Today we’re here to talk about the state of the MCU and to a lesser extent the DC one as well. Marvel movies paved the way for a truly expansive cinematic universe with interwoven plot characters and comedy. Culminating with the biggest crossover event ever seen on the green screen with Infinity War and Endgame. Unfortunately things only went downhill from there. Have you ever known someone that did something really cool once a long time ago and now every time you talk to them all they do is mention how cool that thing they did was? That’s kind of the MCU now. Am I being overly harsh? Maybe, but the problem is that so many of the new movies rely on the exact same formula that the old movies used to succeed, but these new ones completely miss why it worked and refuse to innovate or take risks. Take Thor: Love and Thunder. The plot is a mess and it is absolutely riddled with comedy. However the jokes rarely if ever land, and they quite often undermine the tone of the scenes they’re in, or rather come at the expense of them. Something really scary and serious is happening? Better throw in a bad joke so no one actually thinks anything important is gonna happen. A really emotionally charged scene? Can’t have people feeling invested in anything!
Another problem is the ongoing trend that these movies aren’t made for casual moviegoers anymore. You can’t just go see the new Doctor Strange movie and understand 2/3s of what’s happening if you haven’t also seen six hours of other material first. So many movies have this backlog of required viewing if you want to understand the story, and that’s absolutely awful for movies. You see, one of the strengths of the movie format is that they are isolated stories that require minimal time investment that you can watch and get a full story. However that is now a relic of a bygone era. With few exceptions like Shang-Chi, a casual viewer that just decides they wanna go see a new action superhero movie will be confused the whole time. This may not be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that they are pushing new content out non-stop, to the point that it’s exhausting.
If you look at phase 1, it took place over four years and you had six movies in it. During that time there was always something being teased at the end of the movies for you to look forward to, but you often had to wait several months or even a year for the next Marvel adaptation. It ensured you were always hyped for what was to come if you were a fan. Compare that to Phase 4 of the MCU, which took place from 2021-2022. In Phase 4, their were Seventeen additions to the MCU. That’s more than one a month on average, and leaves little to no time for you to accrue hype. Not only that, but six of them were TV series that required way more time than a movie to get through. On top of that, several of them are required viewing material to understand what’s happening going forward. WandaVision for example is necessary to understand what’s happening in the second Doctor Strange movie, and it has around six hours of content for its nine episode run. It, along with all these shows, is also only streaming on Disney+ so if you don’t have it you’re SOL.
Even the massively acclaimed Spider-Man: No Way Home suffers from this, and the movies required for you to understand the characters aren’t even from the MCU. Those of you who love the film tell me honestly if you would have enjoyed it anywhere near as much if you hadn’t grown up watching the Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies. Whilst some of the characters do their best to make an impression on their own in the film, we have extremely little reason to care about any of the ‘new’ characters in the film except the Green Goblin because we spend time seeing the peaceful and scared side of him. As much as I love the movie, it is entirely predicated on your enjoyment of these characters from other films. It’s a problem that the MCU has as a whole; rarely are characters we care about ever separated from past works or given interesting arcs in their movies. We just care about them because we’ve seen them before and want them to succeed because we liked them in that other movie.
The last MCU thing I wish to discuss is how little they have done to innovate or take risks. Infinity War/Endgame were the only two movies that any risks were taken with. Not only in the ambition of the crossover Infinity War set up but also in the permanent death of a beloved character (except not really bc she got a solo move afterwards), and the villain actually winning at the end of IW. Endgame wrote off, or in the case of Tony Stark killed off, even more beloved characters and set up some of their ‘replacements’. However we’re now at phase 5 and it feels like everything is just playing it safe and nothing is at risk of changing. Even with Ant-Man 3, they introduced what was supposed to be the next Thanos. Yet at the end of the movie they beat him and everyone goes home happily ever after. It’s obviously not a perfect victory, and it’s obviously not the last we see of him as the after credits scene shows us (not to mention the upcoming Avengers: The Kang Dynasties that’s title was revealed for phase 6).
To be honest I don’t have much to say about DCs flimsy attempts at establishing a cohesive cinematic universe. For the most part DC movies do their best when they’re just their own experience. The many stellar Batman movies we’ve had are the best examples of this, but the first Wonder Woman I would also put into this category as well. Even if they added her to connecting films later, that was still a standalone entry for her character. However it’s painfully clear they saw and continue to see the commercial success of the MCU and wish to replicate it without putting in the ground work. The Justice League and Batman vs Superman movies were clearly their attempts to replicate the success of the Avengers and Civil War movies, but no groundwork was laid and we had no reason to care for any of the characters in the movies because we didn’t really know any of them. The movies themselves also did little to make us care for the characters, giving us sparse characterization of their heroes and especially their villains. With the Justice League it’s clear they wanted to set up a super powerful villain to rival the danger Thanos posed, but he just comes out of nowhere and hasn’t been hinted at or established in any way by other works before this movie so we know he isn’t going to win. Their newest stuff has somewhat been a step in the right direction, but even with them focusing on establishing their characters more as their focus they still have done less than stellar jobs making us actually care.
And… that’s a wrap! I know this was an extremely pessimistic post about things, but that’s the point! In Dynamic Discussions we discuss all sides separately before coming together to discuss them much more cohesively. Stay tuned for mine and Joel’s discussion on things and what our fullest thoughts are. Are these thoughts my true sentiments? Will I still be so negative and harsh in the future? Will Joel be able to put up with me in our discussion? Find out next time as we conclude our Comic Book Cinematic Universe arc! Until then, thanks for reading, and stay healthy!
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