With the recent release of Thor: Love and Thunder, there seems to be a constant question being asked, be it in our comments, social media sites, or word of mouth. Is the MCU in decline?
It’s hard to argue that the recent releases haven’t been up to par compared to what we’ve been accustomed to. Thor: Love and Thunder seemed to have identity issues, trying to both be a laugh-a-minute comedy, whilst dealing with an extremely sensitive topic in Jane’s cancer storyline, and one of the darkest villains for a while in Gorr the God Butcher. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seemed to suffer from what was left on the editing floor, rather than what we saw on the screen. Although Elizabeth Olsen was fantastic regardless. The shows themselves have ranged from the average if-not-fun What If…? to the outstanding Ms. Marvel and Loki.
Compare all of this to Phase 3, where more or less every single film was knocked out of the park, up to and of course including Infinity War and Endgame.
Phase One to Phase Four
However, it’s not particularly fair to compare the last phase to this one. The last phase was the culmination of ten years of planning and filmmaking, resulting in a huge ‘reset’ in the MCU. It’s much fairer to compare to the first phase of films. Iron Man was outstanding, and the film that set this great franchise in motion. Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk were middling to poor efforts, and Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor were in their own right pretty good. Those five films were establishing the characters and direction of the franchise, much like the current crop of films and shows are now.
That’s not to say I don’t think what’s being put out now couldn’t be better, because in some parts it could be. In fact, Marvel Studios has had ten years of mastering their craft to fall back on. However, they’re taking a lot of chances recently in trying to change from their cookie-cutter films into something more varied in genre and feeling, which should be commended.
Too many shows?
If anything, the main issue is the deluge of shows that Marvel Studios is pushing out. Everyone from Agatha to a rumored Wonder Man seems to be getting their own shows; and whilst it’s good the universe is getting fleshed out left, right and center, the quality of the universe does seem to be suffering, and the connective tissue as a whole seems to be disappearing – as if there’s too much oversight required to keep it tight.
Then again, back in phase one, we had no idea what the greater picture was, so who’s to say we won’t be looking back in a few years going ‘ooooh, that’s how it connects!’?