10 best casting options for the fourth phase of the MCU

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The highly anticipated Thor: Love and Thunder arrives July, 8 and early reviews have already been well-received with special attention being given to legendary actor Christian Bale’s portrayal of the main antagonist, Gorr the God Butcher. The MCU in its first three phases had fantastic casting choices to bring some of pop culture’s most famous comic book characters to life.

With Phase 4 being the current production line for the MCU, it’s time to take a look back and see what were the best decisions, casting-wise, for new characters to enter the beloved franchise.

Wyatt Russell as John Walker/U.S. Agent

A character that everyone loves to hate, Wyatt Russell’s portrayal of the U.S. Government-sponsored “Captain America” is a fine balance between sympathetic and abhorrent. His actions during the course of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series could be described as vain while simultaneously arrogantly believing what is “right.”

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The perfect antithesis for Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers if the government and military originally had their way and went with their “ideal” candidate who they could control. Wyatt’s performance manages to convey this with flying colors that at the end of the day most audiences find his character detestable yet they can’t help but agree that Mr. Russell plays it brilliantly making him more three-dimensional to a character that could’ve easily been one-note.

Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop

Enter Hawkeye’s number one fan, Kate Bishop, a naive and adventurous college student who has a knack for archery herself. Ever since being a witness to Loki’s invasion of NYC, a young Kate was able to see firsthand from her family’s demolished brownstone a guy with a bow taking out aliens left and right with precision and finesse that made quite the impression in the star-addled eyes of Kate Bishop.

Hailee Steinfeld is no stranger to the superhero realm in her career, having lent her voice in the Spider-Verse, but here she makes her live-action debut with favorable results. She manages to bring out the impressionable and naivety in her interactions with Jeremy Renner’s gruff Clint Barton. It’s a welcome balance that Hailee nails and is able to compile an arc that showcases her growth from amateur to a hero embroiled with dangerous responsibilities to take on.

Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova

Ranging from period dramas to indie horror hits, Florence Pugh has made quite the career lately. So it was only a matter of time before she was under Marvel/Disney’s radar. Her first appearance as Yelena was one of the standouts in Black Widow, yet it wasn’t until her appearance in Hawkeye that she was truly able to explore the depths of Yelena’s tragic character.

“You got to spend so much time with her,” laments Yelena in one of the most heartbreaking confrontations ever portrayed in the MCU and Florence manages to capture every emotion to great effect. While still in the early stages of her career, she has certainly made a name for herself and her performance as Yelena is just one more to add to an ever-growing resume.

Oscar Issac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant/Jake Lockley

In Disney’s latest series, Moon Knight, Oscar Issac has to pull off a “Peter Sellers” and not just play one but THREE different characters. It is no easy feat to portray someone with dissociative disorder, but Issac is able to handle it swimmingly by going back and forth between the personalities with great ease.

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Switching between accents for each personality and even later on having to traverse a mindscape with both Marc Spector and Steven Grant sharing the same frame. It’s a demanding performance and Oscar makes it look effortless with the equal bumbling charm of Steven and balancing it against the calm, cold and aloof Marc.

Simu Liu as Xu Shang-Chi/Shaun

One of the few films in Phase 4 that isn’t a sequel or a spin-off with an already introduced character, Shang-Chi was new ground and the MCU made their bets by casting Chinese-Canadian actor, Simu Liu of Kim’s Convenience fame in the eponymous role.

His chemistry with Awkwafina and the legendary Tony Leung is refreshing but it’s the emotional and physical gymnastics he has to hurdle throughout that makes his performance all the more entertaining making it one where audiences can’t see anyone else but him.

Carl Lumbly as Isaiah Bradley

“What does it take to be the next Captain America?” seemed to be the main running theme of Disney +’s Falcon and The Winter Soldier but ultimately it becomes more about reckoning with the past. During Sam Wilson’s trials on becoming the next star-spangled Avenger, Bucky informs him that there were other experiments conducted by the U.S. government to recreate the super-soldier serum.

Enter Isaiah Bradley, one of the first subjects for the renewed super-soldier program. While not seen in his hey-days of the program’s “success,” audiences see the toll it took instead and Carl Lumbly of JLA fame portrays it perfectly. Bitter and disillusioned from his experiences that were reminiscent of the Tuskeegee experiments have left Isaiah as a broken man. While his appearances were brief, they made a significant impact on Sam going forward when taking up the shield. Carl makes every minute count from his conversations with Sam to his tearful silence at the Smithsonian.

Richard E. Grant as Classic Loki

While only appearing in one episode (and a post-credits scene), Richard E. Grant chews up every scene he is on display in as one of the many Loki “variants.” Given the moniker of “Classic” Loki, Grant’s costume appears to have been ripped out from the comic pages of the silver age. Albeit dressed campily, Grant portrays his take on the famed Marvel villain as anything but.

His monologue detailing the events after his universe faced off the Mad Titan is treated so solemnly that audiences forget that he has a headpiece with horns the size of a highland cattle’s. For the short amount of time, Grant’s performance was an amazing example of what could have been if the MCU was produced a decade earlier or so.

Johnathan Majors as He Who Remains

So far audiences have only seen the one variant of Marvel’s infamous time-traveler, Johnathan Majors’ brief appearance as one of the countless iterations of Kang the Conqueror was a unique and eccentric take on the otherwise stoic and domineering villain from the comics.

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While it’s yet to be seen how the variant version will be portrayed in the new Ant-Man film, from what viewers have witnessed so far was an unhinged, sociopathic and melancholic version known simply as “He Who Remains.” Majors is able to sell it all in the short window he is featured, laying out all his motivations and being apathetic to Sylvie’s plight that it makes audiences excited to see how he’ll take on the “Conqueror” variant that is yet to come.

Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher

The early reviews for Taiki Waititi’s Love and Thunder are in and one of the main standouts to no one’s surprise is Christian Bale’s portrayal of main antagonist Gorr the God Butcher. Although not physically imposing, Christian Bale manages to embody all the attributes to make him one of the most terrifying villains to ever appear in the MCU.

The incredible Christian Bale is one of the few actors to have maintained his career since childhood and his performance as the God-hating foe is but another to add. Bale has seemed to relish more in his portrayals of characters that undergo a morally grey conflict and the sympathetic Gorr is a perfect example of that. It’s a welcome casting choice and another villain to add to the MCU’s short list of intriguing/competent villains to boot as well.

Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel

Very quickly, Ms. Marvel has become one of the biggest hits to come out of Phase 4. And it is thanks in part to the casting of Iman Vellani in her debut as the titular character. As the new kid on the block, Iman’s performance fits perfectly for the ambitious yet out-of-her-element Kamala when she discovers her ancestor’s mysterious bangle.

Iman brings forth the semblance of one who wishes to do the right thing despite the trials and tribulations that she and her community face on a daily basis. It’s a welcome addition that brings back memories of how a friendly neighborhood superhero would operate. Ms. Marvel is the first of its kind to give more merit to that type of hero and Iman portrays it marvelously.