Remember the days when we could just sail from one Marvel Studios release to the next, as care-free as a Kree on a killing spree, without an overriding, constantly gnawing concern that it might be bad? Sure, the Infinity Saga served up the occasional stinker, like Thor: The Dark World, but these were generally few and far between. Unfortunately, that’s not so in the Multiverse Saga, with numerous entries in the franchise since 2019 falling among the worst-rated MCU films on Rotten Tomatoes.
But you know what’s really terrifying? We’re only about halfway through Phase Five, and then there’s all of Phase Six still to go. Well, OK, I suppose that could also be encouraging, as it gives Marvel time to course-correct and turn this saga into another overall winner, but the headline you’ve just read makes it clear this is a kind of “glass half empty” kind of listicle. On the flip side, the many movies still to come from the Multiverse Saga have us hyped, but the stakes are also higher than ever for them to succeed.
As of the time of writing, Marvel Studios has nine officially confirmed movie productions in various stages of development, arriving across the fall of 2023 to spring 2027. I wish I could say I was 100% confident each and every one of them will be paragons of superhero cinema, like in the halcyon days of yore, but after what we’ve been through recently — the sight of M.O.D.O.K.’s bare behind in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania still haunts me nightly — I just can’t. So here’s all a wholly personal ranking of all nine, rated by how apprehensive I am about their existence.
9. Armor Wars
Nice going, Armor Wars, you are the upcoming Marvel movie I am scared is going to suck the least. That said, this is something of a double-edged sword. Part of that is because this project is so nebulous right now that it’s hard to get excited for it much. On the other hand, after what Secret Invasion did to Rhodey’s character, surely the only way to go is up? However it deals with that controversial retcon, it’s going to be hard pressed to be worse than the literal most savagely reviewed Marvel production ever made.
8. Avengers: Secret Wars
This is a curious one, right? Surely Avengers: Secret Wars, the grand finale of the entire Multiverse Saga, is the movie I should be the most terrified is going to be terrible. Well, yes, in one way that’s accurate. Except that when it comes to these kind of epic Marvel Studios events, conventional quality standards are thrown out the window. They’re excercises in fan-pleasing spectacle not well-told stories, as such. Just look at the baggy, muddled, and in some places poorly edited jumble that is Avengers: Endgame, which also happens to be widely beloved and the second highest-grossing film ever made. To mangle a Vision quote, an MCU finale isn’t beautiful because it’s good.
7. Captain America: Brave New World
Brave New World hasn’t exactly been controversy-free so far, but it’s fair to say Marvel fans are pretty uniformly excited for Sam Wilson’s first solo movie as our new Captain America. Especially as we have the living legend that is Harrison Ford joining the MCU as freaking Red Hulk (imagine traveling back in time 15 years and telling that to your younger self who’s just seen The Incredible Hulk at the theater?). Sure, if you want to be pessimistic, it could break the unbroken run of epic Cap movies we’ve had so far, but BNW is very much it’s own thing, too, so it’s free to be as good or as bad as it pleases.
Similar logic applies to Thunderbolts, albeit in the reverse. Much of the discussion around Thunderbolts to date hasn’t been what you’d call glowing, but it’s such a niche corner of the MCU that it hardly matters all that much if it’s any good or not. Quantumania was such a disappointment because it was supposed to launch Phase Five on a high. Thunderbolts, meanwhile, is… going to bring back a few characters from Black Widow and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. If it’s great, then — fantastic, we have a new cult favorite MCU flick on our hands! If not, the Multiverse Saga can easily limp on without it.
The reason Blade is dwelling somewhere in the middle of this ranking is because it’s hard to imagine the long-delayed, production issue-plagued reboot of the vampire slayer’s cinematic adventures ever actually happening. It’s occupied such a vague space of being on the cusp of existing for four full years now that trying to force myself to ponder if I’m worried it’s going to be bad is a bit like being asked if I’m excited for The Flash 2 or the next good live-action Sony superhero movie. It takes too many mental hoops to jump through.
4. Avengers: The Kang Dynasty
In contrast to Secret Wars, the fate of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty is a lot more concerning. Say what you like about Endgame, but Avengers: Infinity War is an incredible achievement, whichever way you slice it. Perhaps even Marvel’s most impressive production of the lot. Not only did it manage to balance an overloaded ensemble cast, Infinity War also deserves all the credit for finally delivering on the promise that Thanos would be a truly great villain. Kang Dynasty must do exactly the same for its own titular antagonist, then, if the Multiverse Saga’s big bad is ever going to live up to his illustrious purple predecessor.
3. The Marvels
The Marvels is deceptively important for the ongoing narrative of the MCU, both the one on the screen and the one going on off it too. As the third and final Marvel flick of 2023, it has to make it two for two in the win column to make up for the aforementioned Quantumania. Plus, it’s not just a sequel to Captain Marvel, the last non-team-up MCU entry to reach $1 billion, it’s actually a follow-up to five different projects, if you can believe it. And yet rumor has it that it’s going to have a teeny-tiny runtime, feature kooky musical moments, and the director has proudly proclaimed it to be “wacky and silly.” I’d love for this one to soar higher, further, faster than the first, but the jury’s still out on if it will.
2. Deadpool 3
“Deadpool 3‘s gonna be great,” you might be thinking, “why the heck is it rated so high on this list of potential screw-ups?” Yes, we’ve got Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson in the MCU at last, we’ve got Hugh Jackman back as Wolverine, and probably a bunch more legacy X-Men stars besides. And yet that is the big concern about the threequel in a nutshell. Unlike Secret Wars, DP3 doesn’t get a get-out-of-jail-free card to be a critics-proof cameo-filled party. It has to actually be a good Deadpool movie too that marks out his own corner in this franchise. Going by what we know so far, there’s a worry it’ll be an entertaining thrill in the moment, but one that’ll ultimately prove a little hollow and fade from memory faster that DP can heal.
1. Fantastic Four
Scroll down a little and you’ll see why I’m so apprehensive about a new Fantastic Four film. It’s OK, I’ll wait… Yes, I’m a card-carrying super-fan of Pixar’s The Incredibles, which is often half-jokingly dubbed “the only good Fantastic Four movie ever made” by fans, thanks to Fox managing to fail a full three times already (plus, there’s that infamous unreleased version from the ’90s). Arguably, no other origins movie in the MCU has had so much riding on it since Iron Man. It’s truly criminal that the Fantastic Four, Marvel’s first family, haven’t been gifted the truly great cinematic adaptation they deserve in over 60 years. OK, it can’t be worse than Fant4stic, but not making us question where the Thing’s, er, thing is while watching is a very low bar to clear.