Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe dead?

With interest in superhero films declining, the MCU loses popularity


Julia Key

Graphic by Julia Key

Throughout many years of cinema history, the quality of movies has been increasing over time. From technical quality such as the switch from black and white to full color movies, visual quality with the introduction of visual effects and CGI, and writing quality with multi-movie franchises being made, earning billions of dollars at the box office. One of these multi-billion-dollar movie franchises is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU for short, which was created by Kevin Feige after the release of the first Iron Man movie in 2008.

The Rise of the MCU

When the first Iron Man movie was, according to the MARVEL Database, announced in November of 2005, no one was expecting it to be a big hit. No one at the time cared about Iron Man since everyone labeled him as a “B-List Character”, which means he wasn’t the worst superhero, but he wasn’t the best, either. Everyone was focused on the “X-Men” and “Spider-Man”, since both their movies, which were released in 2000 and 2002 respectively, made critics and fans incredibly happy.
But when the first Iron Man film was eventually released on May 2nd, 2008, it surpassed everyone’s expectations. “Iron Man” received a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 7.9 on IMDb, and a 79% on Metacritic. MARVEL’s success continued, with all of their movies getting good review after good review. Then in 2012, the world received one of MARVEL’s biggest hits, “The Avengers”.
The film received a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 8/10 on IMDb due to its comedic timing, amazing CGI, and spectacular third act. During the movie’s end credit scene, a new villain, Thanos, was revealed to the audience. MARVEL would build up Thanos throughout Phase 2 of the MCU. Then, at the El Capitan Theatre on October 28, 2014, MARVEL, according to the Database, announced their biggest projects yet, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Infinity War: Part 2”, later renamed “Avengers: Endgame”.
MARVEL was on a roll, pumping out great movie after great movie each year. But, tragedy struck in 2019 when the COVID-19 Pandemic started affecting movies. The pandemic caused MARVEL to have to completely shut down during 2020, with no movies being released.
During this time, Disney decided to create Disney+, a streaming service with all of their exclusive IP’s like MARVEL, National Geographic, and Star Wars.
MARVEL saw an opportunity with Disney+ to keep MCU fans from getting burned out of the franchise, and to make up for lost time during 2020. So on January 15th in 2021, MARVEL released the hit show, “WandaVision”, a move that most people believe would start the quality downfall of the MCU.

The Fall of the MCU

“WandaVision’’, despite being a critical success, failed to wrap up everything that had been set up in the finale. The finale, according to the critics on Rotten Tomatoes, felt disappointing and sloppy, with multiple character arcs failing to live up to expectations. MARVEL then released their next Disney+ show, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”, just 2 weeks after the “WandaVision’’ finale.
Sadly, just like the “WandaVision” finale, “TFATWS’s finale was considered to be “ok for a dumb, low budget action movie, but not ok for a 150 million dollar TV show” according to a Rotten Tomatoes professional critic. The same issue continued throughout multiple MCU shows, with each finale receiving mediocre reviews.
While you may think that these shows don’t matter, since they don’t affect the movies in any way, that is not the case.
When “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was released on May 6th, 2022, the movie required you to have watched all of WandaVision to fully understand it. The moviegoers and critics who didn’t see “WandaVision”, were surprised by Wanda’s sudden change from hero to villain. This caused the movie to only get a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.9/10 on IMDb.
This sudden change to MARVEL’s release schedule, the bigger focus on Disney+ shows, and the decline in quality during the shows finale’s help prove why the MCU is truly dead. But, even though the evidence shows what it shows, I don’t think that is the case.

The Comeback of the MCU

While the MCU might seem like they are just introducing a bunch of characters at a time, and not doing anything with them, this actually what needs to happen for the MCU to grow.
Kevin Feige has been announcing new projects through out 2022. Projects like “Secret Invasion”, “The Fantastic Four”, “Avengers: Secret Wars”, and so many more. These up-and-coming projects will most likely include other characters introduced in those movies and TV shows, which will help the MCU to expand its universe.
So, the reason why I think that the MCU isn’t dead is because they are introducing the newest version of it. Just like with Phases 1-3 of the MCU, there has to be a long period of setup to get the biggest payoff. While the current MCU may never reach the same heights that it once did, with the proper time and care invested by the studio, plus patience from the fans, it could potentially surpass what it was, and become something even better.