Now that Phase 3 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is well under way, it’s easy to look back at the early parts of Phase 1 and note just how much the initial stories overlap. Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor are all set around the same time, and contain plot points that directly inform each other. Since the conclusion of the first Avengers film and Phase 1, however, the MCU hasn’t really utilized this storytelling device anymore, instead opting for films that follow a more chronological layout. Even the Netflix Marvel shows don’t bother with overlapping their stories.
Kevin Feige, who’s been busy with Phase 3 of the MCU as well as promising more iconic actors in future films, has hinted before that he lets the standalone films develop naturally instead of trying to shoehorn in bigger plot arcs for the sake of it in every film. While this could potentially provide an answer to why MCU films no longer include overlapping stories, Feige recently took all doubt out of the equation by providing a definitive answer once and for all.
While speaking with Cinema Blend, Feige addressed the problem with trying to overlap MCU films in the current Phase, and it boils down to Feige not allowing the bigger picture to impact standalone films. In fact, Feige believes the opposite is the best approach, and when the stories of standalone films change, it changes the big picture of the MCU. For Feige’s full comments, read below:
“I think people like to talk about our long term plans, which we certainly have. But very rarely do those long term plans dictate the specificity of any individual film. It’s usually the opposite. It’s focusing on a story, and focusing on the individual movie that we’re making to do what’s best. And then, if something changes that we weren’t quite expecting down the line because it was made for a better movie, then we deal with it down the line. I think that’s what happened in Phase One. We were telling those stories and having the crossover of Nick Fury talking about the Southwest Region, when the hammer fell…”
Perhaps the most interesting tidbit of information is that Phase 1 wasn’t actually designed to overlap and that the story necessitated it instead. Perhaps it was easier to get away with overlapping storylines in Phase 1 as well, since the cast list was relatively smaller. Well into Phase 3, the MCU is still introducing new characters to potentially carry the franchise into the future (at least until Avengers: Infinity War, which Feige has previously called the “culmination” of the whole MCU) so pulling off overlapping storylines would certainly prove more difficult.
Some fans will certainly be disappointed that overlapping storylines are not currently in the cards for the MCU, but this could certainly always change based on Feige’s comments of a constantly evolving universe. Either way, most fans would probably agree that forcing the storylines to connect together could make the MCU lose all of the goodwill and charm it’s built up over the past near-decade.