I’ve wondered if there have been times over the last year or so when Marvel Cinematic Universe President Kevin Feige wished he could have called up Dr. Stephen Strange to conjure those circular time portals for him.
Imagine if Strange could reverse many of the MCU’s misguided decisions or go back in time, would Feige do it? Would every single show and movie still have to connect with each other? Would more generous timetables have been afforded the CGI wizards a better opportunity to do their jobs properly? I’ll bet at the very least, Feige would have asked the good doctor to let him recast Kang.
But the reality of many of Feige’s decisions are such that they’ve put the MCU in a world of hurt, at present.
The Marvel output is getting pummeled by critics, ignored by millions, and no longer are their releases the events they once were. The Twitter/X-verse seems to be unrelenting in its ragging on the MCU’s franchises and travails, and even the die-hard fan boys aren’t showing up again and again.
Just look at the recent problems with The Marvels, the MCU’s latest big screen offering. The film netted mediocre marks from critics, and the effort ended up earning the MCU’s lowest box-office opener ever. Then there is the guilty verdict just handed down in court concerning Jonathan Majors assault charges. He was fired quickly by Disney, but still, the entire next phase of MCU films were supposed to center around his Kang character, so what a mess that all is now. “He Who Remains”? I think not.
None of this is a good look for the MCU.
Something’s got to give for Marvel to get back on track and since there’s no Doctor Strange around to alter the universe, let me help.
Here are some very good ideas that seem abundantly clear by and large, and I’d suggest the MCU move on them … the sooner, the better.
STOP THE MACHINE
Sit back and take a breather, Marvel. And hold everything you’ve got in the can for a few months. You need to stop making so many films and shows. Familiarity breeds contempt. And you need to make us want you again. But when a new MCU entertainment comes every month or so, it all blurs together and feels all too familiar.
Granted, I know rationally that the MCU isn’t going to change a ton of their release dates, but they truly should. Feige has already done that with some projects, and he should do it with more.
At the very least, Feige should table everything about to go into production for a few months to re-examine what he’s signed off on. The ridiculously complex overlapping narratives, the diminishing CGI work, the fatigue, my God, the fatigue that is setting in. Samuel L. Jackson looks tired as hell, running around in too many of the cockamamie productions they’ve put his Nick Fury character into to anchor.
I know how you feel, Sam. We all do.
It all needs to be examined, thought through, and fixed fast.
Granted, Marvel aced the second season of Loki on Disney Plus, but pens down. No need for a third season there. And Feige may think that the decision to let Loki creator Michael Waldron pen the new Avengers film, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, is a sound one, but I’d argue that the MCU should first ask if Kang should even continue after the Majors debacle? The smart answer is to change course away from Kang completely.
Again, Feige would do his company a world of good to sit back and look at both the forest and the trees.
MEGA (MAKE EFFECTS GREAT AGAIN)
There are many things harming the MCU brand, but I never thought that visual effects would be one of them. What their effects wizards threw up on the screen in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania felt like something you’d ... throw up.
Discolored, lifeless, at times, the MCU was starting to traipse into Sharknado territory.
MCU films were once the poster boy for state-of-the-art CGI, but you can see where the corners were cut in the last few years. Too many shows and films, not enough budgets, nary enough time … and now such lackluster efforts like Quantumania, Moon Knight and The Marvels live lesser than forever.
Feige needs to make sure that he’s approving budgets that give the effects folks the proper amount of time and money to do their jobs and blow our minds. Scale back the narratives, employ less stars, scrap expensive sets, if you have to, but do not force the digital wizards to deliver subpar work because you have an arbitrary timetable in your head.
It’s as simple as the adage, “You get what you paid for.” So, pay whatever they ask, and let them shine.
WE’RE OVER ALL THE OVERLAP
This may sound sacrilegious, but I think the biggest mistake that the MCU has made since the first Avengers film is this ridiculous need to make every film and TV show connect with each other narratively. It’s not only absurd, requiring a veritable encyclopedic memory of a decades’ worth of films and shows to keep in your head, but such labor has turned the MCU into a chore the past few years.
Why create productions that require fans to turn to Wikipedia before they buy a ticket? Should escapist fare require homework? It’s absurd.
I also don’t understand why Marvel can’t tell a one-and-done story anymore.
Throughout the decades of Marvel comics, there have been plenty of singular stories, special editions that were released as graphic novels, and other limited runs. Why not adapt some of those? Sure, comic storylines and continuing characters can go on and on, but not everything must. It would behoove the MCU to greenlight scripts that feel more finite.
Oh, and those tease scenes that Marvel holds for their end credits are getting tedious, too. They’re not crucial, interesting or entertaining these days, the way they once were, so perhaps that is something Feige should look at cutting, too.
DISNEY, WE LOVE YA’ … BUT BACK OFF
Disney has quickly developed a reputation for milking cash cows till they’re dry. Some of their live-action takes on animated classics have been terrific, like Cinderella and Jungle Book, but too many are yawns. Does every Star Wars project have to touch upon characters and tropes from the original three films? And will every MCU story on Disney+ yield multiple seasons or, egads, spin-offs? Do we really need an "Agatha: All Along" series based on the foil in "WandaVision"?
Can’t a character just be a good one without having to become its own franchise? I mean, I loved Goose, the cat from Captain Marvel’s movies, but I’m not chomping at the bit to see him headline is own show. (Okay, maybe an Instagram account.)
IXNAY THE OVER-EXPOSED X-MEN
And to the point about repetition, it now looks like the MCU is about to fully commit to bringing the X-Men into their fold. That gives MCU something new, and if they do it right, the results could start to turn the fortunes for the MCU around in 2023. And by doing it right, I mean they have to introduce other X-Men. (And X-Women.) That means ixnaying beloved stalwarts that have been headlining features since 2000, starting with Wolverine.
He may be the top X-Man of lore, but do you realize that Hugh Jackman will have made 10 appearances on the big screen as Logan/Wolverine by the time Deadpool 3 opens in 2024.
Now, I love the actor and his signature character, but good heavens, there are at least 30 X-Men characters in the comic pages who have yet to make an appearance on the big screen. Armor, Avalanche, Chamber, Dark Beast, and Dazzler are just a few of those mutants, and I haven’t even made it past the first four letters of the alphabet. An X-Men film can be done without Wolverine, for sure, and likely, even Professor X and Magneto.
If they can reboot Roseanne’s show without her, I’m sure new frontiers could be sought out here.
I apologize for using a DC Comics term, but it would behoove the MCU to start thinking smaller and stop with the ‘all hands on deck’ trope.
Less is usually more, and I’ll submit a 60-second argument for it. Look up the Hulk/Ant-Man commercial that Diet Coke did back in 2016, and you’ll catch my drift. In that minute-long narrative, Ant-Man absconds with Hulk’s beloved can of soda, and hijinks ensue. The commercial was not only a great concept, a true “odd couple” pairing, but it managed to be tense, funny, and action-packed in even such a truncated form. Now, all those at the MCU need to do is identify such equally fun duos and write scripts for them. Let me give ‘em one that’s a gimme putt: Hailee Steinfeld and Florence Pugh.
Steinfeld and Pugh, played Kate Bishop and Yelena Belova in the Disney+ series "Hawkeye" in 2021, and their characters were set up to be antagonists. But by the end of the run, the two characters ended up a duo of bantering, carping, action-hero competitors, who wholly deserve their own movies together. Only be sure to not make their films (or series) rely too heavily on twisting narrative tropes or whiz-bang CGI.
These two were hilarious together, and I kid you not when I say they reminded me of Newman and Redford as Butch and Sundance. Steinfeld and Pugh were that good.
If the MCU incorporated just half of my list, they’d start turning their fortunes and reputations around immediately. And God knows my fixes barely represent any genuine, out-of-the-box thinking. To me, these truths are all but self-evident, yet the question remains whether Mr. Feige would have the will to course-correct? Unlike Tony Stark, who Doctor Strange left with only one possible solution in Avengers: End Game, there are many options to turn the MCU.
And just remember … as bad as it is for the MCU these days, it’s a lot worse for the DC universe. At least, Kevin Feige isn’t James Gunn.