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Commentary: Marvel loses its marbles

Chenya Kwon

The explosions blast from the speakers, and my reclined seat feels like it’s trembling from the reverberations. All eyes are laser–focused on the figures dodging the hammer flying across the screen. The sounds of battle are only punctuated by a lone hand reaching into a popcorn bag, rustling buttery kernels.

Seven years ago, I walked out of the theater with my life changed by Thor: Ragnorak. I can only recall bits and pieces of the movie’s plot to this day, but more importantly, I remember that this movie marked the beginning of many journeys to and from the Regal Theater to watch every new Marvel release that followed.

Even after the COVID–19 pandemic ravaged the world as I knew it, Marvel remained a comforting constant. Though film production was on hold, I binged my favorite films and older Marvel Cinematic Universe TV shows. Then, life resumed to normal and film production kicked up again.

But it didn’t go back to how it had been before. For one reason or another, it seemed like the superhero story magic I once adored was lost, and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

For those unfamiliar to the MCU: films are released in “phases,” each of which last several years and include an overarching storyline. Currently, Marvel is in Phase Five. Phases one through three featured the most well–known characters in the franchise like Iron Man or Captain America and formed an even more comprehensive storyline. Dubbed the Infinity Saga for the ‘infinity stone’–based magic system the movies introduced, the conclusion of the series marked the end of the story for many of the aforementioned, household name superheroes. With the release of the final installment in the saga in 2019, the company turned towards kickstarting its next major project: the Multiverse Saga.

Unfortunately, the general consensus from fans has been rife with disappointment and declining interest in the MCU, a sentiment reflected in many recent releases’ ratings from audiences.

Recent films such as The Marvels, Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania and Eternals currently make up some of Marvel’s worst rated productions on Rotten Tomatoes, a film and TV review platform based upon audience’s input. The Marvels, Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania and Eternals came in at 54%, 46% and 47% respectively — a far cry from Marvel’s heyday numbers, such as the classic Ironman’s 94% or even Avengers: Endgame’s, the finale to the Infinity Saga, 94%.

The Marvels, the most recent release, performed particularly poorly at the box office. The film earned $47 million, falling just above half of predicted revenue, thus becoming infamous for being the “lowest–earning film in franchise history,” according to Monica Mercuri in

Practically, there are a number of reasons for Marvel’s notorious decline.

First, the fall is partially attributable to the phenomenon dubbed ‘Marvel fatigue,’ or the way the oversaturation of Marvel content exhausts viewers instead of inspiring anticipation. Intensified production within recent phases is even more apparent when compared to older Marvel production times. For instance, Phase Five is projected to include seven movies over a roughly three year period (alongside a number of TV shows), whereas Phase One presented a modest six films over five years, according to Kalia Richardson in Rather than experiencing any anticipation, most fans find their excitement diluted by the constant exposure to a consistent stream of lower–quality content.

Moreover, another reason is the hefty pre–movie homework. To see most Marvel movies released in Phase Four and Five, there are often other previous movies or even MCU TV shows that must be watched in order to even follow the storyline, not even taking into consideration the 23 movies making up the previous Infinity Saga. For instance, Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness necessitates viewing WandaVision, a TV show with roughly six hours of content, in order to understand the antagonist and conflict. This phenomenon is instantly alienating for those who are not able to dedicate dozens upon dozens of hours on keeping up with every new Marvel production. Marvel loses the chunk of its audience who is simply interested in enjoying a couple hours in a theater and moving on.

Finally, worsening visual effects have been a significant contributor to the decline of the MCU. A consequence of intense production times but also understaffing, the VFX side of the movies have taken a noticeable hit, according to Matthew Hardman in Unfortunately, for a franchise that relies on effects like CGI to achieve their fantastical fight scenes and magical displays, poor VFX spells out another significant failure for the MCU’s spiralling quality.

For many fans, myself included, it’s been a disheartening experience watching a franchise that was once so dear to me deteriorate so significantly. As much as some fans continue to hold out hope for a genuine Marvel revival that returns to the heights the universe once was, it’s time to say goodbye. The magical feeling of walking into theaters and seeing superheroes throw punches and drop witty one–liners will be much missed, but a farewell might be the only way to retain the integrity of this franchise.

There is a virtue in finales. Keeping the magic of something alive doesn’t necessarily have to entail constant expansion, it might, instead, be the opposite: preservation through completion.

Fans’ aversion to seeing the curtains fall on their favorite things goads the industry into mass production in order to draw more audiences into theater seats. However, doing so spells disaster for the quality of once–beloved content and characters. In contrast, accepting some sort of resolution so that the story’s integrity is retained ends up protecting the charm that fans fell in love with.

Whether or not Marvel chooses to follow this mantra or not, the choice is ultimately up to the fans. Instead of chasing after drawn out, deteriorating production in hopes of returning to what once was, we are always free to choose to end our consumption on our own t

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About the Contributor
Chenya Kwon
Chenya Kwon, Staff Writer
My name is Chenya Kwon, and I am a staff writer on The Arrow. My favorite part about journalism is being able to interview people. Hearing about opinions, experiences, and stories firsthand makes the stories we write about feel so much more alive and impactful. Outside of journalism, I divvy up my time between cuddling with my cat Buster, painting, and watching my favorite Netflix shows.
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