Marvel's shared universe, a.k.a. the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been a fantastic cinematic achievement. Disney has successfully created a string of inter-connected blockbusters, and nearly all of them have been hits. It's a phenomena many have tried to replicate and failed, and it may be a long time before anyone else is able to pull something remotely similar off.
While there are some things the MCU has accomplished other franchises wish they could replicate, there have been some downsides. Yes, the MCU has wowed and amazed us for over a decade, but there has also been a number of instances where Marvel Studios insistence on a shared cinematic universe was a real bummer.
Incorporating Legacy Characters That Weren't Incorporated From The Start Has Been Challenging
When Disney acquired 20th Century Fox and the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, superhero fans were already salivating over seeing these Marvel heroes incorporated into the MCU. We're now a full year past acquisition, and there's been little indication from Marvel Studios on what the plan is beyond that it will happen sometime in the future.
In Marvel and Kevin Feige's defense, it will probably take a while to work the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the MCU organically. There's now been a decade of films in which both hero groups, if the MCU is adhering to traditional Marvel canon, should've been around for. What exactly kept Wolverine away during Avengers: Infinity War, and what was Reed Richards doing during the attack on New York?
These are questions that fans will want an answer to, and Marvel will likely have an answer for whenever these characters appear. Right now, one popular working theory is that these heroes exist within multiverses, and have been living in separate timelines similar to what will be happening in the upcoming Disney+ series Loki. Still, it would've been so much easier if these characters could've just been thrown into the mix without such effort, if only so we could enjoy some epic team-ups between characters right now.
Licensing Issues Can Easily Derail Big Plans
The MCU has ran like a well-oiled machine throughout a bulk of its lifetime, churning out an impressive number of movies. That takes a lot of planning, and a lot of things going right. It also occasionally requires collaboration with other studios, and if those studios don't play ball, things can derail pretty quickly.
Case in point, Marvel and Sony's beef over Spider-Man. In a tense situation, Marvel and Sony dissolved their Spider-Man partnership, and quite possibly derailed some future plans set to happen in the MCU. Cooler minds prevailed, and Marvel Studios got Tom Holland's Spider-Man back in the MCU for now, but who knows if that relationship will be jeopardized again in the future?
And this isn't the only MCU character whose future has been affected or jeopardized by licensing issues. The Hulk is actually owned by Universal and, according to Marvel, that studio is unwilling to collaborate with Disney on a standalone movie. This has relegated Mark Ruffalo's character to a perpetual supporting role in Marvel's films, despite being one of the franchise's biggest characters. Marvel has made due with what they could do with the character thus far, but imagine if Universal had suddenly decided to pull a Sony and dissolve the partnership. Hulk going to space and just never returning would be a bummer, though thankfully, not a reality we've had to live through.
A Shared Universe Means Making Sure Other Heroes Are Unavailable To Prevent Questions
Avengers: Endgame had a huge elephant in the room with Captain Marvel being conveniently absent for most of the picture, and only showing up towards the tail end of the final conflict. A large part of that is because Captain Marvel is the most powerful hero in the MCU by a long shot, so having her around to save the day would've made handling Thanos pre-Infinity Gauntlet a rather easy task.
If you think this is the only time the MCU will have to delicately place Captain Marvel clear across the universe to prevent fans from questioning why she doesn't save the day, you might be dealing with the effects of the Reality Stone. Marvel will probably keep finding ways to keep Carol Danvers off Earth throughout the entirety of her run in the MCU.
It's a problem DC fans don't have, mainly because the brand dropped the idea of a shared universe after Justice League. While there are some downsides of those collapsed plans, DC also doesn't have to worry about making a movie where the Joker is 20 years older than Batman messes with its canon. There's something liberating in that though, probably because Marvel normalized continuity across superhero movies.
Watching An MCU Movie Can Require An Encyclopedic Knowledge
It's a feeling I'd assume only a lucky few have yet to experience. You hunker down for the latest Marvel movie, get into the movie and then are absolutely blindsided by some information that makes no sense. Surprise, this movie is tied to a previous MCU entry, and because you haven't seen that, part of the current plot will be lost on you.
What's worse is that more often than not, viewers have no idea what they do and don't need to watch going into the latest MCU movie. In fact, Marvel was intentionally cagey about what people needed to know ahead of Avengers: Endgame, with the hint that literally every movie would be relevant. In reality, Thor: The Dark World played a heavier part than most any other movie, and of course, that was the one I skipped.
Marvel has done a decent enough job over the years at keeping the MCU accessible, but it's moments like these when I realize alienating casual fans is "inevitable" if maintaining continuity is the goal of the MCU. Past events have to be referenced, and some will inevitably be lost because of that. It's not necessarily the worst side effect, but as the headline states, it's certainly a bummer.
Of course, despite all the things about it that bum me out, I still have love for the MCU. While we're airing grievances, feel free to throw any you might have in regards to the Marvel universe in the comments below. As always, be sure to stick with CinemaBlend for all the latest happening in television and movies.