In a world as connected as the MCU, many seek to keep up with everything Marvel Studios has to offer in order to understand the full picture. That used to be an easy task in the Infinity Saga, one which only involved seeing two to three movies a year, but now, keeping up with Phase 4 involves at least three movies and three Disney+ series annually.
As the MCU continues to expand more rapidly than ever, project runtimes have become a topic of great controversy among fans. Many continue to share their belief that the latest movies aren't long enough, those series don't have enough episodes, and those episodes have too little material.
The breaks between Marvel content are now constantly shrinking - I Am Groot will premiere just 28 days after the Ms. Marvel finale. But with that finale, the MCU crossed a major milestone for Phase 4, one that will undoubtedly prove divisive for some.
The MCU Crosses a Major Milestone
The MCU broke a major milestone with the release of the Ms. Marvel Season 1 finale as the total runtime of Phase 4 exceeded that of Marvel Studios' Infinity Saga. Phases 1, 2, and 3 of the MCU, better known as The Infinity Saga, run for a total of 49 hours and 56 minutes. Following the latest Disney+ release, Phase 4 now comes to a total of 50 hours and 21 minutes, including both movies and series.
The full list of Infinity Saga runtimes can be seen below:
- Iron Man - 2 hours, 6 minutes
- The Incredible Hulk - 1 hour, 52 minutes
- Iron Man 2 - 2 hours, 4 minutes
- Thor - 1 hour, 55 minutes
- Captain America: The First Avenger - 2 hours, 4 minutes
- The Avengers - 2 hours, 23 minutes
- Iron Man 3 - 2 hours, 10 minutes
- Thor: The Dark World - 1 hour, 52 minutes
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 2 hours, 16 minutes
- Guardians of the Galaxy - 2 hours, 1 minute
- Avengers: Age of Ultron - 2 hours, 21 minutes
- Ant-Man - 1 hour, 57 minutes
- Captain America: Civil War - 2 hours, 27 minutes
- Doctor Strange - 1 hour, 55 minutes
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 2 hours, 16 minutes
- Spider-Man: Homecoming - 2 hours, 13 minutes
- Thor: Ragnarok - 2 hours, 10 minutes
- Black Panther - 2 hours, 14 minutes
- Avengers: Infinity War - 2 hours, 29 minutes
- Ant-Man & the Wasp - 1 hour, 58 minutes
- Captain Marvel - 2 hours, 3 minutes
- Avengers: Endgame - 3 hours, 1 minute
- Spider-Man: Far From Home - 2 hours, 9 minutes
The full list of Phase 4 runtimes are listed below:
- WandaVision - 6 hours, 2 minutes
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - 5 hours, 30 minutes
- Black Widow - 2 hours, 14 minutes
- Loki - 5 hours, 2 minutes
- What If...? - 5 hours, 23 minutes
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - 2 hours, 12 minutes
- Eternals - 2 hours, 36 minutes
- Hawkeye - 4 hours, 57 minutes
- Spider-Man: No Way Home - 2 hours, 28 minutes
- Moon Knight - 5 hours, 3 minutes
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - 2 hours, 6 minutes
- Thor: Love and Thunder - 1 hour, 59 minutes
- Ms. Marvel - 4 hours, 49 minutes
Is the MCU Too Hard to Keep Up With?
In order for an MCU fan to truly stay in the loop of the overarching story, it's almost essential to watch everything, especially given the uncertainty of what projects will connect to others or be integral to the bigger picture. Who would have guessed a Loki Disney+ series would be the place Marvel Studios chooses to set up the next big event involving the Multiverse?
Granted, that's not to say everything does play into that larger story, but the difficulty lies in the fact that anything could play into the larger story. Someone who missed out on the sitcom antics of WandaVision on Disney+ would probably be quite confused if they head to theaters for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to discover a villainous Wanda Maximoff out of the blue.
There's certainly a strong argument to be made that the MCU is becoming too hard to keep up with. Marvel Studios has just pumped out the same amount of content in the last year and a half that it previously took over a decade to produce. Obviously, the primary reason for that comes down to the Disney+ series.
Each of these episodic adventures has a runtime equivalent to two or three movies, and there lies the difficulty. Many casual MCU enthusiasts will not have the time or desire to keep up with a series every week all year round, especially since not all of these projects are designed for the same demographic.
If one finds themselves not enjoying a movie in theaters, they won't have much to sit through to be caught up on the latest events. But in the case of a Disney+ series, if a viewer doesn't enjoy the premiere episode, they still have at least five more episodes of viewing required to stay caught up.
This becomes an increasing problem as these Disney+ series continue to have such a drastic influence on big screen blockbusters like Multiverse of Madness, The Marvels, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Alas, this won't be changing anytime soon. In fact, the big and small will probably only become more connected down the line.
Either way, Marvel Studios shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, and with no end in sight for Phase 4, the massive runtime of the MCU's latest chapter will only continue to grow.