Is Marvel Losing its Touch?
There is no denying that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is legendary. From being on the verge of bankruptcy to becoming one of the biggest, if not the biggest, movie franchises in the world, the MCU has broken records and box offices alike. Since 2008, with “Ironman” being the first, it has churned out 23 movies (and have released one to two movies a year), not mentioning short films, tv shows and all the other various content that keeps us occupied while we wait for the next installment. As time has gone on, it feels like Marvel is slowly losing its touch, with sloppy and money-focused projects that don’t remind me of the movies that dominated my childhood. So, why are Marvel movies so good, and are they setting down a path that will lead them to ruins?
So, to start us off, why are Marvel movies so good? The simple answer to that is that they are enjoyable, but it’s so much more than that. They are fun and different and always have witty banter, and, most importantly, people can see themselves in them. If you look at the superhero movies that came before “Ironman,” the most popular movies were the Sam Raimi “Spider-Men” movies and the “Dark Knight” saga. They were all good movies, but they took themselves too seriously. Batman has always been, and will always be, a dark character, but the “Spider-Men” movies took a lot of the humor out of the fundamentally funny Peter Parker character and tried to make him more of a Captain America style hero than he truly is. These movies were about the heroics, but the characters were in no way relatable.
When “Ironman” came out, Tony Stark, who was barely known at the time, completely changed the game. He was funny, sarcastic and charming, and Robert Downey, Jr. made people all over the world fall in love with the character. He was much more relatable than anything anyone had ever seen before, and his character made it easy to watch the movie because people could sympathize with him. The humor in the movie was also one of the largest selling points because the movie wasn’t so serious. People could take their kids to this movie, and everyone would enjoy it. The humor and relatability changed the game. Over time, Marvel created a formula that made sure that (almost) every movie was a smashing success.
If Marvel has its formula, and so many solid movies, did they go wrong? And if so, where? That’s a very good question that I’m sure you’re asking yourself. A lot of people like to blame Disney because it bought Marvel, but the transaction happened in 2009. This timeline means “Ironman 2” and everything after was created while Disney owned Marvel, so it’s not that. Or at least, it’s not the original acquisition. I think that two things have led to the downfall.
The first thing is power. When the MCU was first created, no one believed in it. MCU was focused on making quality movies and getting viewers. As the franchise grew, it gained a following who would watch whatever movie MCU made. I think that, with this power, Marvel was able to get a little sloppier. It knew that people just wanted to see their favorite characters, so they made movies like “Avengers: Infinity War,” where the plot wasn’t great, because there was so much going on, but all of the characters were in one movie. With the power and assurance that people would watch no matter what the movies got sloppy and worse.
A perfect example of the sloppiness is Captain America’s ending in “Avengers: Endgame.” Every single one of Cap’s movies was about Bucky. In “The First Avenger,” losing Bucky was what spurred him to defeat the Red Skull and eventually crash the plane. In “Winter Soldier,” the entire movie was about saving Bucky. In “Civil War,” he chose Bucky over all of the Avengers, including Tony Stark. Everything about Cap was based on his relationship with Bucky. So, how did they end his storyline? He abandoned Bucky, went back in time and got together with Peggy Carter. He not only ruined Peggy’s life (she had been happily married before he messed with the timeline and had a good and long life) but also abandoned Bucky, his best friend for whom he did everything. It made no sense to end his story like this. I personally think he should have died; it would be reminiscent of his sacrifice in his first movie, and he would never have abandoned Bucky. His story's conclusion made no sense and is a prime example of the sloppy writing and lack of care that the writers are putting into the newer movies.
The second reason why Marvel is going down hill is because it is just trying to get more money. I think this point is partially due to the Disney acquisition, because Disney seems to be very money focused, but I think that it is more focused on making money than making good content. This idea again goes back to the whole “stuffing every character into these big movies” thing where they think people are more likely to see the movie with all the characters, even if it makes the plot and writing worse. The company is just focused on money, not the writing or quality.
Can Marvel recover? I’m of two minds on the questions, but, truthfully, I don’t think so. On the plus side, it is making some amazing TV shows like “WandaVision” and “Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” Both shows were great, with “WandaVision” coming out of nowhere and exceeding all expectations. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is much different from “WandaVision;” it’s more like a movie that’s split up into six parts, but it’s excellent. The plot is easy to follow, the relationship between Bucky and Sam is gold and you want to keep watching. These TV shows go back to what Marvel is. Or at least what it’s supposed to be: fun, easy to follow and engrossing in plotlines. The shows are ideal Marvel, so I hope the company still has it in them to make quality entertainment.
On the negative side, it has nowhere to go. The Infinity Saga (all the movies up to “Spider-Man: Far From Home”) was legendary, with each movie becoming a unique piece to a complex puzzle that culminated in “Avengers: Endgame.” But now, a lot of our favorite characters are dead (or basically dead *cough* *cough* Captain America), and those who are alive have completed storylines, and anything new would feel forced. Obviously Marvel is going to keep making movies, but I feel like it’s just going to be trying to make money instead of making good movies. We’re going to have the over-packed team-up movies where every storyline feels too short because Marvel is trying to get too many of them into one movie. The filmmakers are going to start stuffing the Marvel “nods” into every project instead of jokes or quality banter, and every time there is a cameo from an established actor, it’s just going to feel like a cash grab. Also, there have been so many great plots and villains, so I don’t know how they’re going to keep on creating such original content. Yes, I’m going to keep watching, but I don’t know where Marvel can go from here that won’t feel stale or revenue-focused.
So what do you think? Did Marvel go wrong at all? And if it did, can it recover or is it just going to go downhill?