6 reasons 2023 could be the year the MCU finally runs out of steam

MCU
Image via Marvel Studios

The MCU is one of the biggest and most financially successful movie franchises to ever grace the silver screen. However, it’s been going through a rocky patch in the last few years, and it looks like this might continue into 2023. As previously covered on WeGotThisCovered, the hype for Marvel’s 2023 offerings seems strangely muted with the upcoming films not generating the long-term hype and excitement of previous installments. 

Could 2023 finally be the year audiences move on from the MCU? Here are a few reasons why this could happen. 

6. Film quality is becoming more variable

While recent MCU phases have featured well-reviewed films like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Spider-Man: No Way Home, there have been an increasing number of polarizing films that get anywhere from mediocre to bad reviews. This includes movies like Black Widow, the widely panned Eternals, and the controversial Thor: Love and Thunder. 

While a single iffy film isn’t enough to sink a franchise, this wider variation in perceived quality may lead to people not lining up to see new releases, instead preferring to wait to see how a film is received before paying to see it. Plus, each less-than-steller movie could lead to viewers tapping out of the franchise. Over time, this adds up and could cause issues for Marvel in the future. 

5. Running out of memorable characters

While Marvel has a deep roster of characters, the bulk of its most famous and widely known names have already arrived on the big screen. This includes classic characters like Iron Man and modern favorites like Ms. Marvel. In fact, if you look at Marvel’s upcoming films, only two feature new characters with large, established fanbases, Blade and The Fantastic Four. 

While Marvel has been able to get fans invested in lesser-known characters, it is a lot more work for them to generate and maintain the needed hype when the character doesn’t have a pre-existing fanbase. Plus, relying too heavily on lesser-known characters could lead to the MCU having the same issue that Sony is currently having where their films feel like cheap and desperate cash grabs just because they’re scraping the bottom of the IP barrel. 

4. The economic landscape

This is looking like it might be a rocky year financially for many people, with prices going up across the board and inflation rising. Most people will be forced to cut back on recreational activities, including trips to the cinema and streaming platform subscriptions. 

This could lead to less-significant Marvel movies becoming hard to sell to audiences because movie-goers will likely wait for a film’s pitch to wow them before handing over their money. Plus, with increased competition in the streaming space, users will cycle their subscriptions, only returning to a platform when they’re very excited about a specific show, making it trickier for Marvel to make money on their mid-tier offerings. 

3. Lack of direction 

At the moment, the overall MCU feels like it is in a bit of a transition phase. It is moving away from the classic Avengers lineup seen in the early films and introducing a whole new wave of heroes. However, the current phase doesn’t feel as focused as the previous ones. This lack of focus is bringing the entire franchise down.

While announcements have told us that the franchise is moving towards the next Avengers films, The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars, it’s hard to see how Marvel plans to get to them. Many recent films feel like they’re either being made to fill time or to set up plot points for later movies. 

This is especially noticeable in the MCU’s Disney Plus offerings. While many of them are well made, they feel like they don’t go anywhere or end without any plot resolution, making them feel like extended trailers rather than shows in their own right. This makes the MCU feel weaker and more directionless. In turn, it’s hard for audiences to maintain their enthusiasm and interest in the overarching storyline. 

2. Becoming too hard to follow

A common complaint about American superhero comics is that they’re hard to get into and tricky to follow due to their often confusing and complicated continuity. Knowing what comics you need to buy to follow one storyline requires finding a fan-made reading list, and you’ll frequently need to consult a wiki to learn what bits of continuity exist and what has been retconned away. 

While the MCU isn’t that bad yet, it is getting there. There is so much MCU content available, with a load of different movies and TV shows, meaning catching up is becoming time-consuming once you fall behind. Plus, it can be hard to tell what you’ll need to watch before watching a specific film, as at the current time, we don’t know where things like Moon Knight or Werewolf By Night fit into the grand scheme of things, if they even do.

It is unrealistic to presume that audiences, especially those not deeply committed to the overall MCU, will trudge through several hours of films and TV to catch up once they fall behind, meaning that slowly more and more people will fall off the franchise. 

1. Superhero films falling out of vogue

The MCU started in 2008, and since then, there have been 30 films in the franchise, which is a massive amount. While Marvel tries to shake the formula up now and again, their movies all use a similar plot structure and visual language. Thus, 2023 might be the year audiences get bored of the MCU and superhero films in general simply because of oversaturation.  

It is just a fact of cinema that genres come in and out of vogue as time passes, and the public’s taste changes because we as a society adore novelty. In the 1950s and 1960s, Western films ruled cinema. However, when the 1970s came around, audiences became bored and moved on. Eventually, this will be the case for superhero films, which could be sooner rather than later unless Marvel makes significant changes for the better.