Three Years Later… Was Martin Scorsese Right About Marvel?


Source: The New York Times

Gabriella Madden

It was the tweet by DiscussingFilm on Oct. 3, 2019, that started three years of agonizing, endless film discourse.

Pretentious cinephiles and Marvel die-hard fans went at it for days, which turned into weeks, which turned into months, which turned into years. Three years, one pandemic, six movies and eight television shows later, Marvel shows no sign of slowing down, but at what cost?

Source: The New York Times

Back in July 2019, after Marvel revealed its massive Phase Four slate and made movie history when “Endgame” became the number one highest-grossing film of all time, it seemed like nothing could slow it down. Then, COVID-19 hit and after much delay, the MCU returned to theaters in 2021 with “Black Widow.” When I first watched “Black Widow,” I was immediately taken aback by how some of the CGI and visuals looked. For a movie that had been pushed off for over a year, many fans on Twitter and TikTok questioned the quality of the film. It was the first warning sign that something was about to shift. 

The studio’s releases after “Black Widow”  just kept sinking. Three of the last four film installments are all in the bottom five of the MCU’s RottenTomato scores. “Eternals”, the 2021 installment by Chloe Zhao, occupies the last place on that list. Fans aren’t quite flocking to the cinemas as they used to during the “Infinity War” and “Endgame” era as both films grossed over $2 billion at the worldwide box office. Out of the six films released since Marvel began Phase Four, only one cracked over a billion: “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” a once in a lifetime mega-hit at the peak of the pandemic. “Spider-Man” was the exception, however, not the rule. Even the team-up between two of the most popular heroes at the moment, Dr. Strange and Scarlet Witch, couldn’t even reach that feat, even after the pandemic somewhat subsided. 

To add insult to injury, “Thor: Love and Thunder” was poised to be the 2022 movie of the summer when it was first announced. The last Thor installment in 2017, “Thor: Ragnarok,” proved to be very successful and also one of the most well-received Marvel movies ever, largely due to the massive tone shift to comedy by its director, Taika Waititi. Even though “Thor: Love and Thunder” was backed by a star-studded cast, it failed to reach “Thor: Ragnarok” levels of box office or critical success. 

Unfortunately for Marvel, the pandemic cannot be entirely to blame for the low points it has suffered the last year and a half. The 2022 movie of the summer was undoubtedly “Top Gun: Maverick,” which cracked $1.4 billion at the box office and was one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. It’s very rare nowadays to see a film reach pre-pandemic numbers at a time when many people are still reluctant to go back to the cinema. Even though it’s a sequel and not entirely original, audiences and critics alike clearly felt it was a breath of fresh air from the superhero fare in recent years. 

Source: IMDb

Alas, Phase Four isn’t over yet and Marvel’s last attempt to dominate the 2022 box office just might be able to make it. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Ryan Coogler’s sequel to the 2018 mega-hit “Black Panther,” hits theaters on Nov. 11, 2022. “Black Panther” was the first Marvel Studios film to ever be nominated for the coveted Best Picture award at the Oscars, and also won the very first Oscar for the studio (Ruth E. Carter for Costume Design). In addition to its three Oscars, it also put up $1.3 billion at the box office. Though the sequel went through production hell with seemingly endless delays, the reaction from fans and critics alike to the trailers shows that this has the potential to reach the same or even greater success levels than the original. The absence of Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in 2020, is felt but it looks like Coogler has only made his film stronger by incorporating the grief the cast and crew felt over his loss into the film. Star Lupita Nyongo said recently in an interview with Elle that she felt “relief” when Coogler shared with her how they would keep Boseman’s memory alive in the film. 

As for Scorsese? The Academy Award-winning director is coming back in 2023 with “Killers of the Flower Moon” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which to me, sounds like a hit in the making. Though time will tell just how well the MCU will fare in years to come, the studio won’t be saying farewell any time soon. However, the VFX artists certainly are but that’s an article for another time.