“The Avengers” changed Hollywood and pop culture as we knew it back in 2012. After five Marvel movies of varying quality were released between 2008 and 2011, “The Avengers” was a corny, satisfying and exciting payoff for those who kept up with the franchise.
It attracted audiences who grew up with the comics as well as the more cynical crowd of movie-goers who thought that nothing could beat Sam Raimi’s “Spiderman” or Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” series.
After becoming the most successful film of 2012 and the third-highest-grossing film of all time at the time of its release, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) became a cash cow of epic proportions.
Moving into Phases Two and Three, the need to pull more heroes from the comics, no matter how obscure, increased exponentially.
As long as a movie trailer began with the Marvel logo, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures knew they had a guaranteed audience, eagerly awaiting the expansion of the universe and the crossovers that would come with it. Prior to the release of “Avengers: Endgame,” the most Marvel releases in one year would be three movies, making the journey to “Endgame” a long but manageable one.
“Avengers: Endgame” was a cultural and financial juggernaut, and for many, it was a perfect ending to the MCU altogether. However, for Disney and for many fans, it simply marked the beginning of a new era of heroes.
Furthermore, there were many OG characters whose arcs were clearly not finished, and Disney kept up this momentum by releasing “Spiderman: Far From Home” less than three months after “Endgame.”
With fan buzz and box office success still at a high, Disney’s next move sealed the evergrowing popularity of the MCU: the creation of Disney Plus.
Disney Plus was launched on Nov. 12, 2019 following years of anticipation for a Disney-based streaming service from the general public.
The sheer amount of properties to which Disney had the release and streaming rights made the platform invaluable, especially with their ownership of Star Wars and Marvel Studios, two of the biggest cinematic franchises of all time.
Existing Marvel fans or those who had been interested in it now had all of the movies at their fingertips, as well as smaller television shows released by Disney subsidiaries in the early 2010s.
Disney Plus followed suit of the many streaming services before it and announced plans for multiple Disney Plus original shows and movies.
Outside of the service, however, theatrical Disney releases were put to a halt by the pandemic shutting down Hollywood mere months after Disney Plus’ launch.
Movies that were supposed to come out in 2020 were instead released on the service, beginning with an added charge to view the movie until it became available for free on the service a few months later.
Being able to get a free trial for a week on this service made movie releases futile, as Disney could not profit if someone began their free trial just to watch one thing and then neglect to subscribe to the service.
So, once their TV shows were ready to be released, Disney found a good way to keep people on the platform: weekly episode releases.
What possibly began as a way to maintain fan hype from week to week between episodes of the first Disney Plus MCU show, “Wandavision,” became a model that would allow Disney to maximize profit no matter how negatively it affected the quality of their output.
If people would subscribe to Disney Plus so that they could keep up with MCU shows every week, then why not greenlight as many shows as possible so people will continue to pay $8 a month instead of a one-time $10 payment for a movie theater ticket?
Phase Four of the MCU is composed of seven theatrical movies and eight Disney Plus originals. As of now, Phase Five is slated to have six theatrical releases and seven television series.
Origin stories for new heroes have gone from two-hour movies to eight-hour television series, and the quality of these products are very obviously declining. Stories that would be well-suited to a stand-alone movie are now padded with filler, hit-or-miss jokes, and rushed CGI, which are all turning off Marvel fans with each new release.
Online discourse from many comic enthusiasts and MCU originalists seems to blame the writing and a “push for diversity” as more starring heroes are women, non-white and/or people with a disability.
Many people post TikToks comparing bad jokes from the newest “She-Hulk” series to previous Phase Two and Three movies. Others post critiques about shows being slow, boring or repetitive, especially once shows reach their third act, which are notoriously bad for MCU shows.
I think the obvious problem here is not the new heroes, the actors playing them or even the writers of the show, but Disney Plus itself.
It seems to have all of its eggs in the MCU basket — and, to be fair, the Star Wars basket — and will sacrifice the quality of their continued MCU world-building for the sake of keeping people subscribed.
When writers are presented with eight hours of run-time to fill, fast deadlines so that there is never a lull in content and limited budgets being split between multiple other shows, it is not shocking that jokes are subpar and storylines are dragged out.
People’s investment will also be much harder to keep. Sitting through a mid-tier Marvel movie is not unfamiliar to long-time fans, so if these shows were actually theatrical movie releases, the damage to the MCU would feel much smaller. But, holding fans’ attention for eight hours to introduce them to unrecognizable properties seems to only be getting more and more difficult for the MCU.
I don’t believe Disney will change this new plan, however, until their profits start to reflect fan disappointment. There has been public outcry about Disney live-action remakes for years, but those have not gone away in the slightest.
While the MCU has always been milked by Disney for profit, the existence of Disney Plus has increased their behavior tenfold, and it is tanking the MCU along with it.