Could we be seeing the end of the long reign of superhero movies at the box office?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Marvel movies aren't having the same hold on us as they once did. Are they making a lot of money still? Of course they are, and will they continue to be shovelled out? Again, the answer is a resounding yes. However, where once these films were necessary viewing to survive in any sort of pop culture-related conversation, they now have consistent criticism pointed their way by people who were even once their staunchest defenders.
Perhaps we are just bored. Perhaps audiences are fine looking at the CGI and bright colours of a Marvel movie now, and won't ask for anything more. But, just because we're getting less in our entertainment, doesn't mean we should settle for it. With critical ratings plummeting and many finding themselves disinterested in the future of Marvel's projects, it's clear we're a long way from the love fans had for the Infinity Saga. But, there is perhaps a way for Marvel to restore its former glory, if it acknowledges the biggest flaw with its latest movies.
When we look at the success of the Infinity Saga and the false start the Kang Dynasty story has got itself off to, it seems there has been one, consistent problem with the post-Endgame era, and that problem is a lack of focus on characters. Instead of a slow build, introducing us to the main players of the upcoming saga, we've instead rushed straight into endless multiverse setups, littered with cheap nostalgia cameos. This leaves our heroes without any focus, and they merely serve as set pieces to get us into the next action scene or setup the next "major event" in the universe.
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Of course, things have to change with the times and we can't spend 11 years on every major Marvel arc, but recently it has felt like we're watching films devoid of personality, where they're acting as one long, end-credits sequence desperately trying to make us care for the new villain because he doesn't just blow up one universe, he can destroy ten, or a million.
It never really mattered that Thanos could snap his fingers and commit genocide, it mattered that the people trying to stop him were ones we'd grown to care about and like. There's no character cultivation in the more recent films, and now more than ever it feels like our heroes and villains are just there to serve a purpose, rather than being people with real personalities and goals beyond being good or being bad. The films struggle to cram so much setup for their grand, overarching plot that they forget to put in the things people actually care about.
This isn't true for every recent Marvel project, but the ones people highlight as the best are actually shows and movies with characters at their hearts. WandaVision, for example, prides itself on showing us how the Scarlet Witch copes (or doesn't) with her grief after being resurrected but finding out Vision is indeed dead. The same goes for Loki, which has the plot of the TVA and introduces Kang but is at its heart heavily focused on the titular character and Sylvie.
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When we look at the future of Marvel, it is hard to care about a lot of the new prospects and even the familiar faces, due to it either feeling like we have no clue who these people are or that they haven't developed much since we saw them in Endgame. With the consistent focus on cheap nostalgia pops too, it is difficult to imagine a future where once again every Marvel project is considered required viewing. But, if the films built up a core cast of characters, people that we really know and can grow attached to, then it can make those inevitable big team ups feel more earned and less forced to sell action figures, t-shirts, and everything else Disney is trying to push right now.