I have a dreadful secret. I’ve basically been bored of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Avengers: Endgame. Sure there have been the occasional flashes of brilliance – WandaVision, Loki, and Spider-Man: No Way Home all spring to mind – but for the most part, Marvel’s Phase 4 just hasn’t worked for me.
It’s not that it’s boring. It’s just that after the climactic battle of Endgame, everything feels a little insignificant in comparison. Of course, Marvel Studios is trying to build up the stakes. Over the course of Phase 4, our favourite MCU characters have been slowly exploring the multiverse and discovering the joys of parallel dimensions.
The problem is that, thus far, this concept has only really been used for the sake of fanservice and stunt casting. That may change in the future (especially if the Secret Wars rumours turn out to be true), but it would be nice if Marvel could use the concept to tell a decent story rather than just using it to bring in characters they haven’t got around to establishing but fans want to see.
Making matters worse is the sheer volume of MCU stuff available these days. It used to be we got two to three Marvel movies a year, and that was the perfect amount which allowed the levels of serotonin in my brain to recover before they were drained in the next marvellous extravaganza of superhero violence. Now, though, there’s new Marvel to watch almost every month, and I feel constantly exhausted by the effort of keeping up with it all. And you do have to keep up with it all, too.
No matter what Kevin Feige might say, the fact is if you want to know what’s happening in the MCU – and despite my growing disillusionment with the MCU movies, I really do want to know what’s happening – you have to watch each and every show and film, and presumably, eventually go on that dreadful cruise. It all feels so relentless. Each new thing only exists to set up the next thing in a never-ending story that I’m sure will outlive me.
Part of the problem is due to the nature of my work, which requires me to have a thorough knowledge of most movie franchises, but also the old comic book fan in me, who loved staying up to date with the interconnected world of my favourite heroes. So a few weeks ago, when I received my screeners for Ms Marvel, it was with a slightly begrudging click that I put the MCU’s newest TV series on.
Within mere moments of Ms Marvel beginning, I could tell there was something different about this series. It felt fresh, energetic, and infectiously nerdy. Watching Kamala discover her powers and the joy she took in that reminded me of what I loved about the earliest days of the MCU and Marvel movies in general.
That feeling that the fantastical is possible that I previously felt when I watched Tony Stark build his first arc reactor or Peter Parker learn to shoot webs was the same feeling I got seeing Kamala master her powers. It took me back to my youth when Marvel and I weren’t so worried about ‘what came next’ or setting up another film or show.
Instead, Ms Marvel acknowledges and embraces the broader canon of the MCU without feeling bogged down by it. We’re only two episodes in, so this may change, but there has been no mention of the multiverse, no Reddit-sanctioned cameos, and no teasing of storylines that we’ll get to in a hypothetical season 3.
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It’s incredibly refreshing for a Marvel show, and I hope as we move forward out of Phase 4 that Marvel Studios remembers what made the MCU so successful in the first place: fun stories about heroism, not overcomplicated continuity.