The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has, for better or worse, transformed the landscape of the entire film industry. Phases One through Three of the MCU's timeline, which chronicled the stories of the Avengers and other side characters over the past ten years, consisted of dozens of movies, all of which were commercial successes. With its frequent, episodic releases and large quantity of beloved characters, Marvel had, for the most part, cornered the industry. Viewers couldn’t help but consume it; if you watched one movie, you would get sucked in and go to see them all. Then, this past April, Phase Three of the MCU timeline ended with a massive, booming box-office bang: Avengers: Endgame. It became the highest grossing movie of all time and left studios wondering how they could recreate even a fraction of that success.
Even before the end of Phase Three, studios were clamoring to capitalize on Marvel's format. This brought a wave of new attempts at franchising action movies: the revival of Godzilla and the Warner Brothers' MonsterVerse, the rebirth of the DC Universe, the Star Wars Sequel trilogy, the return of the dinosaurs with Jurassic World, and many many more. Though the MCU may not be the only cause for this influx of action franchises, it certainly paved the way. A veritable juggernaut of commodified culture, MCU didn’t just make money or produce movies—it created a benchmark of profitability, to which all other studios now aspire.
But in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, other studios don't seem to be doing a great job. Many of the action movies and potential franchises slated for release after April 2019 underperformed. Hellboy and X—Men’s Dark Phoenix were staggering failures. Even family friendly movies like The Kid Who Would Be King or UglyDolls couldn’t manage to break even. It’s almost as if, in this Post—Endgame climate, audiences are too tired with the fanfare of non–Marvel action movies to even care anymore. And, in light of this, the success of less—traditional action movies like John Wick 3 or the anticipated success of Joker (which just won the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival, making history as the first ever superhero movie to do so) makes perfect sense. Viewers are experiencing extreme blockbuster fatigue, making films that stray from the mold a breath of fresh air.
There are two major issues here: studios keep releasing unoriginal, pandering content, and audiences are no longer happy to consume it. This problem goes beyond action movies: it’s taken over the whole film industry. Remakes and reboots are a perfect example of this. After noticing a trend in audience nostalgia for “the good old days,” studios—Disney in particular—have taken it upon themselves to reproduce old movies in the least imaginative way possible. This often means taking an animated classic and simply remaking it using CGI. These remakes certainly made money, but they weren’t well—received either. Audiences felt obliged to see films like The Lion King (2019), but it received lukewarm critical response. These issues are never clearer than in the aftermath of not only Avengers: Endgame, but Disney's recent D23 convention, too. The majority of announcements made were related to spin—offs or reboots like the modern—day Lizzie McGuire, live—action Lady and the Tramp, and Frozen II. Audiences are exhausted of being fed more of the same—and that won’t change until the studios have an incentive to change.
The point of this is not to bemoan how studio bigwigs seem unable to connect to “everyday folk”. It is also not to point out that sometimes movies fail when consumers' appetites change. Really, the point is that the singular and unique success of Marvel cannot be duplicated, and that audiences simply aren't showing up for the other studios' attempts.
There is something to be said of novelty in entertainment. Truly, how entertained can one be if he or she feels they’ve seen it and heard it all before? How interested can one be in Hollywood’s desperate attempts at pandering? Ultimately, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Carbon copies of the over—saturated, hyper—indulgent MCU "expanded universe" style are deeply unimpressive. Not every movie can, or should, be an MCU—level success. These attempts to recapture the supposed “magic” of the much—adored franchise only leave audiences bored and studios empty—handed.