Before 2020, the Marvel Cinematic Universe reigned supreme at the box office. Avengers: Endgame was the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, an epic, special-effects packed extravaganza with genuine emotion. It was a thrilling conclusion to years of story build-up and character development. Watching it in the theaters opening weekend was a true cinematic event.
There’s an argument to be made that the MCU hasn’t been quite the same since then, however. Once the ruler of pop culture, I’ve noticed (at least anecdotally) that the franchise hasn’t captured the same level of hype and excitement amongst the general public.
There have been some post-Endgame projects that I’ve really, really loved. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of my favorite Marvel movies, ever. I adored the Disney+ series WandaVision and Ms. Marvel, and the first season of Loki (I have yet to catch up on season 2).
However, I’ve been seeing more entertainment industry articles as well as general discussion amongst fans that maybe the glory days of the MCU are behind us and that “superhero fatigue” is setting in.
I’ve heard the term “superhero fatigue” tossed around for several years. Personally, I believe that superhero films are a genre like any other, and the popularity of certain genres ebbs and flows over the years. Remember the glory days of Westerns? That genre is still around, and there have been some truly great Westerns made recently. The genre never died, it just evolved over time.
I think that’s what’s happening with the MCU. While I personally like the concept of multiverses in storytelling, I think the multiverse concept may not resonate as much with general audiences. Plus, there is a LOT to keep up with. People may not be as willing to watch every single movie and Disney+ show to know what’s going on.
If the MCU is experiencing a lull, maybe that’s not a bad thing. It’s a chance for the studio to pull back, reflect, and regroup. The creation of art is never without risk, and sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, a vision just doesn’t pan out. There are still plenty of great stories out there to tell in the superhero genre, and I don’t think the MCU is dead in the water, by any means.
It does make me sad to see Marvel movies struggling. While I have yet to watch The Marvels and am personally looking forward to seeing Ms. Marvel on the big screen (plus Flerkens!), the current rating of 52% on Rotten Tomatoes (as of Wednesday afternoon) does give me pause.
Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the MCU scaled back for a while, and then returned with a more forward-looking fresh start that wasn’t so reliant on past stories.