The MCU- the Marvel Cinematic Universe is arguably one of, if not the most successful cinematic franchise this current decade. Selling alot of tickets, popcorn, toys, the 10+ films (and many more to come), plus some very well established tv shows such as Agents Of Shield, to the gritty Jessica Jones and Daredevil. The MCU is fully cemented in our pop culture conscious, and is crucial to understanding modern western film and television culture today.
So… is that a good thing, or a bad thing? Well, for the most part- I enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, it’s important to outline the good with the bad, so here I attempt to be balanced as possible…
(there is a minor mention of Doctor Strange below which could be interpreted as a spoiler!)
5. It’s fun
I re watched Guardians Of The Galaxy a couple of weeks ago. And it was a blast! I had so much fun watching it. Agents Of Shield is entirely watchable (if not a bit flawed), with thrilling scenes and it’s always great to see Melinda May, Phil Coulson and Daisy Johnson be incredible. The fight scenes in Daredevil are something else entirely. Ant-Man may not be Oscar material, but I enjoyed it. The universe is fun, irreverent and enjoyable. You see a Marvel film or tv show, and even if you think its the dumbest thing ever put to screen- there is no denying a good time being had. And that is nothing short of genius.
4. Thor, Stan Lee’s Cameos, and all the great characters
There are many characters in this universe I adore. Groot, Luke Cage, Natasha Romanoff, Wilson Fisk, Hawkeye, Peggy Carter, Wanda Maximoff, T’Challa, Thor… and many more. Whilst you could say that a lot of the credit goes to the source material, as after all they are adapting from it- it does take particular skill to adapt a character well. And Marvel, in a large part- has exceeded, giving us a very enjoyable group of heroes and misfits, as well as some good villains. Even if a character doesn’t hit the mark, another will and that goes into the success of the universe.
3. The humor is very, very good
Who can ever forget Tony Stark, in a park, mocking the feud between Loki and Thor in the first Avengers film? Or that whole film in its entire, the first Iron Man movie and the Thor films? Let’s just say… I’m very excited about the second Guardians Of The Galaxy film. And Spiderman: Homecoming looks to be a good time at the cinema. The emotional drama of Civil War did not stop it from not taking itself too seriously, which was nothing short of being refreshing.
2. It’s got a nice, diverse range of stories out there
Watch Luke Cage. Then watch Captain America: First Avenger. Same universe- so many different stories to tell. This is how to be ambitious: never limiting yourself to a single field. The MCU shows off just how diverse its world is. There is a movie for nearly everyone to enjoy, and that is a good thing. The amount of storylines that are covered (whether they are done well is up for debate) is simply- remarkable. We need fictional universes that extend themselves to thrilling levels.
1. It’s potential
We’re talking about Marvel here. All those comics and graphic novels, decades of work. MCU can be anything it wants to be it seems. And that’s incredible to see happen. An empire of tv shows and film, covering diverse stories all set in the same universe. Good or bad thing? Well, we all have our opinions on that.
Now onto the not-so good…
5. The Villains (for the most part) are entirely one note
Ronan. Malekith. Yellowjacket. Do any of those names mean anything to you? What do you remember about them? Not much. They exist not as characters in their own rights, but to cause weak conflict among our heroes. There is nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking about them.
Now, this is not all of them. Wilson Fisk is certainly a fine character with plenty of nuance, and Loki is enjoyable. And there have been some other good villains! But most of the villains are just there, are pathetic, covered in CGI and face paint, with poorly thought out motives and goals. They aren’t the stuff you find yourself quoting, or talking about for hours on end.
4. The realistic, relatable stories are pushed to television
Jessica Jones, created alot of conversation in media circles about its depiction of rape, victim blaming and PTSD. Luke Cage suggested a show which was socially aware and is completely relevant in today’s world. Agents Of Shield may have alot of the Marvel gloss, but centers around agents that live seemingly normal lives. Now, the films- characters such as Captain America are wholly connected to the fantastic world of superhero life, Tony Stark and Thor don’t deal with an alter ego and the Maximoff twins story is entirely mystical in nature.
Here is the problem. We are told that these stories are connected- but we don’t feel it. The tone for the MCU TV shows is entirely different to those from the films. It’s awkward and jarring, and stops the audience from fully engaging with the universe as a whole. Whilst I love that the MCU combines the creative talent of many- perhaps it would benefit from a tighter structure.
3. No Stakes
Who has the biggest death in Marvel Cinematic Universe? I can hear people saying Phil Coulson. Some saying Groot. Others saying Nick Fury. Here’s the thing. All three of those characters came back… somehow. During Civil War, you knew during the fight that the major players would survive… because talks were already happening for Infinity War. Whilst watching the very enjoyable Ant-Man, I knew the main players would survive because there has to be a sequel, right? I will, however give praise to Doctor Strange for averting this in some ways. Therefore, I believe the MCU can introduce stakes into their tv and film- and it would be better in the long run as it would be more tense.
2. It’s formulaic
All MCU films have a formula of some kinds. A hero starts off as not being all that super, then becomes super… then comes across an organization / group that helps him, and faced off to a generic baddie. It’s boring. I’m sick of it. Whilst I understand some of this is linked to the source material itself, its time for a change.
1. It’s a bit too pleasing and comfortable
I wouldn’t go as far as to call the films ‘cookie cutter’… but the films could be so much more. What really, really irritated me about Iron Man 2 is that we have Tony Stark… not growing or learning much over the course of the film. He doesn’t develop as a character, and he is not really challenged. There is not much in the way of character growth, the narratives are not revolutionary. Civil War was a good film, but its not a game changer as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was. The films don’t push themselves into risky areas, but are instead formulated around to audience’s desires. The MCU is good, but it isn’t great. Now, the tv shows such as Daredevil are a different story, but even that show is not perfect and falls into trappings. The MCU needs to take more risks.
Agree? Disagree? Write in the comments below! I hope this was a fair list for me to say what I liked and what I disliked about the MCU. I’m not the biggest Marvel fan around, but overall, I do like the movies and shows.