How Marvel Dropped The Ball

Marvel movies are still the number one game in town. There’s no question about that. For one thing, the closest we’ve got to any other franchise with so many movies is Star Wars (11 movies,) followed by the Fast and Furious series (10 movies,) and then Mission Impossible (8 movies.) With Marvel, they are at 32 movies now, and still going strong.

But, at the same time, in the more recent years, something has definitely been lost. To put it simply, the ball has dropped. The quality has diminished. And there are really just three reasons why.


The first of these reasons is that the movies stopped being smart. They stopped being relatable. This happened right around the time of the Eternals. Each movie had major blunders in story and tone, starting with that one. With the Eternals, it was a movie that nobody asked for. We like superheroes because they are flawed, and therefore relatable. Who wants to think of their superheroes as immortal gods? We already have Thor, a god of sorts, who had to explain (to the audience) that magic and science are one and the same, and that magic is basically just science we haven’t figured out yet, just to keep things semi-grounded. We have the Guardians of the Galaxy as an answer to space, aliens, and Star Wars. Pushing it into gods territory takes it too far, out of the realm of relatability.

The Eternals was the first bad original movie by Marvel. Sure, there had been some misfires before that, ( Thor: The Dark World and Ant-Man and the Wasp.) But both were sequels for lovable characters. With the Eternals, we never really cared about these characters to begin with. That mistake of a movie led to many more, afterwards.

Doctor Strange 2 came next, and that one was also lousy on near-incomprehensible levels. Between it’s confusing story (two different books as McGuffins that could barely be told apart – the Dark Hold and the Book of Vashanti,) and it’s ridiculously scary tone (the movie bordered on horror / gore at times,) it was a mess. Let’s put it this way…Strange turns into a zombie with a half melted face for the final third of the film. Enough said.

Next up was Thor: Love and Thunder. The less said about that movie the better. With the Thor movie that came before it, Thor: Ragnorak, they finally found a winning formula. So what do they do? Push it too far in that direction until it doesn’t work. The formula of Thor Ragnorak combined elaborate action with comedy. It brought in both the Hulk and Jeff Goldblum, camping it up. With Love and Thunder, all of that was gone. No more Hulk, no more Goldblum, and the comedy was brought down to a level of being more dopey than funny. Natalie Portman’s love interest (as Lady Thor,) was meant as a replacement to the Hulk (the new superhero character of the movie, who fought alongside our protagonist.) And Russell Crowe was meant to be a replacement for Goldblum. Neither one worked. Even Christian Bale hit the wrong tone for the movie with his villain.

After that we had Black Panther 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy 3, movies that were fine, but pale comparisons to the original films that started off their series’. With Black Panther 2 in particular, we didn’t even get to see someone suit up in the Black Panther suit until the final portions of the film. And obviously the reason why was out of respect for the death of Chadwick Boseman, but they could have done better. It wasn’t a very enjoyable movie on any level, and just managed to be okay.

Now there was one other movie left off this list, which was a good one. Spider Man: No Way Home. It was left off the list because, first, it is as much a Sony movie as a Marvel movie (although that is up for debate.) But secondly, it was left off the list because it was a lightning in a bottle movie..  it worked because of nostalgia that could really only be captured this way once. It worked because of a factor that can’t really be repeated. The movie combined everything Spider-Man from the past two decades (ever since Tobey Maguire’s first movie in 2000,) and that’s something that the other movies will never have the chance to do. You can only see those three Spider-Men together for the first time once. So, yes, it was incredible, but at the same time, it’s almost like to count it would not be playing fair.

But there was indeed a Marvel movie, in recent times (the past few years,) that was very good and absolutely should be looked at closely. That movie is Shang-Chi. It was the last great original film for the studio, and other than No Way Home, it was about a thousand times better than all of the other movies that came after it. And a major reason for why Shang-Chi was so good, was because of its Easter Eggs, or Connective Tissue. Which brings us to reason 2.


Easter Eggs is a term that applies to so much these days, that we need to differentiate a little bit. For example, if there’s ever a reference to something from the comics, it is considered an Easter Egg. But that’s not the kind of Easter Egg I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about is continuity among the movies. I’m talking about showing that these movies are not just in the same universe, but that there is even an ongoing story being woven throughout them. And Shang-Chi did that in spades.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings featured quite a lot of connective tissue cameos. There was Ben Kingsley, reprising his role as Trevor Slattery from Iron Man 3, and joining up with our team of heroes. There was also Wong, from the Doctor Strange movies, as well as an appearance by the Abomination. And then in a post credits scene, we got Hulk (well, Bruce Banner,) and Captain Marvel.

Now let’s go back to Trevor Slattery for a moment. That cameo (although it was probably more than a cameo, with Slattery in quite a lot of the second half,) showed that this film and the Iron Man movies are connected. It was a great move, and the kind of thing that Marvel movies used to do when they first started out… Nick Fury appearing at the end of Iron Man, Tony Stark appearing at the end of The Incredible Hulk, Thor’s hammer appearing at the end of Iron Man 2. It showed that Iron Man movies, for example, weren’t only connected to Iron Man movies, but to the other Marvel superhero movies as well.

But these days, Marvel doesn’t do that anymore. Not since Shang Chi. They still do Easter Eggs in a post credits scene (or the tag, as Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige likes to calm them,) only lately these post credits scenes just introduce us to a new character who they can use in the next movie. They don’t try to connect to other Marvel movies anymore. Instead, they only try to advance their own character, which kind of defeats the point of everything Marvel worked towards in Phase 1.

To give specific examples, the Eternals ended with meeting Starfox and Pipp. So if there is an Eternals 2, those characters will be in it. Doctor Strange 2 ended with meeting Cleo, (Charlize Theron). So if there is a Doctor Strsnge 3, she will be in it. And Thor: Love and Thunder ended with meeting Hercules, so if there is a Thor 5, he will be in it.


And none of these movies or post credits scenes connected to each other or to any other movie in the MCU at all.  The days of promoting the next Marvel movie to come out are over. These franchises are going the more selfish route and only promoting themselves. It’s a mess. And it’s getting rid of that thing that made the MCU so cool to begin with… the connective tissue.


And that brings us to reason 3, the Disney Plus shows and the overload of content. In the past two years or so, Marvel has absolutely bombarded us with content. What started out as something with real promise, (Wanda-Vision,) ended up being a complete disaster as the company appeared to get more and more greedy.

With Wanda-Vision, the first Marvel, Disney Plus show, we were all on board. First off, there was the mystery element of what was actually happening and what it all meant. Secondly, there were the cameos. Bring on Darcy from the Thor movies, bring on Agent Jimmy Woo from the Ant Man movies. It was all going so well. And one moment represented both the peak and downfall, not only of this show, but of all of the shows…

The Evan Peters Quicksilver cameo. Peters played Quicksilver in the Fox, X-Men movies. By having him appear as Quicksilber here, in a Marvel property, signified the first crossing over of a X-Men character into the MCU. It was so beautiful and so perfect. And so what does Marvel do? They go back on their cool idea, and tell us that it was all a joke and that it’s just an actor named Ralph Boner, and not actually Quicksilver at all.

That fear of giving us real cameos and interesting cross overs and connective tissue is what plagued every show to follow. Maybe they felt like they were doing too much of that in the past, and people would get tired of it. Boy were they wrong. Clearly they thought what Guardians of the Galaxy 2 did was smart, putting a mention of Adam Warlock at the end, and then not having to go back to that until the next Guardians. They thought it was a good idea to drag the call beck to that post credit scene out for years and years. So different than those early movies and examples, like Iron Man 2 ending with the discovery of Thors hammer… literally the next Marvel movie. But Marvel liked this Warlock approach because it meant they didn’t have to think about it again for years and years, or worry about how to fit it in. Basically it gave them the chance to be lazy. And it was a big mistake.

That mistake continued throughout the Disney Plus shows. Other than The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, with Rhodes, no crossovers of significance were anywhere to be found. She Hulk was the closest one, but even that just featured a bunch of cameos without advancing the stories of any of these characters. But there was nothing, for example, in Moon Knight. No references to Thor or any other gods. And with the Disney Plus shows, there were just too many of them.

Luckily in recent months, Marvel has acknowledged and accepted its mistakes. They’ve cut back on content, in order to improve on quality. And even some of their top producers and executives (most notably Victoria Alonso,) have been let go. Right now, they’ve slimmed down to just two movies out for the year… Guardians 3 and The Marvels. Hopefully all of these changes make a difference.