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The MCU started with two films in the same year -- Iron Man and then (although it's often left out of the fun) The Incredible Hulk in 2008. There were no MCU movies in 2009, but Marvel Studios came back with Iron Man 2 in 2010. Then Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger both came out in 2011 before the MCU went back to one film a year with Marvel's The Avengers in 2012.
Phase 2 started the two-film-a-year trend. Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World came out in 2013. Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy were released in 2014. Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man came out in 2015.
We just finished up Phase 3, which started with the two-film trend then upped the game to three MCU movies a year -- beginning with the arrival of Marvel Studios' joint Spider-Man movies with Sony. Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange kicked things off in 2016. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok all came out in 2017. Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp came out in 2018. Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home were released this year in 2019.
And now we're up to Phase 4, which will actually start with just two MCU movies in 2020. James Gunn had confirmed in January 2018 that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was planned for 2020. But then he was fired and later rehired after accepting a new gig for DC's The Suicide Squad, so Guardians got pushed back.
So 2020 has Black Widow in May and The Eternals in November. And that's it. Then 2021 gives us a record four movies in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in February, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in May, Spider-Man 3 in July, and Thor: Love and Thunder back in Thor's sweet spot of November. Whew! A lot of long-named MCU movies are coming in 2021.
While it sounds like a lot, Marvel has shown it can dominate in every season, with back-to-back movies supporting each other instead of competing against each other. Black Panther and Captain Marvel proved February and March can indeed be superhero months. And it's probable that if the MCU had a fourth movie to come out this November 2019, it would've also crushed -- even against Frozen II. I'm down with the idea of sticking with that winter, spring, summer, fall schedule.
However, now that Avengers: Endgame is over, we have to see how fans react to the new crew. We lost huge favorites in Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America, among others. Fans loved that team, and there are a lot of new players on the board. What if fans don't embrace the new movies like the past three phases of the MCU? I can see Marvel worrying about 2020 being a sharp drop from 2019 -- which would be inevitable even if Guardians 3 had stayed on the board -- and wondering if Marvel Fatigue will become an issue in 2021. (James Cameron would love that.)
Of course, some big names are ahead for MCU Phase 5 -- including sequels for Black Panther and Captain Marvel, Guardians 3, Blade, and the expected arrival of Fox's Marvel heroes in the X-Men and Fantastic Four.
It's a good time for superheroes, but more isn't always merrier (just ask Dark Phoenix) so if the quality doesn't stay high, that could take everyone down. The MCU's movies will be on top of Sony's Marvel Universe with Venom and Tom Holland's Peter Parker after his one other Marvel Studios movie aside from Spider-Man 3. And DC will continue to do its own thing; Joker looks like it's going to make a lot of money (while also making a lot of waves) so I won't be surprised to see more DC movies away from the DCEU banner. But more DCEU movies may also be coming, since Aquaman certainly did well.
Plus, Marvel has more MCU stories headed to Disney+ starting this November. There's A LOT coming, and fatigue may be a genuine concern.
Still -- from here, for now -- I'm optimistic. What do you think about four Marvel movies a year? Time to share your thoughts in the poll below.