Marvel movies have quickly become “What can make the audience pay to see this and how can we do it quickly?” rather than “How can we make our audience enjoy our films and want to see more of them?” Marvel has shifted focus to quantity rather than quality in recent years and have continued to pump out movies and TV shows that follow plot points with characters that don’t warrant any real interest. Everyone’s social media feed and the articles we read have been utterly infested with theories of “Who’s gonna be the next cameo?” or “What’s the 78th Marvel show going to be about?” rather than actual interest in what’s going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Marvel’s first endeavor into creating their own universe of films based on their famous comic book characters was Iron Man directed by Jon Favreau in 2008. Jon Favreau’s directing is effective for Marvel films and if they only kept him for a little longer as director, the MCU may be different today. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man films were based on Marvel Comics; however, as we know, they were never truly in the universe that Marvel has dubbed the MCU. At the start of the MCU, the movies were fun. They were barely darker superhero movies but had a layer of mediocrity that would in coming years become a staple. For a while though, Marvel was innovating with advanced CGI which gave a lot of creative freedom to the universe they were creating. There was almost a wonder found within a world that mimics our own where fantastical superheroes exist and save the world from impending doom that couldn’t be found in many other films. And Marvel movies used to be an exciting event when first released. With films like Avengers: Endgame making over $2.5 billion dollars and featuring a whole advertising campaign reminding people not to spoil the movie. Some of the most fun I have ever had in a theater was going with friends to watch a Marvel movie we had been waiting years for, we were even a little scared for the heroes we loved and had connected to for over 14 years now. Recently Marvel movies have just simply served the purpose of fan service, which makes it feel like Marvel is only focusing on making an audience point to garner screaming at the screen instead of doing anything interesting with a story. Fan service is cheap when it isn’t deserved or handled well. It also feels as if every Marvel product only exists to set up future films instead of focusing on their own stories. But what is the point of setting up future stories when you can’t even make a good movie in the first place? Why release something that disappoints fans by following plot points that don’t matter and shoving jokes down their throats? Is it just to set up a future story that audiences won’t be excited about due to the mediocrity of recent films?
When WandaVision was announced on April 11, 2019, I was skeptical yet interested in a Marvel TV show. WandaVision was something new in a recent ocean of uninterest in the MCU. However, the decision to expand the MCU into multiple different TV series is the beginning of the downfall of Marvel. The flood of TV shows and films released in 2020-2021 is already more Marvel content than released from 2008-2017. The entire reason Marvel films felt satisfying to watch was because of the wait leading up to the movie; the continuation of the overarching story, a story that spanned 21 films and ended with Avengers: Endgame. So the question is “What’s next after Endgame?” That answer, to be honest, is not much. The major movies people were excited about after Endgame were both new Spider-Man movies, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Spider-Man: No Way Home, as well as the brand new Doctor Strange sequel that was intended to introduce the multiverse concept into the MCU. The two Spider-Man movies were fun, effective stories which mainly offered fan service rather than any actual weight in the MCU, especially No Way Home. The real problem with this phase began with Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, a film so flawed that this entire article could be about it. Doctor Strange went through countless reshoots and was overall a rushed product in order to be driven straight into theaters for maximum profit (and to get a story on the screen at the right time). Showtimes were absolutely flooded with nothing but Doctor Strange. All movies took a backseat to the brand new Marvel movie that would surely break ground. Unappealing characters such as America Chavez, who was introduced immediately and apparently one of the most powerful, important characters since Thanos, has less fans than Ezra Miller. (Reasons vary, only some are valid.) Along with the butchered reshoots the movie went through forced the director Sam Raimi to dumb the movie down and make it less scary while also putting a time restraint on his work.
Marvel has consistently released movies that play off of one another instead of actually trying to make a good movie. Chloe Zhao, director of Nomadland, the complete antithesis of a Marvel movie, also directed Eternals and it could be argued that she was chosen by people who didn’t watch her previous work. Eternals set up galactic trouble in the future (and Harry Styles for some reason?). WandaVision makes Scarlet Witch a villain for Doctor Strange to fight, the new Doctor Strange movie sets up the multiverse and (almost) explains it, every product feeds into everything else. While Marvel has always done overarching story lines, those movies that included the connected story were effective solo movies as well, like the first Captain America: it’s a great WWII movie on its own. On the flip side, if you took someone who had never watched a Marvel movie to the newest Doctor Strange, they would probably feel as if they’re on a bad acid trip — definitely not a fun one. This forces people to watch every single Marvel product in order to understand the story. You’ve already been invested for 14 years, so why not watch and pay for everything Marvel throws at you? This is exactly what Marvel wants you to do. It’s the sunken time philosophy, and it’s genius. But just because something a greedy company does to be more greedy is smart doesn’t mean it’s good for the fans of the product.
Getting into Marvel movies is now harder than it has ever been. With a total of 36 MCU projects and over 5,957 minutes of movies and tv shows the MCU is an absolute slog to finish. No one wants to sit down and watch 36 films and remember every single plot point that connects each for over 100 hours of content. While it could be a mostly fun 100 hours, it wouldn’t matter if it was the best series of all time. One-hundred hours is a major roadblock to get over if you want to experience all of what the company offers and join in on the amazing party the fans insist you’re missing out on. Even Michael Keaton, star of multiple comic book movies, has admitted he has “[n]ever finished a single one of those” because he has “other shit to do.” It’s a statement that’s the exact same as many others who have agreed — or been worn down enough to admit — that the MCU takes too much time to get into. It’s a blessing and a curse. There are a lot of hours worth of fun content in the MCU; but, the long runtime of each make it a hard sell for many.
I have nothing against people that enjoy Marvel movies or watch every single one of them. I have also enjoyed Marvel films! But, the dedicated hardcore fanbase of Marvel is hurtful to themselves creatively; they destroy their own perspective of cinema itself to a degree. I don’t want to sound like a snooty film snob. I just want people to enjoy movies and different kinds of cinema as much as I do. Marvel isn’t helping this in any way. Many people miss out on incredible staples of cinema like Taxi Driver or even beautifully constructed foreign films like In The Mood For Love and The 400 Blows because they aren’t interested in the concepts explored in the film due Marvel movies they have been subjected to and have felt safe with for so long of a of time. No, I’m not telling you to show your kid Taxi Driver in order to enable a young film genius. I’m just suggesting people to experiment with film, go outside your comfort zone, and watch something you may not have usually watched.
Young kids, specifically those that grew up on Iron Man and haven’t missed a Marvel movie since, have admitted that other genres and types of movies simply don’t appeal to them or interest them in the slightest because of the harder-to-understand aspects of filmmaking that is absent in Marvel films. Many peers whom I’ve talked to have agreed that growing up on Marvel movies and almost nothing but adventure or action movies, specifically those that don’t innovate on the genre, have lowered their interest in anything that doesn’t have conflict happening at almost all times. It’s not a claim that Marvel fans are less intelligent because they don’t watch films that require deeper thought than usual. I’m just simply claiming that Marvel movies and the oversaturation of them make a lot of people feel like every movie has to be like that. It’s okay to not enjoy long and strange movies that require constant attention like 2001 A Space Odyssey or Seven Samurai because those are hard movies to watch, especially if you’ve been subjected to the in-your-face style and pace that a lot of Marvel movies adopt. But that’s Marvel’s biggest problem, the oversaturation of comedy and action movies in the studio’s filmography and the lack of real differentiation between each. Even when Marvel attempts to do something different like the “horror” movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse Of Madness, they fail miserably with no homage paid to the genre (perhaps slightly with Rami’s camera use). Marvel and other companies that use the same format of adventure comedy or action-comedy don’t want to take a chance because why would they want to? This format has been shown to make an insane amount of money in the past and that’s all major production companies care about in the long run. Why even take a chance in the first place if you know you can safely make a lot of money?
And yes, people can enjoy both. But with so much time devoted to catching up with the latest from the MCU, who has any extra for The Godfather? And will studios even produce those any more?
I don’t like presenting problems without solutions. Something Marvel can do to reverse some of the lack of creativity is to get weirder with it. They have the funding and the following to do so and there’s been literal fan scripts and stories that are more creative than anything Marvel has released in the past three years. If Marvel genuinely cared about what they were creating and didn’t rush directors to finish — maybe gave them more time to get weird with it. Let them truly insert their own style. Maybe the directors of these films would actually recognize what they’re making as their own. As Bob Dylan sang in “New Danville Girl” that “If there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now.”
its 4:47 am and i just read this thoroughly
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