The MCU’s Multiverse Saga: What the Hell Are They Doing? Phase 5 and Beyond

Joshua Stuard takes a deep dive into the future of Marvel's Multiverse Saga.
The Multiverse Saga

Marvel Studios has been hard at work the last five years, bringing together the next phases of the MCU storyline Post-Endgame. However, they seem to have dropped the ball…or have they? The year is 2008. The threat of a Writer’s Strike is on the horizon. The dawn of a new age of superhero films is threatened by the lack of fan reaction to films like Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Things needed to change.

Then, in a sudden twist of fate, Marvel Productions released Iron Man in May of 2008. A different kind of superhero movie, Iron Man changed the game, creating a film that respected the character, rejuvenated careers, and launched what we would come to know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And with the subsequent release of The Dark Knight from DC and Warner Bros., the genre was about to take a grand leap forward.

It all came to a head in 2012, when Joss Whedon and the newly minted Marvel Studios came together to release the first ensemble superhero film, Marvel’s The Avengers. Suddenly, the world saw what the ambitions were behind studio head Kevin Feige’s mission for Marvel Studios, and we got the introduction of the world’s first true shared cinematic universe.

Then, when Avengers: Endgame premiered in April of 2019, eleven years of blockbuster films united to take on the ultimate villain in Josh Brolin’s Thanos. Culminating eleven years and over 20 different films, most featuring unique takes on Marvel’s fan-favorite heroes, The Infinity Saga had come to a close.

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Now, with The Marvels on the horizon marking essentially the halfway point of The Multiverse Saga, Marvel Studios has struggled to maintain interest in their new shows and films, leaving many fans confused and angry as superhero fatigue begins to settle in. The stories seem disjointed and some characters have seen changes that many fans aren’t too happy about.

But what if that’s Marvel’s plan all along for the MCU? Join me as we dive into The Multiverse Saga and explore what could potentially be Marvel Studios’ greatest saga yet.

The Multiverse Saga of the MCU

In case you’ve been trapped in a cavern, floating through space on the remains of Ego the Living Planet, you might not know what a “multiverse” is. Granted, the multiverse has seen a large influx of entertainment media in the last few years. A24’s epic Best Picture winner Everything, Everywhere, All At Once was the first true introduction of the multiverse to the average film consumer, though fans of the comics (and science fiction as a whole) have been made well aware of the concept of multiple realities.

The idea of the multiverse has been around since the dawn of Greek Philosophy, with Greek Atomists theorizing about the existence of multiple versions of the same world back in the sixth century BCE. The modern-day interpretation of the multiverse concept from a comic standpoint first appeared in DC Comics Flash of Two Worlds (Flash Volume 1 #123) where The Flash encounters an identical version of himself from what is dubbed Earth-2.

One of the most famous examples of a multiverse exists in Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future franchise, particularly within Back to the Future Part 2 where Doc. Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) informs Marty (played by Michael J. Fox) why the world they returned to was so different from the one they left. The visual explanation from the film is often used as the best way to describe a multiverse’s existence, and it all has to do with two simple things: Time and Decisions.

It is theorized that with every major decision you make, you create an alternate reality where you didn’t make that decision. Or, every major event that happens that could fundamentally alter the history of the world creates a universe where that major event happened differently or didn’t happen at all. An infinite number of alternate realities where you choose to stop reading this article and watch YouTube or continue to read this article. They all exist.

The Endgame Fallout

Now that you should understand the concept of the multiverse, let’s jump back into the MCU and discuss the immediate fallout of Avengers: Endgame. Within the film, five years passed from the moment Thanos won to the moment Iron Man died. In those five years, the world changed drastically, and The Avengers teamed together to save all the lives lost through the use of time travel (thank you, Paul Rudd).

The repercussions of The Avengers’ actions are still seen today through several different films and shows that spawned in the wake of Endgame’s finale. With Spider-Man fundamentally altering the world to forget his existence (to save the world from the Spider-Verse) to the God of Mischief running across timelines chasing after He Who Remains, the MCU isn’t short of fallout.

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The stories that are being told now have seemingly become disjointed through the overabundance of shows and films. Yet, they haven’t. Multiple storylines are co-existing within the MCU at this point in time. For the sake of argument, allow me to put names to these storylines that may help out in the long run.

The Magic Arc

First, you have the Magic storyline, which follows Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange, Vision, and Spider-Man. The Magic storyline is what launches the Multiverse Saga with the start of WandaVision and continues into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The storyline involved the Scarlet Witch attempting to recover from her trauma by using her powers to create a new reality where she and the recently deceased Vision have a wonderful and loving family. However, events unfolded which led to Doctor Strange becoming involved, introducing the true limits of the multiverse with cameos from several amazing actors and actresses returning to roles they’d never thought they’d ever be able to play. This includes Patrick Stewart, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, and Jamie Foxx, among others returning to the big screen.

While the three main components of what I call the Magic Arc are WandaVision, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the films also set up pieces of other storylines. Yet, as of now, the Magic Arc has seen its end.

The Next Generation Arc

Alright, so this arc has largely three separate teams currently being built towards, with the intention being introducing new characters to the franchise while working to bring together other established characters into a new era.

Let’s start with the New Avengers story. Characters like Shang-Chi, Captain America (now Sam Wilson), Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, Kate Bishop, America Chavez, and Riri Williams/Ironheart have been introduced as a potential future generation of heroes.

Shang-Chi ends up mixed up with Wong, setting up the origins of the Ten Rings of the Mandarin, linking him to Doctor Strange. Sam Wilson has taken up the mantle of Captain America. Kamala Khan is about to take flight into the cosmic realm with Captain Marvel and WandaVision‘s Photon (Monica Rambeau).

Jennifer Walters and Daredevil broke the 4th Wall in…okay, maybe She-Hulk exists within the MCU but even I will admit, not the most relevant. Regardless, the New Avengers team is off to a solid start as former Avengers train the next generation.

Next, we have the Midnight Sons. Following the events of The Eternals, Walter Whitman (Kit Harrington) questions if he wants to pick up The Ebony Blade, the sword of Marvel hero Black Knight, while the crisp voice of Blade (Mahershala Ali) questions if he’s ready to take up that mantle. That tease hasn’t been clearly followed up upon just yet, though many have theorized what will come.

With Blade and Black Knight already part of the MCU, there are already four other potential members out in the MCU just waiting to join the team. These include Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac), Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), Werewolf By Night (Gael Garcia Bernal), and Man-Thing. The team is filled out for the most part, but all they really may need is a leader to bring them together to battle monstrous foes (Doctor Strange) and a certain, flaming-headed skeleton with a penchant for leather that has been mysteriously absent in recent years…

And, finally, we come to the third major team: The Thunderbolts. With the team-up film already established to be the closing chapter of Phase 5, the buildup towards it has certainly taken its leaps forward through the likes of Yelena Belova/Black Widow (Florence Pugh) and James Buchanan Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) will come together with some of Marvel Studios’ most underutilized villains, including Ghost (Ant-Man and the Wasp), U.S. Agent (Falcon and the Winter Soldier), Red Guardian and Taskmaster (Black Widow), with fans theorizing the appearance of Red Hulk, Abomination, and Helmut Zemo.

With Harrison Ford slated to make an appearance in The Thunderbolts following his appearance in Sam Wilson’s first outing as Cap in Captain America: Brave New World (which itself seems to be the following up on the events of Eternals and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), along with the returning cast, this storyline seems to be coming to quite the killer ending next Fall.

The Kang Dynasty

Which brings us to the more unusual of the arcs. Marvel Studios is working to bring a new Thanos-level threat to the Multiverse Saga in the likes of Kang The Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors in several variants of the character from many different universes. A variant of Kang the Conqueror appeared in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania to…mixed reactions. Though through his death, the Council of Kang looks to continue their conquest of the multiverse.

This is heavily implied to be the result of actions taken by the variant of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the Loki TV Series, which has been consistently one of Marvel Studios’ more well-received projects in recent years. After the death of He Who Remains (another Kang Variant), the multiverse has split open, creating many branching timelines from which new universes are formed.

Though with the death of He Who Remains unleashing the Council of Kang upon the multiverse, it remains to be seen just exactly how Marvel Studios aims to get from now to 2026’s Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. Several upcoming productions are slated to be involved with this current arc, such as the long-awaited Deadpool 3 (which may involve the TVA from Loki) and Fantastic Four, which have a direct familial tie to Kang himself.

Secret Wars

With every storyline currently telling the different ways that the MCU continues to take shape, we also know that the MCU will eventually end the Multiverse Saga with Avengers: Secret Wars in 2027. If theories are to be believed, Secret Wars will see heroes and villains from all universes coming together to fight against the Beyonder, a nigh-omnipotent being who has summoned the Avengers and other super teams from across the multiverse to battle in a fight to the death of their respective universes.

Currently, theories are abound that Kang himself will take on the role of the Beyonder, thus providing the different universes with a final boss that could wipe out every universe, thus succeeding in being a villain greater than Thanos.

Critical Failure?

A lot of fans nowadays are admittedly struggling to continue to support the MCU based on the absolute deluge of shows and films that have been released over the last few years. The quantity of projects has outgrown their quality, with the stories and special effects budgets taking heavy hits from critical and fan reviews.

Though, personally, I enjoy where the MCU is going. Sure, the fan service is creating a lot of questionable decisions, but the fact remains that the MCU has plenty more stories to tell and plenty of universes to unite and destroy across the vast Multiverse.

If you want to keep up with the MCU as it continues to pave a path to the future, stick with the Illuminerdi by following us on X (formerly Twitter) for all your movies, TV, comics, gaming, and internet news!

KEEP READING: New Rumor Reveals the True Villain of The Multiverse Saga (Spoilers)