/Dueling opinions: is the MCU doomed?
Graphic by Bell Jackson

Dueling opinions: is the MCU doomed?

I’m concerned about the future of the MCU By M.K. Bryant

Over the course of the past few years, a lot of questionable decisions have been made regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the franchise has droned on, fans have been left with countless plot holes, ruined character development and seemingly forgotten storylines.  

First and foremost, as much as I hate to do this, we need to talk about “Avengers: Endgame.”  

“Avengers: Endgame” was one of the most heavily anticipated movie releases that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I can still remember seeing it on opening weekend. The theater was packed and I had spent the day ahead of time dodging spoilers online. I’ll be the first to admit that, when I initially saw it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was action-packed, and I was excited to see all of my favorite characters on screen at the same time. 

Then, the hype died down a bit. I rewatched it once it was released on Disney+. I can recall watching it for a second time and thinking to myself: What was that?  

It didn’t read as a good conclusion to the Infinity Saga in general, but the fate of one particular character left me especially angry: 

Steve Rogers.  

I will admit that I was never the biggest fan of how Rogers was depicted in the MCU. I did, however, enjoy his character development, and by “Avengers: Endgame,” I no longer disliked his character. I liked how he finally moved on from dwelling on his past.  

Then, the concept of time travel entered the picture. 

Rogers was sent back in time with the simple task of returning the Infinity Stones to their rightful locations. While doing so, he decided to stay back in time with Peggy Carter, finally giving her the dance that he had promised her in the original “Captain America” movie.  

It’s cute and romantic, if you decide to completely ignore that Rogers was well aware of the fact that Carter had a successful career and a family following his absence. However, in an uncharacteristically selfish move, Rogers decides to stay behind and completely twist around her potential future. In doing so, he left Bucky Barnes, who he spent years trying to reunite with and rescue, behind in the present with a group of near strangers.  

“Avengers: Endgame” was followed by “Spiderman: Far from Home,” which I enjoyed, and fans were then plunged into Phase Four.  

Initially, I had a lot of hope for Phase Four of the MCU. Now, the phase is almost finished and almost everything I’ve seen of it has been either confusing or forgettable.  

There are, however, a few good ones in the bunch. I thoroughly enjoyed “Wanda Vision,” for example, although I don’t think that “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was a good continuation of it. I felt like the “Doctor Strange” sequel was a bit all over the place, and I didn’t like the film’s treatment of America Chavez. She felt like a completely different character than the one who is portrayed in the comics.  

Despite my disappointment in Phase Four, I don’t, necessarily, believe that all is lost. The final film planned for Phase Four and the current lineup for Phase Five gives me a vague sense of optimism for the franchise.  

In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” we’re finally going to get the introduction of Riri Williams, also known as Ironheart, into the MCU. In Phase Five, we can look forward to the return of beloved characters like Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy.  

When it all comes down to it, I’m not sure whether or not I believe that the MCU is truly doomed. Although it’s true that I have hope for Phase Five, I initially had a lot of hope for Phase Four as well, and I’ve already made my current views of Phase Four clear.  

I’m concerned about the MCU’s future, and its treatment of the comic book characters that I have come to love, and I hope that this upcoming phase proves to be a positive turning point in the franchise.

Is the MCU doomed? By Carter James

As Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ends with the release of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, the current state of Marvel Studios’ interconnected franchise is rocky to say the least. At the end of this year, there will be seven movies, eight TV Shows, a collection of five short films, and two TV Specials released since 2021. The quality of these projects ranging from groundbreaking to soulless.  

While I tried to rush and see every film on opening weekend and show episodes the day of release, my friends and family have been skipping some of these movies and shows altogether. Just three years ago, everyone was rushing to make sure they were all caught up before “Avengers: Endgame,” and now the importance of watching every project is always in question. 

There is no foreseeable end to the constant amount of content releasing from the MCU either. Marvel separates their projects into phases. These phases are basically seasons of TV, with the last film of the phase being the “season finale”. The phases are a part of a greater arc called a saga. The first three phases are a part of “The Infinity Saga”, and the current Phase Four is the beginning of the “Multiverse Saga”. 

The Infinity Saga was about the formation of the Avengers, Earth’s introduction to aliens and gods, and the race to find six elemental stones before a mad titan could wield them to destroy the universe. The Multiverse Saga is now ushering a new era of heroes, as well as exploring the concept of multiple universes, known as the multiverse.  

 The entirety of Phase Five has already been mapped out. We know what projects will be concluding Phase Six as well: “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” and “Avengers: Secret Wars”. The “Infinity Saga” consisted of 23 films and eight short films spanning over 11 years, while the current “Multiverse Saga” will be concluded in four years, originally 3. 

Even with a concerning amount of content releasing, I still hold a cautious optimism for the future of the MCU.  

While Phase Four has been a major letdown for others, this phase has been somewhat positive for me. Though I did not like every project, the positives outweigh the negatives.  

Shows like “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” and “Loki” have stood out to me because of their nuanced exploration of their respective characters and care to the visual presentation, which was mostly missing from Phase Three. 

My standout film for Phase Four is “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”. It was an excellent exploration of    family trauma and had expertly crafted action set-pieces.  

On the other hand, we’ve been given a much-needed break from the formulaic structure of the Phase Three films. In turn, the TV shows have now fallen into a six-episode purgatory. Even shows with nine episodes like “WandaVision” and “What If?” fell into this structure. This structure consists of a slow start for the first two episodes, the third and fourth episode starting to set into motion the stakes of the plot, a penultimate episode that focuses on the titular-hero’s emotional journey and an action-packed finale that is rushed – setting up a next season or leading into a film.  

The only exception to this formula is the show “Ms. Marvel,” which was a simple, character driven story that managed to wrap up most of its plot threads in its penultimate episode. 

As for Phase Four’s films, they were all a mess to a certain degree. Only two of the films were good, and miraculously so. “Shang Chi” featured a generic third act finale and “Spider-Man No Way Home” is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a movie that is propelled by nostalgia and a complete 180 in character direction. The rest of the films were riddled with structural problems and half-baked screenplays.  

The one constant of all these films: their criminally inconsistent CGI. This was not the VFX houses’ faults, but internal pressure from Marvel Studios to meet ridiculous deadlines.  

Despite all the negative aspects that came from Phase Four of the MCU, I believe the best is yet to come. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania” are sure to be operatic and emotional additions to their respective series. I’m counting down the days until I get to return to Hell’s Kitchen in “Daredevil: Born Again”. But most of all, my dreams of a War Machine movie and the Mutants introduction to the MCU are coming true in the form of “Armor Wars” and “Deadpool 3.” 

At this point, no matter how much criticism I give the MCU, I’ll always find myself returning to the franchise. I’ve been a lifelong fan ever since I got “Iron Man” on DVD back in 2008, and I’ll continue being a fan until the franchise comes to an end.

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M.K. Bryant is a contributing journalist for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in mass communication with a concentration in multimedia journalism, and she’s double-minoring in theatre and creative writing. When she’s not busy watering her plants or writing, M.K. can probably be found wandering around an art museum or a library.