Ever since Phase 3, Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been witnessing a severe decline in quality, with several movies such as Captain Marvel and Black Panther focusing more and more on identity politics and feminism. Nonetheless, we also got some of the finest of MCU in Phase 3, such as Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. It is only from MCU Phase 4 that Marvel movies have truly become sub-par in every single aspect. Why is it so?
For starters, what are Phase 3 and Phase 4? The MCU is divided into a total of six phases by its creators, with each phase focusing on certain characters and culminating in a particular story arc – for example, MCU Phase 1-3 started with Iron Man and ended with Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Post Avengers: Endgame, at the beginning of Phase 4, we have witnessed a rapid decline in Marvel content, be it Thor: Love and Thunder, Ms Marvel, She-Hulk, Black Widow, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki, The Eternals, etc. The lack of quality content can be attributed to many factors, but the most prominent among them is Disney’s pandering to America’s woke culture and doing a complete 180-degree turn on its priorities.
The priority of any movie or television show should be, first and foremost, to tell a story. To make those stories interesting, we need things such as risks and challenges, twists, an understanding of the tone and setting, growth of the main characters by giving them their own traumas and weaknesses that come to define who they are in the subsequent stories.
For example, Tony Stark evolved from a self-absorbed weapons manufacturing billionaire into a philanthropist and superhero who instead devoted his resources to making clean energy and protecting people after he saw American soldiers being killed by the very weapons he had designed. Black Widow turned from a cold-blooded killer and spy into a person who found something to fight for and gave her life to protect it. Thor went from an arrogant prince to a humble warrior who found something to protect and later found himself. Even Thanos was more than a generic villain. He had a genuine if twisted cause and his motivations made sense, since he had seen his home world die out.
This kind of character development is essential. Then there is the element of world-building. Marvel spent years creating a universe that we grew to care about spanning several planets and multiple movies. But at one point, the MCU decided to cater to the lowest common denominator. The films now not only lack imagination but also a spine. Disney/Marvel seem more worried about identity politics, representation, diversity and multiculturalism rather than character depth and storytelling.
Supporting diversity is great. Not every superhero should be white or male and there should indeed be greater representation of all sections in the superhero world. But when the sole focus of your work is pushing a political agenda, then your movies are going to miss the mark.
Once upon a time, there was a sense of fun and ambition in MCU movies. But the MCU is now a pale shadow of its former self. The plots are as predictable as can be, the comedy mundane and unoriginal, and the amount of CGI will give viewers migraines. And perhaps most importantly, the characters are entirely one-dimensional and of course, the good guys win and bad guys lose.
Every movie does not need to be The Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, Schindler’s List or Ben Hur. The MCU has always been about having fun. But they knew how to do so without being dumb.
Disney, like many a corporation, is a cash cow that doesn’t want to take risks. And, sadly, given the power of the marketing machine, it can probably make money without doing so.
Venkitachalam writes on music and popular culture