From Mediocre Movies to questionable Streaming Shows. Is Marvel’s MCU in real trouble?
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The MCU has been the dominant force in cinema for the last 15 years with billion-dollar movies coming with ease, one after another. But after the recent series of less than stellar movies and Disney Plus shows that haven’t captured the public’s imagination in the way Disney hoped, has the MCU reached the end of the road? Has Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige lost his once magic touch? A recent article from Variety (Crisis at Marvel) makes a number of claims from alleged insiders which suggest what has gone wrong
Fact: Marvel Movies are actually still profitable
Now before we go any further, lets clarify one thing. Despite perception, the recent Marvel movies haven’t ‘flopped’. Infact their box office takings have been respectable and, in most cases, profitable. But the MCU is a victim of its own success, becoming a money-making machine for Disney/Marvel. With a string of billion-dollar movies, they became the envy of every other studio.
But having a billion dollars as an expectation for every film is an almost impossible standard to maintain. Disney reached a stage where making half a billion dollars at the box office is somehow deemed a failure when arguably much better films would kill for anythning close to those box office results.
Box Office for the Last 5 MCU Movies
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 $845M
Antman and the Wasp Quantumania $476M
Black Panther Wakanda Forever $859M
Thor Love and Thunder $760M
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of madness $955M
Everyone has their own theories on why Marvel have found themselves in its current predicament. Some say its superhero fatigue, the ‘anti woke’ brigade blames it on what they perceive as Disney’s crusade to improve on screen representation. The diehard fans of comic books and superhero movies have traditionally been young white males. Some feel they are being cut out, erased and replaced as the heroes in these stories they hold dear. Disney face a similar problem in their other prized franchise, Star Wars as many of their hardcore dedicated fans feel the same way about the focus on people of colour and increased representation.
They see it as ‘Pandering’ and many very quickly refernece the latest South Park episode ‘Joining the Panderverse’ as further justification to rebel against Disney’s ‘Woke’ agenda. As the South Park character Cartman explains, all Disney are doing with every property is swapping white males for females of colour ‘making them gay’.
Should Disney stay on its Progressive Path or fall back on Tradition?
Disney face the tough decision of either staying on their current course or bowing to their critics and returning to the status quo. They could give their loyalist fans what they want which is more of the same traditional characters. Or they maintain their current course, continue trying to be progressive and hope to gain new fans along the way. What they must accept with this route though is there is always a price when you make a stand. They must accept the loss of a large section of their fan base which will in turn affect their box office returns.
If they decide to stay the path, then they need to adjust their financial expectations. Loyalist fanboys are not suddenly going to change their opinion and ‘come on board’. They would much rather cut off their nose to spite their face, willing their once favourite franchises to now fail. Hoping that will result in executives losing their jobs and being replaced with more traditional studio execs. Those who think like they do and will restore the franchises to their ‘formal glory’ by keeping the status quo.
The Disney Plus Marvel Shows actually aren’t bad
One area that has constantly come under attack is their Disney Plus streaming shows. While I believe it was a mistake trying to bully people into watching TV shows to understand what’s happening in the next movie, I didn’t have as much of an issue with them as some people appeared to. While shows like LOKI have fared well, other shows like She Hulk and Ms Marvel have felt the full force of the ‘anti woke’ backlash.
When you cut through the hate and toxicity, the only reason left for the backlash is because they are different. They present new heroes (mostly women and people of colour) and try to do something different with them that just didn’t sit right with the purists who believe the comic book stories must be only what they recognise. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ‘She Hulk’ show but i found parts of it more entertaining the something like Moon Knight (even though Oscar Isaacs Moon Knight performance was great).
I’m a big Scarlet Witch fan and loved the innovative approach taken with Wanda Vision. And even though I knew little of Ms Marvel, I enjoyed a lot of it. Even learning about true historical events like The Partition, where India was split into Pakistan and other regions. I understand why things like this might be too far outside the norm for regular fans, but I’ve always been in favour of trying things differently, even if they don’t always work.
The Minor Majors Problem
The legal troubles facing Jonathan Majors are another minefield for Disney to navigate. Without discussing guilt or innocence, they have structured the next two phases of Avengers movies and tv shows around his character Kang. They are stuck in limbo, uncertain whether to push forward with the KANG related focus or pivot away and bring in another big bad Marvel villain such as Dr Doom or even Galactus.
But is it wise to attempt to base another series of films around one singular overarching villain? If they would step back from the focus of trying to repeat the magic of phase 1-3, they coukd create individual movies with unique stories and villians. Directors will be free to craft stories that match their indiviual talents and vision rather than trying to fit into Feige’s master plan
Even Kevin Feige can’t replicate The Infinity Sagas magic
There are many who believe Kevin Feige is a genius with what he achieved in crating the MCU but i believe there was a huge element of luck/try it and see. Thanos wasn’t mentioned in the MCU until one of the Thor movies and didn’t appear until the Avengers end credits. Up until that point, the characters all had their own stories without being forced and shoehorned into one single story.
The Variety article had a lot of uncredited comments and hearsay but even if half of it is accurate it’s still very sad reading. With the first three phases of the MCU, they achieved something no one had done before. That run of films and overarching central story built over 12yrs was incredible. BUT it was a one off in my opinion, which cannot be replicated. Other Studios tried and failed. Even Marvel themselves are discovering they can’t replicate what they did, starting with 2008’s Iron Man through to 2019’s End Game, now collectively known as ‘The Infinity Saga’. It might be time to accept it was a moment in time.
What Marvel should have done after The Infinity Saga
Things should have stopped there, it’s in the name ‘END GAME!’, it’s the highest grossing movie of all time. What a perfect way that would have been to bookend that series. After that they should forget the multiverse stories and let dead characters stay dead by taking a 5-10yr break from the MCU. By this point they had already purchased the XMen and Fantastic 4 franchises from FOX. Rather than trying to shoehorn them into the MCU, they could have given us 10yrs of building up the XMen Universe.
XMen films are naturally more serious due to their subject matter about humanities differences, alienation, race, and societies wider problems. This way, we get a break from the Avengers and its related characters and get the opportunity to become invested in the new XMen Universe. Then, once it’s had its own version of an ‘End Game’ Movie, they can either relaunch the MCU (or continue it) in 10yrs time. Either way, the XMen are a strong enough brand on their own and should arguably be allowed to exist in their own space.
What the Future holds for Marvel, XMen and the Avengers
Multiverses are not sustainable long term, they dilute the importance of past events, characters deaths become meaningless if they can just be retrieved from another universe and the whole affair becomes a grand mess. Trying to add XMen to this already convoluted universe is just too much. I don’t believe even the comics which are the source material, could connect ALL their characters into ONE single storyline.
The writers will now be locked away in dark rooms trying to explain plausibly where the XMen and all other mutants have been so far through phases 1-4. The only answer is the tired multiverse option (or maybe on an alien planet?) but neither of those are unsatisfactory in my opinion. A strong rumour which surfaced from the article was the possibility of bringing all the original Avengers back (including dead ones) in one movie.
Without a doubt, that would be a difficult achievement considering many of the actors have moved to the next stages of their careers. It would of course be a massive money maker for Disney and Marvel and an incredible cinematic moment for fans. But once the smoke clears, I believe that option will be looked back on as a failure of imagination and creativity. They need to forge a new path even if it is less lucrative at first rather than trying to replicate the past.
The next MCU movie ‘The Marvels’ opens in cinemas on November 10th 2023. Watch the special feature ‘Journey to The Marvels’ here