Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe too big?

Marvel Cinematic Universe Header

Are there too many Marvel movies?


There are soon to be over 20 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

For a decade-old cinema franchise, that number might not surprise you. But by the same token, more of these movies are getting made per year than ever. 10 movies were released from 2015 to 2018 alone, which is to say nothing of the TV offshoots and movies like Venom that are outside the cinematic universe. Are there just too many Marvel movies, or is the current flow of Marvel flicks exactly what we want?

While this question is largely subjective, let’s look at both sides of the argument and see if we can come to a conclusion.

Why there might be too many Marvel movies

When it comes to media, there can always be too much of a good thing.

Remember when you’d see a new Guitar Hero or Rock Band game coming out every six months? Now you can find those plastic drum kits for less than 20% their original MSRP. Or how about the three Hobbit movies that underwhelmed fans of the massively acclaimed Lord of the Rings movies? I could sit here all day listing relevant examples of market saturation, but the point is this: every market has a finite limit in media, and crossing that threshold can fast-track a franchise to an early demise.

Guitar Hero 5 Band Kit

Rest in peace Guitar Hero, I’ll never forget spending hundreds of dollars on your plastic peripherals

The Marvel movies aren’t at that point yet, but the franchise will have a harder time attracting new fans at its current pace. Though some recent Marvel movies work as stand-alone adventures, the others will leave audiences massively confused without watching the past films. An egregious example of this is theĀ Ant-Man movies. Viewers jumping from the first movie to the second need to have watched at leastĀ Infinity War to fully understand large swaths of the plot, but this is in no way communicated to casual movie goers assuming the second film is a direct continuation. And speaking of The Avengers, to get the most out of any of these flagship movies, a new fan is looking at anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of movies to watch as a prerequisite. That’s a lot of cinema to watch if you just want to have a fun movie night with your friends.

Long-running TV shows can have similarly astronomical prerequisites to catch up, but 25 – 60 minute episodes are easier to digest than feature length films. Not to mention that TV shows can be often found wholesale on a streaming service or in a convenient box set. Meanwhile, the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes in generally incomplete box sets that would cost 100s of dollars to fully collect. As the Marvel universe continues to grow, it will become more confusing for new viewers to get into without a dedicated super fan helping them out.

Why there might be just enough Marvel movies

Many outlets have written extensively about “Superhero fatigue,” yet Marvel movies seem to be doing just fine.

DC’s Justice League notably struggled in its opening weeks, even though it wound up with a respectable $658 million at the box office in the end. Meanwhile, Thor: Ragnarok came out the same month, had almost half the budget that Justice League did, and managed to score $854 million at the box office. Now, I’m not here to come down on DC. If anything, I probably liked Justice League more than the average person did. But when you compare the negative reviews of Justice League to the overwhelming positive reception to Thor: Ragnarok, it’s clear that Justice League didn’t fail because it was a superhero movie. It failed because it didn’t give the fans what they wanted.

Despite the sheer size of the media empire, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is consistently good to an uncanny extent. Its “worst” reviewed movie is Thor: The Dark World, and even that is generally recommended by critics. Superhero movies have become so ubiquitous in cinema that fans aren’t necessarily attracted to them because they’re superhero movies. Rather, they like these movies because they’re good movies. While Marvel has plenty of naysayers that argue otherwise, there’s no denying they’ve continued to give please fans despite having nearly two dozen movies under their belt.

In a way, it’s basic economics at play. If the demand for Marvel movies is equal to the rate at which they’re produced, then there’s no reason to decrease the output. And if Marvel movies continue to be released at the same consistent quality, then we shouldn’t expect to see them die down any time soon.

So… what’s the verdict?

Like we said above, this is a subjective question that not everyone can agree on. While many fans have argued that the market for Marvel is becoming too saturated, the continued box office success of the franchise tells a different tale.

That’s not to say Marvel is infallible though. The Marvel Cinematic Universe owes its success to its consistent quality, which is practically a miracle for any form of media. But if any future movies bomb critically, it could undermine the value of the entire universe. After all, the conceit of these interconnected movies relies on the audience wanting to watch them all. If a lore important flick or two is released to negative reviews, we could see fans get burnt out and abandon the good will Marvel has established to this point.

In the end, while I personally get exhausted thinking about the prerequisites to enjoy Infinity War, I wouldn’t want to take away movies that make fans happy. And if the existence of the Marvel universe isn’t hurting anyone, I can’t find a reason to complain. As long as Marvel’s target audience continues to be happy, I wouldn’t object to more Marvel movies continuing for another decade if they can sustain it. Comic book fans have waited literal generations for superheroes to become this ingrained in pop culture, and if you’re one of those people, don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t enjoy

And for my money, until Marvel makes a feature length film about Eye-Scream, then I cannot say in good conscience that their cinematic work is finished.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *