In 2008, Robert Downey Jr. donned the helm of Iron Man for the first time, and so began an unstoppable juggernaut of cinematic fury; the franchise to end all franchises. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has survived — nay, thrived — for almost two decades with no equals and no signs of slowing down.
Phase Five of the MCU has left fans feeling burnt out. While there have been some runaway hits like the Oscar-nominated Black Panther sequel and the star-studded Spider-man trilogy, most Marvel fans can agree that in recent years there has been a slump. And while fans will doubtlessly continue to line up on Thursday night screenings, we might be forced to face the unthinkable: is the MCU nearing the end of its relevancy?
Let’s examine three reasons why this may be so: Marvel Fatigue, Media Burnout, and Controversy.
This is perhaps the most obvious reason why Marvel might finally be tasting failure: people are just tired of it. While the MCU has consistently dominated the box office since 2008, back then, they were only making one or two MCU movies a year.
Nowadays, not only do we see three or more MCU movies, but now numerous shows on Disney+ are considered part of the MCU canon as well! It is no longer enough to be a casual fan who watches one or two of the movies and skips the others.
If you do that, you might find that you don’t recognize some characters or have missed major plot points entirely. For those reasons, fans who might be casual viewers of the MCU could be deterred from investing time in a franchise that will be confusing to them.
While the magnitude of the franchise and convolution of the colliding universes is deterring new fans, media burnout is contributing to all fans simply not having the time to catch up on the MCU. Simply put, there is just too much to watch.
As we speak, I’m currently at least one season behind on every single one of my favorite shows (nobody spoil the season finale of Abbott Elementary for me!) Being in the golden age of television is a double-edged sword — there is so much well-written content out there that sometimes familiar favorites, like the MCU — can get lost in the cracks.
News outlets have been recently reporting on Jonathan Majors, who recently landed the role of a lifetime as the new big bad of the MCU. Majors is being accused of domestic violence, and as a result, it appears as if he is slowly being fazed out of the MCU.
As the future of the MCU is centered around Majors, his fate and the studio's fate might be intertwined. Both might be doomed to fail as a result.
Between the controversies, burnout, and fatigue, the cards might be stacked against the Avengers and the MCU. However, if Steve Rogers were here, he’d get back up and say, “I can do this all day,” and get back into the fight.
Much like Cap, Marvel isn’t going down without a fight. Three things could save Earth’s mightiest heroes: fresh perspectives, new media, and a deeper connection to the source material.
A Fresh Perspective
There is nothing more exciting for MCU fans than novelty. We love watching our favorite heroes interact with each other, but we also love seeing them in new situations and learning how to adapt. It’s how we connect with them, and some of the novelty of the franchise has been lost. Marvel has the opportunity to course-correct this in phase five.
For example, the trailer for The Marvels, which is the sequel to the 2019 film, Captain Marvel, generated lots of buzz upon its release. At the time of this writing, the trailer has over 17 million views on YouTube. Director Nia DaCosta (who helmed the remake of Candyman) is precisely the fresh perspective that Marvel needs to bring in new fans and reinvigorate old ones.
Marvel’s Keeping Up With The TV Industry
As I mentioned before, being in the golden age of TV is a double-edged sword. There is so much content out there it's hard for any shows to stand out from the masses. However, despite this, Marvel is holding their own in the TV game.
WandaVision, the MCU’s first streaming series, was met with rave reviews and was watched by so many people that the app would crash on premiere nights. Moon Knight and Loki were nominated for eight and six Emmys apiece. It’s no wonder that Marvel is continuing to hedge their bets on the streaming game.
While the landscape of television changes daily, Marvel has made it clear that it can keep up and will always be in the conversation.
Staying True to The Source Material
Even the most hardcore MCU fan can admit that there’s a bit of a disconnect between MCU fans and Marvel comics fans. MCU fans can tolerate or enjoy artistic licenses — like the gender-swapped Flagsmasher from Falcon or the nerfed Taskmaster from Black Widow.
However, many of these changes and more were made as an attempt to ground the source material — to make these surrealistic characters seem more human. However, the comics are more outlandish and more unafraid to take risks, and the MCU is learning that. Even small steps, like using comic-accurate costumes and backstories, can help the MCU feel more connected to the Marvel comic book world.
In recent years it feels like Marvel has lost its way. It came from humble beginnings and was bolstered by devoted fringe groups, and now it seems to have lost a little bit of its soul. However, it seems as though they are taking steps to change course and return to bringing us the MCU that we love — but updated for our needs as an audience right now.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Alexandria Love is a writer, comedian, and actor from Oakland, California. She's been a featured stand-up comedian in numerous clubs and festivals. Her comedic writing is seen on Netflix, ABC, and NBC. She has contributed essays to an upcoming "She Series" book compiled by Karen Hellion. Alexandria currently resides in New York City.