Something is wrong with the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
In 2019, Disney/Marvel topped off an amazing decade-plus run of films with Avengers: Endgame, becoming (until Avatar was re-released in China) the highest grossing film of all time. This was in spite of an objectively complicated plot which required a deep understanding of all of Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity to follow.
And yet critics and fans (myself included! 🙋🏻♂️) loved it! It seemed like Marvel could do no wrong.
It doesn’t feel that way anymore. While I’ve personally enjoyed Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Shang-Chi, this Time article does a good job of critiquing how complicated the MCU has become, so much so that a layperson can’t just watch one casually.
But it misses one additional thing which I think gets to the heart of why the MCU just doesn’t feel right anymore. The MCU is now so commercially large, that the scripts feel like they’re written by a committee of businesspeople (oh make sure you’re setting up this other show/movie! let’s get in an action scene with some kind of viral quip!) rather than writers/directors trying to tell an entertaining story for the sake of the story.
And until they get to that, I’m not sure even Marvel’s plans to cut down on the number of productions will deliver.
Does all this sound like gobbledygook? For years now, audiences have not been able to watch Marvel shows and movies casually. But watching Loki Season 2, I felt I could not even look down at my phone for a second without getting completely lost. Heck, even if you’re watching with rapt attention, you’ll probably have a difficult time keeping up with the convoluted time travel shenanigans. The various MacGuffins, Easter eggs, and pseudoscientific explanations of superpowers used to be fun. Now they feel like homework.
How Marvel Lost Its Way
Eliana Dockterman | Time