The Marvel Cinematic Universe is something that millions of people know about, whether they are young or old. It’s something that has grown bigger than I think any of us ever thought it would years ago, from box office record-breaking movies to Emmy-nominated television shows. It’s gained a fanbase that is at least comparable to other long-time sagas like the far-reaching Star Wars franchise. It might be the biggest thing in entertainment right now.
And yet, here I am, about to criticize Marvel Phase 4.
Now, keep in mind that I am a huge superhero nut. I know that there are many people out there who have loved superheroes for so much longer, but I've also loved them all my life, as well. One of my earliest memories was watching the Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire. I grew up in awe of superheroes and wishing I could join those worlds.
But I’m going to be honest – I am superheroed out.
Let’s get into these issues that I am currently having with the MCU, and talk over some problems that I’m pretty sure several of us can agree on.
There's Just Too Much Content To Keep Up With Now
I know, I know, from that title, it sounds like I’m being lazy, but hear me out.
A big reason why the MCU was so successful in the beginning was because it felt as if the first ten years were more of a marathon. We got Iron Man and Incredible Hulk in 2008, Iron Man 2 in 2010, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, and The Avengers in 2012. That was the first phase of the MCU, spread out over four years. Six films that, while some are great and some are meh (looking at you, Incredible Hulk), built up to a great climax with The Avengers.
In 2022 alone, we have had two Marvel films, Thor: Love and Thunder and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as well as three television shows, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk. And we are still waiting on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, as well as a Guardians of the Galaxy holiday special.
Not only that, but we had several shows and movies come out in 2021, including WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If…?, Hawkeye, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Black Widow, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Eternals.
This is too much. This is straight-up quantity over quality.
It’s aggravating that I have to watch a show about a character that I was never even a big fan of to understand plot points for a movie about a character that I want to see. It’s annoying that if I miss a whole show, I’m going to be so lost in the MCU. It’s too much for one person to be able to do – add this on with work, or school, or any other outside interests/responsibilities, and trying to keep up with this constant schedule is a lot.
Some Of The New Characters Haven't Been Introduced Well
Let me be the first to say that I do like the new characters. I loved Kate Bishop in Hawkeye and feel that Hailee Steinfeld will be a great addition to the MCU. I also love Florence Pugh as Yelena and can’t wait to see her in Thunderbolts. I was a fan of Kamala Khan and I think her powers are super cool and her show, Ms. Marvel, was so sweet.
But, some of the other new characters in the MCU during Phase 4 have not been as well done.
I’m going to start off with the obvious here and point to Eternals. While I do think that Eternals got some unnecessary hate when it first came out, I can agree that it felt like that entire movie was an exposition fest, and yet I still feel I didn’t get to know a single character.
With other team-up films, like Guardians of the Galaxy, we really got to see the personalities of everyone on the team, but with this, there were so many new characters and new powers that it was hard to keep track, and even when I could, there was no personality to be seen. Anywhere. Maybe with Phastos, but everyone else was so generic.
Another example I’ll bring up is She-Hulk, otherwise known as Jennifer Walters. I might upset some people, but I’ll be honest and say that I did enjoy She-Hulk. I liked the comedic style of the character and the meta finale was hilarious, but the character of Jen felt mishandled.
The show was really promoted as a superhero show with her cousin, Bruce, used in a lot of material, but we really didn’t get much of her actually using her powers to beat people – which is fine, but I wish that the marketing was handled better so I expected that.
Other Characters We’ve Grown To Like Have Been Pushed To The Side Or Aren’t Like They Used To Be
I could go on for hours about how some of the characters from previous Marvel films have felt a little more muted in Phase 4, but I’ll use one of the best examples instead – Thor in Thor: Love and Thunder.
The fourth Thor film tried to redo the magic of Ragnarok from Phase 3, but instead, Thor: Love and Thunder made the titular character a joke. It stripped away his strong character development that he had in the third film, as well as the complex character development he had in both Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
Instead, he’s just been made a laughing stock, which is really disheartening to see considering how much he had transformed as a character. Thor isn't even my favorite superhero and I feel upset about this. Imagine how long-time Thor fans feel.
The same thing stands out with Black Widow. She was the first female superhero in the MCU and someone I looked up to. When she died in Avengers: Endgame, I was hoping her solo film would be a good send-off for her, but it felt half-baked and should have been released years ago. It’s just not the same.
The Visual Effects Have Definitely Taken A Hit
Okay, so this is more of a technical issue than an opinion, but anyone with eyes can tell that the special effects for MCU properties have taken a hit over Phase 4, and I fully believe that’s because so many movies and TV shows have come out.
I could be blunt and go directly to the most recent release, She-Hulk, and point fingers at the obvious CGI faults in the main character of the show, but my critiques go back further than that. Ms. Marvel didn’t really have great visual effects either, as much as I liked the show. Black Widow was arguably one of the weaker films in the visual effects department. Thor: Love and Thunder felt almost too over-saturated in color and was too much to handle.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some great looking movies in Phase 4. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was beautifully done. Eternals had some masterful shots. Even fan-favorite Spider-Man: No Way Home featured amazing cinematography. But a good amount of stuff has really taken a visual hit.
I mean, think about that eye on Doctor Strange’s head in Multiverse of Madness. Nah, that was not it. That is not up to MCU standards.
The Quality Has Been Inconsistent
This is arguably one of the biggest critiques of the MCU right now. The quality of the movies and TV shows has not been consistent in the slightest. WandaVision was a great start to the Disney+ shows. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was great as well. Loki was such a hit it garnered a second season order.
However, some of the films have really taken a hit. The story of Eternals was sloppy, at best. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was just meh overall, which is upsetting, because I love the Scarlett Witch. And I don’t even want to get started on Thor: Love and Thunder. You already know how I feel about the character assassination of Thor.
Even some of the Marvel TV shows have been iffy in Phase 4. Moon Knight had some great episodes but the climax felt rushed. I Am Groot really served no real purpose to the MCU as a whole. It’s upsetting to see that while these shows and movies are being poured out of Marvel studios, they just haven’t been as good.
There have been some good films and shows in Phase 4, as I mentioned before, including Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and What If…?, but I am concerned for the future of this universe if most of the shows coming out right now are mid at best and are telling stories that just aren’t capturing the audience's attention anymore, and are filled with plot holes and rushed endings.
I am one of the biggest supporters of the MCU, and you can bet that I am going to be in the theater as soon as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever comes out, but I will be the first to say that I am quite worried about the future of the MCU. I just hope that with Phase 5 and Phase 6, we might get to see Marvel return to form just a little. Here’s hoping.
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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