The MCU’s Phase 4 will take a totally different approach, according to Black Widow’s post-credits scene, which also hints at how future arcs will unfold.

The Black Widow performs. For Phase 4, Marvel Studios has taken a radically different approach. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is without a doubt one of Hollywood’s greatest achievements, but the next several years will put it to the test like never before. Marvel Studios is currently generating a slew of TV projects that will tie directly into the franchise’s overarching narrative, in addition to expanding the number of blockbusters they produce each year.

It’s easy to overlook how difficult this will be for the film studio. It wasn’t until 2017 that the studio upped its output to three films per year, and it was because of this increased workload that Marvel decided to phase out its previous one-shots. “We’re just so busy,” Marvel Studios co-president Louis D’Esposito said in 2018 when explaining why the beloved one-shots were no longer being produced. “Disney wants us to do it, and we want to do it, and I keep promising them, ‘I’ll do it on the next film,’ but I keep breaking my word.”So, how will Marvel deal with their increased burden, which includes a near-constant production schedule? And how will they ensure that the films and TV shows follow a coherent narrative while allowing writers, directors, and showrunners some creative freedom?

The post-credits scene in Black Widow provides a crucial hint. The MCU’s new approach appears to be different from Phases 1-3, which were mostly the Infinity Saga, with a single overarching narrative leading up to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Marvel now looks to be splitting its projects into “sectors,” with the number of interconnections and connections carefully controlled to ensure that things don’t get too confusing. Right now, the sections that can be identified are:

After Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, this is known as the “Contessa” sector. The Contessa’s exact position is presently unknown, however, the post-credits of Black Widow confirm that she connects Black Widow, Falcon & Winter Soldier, and Hawkeye.
A Multiverse sector dominates Phase 4’s early episodes, appearing in WandaVision, Loki, and Marvel’s What If…? before making its big-screen debut in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Secret Invasion and Ms. Marvel are also likely to be in the same sector as The Marvels, the Captain Marvel sequel.

This was almost certainly Marvel’s intention with Phase 4, which was intended to kick off with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – a film that was supposed to shape the MCU’s cosmic future – thus kicking off the cosmic sector. “When we talk about Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and that plot, that’s a storey that will lead to further stories,” James Gunn said in 2017. “It’s in the DNA of the Marvel Cosmic universe that that’s the end of a trilogy, but it’s also the beginning of a whole other element.”

This is likely the only way Marvel will be able to cope with the additional workload and sheer amount of continuing stories they’ll be working on. It’s reasonable to expect only minor crossovers across the various sectors – Monica Rambeau, played by Teyonah Parris, was first introduced in WandaVision but will now appear in Captain Marvel 2. This will assist viewers to maintain the illusion that they are still in the same world. However, cross-sector links will likely be few and far between and will be carefully handled so that the studio does not get overwhelmed. Each area appears to be building up to a climax, and if Marvel plans things properly, each year may have one such climax film, ensuring that every year has a significant “event” feature. Doctor Strange 2 is apparently the climax of the Multiverse sector in 2022, assuming that idea is right, and the others are still growing up on a basis built by Black Widow. This might result in viewers seeing Phase 4 of the MCU in a totally different way than prior phases – but it would also be a long-term sustainable method, guaranteeing the MCU can continue to exist.

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