How Phase 4 Solves One of the Oldest MCU Problems

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WARNING: This contains spoilers for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”.

The MCU has an old problem, which is that great actresses are limited only to the role of a love interest, but Phase 4 finally solves it with the help of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Thor: Love and Thunder”. With “Avengers 5” still not on the horizon, the MCU has once again focused on solo films where you can spend time developing characters without worrying about creating a serious, urgent threat. Unlike the Avengers films, solo films like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder often feature a large number of minor characters centered around the main character, and not all of them end up getting the same attention from the script.

MCU solo films, especially earlier ones, have some similarities in terms of structure. For example, Iron Man and Doctor Strange, despite the fact that they were created eight years apart, tell a rather similar origin story about imperfect people who found redemption for themselves by becoming superheroes. Another constant theme in most MCU solo films, such as “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” is the love interest, which is somehow connected to the origin of the heroes and usually acts as their moral compass. In itself, this is far from a problem, since love stories are just as important to comics as fighting villains, but the MCU often wastes a lot of talent by limiting characters to just the role of a love interest.

This was the case with Jane Natalie Portman in the films “Thor” and “Thor: The Kingdom of Darkness”, Peggy Carter Hayley Atwell in the first film “Captain America” and in other films, as well as with Christine Palmer Rachel McAdams in “Doctor Strange”. Their relationship with the characters was obviously an important part of every story, but the actresses were not allowed to do anything else — this will be fixed by Phase 4. Thanks to the multiverse, Atwell returned to the role of Captain Carter in both “What If…?” films. Both Doctor Strange 2 and McAdams played a version of Palmer that was much more connected to the action and plot, as she worked at the Baxter Foundation and with the Illuminati. In addition, “Thor: Love and Thunder” will see the return of Natalie Portman to the MCU now not as Thor’s love interest and backup support, but as the Mighty Thor, the new owner of Mjolnir in the MCU.

The Marvel universe in the comics offered plenty of options for where the MCU could take character characters like Peggy Carter and Jane Foster, but it took the franchise until Phase 4 to finally use that. Storylines such as Captain Carter and the Mighty Thor not only add new characters and knowledge to the MCU, but also make sure that great actresses are still interested in reprising their roles. Natalie Portman, for example, left the MCU after “Thor: Dark Work”, but decided to return to “Thor: Love and Thunder”. Similarly, it was initially reported that Rachel McAdams was not going to return in Doctor Strange 2, but in the end the actress starred in the film as Kristin Palmer from both the MCU chronology “Earth-616” and “Earth-838”.

In the Marvel cinematic universe, great actresses have been part of the franchise from the very beginning, but some of them have just now been given more than just playing a love interest. Supporting characters and relationships are important to any single superhero story, but the Marvel universe is big enough for each of these characters to be the center of attention. Fortunately, given that “Doctor Strange 2” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” are in the lead, it seems that this will be the case in the fourth phase, and in the future.