Phase 4 of the MCU seems to have lost the recipe for success. Maybe it was part of RDJ’s snapshot that killed Thanos and is now dust somewhere in the galaxy
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is poised to rival the Eternals as the most pathetic MCU flick as far as critical acclaim goes. The Benedict Cumberbatch lead was panned before the film hit the big screen, from being snubbed for being incoherent to an exhausting 126-minute affair. Sure, fan opinions will eventually outweigh the content viewed through the lens of those who understand cinema, and will almost certainly garner some wholesome moolah at the box office, but surely Marvel movies aren’t the same as they were. New direction, new vision and new heroes? It’s all ok. But the lack of substance and what makes Marvel movies Marvel is clearly lacking.
The Burbank people didn’t see this coming, and if they thought they could do this all day, they couldn’t have been more wrong. At least not after the success of Spider-Man: Far From Home and Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. These films, particularly the latter, had promise and garnered as much critical acclaim as Ryan Coogler and the late Chadwick Boseman’s “Black Panther.”
ON THE SUBJECT OF MATCHING ITEMS
Just to give you an idea of how good Simu Liu’s mega-budget ballet was, it grossed over $432 million worldwide, making it the ninth-highest-grossing film of 2021 compared to the other films that followed . Black Widow ($379 million) and Eternals ($402 million) were bombs that fizzled, and Tom Holland’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” debuted at over 1 thanks to sheer star power and brilliant writing $.8 better from billion.
Greens aside, what these films sorely lacked was the Marvel touch, something that phases 1-3 of the MCU brought in copious doses. It was always about the big picture. There was continuity and the storytelling had characters that were all relatable, complex, and inspiring at the same time. Coupled with some brilliant actors and cutting-edge technology, these films became more than just superhero content. They were larger than life, something DC’s chief honchos reluctantly agreed.
Man of Steel writer David S. Goyer successfully explained why the MCU was successful, at least from a content perspective: “One of the other things that has made Marvel incredibly successful is that all of their adaptations are faithful to the source material. Ant-Man feels like Ant-Man. The Hulk feels like the Hulk. They don’t try to change things. I would say try to get closer to the original intent. So it’s about having a consistent universe, having consistent guidance and staying true to the source material.”
However, things have changed. Phase 4, which is said to bring new heroes into the world, met with a moderate response. The fact that “Spider-Man” fared better goes to show how much the world misses the OG group of heroes who made some of these Marvel films worth remembering. Movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were once-in-a-lifetime experiences that had the world crying, laughing, clapping, cursing, and screaming in excitement and agony all at the same time. The dead were mourned and victories celebrated. And now, sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case, especially when a film with one of the heroes falters with ties to the previous phases.
Sometimes it’s only fair to ask if the decision to kill Robert Downey’s Tony Stark/Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and retire Chris Evans Steve Rogers/Captain America was a good decision. There are two arguments – one, to look to the future you have to move beyond the past, a philosophy Marvel Studios seems to have embraced. The second is to maybe give these characters the kind of ending that also gave them a chance to return in the future.
For example, Iron Man was one of the original members of the Illuminati (they have been confirmed to appear in the sequel), so bringing Tony Stark back (rather than killing him in “Endgame”) would have helped save the fate of a waning franchise to revive ? Or would it have stolen the limelight from Cumberbatch’s spry and snooty wizard? The same argument can be applied to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. No disrespect to Anthony Mackie or Sebastian Stan, but perhaps the addition of an Evans cameo could have made a solid difference. Again, this is all wishful thinking and speculation, but given the way these films have unfolded, could the studios have planned Phase 4 any better?
In the list of worst Marvel movies not considering Phase 4, Thor: The Dark World should be at the bottom of the barrel, but now it’s hard to pick a loser in the final phase. Certainly the ‘Eternals’ are at the top as far as absymal goes, with ‘Black Widow’ coming in a close second. Wondering how Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will fare. The final word: The MCU is in disarray. It was supposed to get better with the movie but seems to have lost the winning formula that DCEU seems to have reignited (more on that later), but for now that dynasty run is over. Perhaps a journey through time to rediscover the magical mantra?
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is out May 6th in the US.