Images from DALL·E and author.
Marvel Studios has made over thirty-eight billion dollars since its inception. At one point in time, it even held the world record for highest grossing movie with Avengers: Endgame. Marvel has made over thirty-four movies and dozens of TV shows. These movies have been nominated and have even won many Emmy, BAFTA, and also Academy Awards. The studio company has risen to be one of the biggest franchises and thrives even despite the pandemic. For example, Spider-Man: No Way Home matched pre-pandemic box office revenue which is a rarity in the current box office. However, does the Marvel franchise do more harm than good? Not just for the film industry but for the entire art of storytelling?
If we rewind to the beginning stages of Marvel, or the “first phase,” we are introduced to characters through their solo movies (for instance, Tony Stark in Iron Man and Steven Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger). Each phase is capped with an Avengers movie in which the main characters in the solo movie collaborate. From the beginning, Marvel has tried to make their universe as interconnected as possible. This is done by making sure to include cameos, easter eggs, or mentioning other characters in solo movies. This tactic continued throughout the second phase, but many of the solo movies lacked substance and creativity as these movies became formulaic. However, this was not an issue for many people since every movie was leading up to phase three: The Infinity Saga. Every film Marvel released led up to both Infinity War and Endgame.
The problem Marvel faces now is that they have killed off all of their main characters who fans have watched grow for over a decade. Lately, Marvel has failed at making their characters have any form of an arc and they go against all the former world-building in the previous films. Their solution to this problem is to just slap on more films, more shows, more specials, and more pointless cheesy jokes instead of attacking the plot or developing the actual characters. The main issues started with the release of the Loki show. In Loki we are introduced to huge new concepts, the TVA (Time Variance Authority in the Loki show) and the Multi-Verse. Yet, the Multi-Verse makes no sense as it differs in interpretation from each movie and show. Furthermore, Marvel’s Eternals has the same issue: how can it be that such powerful people were never involved previously, since everything is connected?
The biggest example of ruining a character is the sad case of Wanda Maximoff in the TV show Wanda-Vision and the movie Doctor-Strange and The Multi-Verse of Madness. In Wanda-Vision, she deals with the fact that Vision (her love interest) is dead, she learns to let go of the past, and her character grows. Then, in Multi-Verse her character growth is completely reversed when she is turned into a monster, and has to learn about letting go of the past again. The movie is an unbelievable mess because it makes no sense and adds nothing to the plot as the ending is just the same lesson learned.
The new characters suffer more than the previously established ones, like America Chavez who was introduced in Doctor Strange and The Multi-Verse of Madness. In fact, the movie seemed to revolve around her more than Doctor Strange himself. The reason her character feels so half-baked even after following her for two hours is because she doesn’t have any real struggle. Even from the beginning she had no real challenges she had to get over. All she needed was some encouragement from Doctor Strange and suddenly she is able to control her powers. In comparison, a character like Tony Stark started as a very flawed person and went through many difficult things that made his character interesting to watch, since he actually developed as his storyline changed. America Chavez is just the same character from beginning to end. The same can be said about Kate Bishop or even Sylvie. However, one gleaming light of hope rests on the Spider-Man franchise, which has proven to have interesting characters while also making use of the Multi-Verse in a way that drives the plot forward.
Disney has become greedy: they see the profits that Marvel fans drum up at the box office and they want more of them–fast. In the early stages of Marvel there would be at the very most two movies per year, but Disney wants more money so Marvel has to push out multiple movies per year that have higher stakes, more action, and more consequences. Each movie is forced to not just advance its own plot but the whole Marvel universe plot. Marvel can’t put out another Spider-Man: Homecoming because it isn’t connected to the current phase. It can’t have a movie that isn’t based around a world-ending conflict or that doesn’t include a long cameo from a character that doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. Disney stops Marvel from having a story that is fully developed because they don’t get time or full creative control. That’s why the Multi-Verse is the main focus of every movie in phase four, because they want to advance to the next Endgame movie as fast as possible. Disney puts quantity over quality which is putting a lot of fans off.
But it’s not just fans that are suffering, it’s also the workers who are constantly overworked and extremely underpaid. They are overworked because they are juggling multiple movies that are set to release around the same time. As a result, even the visuals in Marvel movies have been less than desirable recently. On May 17, Marvel dropped She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. The show requires CGI for the actress to be transformed into a big green superhero. Noticeably, when She-Hulk starts “hulking” the CGI is at best distracting and at worst the equivalent of a low budget 90s movie. Furthermore, who could forget the infamous climax in Black Panther where T’Challa (Black Panther) and Kilmonger are battling it out near the underground train station and you couldn’t even see anything since the background was so dark. The reason Marvel has so many CGI fails is because of how much they mistreat and overwork their VFX artists. A VFX artist is responsible for the visual effects you see in any Marvel movie and they are the unsung heroes of production. Marvel in combination with Disney have set this mistreatment as the status-quo in the company, making it a very toxic work environment.
Shazia Shameerullah is a junior at Washington High School. She has lived in Fremont since elementary school. This is her first year at the Hatchet. Her favorite subjects at school include social studies and English. She enjoys being with friends, traveling, cooking, reading, and watching sitcoms. She is interested in reporting on politics, historical events, and local news. Later in life, Shazia hopes to pursue a career in law and to travel to new places.