A Fan’s Thoughts on the State of the MCU, By RJ Writing Ink
I have been a fan of superheroes my entire life. Growing up, I would love rewatching the 1990s Spider-Man animated series on DVD. In school, I would spend my lunchtime in the library reading graphic novels and compilations of old comic books. So, seeing the MCU rise to prominence has been one of the best things to ever happen to someone like me. However, that also makes it harder for me to accept something that a lot of people are starting to notice. Marvel has a serious quality problem on its hands, and the cinematic juggernaut that it’s built could collapse just as quickly as it rose.
Where this Started.
It started four years ago with the release of Avengers: Endgame. Endgame was the magnum opus of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was a moment that a decade of films had been building up toward culminating in one of the greatest films of all time. I still remember how people in my movie theater started cheering when all the heroes came through the portals to face down Thanos’ army. It was worth the years of build-up and anticipation, and the whole world seemed to agree.
Then the Pandemic happened, and the world ground to a halt. Marvel didn’t release any new films for the first time in years, leaving fans starving for more. Then, in 2021, WandaVision started Phase Four of the MCU with the first in a series of Disney+ series. Black Widow had Marvel return to the big screens for the first time in two years, and all seemed right with the world. However, things were different now.
A Pacing Problem Becomes Evident
From 2010 onwards, the MCU released films at regular intervals, releasing an average of two every year up to Endgame. However, it never felt like it got to the point where it was overwhelming movie-goers because they lacked the shows that came about post-Endgame. There were shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Netflix series, but they never had any impact on the larger story. As a result, people didn’t have to watch them to understand what was going on in the larger universe. However, that changed with WandaVision.
WandaVision changed how the MCU told its overarching story. From now on, events in these miniseries could end up overlapping and lead to the events of future films. Now, if people wanted to understand what was going on, they had to watch the miniseries like WandaVision or Ms. Marvel. In addition, since these miniseries were being released alongside the films, it began to feel like the MCU was creating a never-ending onslaught of content in an incredibly short amount of time. Because of that, people have started to feel exhausted with Marvel content.
The Marvels Bombs at Box Office?
To make matters worse, critics and fans started to notice a dip in the quality of content they were getting. It was subtle at first, but as time went on, it became more noticeable. From the increasingly convoluted plots to the failures in special effects and the lack of a serious tone, it felt like the MCU was slipping. And now, we arrive at the release of The Marvels. At the time of this writing, it’s projected to become a box-office bomb. It’s a far cry from the highs of Endgame.
In other words, Marvel’s got a real problem with quantity over quality, and it’s dragging everything down. Even I’m starting to grow tired of the films, and I’m a diehard fan of Marvel. If I’m having a problem with it, something must be wrong.
Superheroes Are Still Popular
While some might take Marvel’s falling star as a sign that the public is getting tired of superheroes, that’s not entirely true. Despite everything in the last few years, superheroes remain incredibly popular with the public. Amazon Prime’s hit adaptation of The Boys takes a lot of the things fans love about superheroes and deconstructs them. The result is a dark, violent, and depraved world where most superheroes are anything but super. Likewise, Prime’s animated adaptation of Image Comic’s Invincibleoffers people a bloodier, greyer example of a world filled with superheroes. Both of these shows have proven to be hugely successful. In addition, Insomniac Games has blown the world of gaming out of the water with the recent release of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
The bottom line is that, despite what some people might think, the public still loves the idea of superheroes. What we don’t love is seeing their potential wasted like it has been. We want the stories these movies tell to be good. And the more people get material that isn’t up to their standards, the harder it gets for the truly great stuff to shine through.
The MCU Should’ve Gone on Vacation
Having watched as the MCU’s quality has begun to decline and having reviewed many of the shows and films on this very blog, I’ve come up with a few conclusions of my own. Above all, I feel like, after Endgame, Marvel was trying too hard too soon to continue the momentum that that movie gave them. So they kept churning out more shows and more movies in a far shorter timeframe than what the public was used to receiving, causing fatigue to set in. Instead of increasing the amount of content coming out, maybe Marvel should’ve done the opposite, even allowing the MCU to go dormant for a while.
Think about it. After the release of Endgame, suppose Marvel decided not to release any more films or shows for a few years. Save for the Spider-Man movies, the MCU would go dark, allowing people the time to process the events of Endgame and what was going on in the world. Fans would start to speculate if the franchise was coming back, increasing the hype surrounding it. Once five or so years had passed and they had enough projects ready, Marvel could announce the return of the MCU to the world. The amount of attention this would get after being quiet for so long would be enormous.
When WandaVision was first released back in 2021, I was overjoyed at what Marvel was doing. Having proven that they could match long-running film franchises, these miniseries felt like they would take the MCU to new heights. Instead, like Icarus, Kevin Feige flew too close to the sun. Now his proverbial wings are on the verge of melting, with the stigma about The Marvels being the latest example. Maybe it’s for the best that the MCU resets after the upcoming Secret Wars film. Heaven knows that the public will welcome the reset button.