The Best Way to Rule the Universe is to Create it
At this point it would be an understatement to accredit Marvel as the most successful superhero franchise with the MCU also being one of the most successful movie franchises till date. From Jon Favreau’s introductory Iron Man (2008) starring Robert Downey Jr to Anthony & Joe Russo’s conclusive Avengers: Endgame (2019), also starring Robert Downey Jr alongside other important and iconic characters. Talented directors had succeeded in bringing Stan Lee’s diverse universe to live in the big screens over a decade, comprising a total of 23 movies split between 3 phases together named the Infinity Saga. But like they say, “all good things must come to an end”, was the conclusion of Endgame also the end of the game for Marvel? Of course not, far from it, in fact they were only getting started. They would soon officially announce their next series of movies split into 3 phases together making up the Multiverse Saga. So, as the introduction of the multiverse and the build-up to another conclusive ending expected to top even Endgame set sail, the fans were in for a ride…or were they? As a former Marvel enthusiast, it really hurts me to say so but the “good things” really do come to an end.
From Germane Civil War to Futile Streaming War
Even among all the bangers that Marvel put out during its first 3 phases one that particularly stood out for me and definitely deserves a noteworthy mention is none other than the Russo brother’s take on the theme of conflicting ideals – Captain America: Civil War. Fans had gone crazy and were forced to draw a line on the sand choose for themselves which side they were on when two of the most fan favourite characters were pit against each other. The film also dives deep into the various character dynamic and interactions that take place as a result of standing off against one another. Will the MCU ever be able to touch such heights in cinema again only time will tell. What we do know for sure is that majority of the post-Endgame deliveries have either been meh, underwhelming or disappointing. Phase 4 saw the inclusion of tv series and mini-series into the MCU and a vast majority of them along with the movies (with the exception of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) of this phase provided little to no entertainment value. The player I’d like to point fingers at for this poor performance would be Disney+. In their quest of reigning supreme over the throne of OTT and beating their arch nemesis Netflix, the executives at Disney decided to turn whatever script presented to them into a web series or a mini-series which would go on to unquestionably air in Disney+ thus bringing in more viewership than their rivals and eventually even beating out Netflix at their own game. Such a scheme resulted in IPs such as Loki and Moon Knight, which featured interesting premises and concepts to take a nosedive due to lacklustre storytelling and mediocre ending. However, a few pre-established IPs like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder that managed to evade such schemes somehow also ended up suffering the same fate of either turning out completely underwhelming or utterly disappointing. So, the main fault here isn’t just movie level scripts being turned into episodic series but a complete lack of effort as a whole as well as the adoption of the “quantity over quality” approach by the MCU. At this point Marvel was throwing whatever they could to the wall and see what sticks and to their surprise, nothing did.
With Great Expectations Must Come Great Exhibition
Now, as I throw as much mud as possible at Phase 4, it is also worth remembering Phases 1-3 had their own short comings too. Back then however, the MCU was devoid of the identity they currently possess and as such had to go in with a “trial and error” ideology instead of a “tried and tested” formula they currently have a hold on. Despite all the prior experiences and mistakes to learn from, it still managed to mess up which goes on to show perhaps it could be due to the high bar they set for themselves. Seeing the huge shoes of expectations to be filled, even corporate giants like Marvel Entertainment can start to fumble. Having presented the audience with iconic characters like Captain America and Hulk, the MCU now faced the challenge to prepare the fans for fresh characters like She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel. Now that the fans were already spoilt by genre-defining characters, the only way of satisfying them with fresh blood was to back it all up with immaculate character writing and proper backstories where the MCU had failed through and through. And above all else what the character roster of the subsequent phase lacked the most was the presence of a main pivotal character.
Give this Saga a New Leader
Putting an end to the hypotheses relating to the real world, let’s now dive into the actual cinematic universe itself. The current MCU roster has more than adequate characters to keep things chaotic and interesting. However, things aren’t the same when we’re in requirement of a proper leading figure. Looking back at the cinematic experience that Civil War was, the theme of the movie gave rise to two different types of perspectives with each being embodied perfectly by the two prominent pivot characters – Captain America and Iron Man. Now would the movie still have work with either one of these iconic characters missing? Of course, it wouldn’t. The difference in the character dynamic between them and each of these characters standing for what they believe in, even if they had to stand against a friend made Civil War such an engaging movie. So, a lack of such prominent characters is what the current MCU needs to fix first. There sure exist a lot of potential candidates for such a role like Falcon – whom Steve Rogers voluntarily passed off the baton to, Captain Marvel – who needs a work around her leadership skills and Ironheart – Tony Stark’s potential successor. All the writers have to do is make these characters interact with the rest of the cast more and more and as such build them up as the main pivots of the Avengers overtime.
Surrounded by bad ratings from fans, terrible reviews from critics, potential competition from rivals such as DC’s DCEU and Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse, these past 3 years haven’t really been an easy time for the MCU. But being a Marvel fan myself I say we cut them some slack, as the studio that gave us bangers upon bangers like The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013), Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Thor: Ragnarök (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019) of course, their potential to deliver us with bangers isn’t over yet. With the correct management of time and resources, making proper use of the fresh industrial talents as well as veterans, they can get right back up is what I truly believe. As Stan Lee himself quoted, “Luck’s a revolving door, you need to know when it’s your time to walk through”, MCU should never stop trying their luck as that’s exactly how they succeeded in turning into one of the most successful cinema franchises ever.
Polytechnic in Electrical Engineering Assam Engineering Institute