Will Required Viewing And Disney + Homework Hurt The MCU’S Hold Over Hollywood?

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about something I noticed within Doctor Strange 2 that I think could be a big problem for the MCU going forward and that is the over use of integrated and interconnected storytelling.

I understand that from a corporate standpoint Disney is pushing Disney + as hard as they can and, part of that push is having the various Marvel shows on the platform feeding into the wider MCU, however, this creates a very real problem for the MCU as a whole. Though there are plenty of diehard Marvel fans who watch every piece of content that comes out, there are also others who are far more fair-weather, you might follow a specific character or who might watch some of the films here or there. The Disney + approach only account for those first lot of people, for the second they won’t be familiar with the Disney + shows or at least not all of them and as such will have a hard go of it keeping up with the films.

In many ways the Doctor Strange sequel is an epilogue to Wandavision, the film makes numerous call-backs and references to the show, though Sam Raimi claims he never even finished it. As such you can see the problem, to fully understand Doctor Strange 2 you have to have firstly seen Wandavision and for those you haven’t seen it well they will miss out on a lot of the context and not really understand why these two Avengers are fighting, and therein lies the problem. Through truly integrating the Disney + shows The MCU is creating homework for viewers, and saying that if you want to understand what is going on you have to firstly pay for this streaming service and secondly watch all these shows, which becomes too much for some people. As the Arrowverse went on people were put off my how interconnected those shows got, to understand the latest crossover event you had to watch all these shows even if you didn’t like them, at that point it no longer becomes entertainment but an obligation and I have a feeling the MCU is heading the same way.

I believe that as these smaller shows become more and more vital to understanding the plots of these big movies then more and more mainstream audiences will check out, not wanting to have to commit 6 + hours of their life to watching a series they may not even care about simply to understand the plot of the latest movie. As such, I think attendance at Marvel films will go down, not becomes of superhero fatigue, not because of the ‘liberal agenda’ that some people say they are trying to push, but because of that fact that they no longer want to commit to watching all these shows and films and may even be coming to the conclusion that there are too many.

I think dear reader that this is what will halt the ever expanding dominance of the MCU, and though it won’t ever kill the franchise all together it will cause it to contract in on itself.

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Doctor Strange Into The Multiverse Of Madness: You Better Have Watched All The Disney + Shows

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Following on from the events of Wandavision Wanda, played by Elizabeth Olsen, goes on a multiverse wide rampage to try and get her kids back, forcing Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and other mystical characters to try and stop her.

I think this may be my favourite Marvel film to date, or certainly up there in the top 3, I really enjoyed the Raimi elements to this film and I thought the horror sequences were terrific. I liked that this film felt a little darker and more supernatural than the rest of the MCU it gives me hope for characters like Blade and Ghost Rider. I thought the Raimi esque shot choices and transitions were just superb, it really gave this film a sense of identity all its own.

Moreover, despite some of the more unrefined criticism of this film saying how they turned Wanda into a bad guy, I thought this film did great things for her character and felt like a natural carry over from where the end of Wandavision left her. In the comics the character is deeply mentally unstable and crazy powerful this felt a true reflection of that, this idea that Wanda is a superhero and that she is a force for good only, is both not true and also just a creation of the MCU- one they now seem to be breaking.

I thought the new character of America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez was great she easily held her own both with Strange and Cumberbatch and I eagerly await to see what else they do with her character, most likely a Young Avengers show or film. In that same vein, I thought this film added a lot to most of the characters from the previous Doctor Strange film that helped to make them feel more rounded. I liked Strange and Wong’s, played by Benedict Wong, relationship and how Strange eventually comes to respect Wong as the new Sorcerer Supreme and also thought the film did justice to Rachel McAdams’ Christine from the first film, tying that up nicely.     

The things I didn’t like about this film were all quite minor, firstly I didn’t like the Illuminati I thought it felt far too much like blatant fan service and thought there was no point to them existing other than to give Wanda people to tear apart. I did like the Black Bolt, played by Anson Mount, death however, I thought that was gutsy and some nice unexpected gore. Secondly, I have issues with the post credits scenes, with the first I think it is too unclear what is going on, moreover unless you are an avid comics reader you will not know who Clea, played by Charlize Theron, is and will be left baffled. The second post credits scene is just annoying and makes you feel like you have wasted your time. Thirdly, I didn’t like Strange’s relationship with Baron Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, it felt very much like some scenes were missing there as there relationship made no sense being where it was based off the ending of the previous film.

Overall, I think this film is brave, brutal and great for the MCU. I hope very much they can talk Raimi into coming back to do more movies.

Pros.

The horror elements and the Raimi feel of the film

Wanda’s progression

Strange and Christine and Strange and Wong

America Chavez

The ending

Cons.

Too many cameos

Uneven storytelling with Mordo  

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Doctor Strange: A New Advance In Faith Healing

3.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

World famous surgeon Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, becomes a master of the mystic arts after suffering injuries in a car accident.

I think this is one of the slower MCU films but there is still a lot to enjoy here.

The world and characters are all interesting, Tilda Swinton is great as the Ancient One and Benedict Wong gives us a first fun look at Wong. However, I would say the opening of the film and Strange’s training takes far too much of the film, it feels as though you have been watching for quite a while before anything large scale happens.

Once we start getting the big magical set pieces and everything starts to look at bit more like Inception things pick up. I would say this film does enough visually to allow it to stand apart from a lot of the other Marvel films. I thought the big final battle against Dormammu in the time-loop was a lot of fun and quite inventive, sadly the other battle against Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecillius was far less interesting and Kaecillius on the whole was quite wasted.

I go back and forth about how I feel about Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams, on the one hand I think her and Cumberbatch have great chemistry together and there scenes do have a nice amount of energy, but on the other hand I do wish that they would have given her more to do or at least allowed her to tag along for more of the craziness rather than just staying at the hospital.

Overall, a serviceable to good Marvel film but one that does let down a few of its key characters.

Pros.

Cumberbatch

The time-loop sequence

Swinton and Wong

McAdams has good chemistry with Cumberbatch

Cons.

McAdams isn’t given enough to do

Kaecillius is wasted

The training takes far too long       

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Moon Knight: Gods And Monsters

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Moon Knight must stop an undead Egyptian God from coming back to life.

By no means was this a perfect finale, however, I thought on the whole it was a lot better than most of the series and was a step in the right direction.

I liked that we finally got Jake Lockley, played by Oscar Issac, though I thought if they always intended to keep him until the post credits they should have teased him less in the wider series as it gave the impression that we might get him sooner than we actually did. Also I am not quite sure how I feel to the changes made to the character in terms of him speaking Spanish and not being much like the cabbie we remember from the comics, but hey maybe season 2 will address that.

I thought it was cool to see Layla, played by May Calamawy, get her own superpowered suit by becoming a different Gods avatar. I thought she paired nicely with Moon Knight and I liked their final battle action sequence together, even if Mr Knight suddenly just becomes great at fighting for no real reason after being terrible before that point.

One thing I will point to and say I didn’t like is that the defeat of Ethan Hawke’s character happened pretty much off screen, presumably during a Lockley episode, and that the episode as a whole was far shorter than what we got in the rest of the series. If it had such been 10 minutes longer it could have given them more time to properly do justice to everything they set up.

Overall, I think they did bring the series back with the last two episode but even in this final episode there were some noticeable issues that stopped it being perfect.

Pros.

Layla becoming her own superhero

The finale battle worked well and gave us some much needed action

Lockley

The return of Khonsu  

Cons.

It was too short

A few little issues with the plot

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Moon Knight: The Asylum

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Steven, played by Oscar Isaac, uncovers his origins, and Marc’s past is revealed as the two battle their way out of the asylum.

I think that this was a strong episode of Moon Knight, not in the regard that we got any more action or at they finally revealed the Jake Lockley persona, but on the emotional character development side of things. I thought in terms of establishing Steven and Marc as characters this episode did a hell of a lot of good work, by highlighting their deeply depressing backstory the show gives us its best look yet at their fractured psyche.

Moreover, I enjoyed the boat set piece and though visually it was very distinct and interesting. When Marc and Steven started fighting off the forces of the undead things got very intriguing especially in a sense of where the supernatural side of the MCU is heading.

My main criticisms of this episode would be that yet again we get very little suited up Moon Knight action, and that despite perhaps the most blatant tease yet we still have not had the Jake Lockley reveal, a move which I now believe Marvel is deliberately doing to troll the fans.

Overall, a lot of great character work and worldbuilding, slightly undercut by a distinct lack of in costume Moon Knight action.

Pros.

The emotional backstory

The boat set piece

The ending

The promise of what is to come

Cons.

The lack of suited Moon Knight once again

Stop teasing Jake Lockley  

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The Marvel Problem: Making Movies For Little Kids

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about a recurring issue/concern I am having with the MCU, though it can apply to other franchises also owned by Disney, and that is being a slave to the family friendly audience, being too afraid to have morally complex heroes or God forbid anti-heroes.

A lot of these feelings were stirred up within me by two things firstly the experience of watching Moon Knight the TV show versus reading Moon Knight in the comics, and also the recent Star Wars debacle that is The Book Of Boba Fett. In both examples the titular leads are toned down and in some areas entirely different from previous portrayals, rather than being the cold, tactical bounty hunter that we have seen in other Star Wars projects including The Mandalorian Boba is all soft and fluffy in his own show, hugging animals and having other people doing his killing. This is also seen in Moon Knight where the character is much less violent and far more incompetent, this is done to fit the tone and the comedy of the MCU.

However, the way Moon Knight has been presented on screen leaves me with a problem, if Moon Knight is not allowed to be gory or more mature then how the hell are characters like Deadpool, Punisher and Ghost Rider going to be done justice; the Ghost Rider of Agents Of Shield was an awful take on the character. Kevin Feige said that Moon Knight as a show wouldn’t pull back it would show us the finishing blow, however in practice this simply isn’t true. We have seen a bit of blood on  the characters hands and have seen some people die, but most of the time this has been cut away from or outrightly ignored, which becomes a turn off after a while.

Though in almost every other way the DCEU is worse than the MCU, the one thing I will give them credit for is that they are not afraid to be more mature and adult with their content, instead of pumping out CGI trash for little kids. Think about Peacemaker earlier this year a series that did well and became beloved whilst also dealing with adult themes and violence, can you ever imagine something like that existing within the MCU? No, no it would not and that is the problem. Disney and Marvel want to have their films appeal to as many different markets and demographics as possible so why not try appealing to adults. I understand that Disney is a family company but that doesn’t mean all their content has to be made for little children. Things like the Mandalorian give me hope that maybe Disney can get away from this bloodless family friendly approach but I am not too optimistic.  

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Moon Knight: The Tomb

2/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Moon Knight, played by Oscar Isaac rushes to find Ammit’s tomb before Harrow, played by Ethan Hawke, in an effort to save the world.

I am quickly starting to lose interest in this show. The promise of really delivering a true depiction of this character is not coming to pass at all, very much like with Boba Fett in his show, the character has been toned down too much. The Steven persona is too silly and weak, and though he is supposed to be the more human side to the character he often just gets in the way.

I think there are so many better ways this show could have gone than the Indiana Jones knockoff it has become. I think tone is a big issue for this show because even in the final moments of the episode wherein the various Moon Knight personas meet another Egyptian God it is not treated with any pomp or seriousness but is instead served up as yet another joke, which hurts the show.

Another thing that is starting to irritate me is the constant baiting of the third persona Jake Lockley, the first tease was exciting, the second was okay we are almost there and then the third was like really are we still doing this. Bear in mind the character has been teased far more than 3 times on the show thus far.

The only redeemable aspects of this episode was the killing of the lead that felt gutsy, even if it did lead to the incredibly predictable mental institution sequence, and the continued greatness of Ethan Hawke and May Calamawy.

Overall, episode 5 needs to be pretty stellar to win me back, I’m fading off fast.

Pros.

Hawke

Calamawy

Cons.

The constant teasing of the third persona

The obvious mental institution twist

Steven’s weakness is starting to become annoying

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Moon Knight: The Friendly Type

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Moon Knight, played by Oscar Isaac, travels to Egypt to stop Arthur Harrow’s evil plan but loses the favour of the Gods.

So for the most part I thought this was a good episode, however I did have one major issue with the episode, but first to the good.

I really enjoyed the ending of this episode wherein Khonsu, voiced by F. Murray Abraham, gave Stephen the power to turn back the night sky, I thought it was visually very interesting and also that it sets up a lot of tantalising possibilities for both the Moon Knight show as well as work the wider MCU.

I also thought the big battle sequence was really well done. I liked seeing Mr Knight make another appearance even if it was only brief and I applaud the show for once again pushing the violence and the gore. It is still for the most part fairly family friendly but it is on track to break bad if it keeps this tone, maybe other darker shows like a Punisher or a Ghost Rider would be able to take things even further.

However, my big negative for this episode was the court room scene wherein the various different Egyptian gods spoke to Marc. My main issues was that this scene which should have been very big and vey epic felt small and underwhelming, when they started talking about mental illness and safe spaces I really rolled my eyes, it didn’t feel like a meeting of the Gods but rather a counselling session.

Overall a weaker episode to the ones before it but still fairly good, hopefully the show will actually give us Jake Lockley in the next episode and stop teasing us constantly.

Pros.

Mr Knight

The violence

The ending

Cons.

The constant teasing for Lockley

The courtroom scene didn’t feel very epic at all

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Moon Knight: Summon The Suit

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Steven Grant, played by Oscar Isaac continues to learn about his other persona Marc Spectre, also played by Isaac, as well as their commitment to Khonshu, voiced by F. Murray Abraham.

This episode was a lot slower than the first, which was a negative for me but not hugely so. Mainly, the purpose of this episode is to set the stage and explain the series exposition for those unfamiliar, as such we learn of Steven/Marc’s death and rebirth at the hands of Khonshu, we learn about Marc’s wife Layla, played by May Calamawy, and about Arthur Harrow’s, played by Ethan Hawke, ultimate goal.

I think the highlight of this episode was the Steven/ Arthur conversation wherein Harrow can accurately guess what Khonshu is saying throughout and it is revealed that he used to be Khonshu’s avatar before Marc/Steven. I thought this whole sequence was both fun and also surprisingly tense, Hawke is really doing a good job in the villain role.

The introduction of Mr Knight, one of the various different persona’s of Moon Knight, was a mixed bag. On the one hand the look was fairly comics accurate and I like that he has been included, however, I don’t like how inept and jokey he is presented as being, as this is a far cry from the comics, though I will not judge the depiction just yet as it might get better as the series goes on.

Overall, a necessary episode to set up the world and things to come, if not the most exciting.

Pros.

Hawke

Isaac

More Khonshu

The comic accurate look of Mr Knight

Cons.

The slow pace

Making Mr Knight into somewhat of a joke

A lot of exposition

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Moon Knight: The Goldfish Problem

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Moon Knight, played by Oscar Isaac, makes his MCU debut.

I will preface this by saying comics-wise I am a huge Moon Knight fan, the Warren Ellis run on the character from a few years ago was fantastic, as such I have been very excited for this series. The first episode met my expectations for it, but struggled to exceed them as like many others have said this first episode was a lot of fun but it wasn’t perfect.

I enjoyed the fact that this episode felt like it had a different age rating from the rest of the MCU in that it actually allowed things to be gory or frightening and didn’t have to make everything so that it would appeal to audiences of all ages, this gave me some hope for characters like Ghost Rider and Punisher in the MCU.

Moreover, of what we have seen so far I appreciated Isaac’s performance, I know for some this accent is a little fake or grating, personally, though it may be a little confused, I didn’t find it off putting. Furthermore, I thought Isaac was good in his role as Stephen Grant, even though it is not comics accurate.

My one criticism of the episode would be that despite the mature tone of other parts of it the episode still forced in some of the MCU’s brand of ‘humour’ which didn’t land for me and instead often took me out of it. I hope as things get more serious we get less of it, but I know I am probably just wasting my breath.

Overall, a very promising start that looks set to make up for the short comings of other Disney + shows like Hawkeye.

Pros.

The blood and gore

Isaac

A fresh story in the MCU

It feels like how I would imagine Moon Knight from the comics

Cons.

Less humour please

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