Let’s be honest here, there should have been a Black Widow solo movie long before 2020. Most people agree on that, on top of the fact that it came out at a really weird time. While set before the Infinity Saga takes place, Natasha died in the End Game movie that came out a year before her solo film. This meant that no matter what, the Black Widow film simply wouldn’t matter to the overall MCU. It was as if they just wanted to throw a movie out there to fill a spot in the Phase 4 schedule of content. Worst of all, it is clear no time was spent truly making the script perfect. In fact, it was written in 11 days, and studio executives green-lit it.
It is claimed some rewrites were done or alterations. Yet it is clear that very little was considered before filming, causing some of the story to not make sense. Such as the ending where Natasha is controlled if she gets too close to the “big bad.” She is a Black Widow assassin, and cannot shoot the man from a distance now. How about her “widow father” who is not affected by any brain-warping tech or pheromones? He’d gladly end any life just about, and isn’t used here when he’s the most obvious choice? The only shining light of the movie is Florence Pugh’s performance as Yelena Belova. Which is sad when it was supposed to be “Natasha’s movie.”
Telling stories using present-day issues is completely okay to do. Plus, if you want to truly offer inclusion, you need to tell stories that connect to the audience. Let’s say you’re wanting to present powerful women, it might also be good to discuss issues women face. Such as sexual harassment or the fear of walking outside at night, for example. However, one should also know where the line is and where you shouldn’t cross it. The series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law on Disney+ seems to struggle with this issue just a bit. It’s comic book accurate that Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk, can go back and forth in Hulk form under her own control.
Yet the reason they give for this is very feministic rather than comic book accurate. Jen tells her cousin Bruce, that she can control her anger because as a woman and attorney she has to control it all the time. They get everything right about how she was in a crash. Although in the comics, Bruce is the only one with her blood type around, and using his blood for a transfusion gives her the Hulk powers. Therefore, she only had a dose of gamma-infused blood while Bruce was exposed to massive portions. He has trouble controlling Hulk due to this, Jen and She-Hulk aren’t truly separate because of less exposure. Not because she’s a woman or an attorney. It’s comments like this that started online hate for the show, which continued to lean into feminist concepts. Most of it was fine, but they did not know where to place it.
Character Development Is Too Fast, And Everything Is Unearned
Remember how Steve Rogers did not become Captain America simply because he was a highly decorated soldier? Not only was he not the first choice for the Super Soldier Serum, but he was also considered to be a liability. He proved himself in spite of this. He tried to show that, in spite of his lack of size, he could handle whatever came his way. If nothing else, he was brave and heroic enough to sacrifice his own life to save his fellow man. That earned him praise, but even as a super soldier, he did not see the battlefield. Rogers also had to earn this as well. Eventually, he was trusted and proved himself as a hero.
Therefore, you can see how such a story of heroics would make it easy for Marvel fans to root for him. It’s likely difficult to do that with someone like, say, Loki. He spent most of his time in the MCU as a villain. Now we’re suddenly going to buy him as a hero who doesn’t just care about himself? What about some like Captain Marvel who seemed to earn her true captain ranking away from the MCU? We did not see her earn anything, which is why her story developed too fast. We did not get to see her prove herself on screen. There was nothing to care about, making it hard to root for her to succeed. See the difference between these people and Rogers?
One could say that expanding your universe could lead to multiple intellectual properties seeing screen time could only be a good thing. Yet that is problematic for people trying to understand everything. The Marvel Studios phases have always tried to lead us into something through several films or shows. Essentially, they gave us several stories to tell to set up one big story. Either that or they did origins and expanded upon a character if the original show or movie did well. For example, look at Black Panther. We were introduced to him back in Captain America: Winter Soldier, as it was believed Bucky killed T’Challa’s father. That introduction only made people curious to see more about the Black Panther. That led to a solo project that grossed over a billion dollars at the box office.
It was also a huge cultural movie for the African American community. This made sense to expand upon for Marvel, obviously. However, now Marvel seems to be introducing a ton of new people all at once. Some are getting their own shows right away, all in an attempt to just get them out there. That also leads to sloppy stories, rather than the time and care Marvel used to have. In Phase 4 alone, we were introduced to the Eternals, She-Hulk, Yelena, U.S. Agent, Taskmaster, Ms. Marvel, Kate Bishop, Shang-Chi, Red Guardian, Mighty Thor, Agatha Harkness, along with Namor when Wakana Forever comes out. It’s by far the most characters introduced in any phase. We did not even include all of the side characters either, nor the official introduction of the Netflix characters.
If you’re a new Marvel or MCU fan, we’re so sorry. It isn’t that these movies or shows aren’t good, because most of the MCU is terrific without a doubt. The problem is that due to Phase 4’s inclusion of so much, now you have to go back to see the other phase movies AND what Phase 4 gave us. Past Marvel Studios phases gave us far less, and it was mostly just movies. One could catch up on the MCU by watching one movie per day within a few weeks. Today? Not only do you have to start with the original stuff…but now the new. Just the movies alone will make it a little longer to catch up with the MCU.
Yet due to the Marvel Studios phases constantly expanding, that is going to happen. The real issue is the shows that might not seem important but truly are. WandaVision’s story leads right into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Falcon and The Winter Soldier will lead into the new Captain America movie. Not to mention Ms. Marvel leading us into The Marvels among other projects. Therefore, these shows are not just there to take up space. What happens in them will matter in the universe overall, which only makes them necessary to watch. This only takes up more time for new fans, which will eventually become a problem.
We’ve referenced some of the decisions that Marvel Studios has made. Yet that does not necessarily mean everything they put out is bad because of a few bad moves, of course. However, the Marvel Studios phases have never had as many issues pop up as Phase 4. Most feel it is down to a lot of the stuff we mentioned already. Plus, it can be said that most movies in the MCU have been incredibly good over the years. It is only lately that things just do not seem to be working for the MCU. For example, you can look at Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and IMDb ratings for the MCU films before Phase 4 and see pretty positive numbers.
However, those same ratings from critics and audiences are pretty bad for Phase 4. Others, meanwhile, are pretty positive. Rotten Tomatoes generally gives a favorable rating due to the inclusion of online support by fans. The others are run on ratings given by movie critics. Yet even RT gives The Eternals a 47% rating along with a 64% rating for Thor: Love and Thunder. The Spider-Man and Shang-Chi movies were both terrific highlights, along with WandaVision for Disney+. Even Ms. Marvel has been loved by many MCU fans. Yet the others leave a lot of fans wondering what the heck they watched.
One can also point to how some of the casting choices were pretty weird for the movies or shows too. One that stands out for many fans is the decision to cast Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson. Especially when this is a big character they could have likely done something special with. The casting of Christopher Eccleston as Melekith is also pretty questionable. Thor: The Dark World is one of the few solo films from previous Marvel Studios phases that didn’t land well. Many feel it was not only the story but the casting choices made for the film too. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s casting as Quicksilver caught many by surprise.
He wasn’t bad as the Kick-Ass character, so many fans felt he would do well. To be fair, he was not terrible in the part. Plus, he only had one real movie to stand out. Due to a gentlemen’s agreement with FOX at the time, the X-Men movies would get to use Quicksilver while Disney would use Scarlet Witch. Evan Peters was amazing as Quicksilver for the FOX franchise. This very well could be why he was the one chosen to come back as Pietro for WandaVision over Johnson. Perhaps, even Disney felt they might have gotten the casting decision wrong. Some of the Eternals casting choices were also questionable. We’re still not even sure why Harry Styles was even brought in at the end.
One issue that has seemingly always plagued the comic book world is the introduction of new writing teams. Whether it was Marvel or DC Comics, even some of the larger independent companies, the writing staff could be bad. It is always a bold move to change things like artwork for a comic book story. However, sometimes changes like this can become the new norm. Meanwhile, it is truly very hard to tell stories properly. This is why you might see a lot of the same names behind the biggest names in DC or Marvel for instance. This was not always the case though. Due to the feeling that it would be problematic for any writer to be bigger than the company, DC and Marvel hired new head writers constantly.
Very few were proven, and some never worked on the comics they were brought in to run. The same is happening with Marvel properties right now, especially for Disney+ shows. They’re hiring teams sometimes based on gender identity, ethnicity, or religion for specific characters. This is a good idea, but not if the writers aren’t able to write effective stories. On top of this, the decision to have rolling directors makes the show’s vision switch constantly. Sometimes, you don’t even know what you’re seeing from one show to another. Like the comics, they are bringing people in of unknown quality just to add variety. This was not as problematic in previous Marvel Studios phases but for Phase 4, it’s rampant.
Most would say that Sony seems to be willing to play ball with Disney on Spider-Man. Therefore, what’s the problem, right? Well, there are many issues. First and foremost, there was a problem that took place not too long ago. Disney wanted to take more money than Sony on the Spidey projects when they were doing a 50/50 split. Some felt this was just greed on Disney’s behalf, yet we have to see their point. They were paying, casting, and shooting the entire project. Spider-Man would then be included in their larger universe on top of his solo projects.
To Disney, it only made sense to take a larger piece of the pie when Sony did nothing except collect huge paychecks. The lack of full ownership means that Sony can take Spider-Man back any time they want. At least, once a contract concludes. Therefore, it constantly puts the use of Spider-Man in limbo for the MCU. While Tom Holland would ideally like to be part of upcoming Marvel Studios phases, that isn’t exactly up to him. Sony has to still allow Disney to use Spider-Man and his cast of characters. His last film put things in an even bigger state of limbo, as the characters now do not even know he exists. Effectively wiping him from the universe if Sony doesn’t let them use the character again.
Due to the success that Disney and Marvel Studios have had with Spider-Man projects, Sony wanted to capitalize on that. They felt they could use characters from the universe, which they own 100%, and cash in. The first project they decided to try was using Venom. To be fair, they did use a lot of comic book-accurate material mixed in with some new ideas to switch things up. Tom Hardy, who plays both Eddie Brock and Venom, has also been very invested in the role. While critics hated the movie, it made Sony over $800 million at the box office. After the success of the first movie, Hardy helped to write the story for Venom 2.
It made back $500 million at the box office, another successful outing. Sony felt if they could turn Venom into a good antihero, they could go this route with other characters. This is where things turned sloppy and bad decisions truly began. Morbius was released to critical hatred, with many fans also disliking it. Now, future Kraven, Madam Web, El Muerto, and even Silk projects have been greenlit. Not to mention a Venom 3 project. Sony is doing too much, without any vision or care, only to cash in. Further hurting the Marvel brand. This is especially troubling as Marvel essentially included their universe in the larger Marvel multiverse.
Most would say that Thor Odinson and Wanda Maximoff are not growing as characters anymore. This might seem odd, considering there have been some changes to the characters. Look at Thor who became “Fat Thor” for Avengers: Endgame, and has heavily introduced comedy into his overall character’s story arcs. Wanda, meanwhile, grew from a girl that barely understood her powers into a truly powerful witch. While these character arcs are fine, they essentially existed for hardly any time at all. Perhaps, if nothing else, they have not grown romantically at all.
Take Thor, who sort of lost touch with Jane Foster after the Dark World film. He had to not only get over her quickly but move on to do literal God things. He could move on, but right as he does, Jane comes back on Thor: Love and Thunder to become “The Mighty Thor.” Which also leads to her death, making Thor relearn or repeat the same lesson and loss. The same happens with Wanda, who loses Vision only to bring him back for the WandaVision show. He only exists in her mind, but she literally creates her own reality. She cannot get past the loss of Vision, and now once again has to get over losing him. It’s repeating for no real reason in the end.
Many Villains Are Pushed In and Out Too Quickly To Care
It’s clear that the Marvel Studios phases in the past had the problem of introducing a big bad only to get rid of them immediately. Just as some examples, remember Red Skull, Whiplash, Vulture, Malekith, Dormammu, Abomination, Ronan the Accuser, Kaecilius, Thunderbolt Ross, Yellowjacket, The Mandarin, Hela, Ego, Mysterio, Justin Hammer/AIM, and Eric Killmonger? They all have one thing in common. Each was a one-off villain, used as a top or main villain for a solo project. Some were used or will be used again in another project, but that was not the design at the time. Sometimes, introducing a one-off character in the villain role is tough.
You need to establish them as credible enough for the superhero to fight. They not only need to be a threat but also match up well with the hero. Killmonger, more than most, was brilliantly written. We knew his motives and many could agree with his side too, the hallmark of a well-written villain. Then you have the emptiness that Gorr the Godbutcher offered us in Thor: Love and Thunder. Did we ever see him kill numerous Gods to make him worth our time? Nope. He was only feared and the deaths seemed to happen off-screen. People like Gorr among some of the villains mentioned above were pushed in and out too quickly for fans to care about them.
Most Marvel Studios phases in the past were building to the eventual Infinity Saga. This only needed specific characters to really pull off properly, which Marvel Studios and Disney had full rights to use. Spider-Man agreements were made later on but there were plans to use someone else if this did not work out. Now, we’re building up to the Secret Wars story arc. This is an absolutely gigantic story in Marvel Comics history that involves, we’re not joking, at least 100 characters. Plus, Doctor Doom and The Beyonder, key villains in the Secret Wars storyline, have yet to be introduced. This is why Phase 4 seemingly introduced us to countless new characters as well as introduced the multiverse overall.
Secret Wars essentially revolves around the multiverse folding in on itself. Beyonder, an all-powerful being, takes shards from all of these universes and places them together to create Battleworld. The heroes have to find a way to fix everything and defeat Beyonder. All while Doctor Doom is pulling some strings the entire time. The plan is to put this story out by 2025, so both Phase 4 and Phase 5 will need to introduce many characters. Plus, they will need to recast “certain” roles or perhaps keep them. All of the Marvel Studios phases, likely, built up to this massive event. To be honest, this is the true “End Game” for the MCU as nothing is bigger than this in Marvel Comics’ history.
Marvel’s Obsession With Adding Humor Where It Doesn’t Belong
Don’t get us wrong, we love a laugh just like anyone else. Heck, comedies are one thing that helps to keep us sane. You cannot be dramatic all the time, as it would only become problematic. A light-hearted nature is needed, but it can get in the way at times. While we’re not saying the MCU needs to go the Zack Snyder DC route where everything is dark and dramatic. We are saying they need to know when to let stuff breathe. Marvel Studios is owned by The Walt Disney Company, so it should not surprise anyone that Disney would ideally like to keep everything family-friendly. However, Disney’s top brass is not handing edicts telling Marvel Studios to never let drama be present for more than 10 seconds.
With some characters, you need comedy. Deadpool is perfect for this, as he’s comedic and this allows you to get past all the murders he’s committing. Yet to take Thor from a Godlike being capable of defeating giants and turn him into a joke is odd. The last few Thor films have presented him as a bumbling moron while in the Avengers projects, he does not mind chopping off heads. It’s odd usage, and it happens with a ton of characters. The Marvel Studios phases aren’t exactly calling for this type of thing. Yet it goes back to the newer director/writer issue. They go off of what they “think” Marvel and the fans want, which might turn out fun. Yet it doesn’t really fit in a realistic setting.
Let’s get one thing straight immediately here. We love the multiverse concept, especially being science nerds. However, it is literally our job around here to explain some really complex scientific concepts most of the time. Trying to explain how a possible multiverse could operate to someone is difficult. As there are numerous possibilities and a variety of different outcomes. Comic book fans tend to grasp the idea pretty well, as it means the separation of characters in their own universe. It also means that when you introduce the multiverse, you’re also speculating that people can cross through it.
This happened somewhat in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Where we saw three Spider-Men, including the two previous men that played the role for the Sony films. Yet this will not be the last crossover as there are many X-Men characters likely to do so. Future Marvel Studios phases are likely to separate characters into different universes even more. Therefore, we’re likely opening up a problem where the MCU will become incredibly confusing after a while. We might not know how each universe operates, why specific people are placed where they are placed, and much more.
We’re not going to lie to anyone and say that we did not want to see Steve Rogers and Tony Stark pass. You need to finish some characters off, at least for a while. If you do not do this, everything will remain centered around them. Which is problematic, and won’t allow the brand to really grow. Therefore, Stark and Rogers passing only set the stage for other characters to take over. Those characters will one day die off or no longer be a big focus for the MCU too. This is why we agree with the decision to have them move on. Plus the actors behind the roles spent nearly a decade committing to their roles.
That only hurts them as actors, so they too need to change things up a bit. The problem is that we’re not left with any real leaders like Rogers and Stark. Captain Marvel isn’t set up enough, nor liked enough, to take this mantle. Sadly, Chadwick’s passing ruined Black Panther’s opportunity to lead the MCU. The Sony problem plagues Spider-Man’s possibility here. Doctor Strange and Thor are the only real remaining “leaders,” and we already referenced Thor’s issue. Thus, future Marvel Studios phases will be hurt by this lack of leadership. On top of the lack of love invested in a character like Rogers and Stark.
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