The Marvel Cinematic Universe is dying. While the next few movies; Captain Marvel, the Avengers: Infinity War sequel and Spiderman: Far From Home will go on to be great financial hits. We are much closer to the end of the MCU than we are to the beginning. It was a great 10-year run, starting with Iron Man in 2008 with 20 films building towards the next Avengers movie where we see how the Avengers are able to defeat Thanos and restore the half of the universe he wiped out with a snap of his fingers. The problem is… where do they go from here?
The MCU has three basic problems:
- Its stars are aging out of their roles. Chris Evans has already announced he’s hanging up the shield and won’t be back as Captain America. Robert Downey has been retiring as Iron Man for years now but it looks like this will be his last shot. If you look at what Tony Stark looked like in the first Iron Man and then see a recent photo. It’s hard to picture him in the role for another 20 films. Same with Mark Ruffalo when playing Bruce Banner. It was just announced that Scarlett Johansson is finally getting a Black Widow movie but the clock is ticking on her as well. Part of what made the MCU work was the credibility of the actors in their roles. Chris Hemsworth looks like he could be Thor for real, but playing an immortal requires he not visibly age. That’s gonna be hard to pull off. While an occasional role in the MCU has seen an actor replaced, Col. Rhodes (War Machine) and the Red Skull. It’s the continuity of the actors and them growing into their roles that have helped make the whole MCU work and that’s coming to an end.
- Some of the best stories from the comics have been used up. Marvel Comics provided over 50 years of material to harvest and they have cherry-picked the best of those stories. Even though they generally didn’t do a great job with most of the villains (Loki and Thanos excepted). We’ve seen the majority of the best villains these heroes faced over the years and they killed several of them although, in the movies like the comics, anything is possible and they just might return. After Thanos, who makes a credible foe for the world’s greatest heroes to face? We haven’t seen Kang yet although time travel will allegedly be a feature in Avengers 4. We’ve seen Ego briefly come and go. The Skrulls and Kree will be a feature in Captain Marvel. There is still Secret Wars, but a major event like Infinity War which was the focus of attention for ten years will never be seen again. There is some hope with Disney gaining the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four which they would have incorporated long ago if they could have. That brings the possibility or a better Dr. Doom and a Galactus that isn’t a cloud but still leaving one last problem.
- The MCU has depended too much on multiple characters. With the exception of maybe the original Iron Man and the first Captain America. Marvel has put multiple heroes in almost every film. Iron Man 2 gave us the Black Widow and hinted at War Machine. The first Thor gave us Hawkeye. The films kept adding more and more characters. Captain America: Civil War might as well have been an Avengers movie. Some of the best stories ever in the comics were based on a battle of the hero alone against whatever he faced. Daredevil fighting way outside his class against Dr. Doom, Thor alone vs. The Celestials. We likely will never see that type movie in the MCU because the powers that be will insist on added star power. With the two Infinity War films, what will Marvel do next, unless they recreate from the comics the wedding of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four and all hell breaks loose? There is a precedent in movies of adding more and more characters until eventually, they jumped the shark, which is monster movies. What started as a few Frankenstein, Mummy, Dracula and Wolfman movies begat Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman and Frankenstein Meets Dracula. They led to House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, each featuring several monsters. The death of the age of monster movies was announced when we got Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, then they met The Mummy and finally The Invisible Man. After the next segment of Infinity War, there’s a good chance we’ll be a lot closer to Abbott and Costello than a new enemy that will captivate us as we enter the next phase of Marvel films.
The end of the MCU will not be immediate. After the next Avengers film breaks all records known to man. Spiderman: Far From Home will do well. Black Panther 2 won’t recapture the magic of the first film but may still reach a $Billion which isn’t chump change. Dr. Strange 2 will do well but not equal the first movie. There is still money to be made on superhero films, but not the kind of money to pay out $15 million to actors like some of the major stars are getting and Scarlett Johansson is alleged to be receiving for her announced Black Widow film. That doesn’t even include Robert Downey money which exceeds that amount. The MCU won’t die because they can no longer make movies the public will want to see. They won’t be able to afford to make the kind of films they’ve made the last decade when the worst they could expect was to break $600 million in sales.
I grew up reading the comics on which the MCU is based. Seeing these characters realistically portrayed in movies has been a dream come true. I’m going to enjoy the run while it lasts but despite the best-laid plans of Kevin Feige, et al. The end is near.