During the recent San Diego Comic-Con 2022, Kevin Fiege just announced the future direction for the MCU with Phases 4, 5, and 6 further encapsulating it all by officially releasing the overarching title — The Multiverse Saga. With the recent flux of Marvel films as of late, however, we at This Is Hype Ph have started to question if the MCU has been experiencing burnout in terms of their feature-length films.
This article aims to explain this very question as we look deep into three important details to consider as to why it may appear that Marvel has been having difficulty in producing show-stopping hits as compared to those in The Infinity Saga. This MCU burnout first and foremost can be attributed to dropping in sales and review ratings for the majority of the films under Phase Four. These films include The Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder, just to name a few. These films aren’t necessarily awful or even bad but the dips in sales and ratings have been noticeable.
It is important to note that this discussion will be limited to the feature-length films under the MCU’s phase 4. We won’t be discussing the TV shows as there has been a better reception for the majority of the shows compared to the films. Here are the three aspects worth looking into before declaring that the MCU has indeed reached burnout in terms of quality.
Is The MCU Experiencing A Movie Burnout?
Quantity Over Quality
This is a very evident factor to be quite frank for the so-called MCU burnout. The MCU’s rate in delivering blockbuster films after blockbuster films has been really quick. This was also seen in the way Fiege released the phase 5 and 6 timelines. Within the span of a year, Marvel has targeted to release around 3 to 4 feature-length films. This year alone for 2022, the MCU has had a total of 3 film projects — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and capping the year off with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on November 11.
There seems to be a shift in focus from the MCU as quantity over quality has been the name of the game as of late. This has been seen in the dip in terms of storylines and as well as the overall visuals of the films that have come out as of late. There has also been a focus on a number of easter eggs and fan serviced references to the comic books and possible future releases. Through the whole quality over a quantity ball game, there has been a culture built amongst fans and the films that have allowed accuracy in predictions. There has been predictability or accuracy in fan theories that have surfaced and it’s a blurred line between whether fans have theorized it all correctly — pointing to the predictability in storylines — or if Marvel has really just been keen on listening to the fans. This was seen with the Illuminati theory in Doctor Strange and the three Spider-men conundra in No Way Home. Whatever the case maybe things aren’t as secretive anymore in the world of the MCU as they used to be.
As mentioned, the performance of the MCU films in the visual department hasn’t been at its prime and consistent condition. Instead of the amazing visual display that we have come to know from the MCU, most of the films so far under the Phase 4 arsenal have been sub-par with several visible flaws. Take the recent Thor film as an example where the black and white color palette for one particular scene was visibly inconsistent. I mentioned that this article will focus on the MCU films alone but I can’t help but express concern as well for an upcoming MCU TV show on Disney+ for its seeming misuse of CGI effects — She-Hulk.
Phase Four’s biggest predicament however is its so-far lack of a foundational set of heroes and the loss of some of the pillars and heavy hitter heroes from the Infinity Saga. The sad goodbyes for Iron Man, Captain America, and the Black Widow is still evident today. The loss of these iconic characters is very much felt. Phase four then has to build everything from the ground up. This is where things get really tricky. This isn’t just rebuilding. The many years of the MCU have already built something phenomenal. Phase four’s main objective is to fix the very foundations that have already been firmly founded. Imagine a house that’s so iconic and grand but has reached a period where huge holes in the roof and flooring and even pillars are now lacking. The tension to keep the structure and glory of the original house while making it livable and current is what Phase four is faced with.
There is the need to continue and move forward in establishing new villains and heroes which has been evident in films such as Shang-Chi and the Eternals. There will therefore be admittedly a slower burn compared to how the previous phases were like. The beef most people have with The Eternals for example — being the first MCU film to gain a Rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes — is in my opinion a misguided judgment in terms of not fully grasping what the Eternals is set to achieve. These films must establish new characters and storylines in lieu of the bigger and grander scheme of things. All of these stories have a slow burn to them admittedly because Marvel is hopefully aiming for something bigger in terms of story.
That being said as of late there has also been a tendency to just focus on Easter eggs and post-credit scenes. I don’t know if it’s just me but the surprises and cameos that have been dropped in most of the MCU films for this year alone have been the main emphasis. We have gotten a peek at the Illuminati in Doctor Strange, the voice of Blade in The Eternals, and even Hercules in Thor which all point to comic book references that the MCU has been hinting at as of late. They are extremely fun to see as we even get characters from previous movies nowadays such as the X-Men but at times the focus of creating these moments seems like a means to just honor comic book fans and a way to tease the future of the MCU.
Until recently, the MCU phases have admittedly lacked an overarching direction. We haven’t seen what the end goal is for the films and shows and what all these different events have been leading up to. In comparison to The Infinity Saga we were already given an overarching premise and villain — Thanos and the Infinity stones — all throughout the entire three phases while each film has a substantial villain as well. Most of these villains in every film even served as pawns in Thanos’ bigger plan of collecting all six Infinity stones. Despite the MCU having a variety of individual premises and themes from politically-centric storylines in Captain America who mostly stood toe-to-toe with Hydra, down to the mystical and intergalactic travels of Doctor Strange, Thor, and The Guardians of the Galaxy, The Infinity Saga still managed to portray a very clear and unified direction.
Phase 4 on the other hand kicks off this new saga with an atmosphere that seems to be all over the place. Again, world-building. This however isn’t an excuse for Marvel to remain directionless. With the announcement of the bigger title and over-arching theme of the next three phases, The Multiverse Sage brings a bit more of the direction that the movies very much needed. The sad part was it needed a title reveal to do so. The presence of Kang the Conqueror has now been elevated even further as we have only seen a glimpse of him in Loki and have heard of his bigger impact and role in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The repercussions of Jonathan Majors’ conquering villain apparently are bigger than we set out to believe.
The announcements given in SDCC 2022 have a bigger impact than eliciting excitement from fans. The MCU has given clarity and direction to its next projects as to what we all should be looking forward to. Admittedly this wasn’t how The Infinity Saga came into play as it was all clear as the saga title eventually followed suit. Marvel execs may have come to terms that the next set of films and shows need a little more help than it used to be.
All this talk on MCU burnout aside, one thing is for certain, there is so much to look forward to from the MCU in the next 3 to 4 years as a jam-packed calendar is in store for us all. We have our fingers and toes crossed that the momentum and future films for the next three phases would meet and surpass our expectations.
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