, and it has become a conundrum for Marvel Studios. Their momentum has considerably slowed down after a hot streak of eleven solid (and very profitable) films between 2016-19. Their whole proposed slate for Phase 4 has been completely altered and will need some adjustments to get back up on schedule.

Looking at it from a different perspective, we must acknowledge that this is the highest-grossing franchise of all time. It has some of the most well-known superhero films of all time. People will continue to satiate their tastes by watching these features at home. And pushing back the film’s release dates may be beneficial in hindsight. It allows them more time to look over production and audience initial reception and re-editing and finalization of the product can be polished. Sure, there is a loss of profit for some time but with the right minds and creativity, they can rebound in an energizing fashion.

Disney, for the time being, will have to learn and refine its schedule to adjust to the external circumstances. MCU’s Phase 4 will suffer for the time being, but hopefully, the end result will be extraordinary.

“A problem is only a problem when viewed as a problem. All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end.[1]

[1] Quote from Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams And Reaching Your Destiny

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