I want to use this piece to talk about the current state of the MCU in the post-Endgame landscape. Right from the off I will say that I have seen everything the MCU has ever put out, I am due to see Ant-Man and The Wasp Quantomania in the coming days and it is because of that that I am writing this piece. As it stands the third Ant-Man film has some of the worst reviews of any MCU Marvel film, at least from critics and is being torn apart for its terrible VFX work, as such the point of this piece is how did we get here from the heights of Endgame? Is it a one off or part of a larger pattern? I have broken down what I think are the current issues killing the MCU into 5 key areas, that are all fairly minor on their own but that when combined create a lethal cocktail for the future success of the MCU as a franchise.
Firstly, and most obviously there is the glaring issues with VFX. VFX artists have been coming out and talking about how bad they have it over at Disney/Marvel studios and how they are been rushed and forced into crunch time hours in order to get films ready in time for release. This is bad both as a means of how to treat your employees but also as it effects the final quality of the project, who remembers Heimdall’s son from Love and Thunder or the recent stills of Modok from Quantomania. Forcing out unfished and poor VFX work makes both your film look bad and also taints your brands reputation for quality.
However, quality leads into the second issue with the current MCU the idea of quantity becoming more important than quality. This can be seen with the amount of MCU content that is released and the time frame in which it comes out, we are getting north of 5 MCU projects a year and that is a lot to turn around in such a short space of time so it is no wonder they are clearly cutting corners. This is likely done on a mandate from Disney to prop up Disney + with content but make no mistake it is killing Marvel in the long run.
This constant need for more content is also leading to more and more people starting to be put off by the Marvel formula, which is readily apparent no matter how many different genres they try and adapt their films into, because the creative confines of what one can do and still have it be a Marvel film are incredibly limited. Yes, there are some films like the coming Deadpool film that have enough of a fanbase that the higher ups at Marvel Studios and Disney can justify it breaking formula, but even then I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t get the R rating everyone thinks it is going to get. Moreover, this is also feeding into the homework problem that has plagued the MCU for some time and is getting worse with the introduction of the Disney + shows, this is the idea that to understand what is happening in the MCU at current moment you need to have seen tons of films and TV shows to be able to get into the wider narrative, this was inevitable as an issue for the interconnected world, but it will put more casual audiences off for sure.
Another issue with the current slate of Marvel content, especially the Disney + shows is the pushing off smaller characters at the expense of killing off or retiring older characters. You can have She-Hulk and Hulk together you don’t need to retire one to have the other, the same concept applies for Iron Man, Captain America and Hawkeye, all of these characters have been replaced. In the comics Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson both existed at the same time, especially when the latter was Captain America, but the MCU doesn’t work like that. There is a school of thought that suggests that the MCU is getting rid of its classic heroes to make audiences care about the new ones, and this does have some merit. One has to ask why is Echo, a minor character at the best of times, getting a show before Punisher or Ghost Rider?
The answer to that question leads into my final issue with the MCU and the one that I think in the end will be the death nail for it and that is pushing a political message and focusing on being as diverse as possible rather than in telling good stories any more. I will add that many properties can do both, and that diversity and representation is important, my argument is that when you achieve this by dragging down or removing pre-established and well liked characters that this is not the way. Look at She-Hulk again, which in my mind was the lowest ebb yet of the MCU, the show as a whole went out of its way to drag down the Hulk and show how Jessica Walters was easily so much better than him. Why did you need to introduce a character in this way? Lots of fans like the Hulk as a character so to see both the character and the show completely disrespect him is a bitter pill to a lot of fans. If you want to introduce a diverse array of new characters then focus on making them likable and important in their own right, the MCU did this perfectly with Miss Marvel, rather than having them exist as a character to put the pre-established characters down. All this does is make your new heroes unlikeable.
I recently saw an article in which Kevin Feige said he thought the MCU could be around for many more decades yet, but I think this argument ignores the declining box office and the subscriber problem with Disney +, I think Feige response is in denial. Yes the X-Men and The Fantastic Four will bring some audiences back whenever they are introduced, but that won’t change any of these issues, and it is these issues that I believe will see the MCU either rebooted or retired within the next decade.
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