With the release of the first Moon Knight trailer, Marvel Studios is finally gearing up for its second year of shows on Disney+. Not only will the Oscar Isaac-led series be the first project released by the studio in 2022, but it will also be the first Marvel Cinematic Universe Disney+ series starring a brand new character as the lead. This presents a roost of new challenges for the studio to deal with as they enter the second year of Phase 4.
While WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye all had leads Marvel fans were very much already familiar with from the films (even What If…? dealt with characters fans knew and loved, they were just different versions of them) that won’t be the case for the next few MCU shows Disney+ has on the docket. After Moon Knight — which debuts on the platform on March 30 — the next two series are set to be She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel, both of which will also star characters brand new to the MCU.
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Interestingly enough, this year’s lineup seems to be a bit of an inverse from the franchise’s 2021 slate, which saw familiar faces on Disney+ but mostly new characters on the big screen in projects like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and even most of the main players in Black Widow. The three Marvel Studios movies set to hit theatres in 2022, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, all star characters that are already beloved by fans. This means higher box office prospects for the most part, while the streaming side of things isn’t as primed for surefire hits.
This means these next few shows are going to have to include an extra element the previous ones did not: introducing viewers to new characters and making audiences fall in love with them. In addition to this, they’ll need to market the shows well enough to entice people to tune in for them despite not being familiar with the characters. These series coming out after the likes of WandaVision, Loki, and their contemporaries probably isn’t by accident; the shows with familiar faces were more likely to get people to subscribe than new ones, and it’s probable that many of them remain subscribed and will stick around for this second wave of content, this time with new characters.
The first challenge shouldn’t be too much of a problem for several-hour series if two-hour movies can do it, though some of the series which came out last year ended up being pretty overstuffed (looking at you, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier). The plots of these “introductory” shows will likely need to be a bit less complicated in order to allow viewers to connect with the newbies in question — which is why Hawkeye was so successful with its introduction of Kate Bishop — though they’ve managed to do a pretty good job bringing in plenty of new major supporting characters into the fold with the shows so far, like Agatha Harkness, John Walker, and Sylvie.
The second will likely be more of a concern for Moon Knight than She-Hulk or Ms. Marvel. She-Hulk looks to feature Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, one of the original Avengers, pretty heavily, and fans can expect to see plenty of him in the marketing for the series. Ms. Marvel isn’t known to feature appearances from any pre-established MCU characters, but lead character Kamala Khan is notorious for being a huge fan of Captain Marvel (and will be starring alongside her in The Marvels) so it’s a safe bet that connection will be played up in promotional material for that show.
Ms. Marvel’s presence in The Marvels will mark the first major leap for a character originating on Disney+ onto the big screen, which is interesting seeing as the Disney+ projects appear to be supplementary to the movies, not the other way around — which basically means Marvel assumes everyone watching the Disney+ stuff is caught up on all the movies, but not that everyone watching the movies is up-to-date on Disney+ material. Yelena Belova’s role in Hawkeye didn’t include a full explanation as to who she was and what happened in Black Widow, but Kamala Khan’s in The Marvels will likely need to explain the events of Ms. Marvel.
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The first taste of how characters who have prominently appeared on Disney+ will be presented in the movies will come when Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff stars in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness after having her own series in WandaVision last year. Of course, the difference there will be that Wanda is a character who has already been established in the movies, but the jump back may provide clues about how Kamala will be incorporated into the film side of the MCU nonetheless.
But for now, Marvel is squarely focused on Moon Knight, and from the response to that first trailer, it looks like they have another hit on their hands’ brewing.