Marvel’s Phase 4 blunders spiral into formulaic cinema

October 18, 2022 — by Divya Vadlakonda
The Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline for Phase 4 and Phase 5.
Latest Marvel releases like “She-Hulk” provide insight into the future of the cinematic universe.

Marvel’s most recent show streaming on Disney Plus is “She-Hulk,” a series centered around Jennifer Walters — the attorney cousin of Bruce Banner —  played by Tatiana Maslany. She navigates through her personal and work life in the wake of a life-changing transformation.

While I like the show objectively, it is just one of the many shows that the well-oiled Marvel machine has pumped out recently, leaving the superhero market oversaturated. It doesn’t give viewers the same excitement as Marvel movies used to, reinforcing a question that has been looming since the release of “Avengers: Endgame”: Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) losing its magic?

Marvel’s Phase 4, comprising the films and shows set to be released from 2021 to 2022,  has given me mixed feelings about the future of the franchise. Putting out movies like “Eternals” (2021), “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022) and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (2022) along with a multitude of television shows has left Marvel fans such as myself with a plethora of content, but the quality of the shows has been increasingly unsatisfying. For the first time in a long time, I find myself not wanting to watch the next MCU release.

Just from 2021 to 2022, Phase 4 outnumbers the releases in Phase 1 to 3. However, these shows seem like factory filmmaking: The studio puts out a bulk of content just because they can, and because they are so influential in the industry that they know millions of diehard fans will watch regardless of quality.

But recent projects aren’t contributing to an overarching goal in the way that movies in Phase 1 to 3 were all built upon each other, working toward one big narrative in “Avengers: Endgame.”

This is not to say that Marvel has been exclusively missing the mark: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a great movie that portrays Asian Americans in a relatable and authentic way, with epic action scenes and solid lore that left me wanting to know more. Additionally, “WandaVision” explores new facets of those characters and has satisfying and unexpected twists and turns.

But looking at what is to come in the MCU does not strike me with a sense of excitement anymore. I’d like to see more films with scripts that don’t make me cringe when I hear some of the lines, be amazed by the effects and fight scenes in a way that I haven’t in a while and feel thrill when I hear that a new release is coming.

Perhaps Marvel’s prime has passed. Maybe it is a sign that we should say goodbye to the age of superheroes and make way for other cinema to dominate the scene. All good things must come to an end, and Marvel is not an exception.

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