Marvel Studios concluded its thirteenth project of Phase 4 this past Wednesday as Ms. Marvel shocked us all with an impactful finale. Revealing Kamala Khan as a mutant was a game changer. More importantly, it was a reminder that the MCU is still evolving, growing, and-pun intended-embiggening. When the pandemic shut things down for 2020 we as a collective were starved for content. Any morsel of footage we were grateful for. We waited for Disney+ day and it came and we got trailers and previews and titles. It was exciting, and then WandaVision happened.
When WandaVision first aired on a Friday in mid-January of 2021 we were satiated. Everything we missed about the MCU was back, except it was different. We were going week to week as opposed to the normal 3-4 month wait between movies. Simply put, watching WandaVision was a phenomenon. There was a level of captivation that brought the theory boards and connecting of Easter eggs. Remember when we thought that space engineer was Reed Richards? Or how about the calls for Mephisto? Yes, that was us. Now none of those things happened, and WandaVision ended with Wanda Maximoff becoming The Scarlet Witch. That should’ve been enough right? Monica Rambeau’s debut and her getting her powers on screen? Should’ve been enough you think?
Instead what followed was a collective groan from a vocal part of fans annoyed that their theories didn’t come true. Also even with the explanation from show-runners and producers as to how the pandemic changed filming we didn’t take that into account. It became a demerit. Even if you enjoyed WandaVision-and many did-it didn’t quite hit the same as when it started. Two weeks later, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier debuted. We didn’t have the time to really digest what happened and why we became so hypercritical. It was odd to say the least.
12 additional projects later, the fandom generally seems ornery. Between leaks coloring fans’ views before things come out and critics mocking the formula of the MCU, we as a collective are in an interesting place. As Thor: Love And Thunder came out last week to mixed reviews the whispers seem to be getting louder. VFX and CGI have become apart of everyone’s vocabulary in a way we’ve never heard before. Now social media should never be the end all be all in judging a product. The bottom line should be. Yet, you almost can’t deny a feeling of impatience amongst the masses.
Where are we going? What’s the main story? These questions are in blogs, and on peoples’ minds. The answers seem to be there. It feels like Loki told us the answers. Ms. Marvel just gave us more. The truth is the real answer is the MCU is telling new stories. The Infinity Saga is over. It was fantastic. Akin to a dynasty in sports. Now it’s time to rebuild. Kevin Feige is leaning more on source material. We have new characters. These movies are more comic book like than ever dropping us in for a ride and taking us home at the end. Seems reasonable enough. Not to us though.
We’ve heard the ridiculous and misogynistic phrases like “MidCU” and “MSheU”. Stories of representation are being told and it’s still not enough. So at some point the question needs to be asked, is it them or is it us? Now Marvel does have work to do. They’re still trying to figure out structure on this streaming platform. These finales often seem rushed, undercutting more than one thing even if the overall stories are rewarding. Movies are always subjective so you can always quibble with that. Let’s take a look at what happened to us.
Endgame is now over three years old. Since then we have experienced a time period of going from no content for nearly two of those years to content all the time. It’s changed us. We view these things differently and it’s not because of fatigue. The truth of it all is that we aren’t the same people we were in 2019. We’ve grown, and we’ve seen a lot of terrible things in the world. All of that is bound to increase cynicism of everything. Plenty of people who consume this content make a living off of it. That trough has only grown. Of course this doesn’t reflect everyone, but with that becomes not only the responsibility to be honest but enough care to zoom out and ask yourself this question. Is it really them, or is it us?
Essentially what’s happened is paralysis by over-analysis. The fun many of us grew up with reading comics and enjoying that escapism has been replaced by the blurred lines of our lives and the ones of characters on screen. The drug of nostalgia has been dosed with a chaser of “fatigue” and “CGI” and “director choices.” Truthfully, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. When it’s all said and done, we are on the fast train to Secret Wars, Kang The Conqueror, and Mutants. You can make the argument Phase 4 is doing just fine. How are you though?