With the release of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is now finished after beginning in the summer of 2021 with “Black Widow.” The seven films in the phase have been a rollercoaster of emotions focusing on pain, loss and grief after the tragic five-year blip from “Avengers: Endgame.” Here is a ranking of all seven feature films.
The last thing you would want a blockbuster superhero movie to be is boring, and yet being boring is the only thing “Eternals” is good at. With a bloated and uninspired story, mediocre performances and cookie-cutter characters, “Eternals” makes for one of the least enjoyable viewing experiences in the entire MCU. The one highlight in the entire film comes from a Harry Styles cameo during one of the post-credits scenes, and that should reflect how uninteresting the film was as a whole.
6. “Thor: Love and Thunder”
As one of the most anticipated Phase Four films, many were eager to see how “Thor: Love and Thunder” would build off of “Thor: Ragnarok,” especially with the reintroduction of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. The end result, however, did not meet these lofty aspirations. Instead, what viewers got was a rushed mess that squanders its intriguing story to stuff in as much information as possible in two hours. While the performances are as charming as ever, the elements that makeup “Thor: Love and Thunder” never mix into a satisfying whole.
5. “Black Widow”
Scarlett Johansson finally got the spotlight in the first film in the phase, “Black Widow.” The movie is carried by the amazing supporting cast of Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz. Other highlights include the dark opening sequence and the overarching elements of human trafficking. Unfortunately, laughably bad CGI, an extremely generic villain and a disappointing third act make “Black Widow” a near disservice to the titular character.
4. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”
One of the biggest changes to the MCU in Phase Four was the introduction of Disney+ limited shows to the Marvel canon. While this new influx of content gave some under-looked characters their day in the spotlight, in the case of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” it left the film with too much to tell. The movie fails to balance the Wanda plot and the Doctor Strange plot, leaving the film with an undercooked and incredibly muddled storyline. While the plot leaves much to be desired, the performances of Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen shine — and Sam Raimi doesn’t fail to add his brand of unique direction to the film.
3. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was a pleasant surprise, introducing a new hero played by Simu Liu who is equal parts charming and badass. The fatherhood storyline helped make Xu Wenwu one of the best MCU villains. The best part of the film, however, is the crazy action sequences that are unforgettable. The final act brings everything together in a satisfying battle with exciting teases of more from these characters.
2. “Spider-Man: No Way Home”
Major event movies have been the unfortunate expectation after the release of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” with fans expecting big cameos and moments. While most Phase Four movies tried avoiding this, the conclusion of Jon Watts’ Spider-Man trilogy deserves to be the exception with how fantastic it was. Fan service helped the plot, emotional moments landed and Tom Holland finally earned the respect of most fans. It is a Spider-Man story full of heart, grit and the clever problem-solving personality we expect from Spider-Man.
1. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
The loss of Chadwick Boseman left a hole in the MCU that felt like it could never be filled, and yet “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” turns tragedy into a cinematic triumph. Loss and grief ring as prominent themes in the film, as the characters learn how to move forward. One of the most emotionally-charged films in the entire MCU, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” pulls off the impossible task of starting a new chapter and saying goodbye in the most elegant way possible. A film no MCU fan should miss.