As of now, Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is heading in a very interesting direction with its fourth phase of films making its way to theatres…eventually. I mean the line up is absolutely nuts! We have a team of immortal demigod warriors created by ageless space gods with The Eternals. A magical martial artist going up against an evil terrorist organization led by a man using alien technology with Shang Chi and the Ten Rings. Not to mention we also have a horror film about a wizard travelling through the multiverse in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And to top it all off, we’ve got the Norse God of Thunder in a cosmic road trip film with a gang of intergalactic outlaws, who may or may not run into space sharks. Seriously, what were these guys smoking? Because all this sounds rather spacey to me and personally, I really like it. It’s nice to see Marvel trying to expand their cinematic universe’s cosmic landscape.
There is, however, one lingering question: What, or rather who ties them all these disparate films together? We’ve seen that in every phase of the MCU villains like Loki, Ultron and Thanos serve as a unifying force for our beloved heroes. So with Phase 4 coming our way, whoever could the big bad be this time around? I’ve got a few ideas on who that might be.
1. The Great Old Ones
Some secrets are better kept hidden and some places are better left uncharted, lest something terrible follows you back. In Multiverse of Madness, Doctor Strange very well could encounter evils beyond his power. Evils such as the eldritch Lovecraftian monsters that are the Great Old Ones! In Marvel comics, these extradimensional abominations occupy a realm known as the Cancerverse. Once a reality not unlike the one in the MCU, until it was invaded by the Great Old Ones. They corrupted that universe beyond repair, going in so far as to kill the literal embodiment of Death. In some sick twisted sense, they’ve given all living things in that universe eternal life, no matter how sickly or decayed they are. They also enslaved all the heroes and villains of that world, creating their own twisted version of the Avengers.
These timeless cosmic horrors are no joke and they would definitely make for a worthy opponent against the forces of the Eternals, Thor, Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange. In the past, we’ve covered the very real possibility of the Great Old Ones appearing in Multiverse of Madness with multiples clues hidden within the film’s title and premise. If the MCU is looking to further turn their cinematic universe into a cinematic multiverse, then a multiversal threat like the Great Old Ones would be an excellent opportunity to lay the groundwork for future films. Furthermore, the idea of seeing MCU heroes face off against possessed and corrupted versions of themselves is just too exciting to pass on!
2. Annihilus and the Annihilation Wave
Then again, the Great Old Ones aren’t the only multiversal threats wandering out there in the wide expanse of the multiverse. There is an entity more dangerous than the Mad Titan and his Infinity Gauntlet lurking within the multiverse. An enemy that does not tire, does not retreat and does not die. I am of course talking about Annihilus and the Annihilation Wave. Annihilus is a cyborg insectoid conqueror who rules a kingdom outside of space and time known as the Negative Zone. There he lords over an endless horde of insectoid parasites, soldiers and even some living planets. They are the Annihilation Wave. From the Negative Zone, Annihilus opens portals into other universes and invades them, laying waste to countless worlds and harvesting them for his nefarious purposes.
In a comic book event known as Annihilation, not even the combined might of the Guardians of the Galaxy and several alien empires, including the Kree and Skrulls, could defeat Annihilus and his horde. They even got Thanos to help! Yes, the Annihilation Wave is that bad. The worst part of it all is even if you use the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe them off the face of your universe, it won’t matter. They’ll simply be reborn in the Negative Zone and invade once again. If I may borrow a phrase from Mysterio, these bugs are indeed an “Avengers-level threat”. Disney has had a penchant for reappropriating popular Marvel comic events like “Civil War” and “Infinity” into their films. The possibility of a film based on Annihilation seems almost inevitable, judging by the MCU’s current focus on cosmic stories.
3. The Celestials
Remember those ageless space gods I mentioned earlier, they’re known as the Celestials. They are beings who have transcended the need for organic processes and became energy-based consciousnesses housed inside colossal metallic constructs. Before the first single-cell lifeform sprung to existence in the Marvel universe, they were already there. They originate from an even older universe before the multiverse came into existence. And while they didn’t exactly create all life, these beings would arrive on planets and begin evolving and mutating a select few of the planet’s dominant species. The Celestials were the ones responsible for the creation of not only the Eternals but the X-gene within baseline humans. This means they’re the ones responsible for mutantkind and the X-Men!
That being said, Celestial aren’t exactly the benevolent parental figures of human religion. Oh no, not these guys. If they deem a creation of theirs to be a “failure”, they would wipe out all life on a planet. We’ve already seen a Celestial within the MCU use the Power Stone to do this via flashback in Guardians of the Galaxy. With The Eternals on the way and confirmed development of projects based on the X-Men property mentioned at D23, it’s only a matter of time before the Celestials take centre stage in the MCU. As instrumental as they were in the flourishing of human life, the Celestials have also done terrible things in the name of their vision of the greater good. That sounds an awful lot like Thanos to me.
4. Gorr the God Butcher
Recently, it was reported that Taika Waititi’s latest MCU film, Thor: Love and Thunder, hinted at the possible arrival of Gorr the God Butcher. For those who aren’t exactly in the know with regards to Thor’s comic book exploits, Gorr is essentially the universe’s most angry and dangerous antitheist. This guy lives to hate and kill gods, ever since the deities of his homeworld failed to save his family. He obtained this power after coming into contact with a weapon known as All-Black the Necrosword. It is a living blade of forged in the head of a dead Celestial by another guy who also hates gods, Knull, but we’ll get to him in another time. Anyways, Gorr stole Knull’s weapon and vowed to purge the universe of all gods. To give you a picture of how powerful this guy is, it took three Thors from three different time periods to take this guy down…and he still came back.
If Gorr the God Butcher does make his way into the MCU, I can definitely foresee him being Phase 4’s prime evil. Disney seems determined to expand on the more cosmic and mystical side of things which includes a whole host gods and magical beings. Who better to serve as the antithesis to this brave new age of heroes than a being who lives to destroy all things divine? Furthermore, Gorr is a character who is just as intriguing and complex as the Mad Titan. Someone who cares deeply for mortals and longs to see them liberated from the yoke of divine devotion and worship. At the same time, he’s also an insane, hate-fuelled monster who will achieve his goal by any means necessary.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the idea of Loki returning to the MCU and once again orchestrating yet another great master plan. It feels a little passe at this point, but seeing that he’s getting his own TV series in which he travels across time manipulating various events in the MCU, he could very well be Phase 4’s greatest threat. In Endgame, we saw another version of Loki get away with the Tesseract and we have confirmation that he’s somehow able to time-travel now. This could spell doom for our heroes, both past and present. In his comic past, Loki was responsible for various calamities. From playing a role in the siege of Asgard to seizing All-Black the Necrosword for himself and trying to recreate reality. No matter how many times, you think you’ve gotten rid of that smarmy trickster, he just keeps coming back!
It’s safe to say that Tom Hiddlestone’s Loki has become a beloved icon within the MCU community. This new phase of the MCU seems to be taking a lot of risks and bold new decisions. It’s quite possible that Disney very well would use a familiar face like Loki play the role of villain to a whole new group of heroes. It would save them the time and effort of trying to set up a new main villain for Phase 4. If Disney does find a way to have him to come to the forefront in an organic and interesting angle, then I wouldn’t mind. For now, though, let’s hope they have other folks in mind.