Fourteen years after the first “Iron Man” movie premiered in theaters, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a household name. These movies dominate pop culture and have become synonymous with the superhero genre. However, Marvel’s current model is causing oversaturation and burnout from their TV shows and movies. The studio needs to reevaluate if they want to maintain the magic that made them so successful in the first place.
The introduction of Marvel to the streaming service Disney+ has allowed the studio to pump out an overwhelming amount of content every year. Since “WandaVision” first aired at the beginning of 2021, Marvel has already added seven new shows to the streaming service.
These Disney+ shows, including “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” “Moon Knight” and most recently “She-Hulk,” are not the first shows that Marvel has put out. “Agent Carter,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “The Defenders” have all existed within the larger Marvel universe for years.
The difference is that until recently, these shows weren’t necessary to understand what was happening in Marvel movies.
There’s no way to be a casual Marvel fan anymore. In the past, someone who wasn’t caught up with all the MCU movies might not understand a throwaway line or an end credits scene. Now, watching a new superhero movie requires the viewer to have seen several other movies and TV shows, with new ones coming out at an ever-increasing rate.
In a similar vein, each new Marvel movie and TV show feels like a way for Disney to flex the staggering amount of intellectual property that they own. Part of what made the first few phases of the MCU work so well was that each superhero had their own movies dedicated to developing their character and having their own adventures. An Avengers team-up could then serve as a culmination of these movies in a way that felt truly significant.
Lately, you’d be hard-pressed to find a piece of Marvel media that doesn’t feature several superheroes thrown together, a dozen references to other projects, and middle-school quips in place of any meaningful character development. Especially as familiar faces are phased out and new characters are introduced, Marvel needs to put in the work to make audiences emotionally invested in their new content.
Another problem with the oversaturation that Marvel is pushing is the clear decrease in quality in recent projects. The writing in the newest Thor and Doctor Strange movies has been questionable, while their predecessors are largely held in high regard within the MCU.
Just this year, fans online were quick to point out the less-than-ideal CGI and special effects in “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “She-Hulk.” With the amount of money and talent Disney has, seeing such low quality is disappointing.
Beyond disappointing fans, the rush to churn out new content as fast as possible has very real effects on people’s lives. Earlier this year, VFX artists spoke out about the stress and difficulty of working on Marvel projects. Changing deadlines, last-minute edits, and the sheer amount of work to be done were all cited as issues and can be traced directly to the overarching problem of oversaturation.
In addition to the poor working conditions that an ever-increasing number of projects has led to, Marvel also does a disservice to the progress they are trying to make. Newer Marvel projects are significantly more diverse than the projects from Phase One and Two, with more female characters and characters of color than ever.
However, poor quality and an overwhelming amount of content can lead to these projects underperforming during a time when it’s important for people to consume diverse content and see it succeeding critically and financially.
With all these issues, it seems like Marvel might want to pump the brakes on new projects. However, if the lineup of new shows and movies that they announced at Comic-Con this year is any clue, that doesn’t seem to be the plan. Instead, a staggering amount of content seems to be in the MCU’s future, for better or for worse.
Increasingly, the effort it takes to keep up to date with the increasingly mediocre Marvel projects doesn’t seem worth it. The MCU created something special in the past 14 years, but Disney needs to reevaluate the amount of content they’re putting out if they want to maintain that status.
Anushka is a sophomore in Engineering.