As someone who was in the Marvel fan club since early into the MCU, it has been an interesting transformation of opinion among the circle of fans I frequent over the past few years.
When Avengers came out, the excitement surrounding fans was inescapable. People were dissecting every part to find hints to new movies or character arcs. There were posts about how Loki’s eye color could trigger his redemption and Thanos’ discovery. People were that excited.
The right as Avengers: Age of Ultron hit theaters people became far more critical of the MCU and it hit a peak at the release of Doctor Strange. Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok breathed life into the series, but by the time Captain Marvel rolled around fans were tired. The general feeling when I interacted with people was “I think it is going to be a tossed together ‘girl power/feminism’ movie, but I worry if I do not watch it there won’t be more female lead superhero movies.”
I can find a couple of reasons for the MCU’s downfall:
- The handling of Black Widow’s character in Age of Ultron, namely towards her infertility, was considered sexist. Joss Whedon’s feminism has not aged well, and his initial script for the Wonder Woman movie really shows it. Joss Whedon is best described as “Progressive for the time, but boy was the bar low”
- Actors’ personal lives and actions being mixed into people’s enjoyment of the movies. I do not know or care about every actor’s drama, but I know Scarjo’s. Her inability to turn down roles that should go to actors of color and LGBTQA actors did not help people’s already soured opinion of Black Widow. That several years later she is still part of the team, despite Disney and Marvel having no issue recasting a black actor for a pay dispute, does not help things.
- Disney trying to keep its movie appealing to China. Leading to the lack of LGBTQA characters and another poor decision. Removing Tibet’s importance in Doctor Strange’s history was a decision that upset many people. If you are unaware of China and Tibet’s history, there are new articles about it every day.
- Keeping certain things from Marvel comics that should go. Such as characters that use ‘ancient Asian magics’ being white. When casting for Doctor Strange and Iron Fist there were lots of fan casts and ideas for how instead of it being “white guy discovers cool, exotic stuff” it was “disenfranchised POC rediscovers their roots”. Aquaman’s casting even showed that it did not have to be deep, the MCU just lacked interest in casting actors of color.
- Fans having ideas that are more interesting and fun. Not only better fan casts for problematic characters, but the tone and structure of Marvel movies.
MCU by Endgame became what the DCU was made fun of: dark, depressing, and edgy with not much to say for it. Fans had come up with plots and ideas where characters’ love and bonds helped them save the day and things were fun, like Thor: Ragnarok did. Or ideas that challenged stereotypes, made social commentary, and had a more complicated morality, like Black Panther. The two that escaped the darkening cloud over the MCU.
The theory I mentioned about Loki’s eyes? Would have made his character so much more complicated, had Thor examine the ways of Asgard far sooner, strengthen his and Loki’s relationship, and would have set up Thanos far sooner and a far bigger threat than he was. A fan theory about eye color could have done more than what actually happened in the Marvel movies.
Marvel still has fans, and while the movies might not follow, the comics have made changes for the better in recent years. But fans that were the MCU’s heart have already left. The MCU failed to meet their basic expectations or purposely ignored their interests. They slowly stopped seeing the movies as passionate and instead as hollow cash grabs.
And by playing it safe, that is what the fanbase is.
People enjoy the movies, but there is no passion anymore.