I can’t keep up with the MCU. Here’s why.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is probably the biggest pop culture franchise in the world. Despite it not stopping churning out movies anytime soon, it is safe to say that the MCU has already run its course.
With Avengers: Endgame (2019), they wrapped up the storyline they have been building since its start, and key players in the universe such as Iron Man and Captain America completed their respective character arcs. It is evident that continuing the franchise now after its climax is only bringing up its inherent flaws.
The biggest strength of the MCU is perhaps also its biggest problem, and that is the shared universe its movies occupy. Essentially, you already have to be a pre-existing fan invested in the world. A new viewer interested in watching Doctor Strange 2 would have to not only watch the first Doctor Strange film, but also WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home to understand what's happening. In the initial phases, this was easier to follow, but at this point the MCU has progressed so far, that new viewers will miss out on the appeal of interconnectivity.
The newer movies and Disney+ shows seem more focused on fan service and advertising the next MCU project. Shows like WandaVision and Loki focused more on setting up the next big crossovers, with the latter being riddled with plot holes which most fans overlooked. If you're looking for a standalone movie to enjoy for the merit of the singular storyline, it cannot be found in an individual MCU project in recent memory.
Another inherent problem with the shared universe strategy is that these projects need to conform to the same tone or format. The first act of Shang-Chi seemed like a breath of fresh air and the start to a great martial arts film. By the third act, they just went with a full epic CGI battle like every other Marvel movie. Some of these projects could've benefited from having completely different tones.
The MCU has always been more of a Cliffsnotes version of the source material. For instance, the Hawkeye series took elements of an acclaimed comics run and essentially presented a rather bland and toned-down version of that storyline. Granted, accuracy does not matter when it comes to making a great adaptation, but often with MCU, you are getting a lesser version of the same thing.
I am not trying to echo Martin Scorsese here, nor am I hating on something just because it is popular. The famous Hydra catchphrase "Cut off one head and two more shall take its place" has become applicable for the MCU now. There are so many branching projects that at one point it will become one too many to follow.
For superhero films and shows to be better, there needs to be a stronger focus on standalone stories rather than world building. It is high time that Marvel ended the franchise or let it evolve into something else.
Sabil spends most of his time making memes and trying to stay as hopeful as possible. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org