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We need to talk about the MehCU

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The franchise has sacrificed quality for quantity leaving CONSTANTINOS PSILLIDES joining other viewers in turning off

In the 2021 movie Eternals, a group of super-powerful ancient aliens face a newborn Celestial – a race of galactic proportion beings of supposedly unfathomable cosmic powers – that rises from the Earth’s core. The Eternals are successful and the corpse of the dead Celestial drops in the ocean.

And is never spoken of again.

Think about it. Rising from the Earth’s core? A being so massive each fling of its finger can cause a devastating tsunami? That should have at least affected the atmosphere and caused major climate shifts and catastrophes. But no. Now it’s just like that weird cousin who is way into taxidermy and nobody wants to talk about it.

Major plot holes, oversaturation, dead-end series and super-hero fatigue: the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the behemoth that made more than $30 billion so far, is not good. And to make things clear, I’m not blaming its most recent iteration The Marvels. Although not great, it is better than Eternals and the third Ant-Man movie. The Marvels opened last week to the worst opening of an MCU movie ever. Some people attributed that to the movie being ‘woke’ because it had an ensemble female cast that included a black woman and a Muslim. This argument conveniently forgets that Barbie, a movie with a strong feminist message that made fun of patriarchal societies made more than a billion at the box office.

By the way, here’s a life tip: no one who uses the term ‘woke’ unironically should be taken seriously. Nobody. Just nod your head, finish your drink and get out. Anyway, back to our story.

Many people have prematurely declared ‘the death of the MCU’ over time, but each time the movie franchise managed to come back with a new billion-dollar hit. These past few years though, something feels off. Corporate greed rolled over any artistic merit and the MCU has been reduced to a series of formulaic, hour-long commercials for the MCU brand. That’s right. The brand is now more important than the actual universe people fell in love with. Movies and series are carefully broken down into a series of focus group sessions to determine what hero is the most profitable and who can get the MCU further. Everything exists to serve the brand and Marvel went from a factory of dreams to just a factory. Series and films are not made because someone had an inspiration, they are made to meet quarterly quotas and to satisfy shareholders. By turning creative work into a chore, it was only a matter of time before quality suffered to serve quantity.

It didn’t help that using the Multiverse as a basis for MCU’s Phase 4 turned out to be a major mistake. Although there is a way to do a decent movie about the concept of a multiverse – Everything, Everywhere All At Once showed how – there is no way one can make an endless stream of series and movies linked to it. First off, it removes any emotional stake a viewer may have. Oh, this character tragically died? No problem, here’s another variant from a different time! Oh, this character sacrificed himself heroically to save others? No, he didn’t! Here he is, from a different universe! How can they expect people to be emotionally invested when the concept of death is taken away? Loving these characters, identifying with them and mourning when they leave is what gave birth to the MCU. Simply put, the passion is gone. People just don’t care anymore.

It is rumoured that Disney execs are fully aware of the blunder that was Phase 4 and are planning to wipe the slate clean. How? By using Deadpool 3 as a great cosmic eraser, something along the lines of him breaking the fourth wall and saying that “Phase 4 was a mistake. Oop, let’s try again”. It is so offensive and cynical, such a cowardly thing to do, that I wouldn’t put past them.

Does the MCU have plans to reassess its stance, maybe adjust its release schedule and put more trust in creators rather than marketing people? Of course not.

The MCU’s next bet is to introduce The Fantastic Four and after that The X-Men. Pedro Pascal is rumoured to have taken the mantle of Mr Fantastic, Vanessa Kirby as Invisible Woman, Joseph Quinn of Stranger Things fame to become the Human Torch and Ebon Moss-Bachrach (the loveable Richie from The Bear) as the Thing. The casting makes sense as these are all actors that can be locked into a 10-year contract and recognisable enough to trump up support. Following that, the mutant universe of The X-Men is enough to make movies for the next 20 years.

Will that be enough to reignite passion for the MCU? I don’t know. What I do know is that if the MCU doesn’t shake up things and prioritise quality over quantity, it will be abandoned by general audiences.

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