Posing a question of whether the MCU is getting better or worse might sound strange, even though the answer is really more complex than you may think. From the outset, the obvious answer would be “exponentially better” if you go strictly by the box office. A more subtle answer would be “it’s subjective” based on one important piece of criteria: How to keep topping themselves.
Creating a movie franchise with increasing audience expectations isn’t necessarily the most envious place to be in. Since the world of making movies is one of the biggest financial risks anyone can make, Marvel could become a bit complacent realizing their movies are easy money.
Let’s take a minute to look at this situation a little deeper and what Marvel should do to keep their quality high.
Marvel now has forty films crossing the $1 billion box office mark worldwide
According to Variety, Spider-Man: Far From Home recently crossed $1 billion in theater earnings across the globe. We all know Avengers: Endgame did double recently, including finally beating the box office record held by Avatar. As a result, Marvel now has 40 movies grossing $1 billion internationally, making this unprecedented territory for any other media property.
In many ways, it’s also slightly chilling they have this much power. They almost have to live up to the Spider-Man creed of great power meaning great(er) responsibility.
At least we’re seeing them take each movie seriously on the influence they exude. Kevin Feige’s announcement recently at Comic-Con that Phase Four will have more diversity and attention to all groups of people shows they care about legacy and inclusion.
On the other end of things is the problem of building themselves so high, audience expectations might become impossible to meet eventually.
Can Marvel continue to top each movie?
We all know the MCU has a specific formula everyone expects to see, something they can basically maintain. One of those is the post-credits scenes giving hints to what’s next on the big screen. Beyond this, though, the plot points and special effects certainly can’t be uniform for the next ten years.
Avengers: Endgame alone upped the ante in what’s possible within the Marvel universe. Allowing time travel, paradoxes, and alternate timelines to enter the picture truly made the writing potentially more difficult to take on for future movies.
Then again, the time travel element was reserved mainly for the Avengers crew. Spider-Man: Far From Home stuck with more human drama, and it clearly worked.
Story expectation, however, will still need to be heightened through each movie. The writing teams are perhaps plotting out Phase Four now on giant whiteboards to make sure they can create individual stories everyone talks about for years.
Keeping up with special effects is a given, though there’s a backlash against CGI
Everyone will expect to see Marvel keep up with CGI advancements, and the recent movies clearly demonstrate this. Not that there hasn’t been a lot of criticism of CGI overuse in films. As stunning as CGI is now in creating photorealistic images, not everyone is crazy about it as we’ve seen in The Lion King remake.
In some cases, Marvel uses more practical devices, such as Jake Gyllenhaal putting himself through the torture of wearing a physical Mysterio costume throughout Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Perhaps we can argue if Marvel films want to keep being better, they shouldn’t fall prey to the worse excessive proclivities of Hollywood. This means taming CGI oversaturation and not becoming too complacent in the stories people want to see.
Most importantly, the writers need to keep upping their game since the story is the heart of what makes the MCU work. They may need storyboards as big as several city blocks to make this work in the years to come.