Marvel Studios always had a tough task with Phase 4 following up on Avengers: Endgame and the Infinity Saga. Unfortunately, that job only got harder when the COVID-19 pandemic rolled around to bring a halt to the production of various projects and subsequent delays to the entire phase.
But that hasn't been the end of the troubles, as behind-the-scenes difficulties have continued to plague the franchise - in part caused by the massive increase in content output overwhelming VFX houses. As a whole, the fan response to Phase 4 simply hasn't been as unanimously positive as the Infinity Saga of the past.
According to rumors, Marvel Studios has internally had a similar reaction to Phase 4 and has even begun taking steps to "assure quality control" and "[re-evaluate] the future releases" in Phase 5 and beyond. Following this news, other reports have indicated that the MCU's current release slate will undergo numerous shifts.
Which Phase 5 Movies & Shows Have Been Delayed?
Marvel Studios and various reports have recently revealed delays to a number of Phase 5 projects, mainly on Disney+.
After mumblings of concerns surrounding the production of Hawkeye spin-off Echo, Alaqua Cox's Disney+ project has reportedly vacated its Summer 2023 window and moved to an early 2024 release. This will place the series right before Daredevil: Born Again - which it appears Echo will directly connect to.
What If...? Season 2
What If...? Season 2 was originally listed for a late 2022 premiere before being officially moved to early 2023, and yet the show has been completely absent from all of Disney+ and Marvel Studios' 2023 marketing. The show has now seemingly been bumped again, this time to 2024.
Agatha: Coven of Chaos
The delays for Agatha: Coven of Chaos may appear strange as production just recently began, but the premiere has reportedly been moved until after Daredevil: Born Again. With the Man Without Fear's solo series set to occupy a large portion of next year with its 18-episode run, a leap from before to after it automatically makes for a sizeable delay.
Marvel Studios officially announced the delay to Mahershala Ali's Blade in October 2022, shifting from November 2023 to October 2024. This news came as no surprise after the original director's departure spurred production delays and a script rewrite following the appointment of the replacement director.
At the same time, Deadpool 3 and Fantastic Four were also delayed from their original 2024 release dates, although neither was placed to full under Phase 5. The Ryan Reynolds-led threequel shifted from September to November 2024, while Marvel's First Family reboot jumped from November 2024 to February 2025.
Having previously been set to release on July 28, Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels recently shifted to November 10. The reasons behind the move are unclear, although the decision may be to shorten the gap between theatrical releases. Following Blade's delay, Marvel Studios was left with a sizable gap between July's The Marvels and May 2024's Captain America: New World Order.
Ironheart was originally set to hit Disney+ in Fall 2023, one year after Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, to which it will serve as a "direct sequel." This release seemed like a lock, although The Hollywood Reporter has since shared that it could see a push to early 2024. However, it's important to note that this delay is not yet certain at this time.
4 Reasons Why Phase 5 Delays Could Save the MCU
1. Quality Over Quantity
While many fans feel the MCU ran just as strong in Phase 4 as it did in the Infinity Saga, a massive chunk of the fanbase has voiced a decline in interest. Among the chief areas for criticism have included the writing, humor, visual effects, and a lack of connection to the newest heroes as many of the MCU veterans are phased out.
Marvel Studios is apparently taking steps to "assure quality control" going into Phases 5 & 6 of the MCU. So, by all accounts, that seems to indicate either that the declining interest from a sect of the fandom is being felt on the financial side, or perhaps the studio itself has simply grown aware of a quality dip.
These shifts will ensure more time can be placed dedicated to these delayed projects and those that now have more breathing room due to their neighboring releases being pushed back. The extra months can only be beneficial from a writing, production, and visual effects standpoint and ought to offer a better result.
2.) More Room to Breathe
Since the Infinity Saga ended, the MCU has jumped from three movies spread around the year to at least six projects across the big screen and Disney+. This will undoubtedly have forced Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige to become less involved in certain aspects of production lately.
As many consider the mega-producer to be the chief ingredient in the MCU's success, this step back may be somewhat tied to the dip in quality. If these delays result in fewer projects ultimately releasing annually, perhaps Feige can increase his involvement and help maintain that process of quality control.
With both Marvel and Star Wars having such a high Disney+ content output, the overlap between Disney's biggest franchises has grown immensely lately. When the MCU's Ms. Marvel and Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi released weekly episodes on the same day, viewership on the former was undeniably stunted.
Having more time to breathe between releases ought to help increase excitement, viewership, and discourse on both sides' latest premieres.
3.) Laying Path to Avengers 5
Marvel Studios spent ten years laying the groundwork for Avengers: Infinity War, but that process has been massively accelerated for The Kang Dynasty with that decade dropping to just four years, albeit with more releases in that period. When that climax comes, this shorter build-up may reduce the impact that is felt.
Over the Infinity Saga, MCU fans got to know Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man across seven appearances before Infinity War, while even the lowest of the original Avengers, Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, received three. Looking at Phase 4's apparent new leads, most will be lucky to see the screen twice before 2025's Avengers 5.
Beyond just spending more time with these new heroes, as will be needed to get fans invested in them once the battle against Kang places them in real danger, this will also allow for more stories that involve the Conqueror and set the stage for his arrival, just like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Loki have done.
4.) Improving VFX Work
Many of Marvel Studios' latest releases have been panned for the quality of the CGI and VFX. This appears to be down to the massive increase in the MCU's content output, so much so that the studio's Phase 5 & 6 project announcements reportedly "depressed" some of these VFX staff.
The studio has also been widely criticized by VFX staff of past and present for being "horrible" to work for, noting the stress, burnout, extreme hours, and tightened budgets. So, the news of these delays will undoubtedly be joyous at the VFX houses, now having less pressure and more time to deliver a high-quality result.
Is Marvel Extending the Multiverse Saga?
Marvel Studios has been making a host of delays to projects that were expected to be right around the corner, now placing them months or years down the line. While the further-out releases may appear safe for now, these delays will likely have a knock-on effect, sending the 2024 and 2025 releases even further away.
This could result in The Kang Dynasty vacating its current May 2025 release date and pushing it into 2026, thereby also pushing Secret Wars back. In doing so, Marvel Studios would effectively be extending the Multiverse Saga, allowing more time to breathe, more development time, and a stronger path to Avengers 5.
There were rumors recently that Marvel Studios was having "very, very early talks" about splitting Secret Wars into two parts and maybe even extending the current saga into Phase 7, which was previously expected to begin the next saga.
The thought of waiting even more time for Avengers 5 and seeing Earth's Mightiest Heroes face off with Kang may sound agonizing for some. But delays and slate adjustments may be necessary to ensure the Multiverse Saga's climax can reach the insanely high bar set by Thanos and the Infinity Saga.
Even putting aside the overall direction of the saga, many of Phase 4's projects - and just recently Phase 5's Ant-Man 3 - have been proven divisive. Marvel Studios needs to make urgent changes to its workflow to reclaim its reputation for consistent quality at the top of the blockbuster food chain.
This will prove especially true in the coming years, seemingly starting in 2025, once James Gunn's DCU gets started to bring some very real competition in the superhero cinematic universe game. After all, Marvel and DC's releases may soon find themselves battling for fans' attention and, importantly, dollars.
Depending on when Secret Invasion ultimately arrives on Disney+, Marvel Studios' next release is currently scheduled to come with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which hits theaters on May 5.