Will the MCU survive following Phase 3?

Gaming Editor James Troughton takes us through what Marvel need to do to survive the next phase

James Troughton
10th February 2020
Image credit: Pixabay

Marvel Studios and, by extension, Disney, made a lot of money in 2019 from their endeavors, with all 3 films crossing the $1billion mark at the box-office. Avengers: Endgame was a monumental hit and the bookend of an eleven-year saga and Spider-Man: Far From Home was the epilogue that made even skeptics fall in-love with Tom Holland's Peter Parker.

However, the question on everybody's lips is "what exactly can Marvel do to top Thanos and, will the hype-train slowdown?" With comic-book-movies (CBMs) being such popular hits in the mainstream media with general audiences, it's unlikely that Marvel will have trouble keeping their momentum. However, the formula may get so repetitive and stagnant that it could push moviegoers to other franchises, as has happened so often throughout cinema history.

The medium of film is everchanging and evolving and audience interest is a key factor in its growth or, as some argue, its decline. The MCU's interwoven narrative building up to a big-bad is what kept everything glued together but the plan moving forward is a series of smaller arcs across other films. Young Avengers and Thunderbolts seem to be the next focus for head-honcho Kevin Feige, but will this new strategy work?

Will the films truly deviate from the Marvel formula that has, for a long time, come under fire from critics?

Perhaps, if the films can stand on their own two legs and be different enough to Phase 3. Say what you will about the MCU's debut, but the diversity between styles of each film was night and day, with Iron Man being a starkly different experience to The Incredible Hulk which had an entirely different atmosphere to The Avengers.

Sam Raimi may bring his own flair to Doctor Strange 2 and Taika Waititi, with control from the get-go and his own choice of narrative, may very well do something completely standout with Thor: Love & Thunder. But, will the films truly deviate from the Marvel formula that has, for a long time, come under fire from critics? Black Widow seems to indicate no, whilst Eternals' cast proudly proclaim it's like nothing else - will this be the new Guardians of the Galaxy, or the next Thor: The Dark World?

Another aspect of the MCU constantly under fire from critics is the over-reliance on humour. Even Endgame and Infinity War, which were two of the most serious MCU films to date, were chock full of gags and jokes, which seems to be a trend set by James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy. If Eternals is successful, Marvel may use it as their template going forward but, that could harm its unique status and it would simply build a new mold that would get tired just as fast.

If Marvel don't change things up and alter the formula, like any other genre, the CBM one could grow stagnant and lose its appeal.

So, to answer the question - fans aren't going anywhere in the short-term, but if Marvel don't change things up and alter the formula, like any other genre, the CBM one could grow stagnant and lose its appeal. DC has an impressively diverse slate, from the character deep-dive that is Joker to the R-Rated romp that is Birds of Prey all the way through to the detective noir that is The Batman. Marvel needs to embrace this diversity in their filmmaking and an R-Rated corner wouldn't go amiss.

Shang-Chi needs to be an unforgiving martial arts film, The Eternals needs to hammer in sci-fi, Black Widow should return to the espionage roots of The Winter Soldier, Blade needs an R-Rating and Spider-Man 3 should continue that coming-of-age and youthful feel. If they do that, they'll be more than fine, they'll kill it, regardless of how we feel about their flicks, whether we're Scorsese-stans or CBM fanboys.

The new embrace of the medium of TV through the interconnecting of Disney+ shows and MCU films is an interesting concept and it may be what differs Marvel Studios' work going forward from their previous projects, but will this alienate more people than it does refresh the IP? It remains to be seen. All in all, the MCU's future is a muddled one, with uncertainty and a strong reliance on the success of their upcoming Phase 4 slate. Should they fail, there's no doubt that Scorsese will throw himself a party but, should they succeed, we may get even more cinematic universe copycats. I'm looking at you, The Mummy.

Featured image credit: @agentofdonny (Twitter)

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