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The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Overrated or Pure Genius?

By Justin Kresse

Marvel movies have become especially popular, partly because they combine action and superheroes, but also because they explore many issues of the modern era. Image from Flickr.

Like it or not, Marvel movies and series have become a big part of western culture in the past decade or so. However, not all of their stories have been up to the same standards. Since the MCU’s phase one films like “Iron Man” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Marvel Studios has made great strides in both character development and the production of interesting and provocative stories.

One way that Marvel has broken down and grouped their large film catalog is through the use of “phases.” These phases describe a broader and more general story happening throughout all the individual movies and TV shows in the group. For instance, phase one spans from the original “Iron Man” film to the first “Avengers” film and gives viewers an introduction to each superhero before gradually bringing them together.

In my opinion, this first phase is one of the weaker aspects of the Marvel film franchise. Films from this phase such as “Iron Man,” “Thor” and even “The Avengers” don’t take too many risks. They are merely superhero movies where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad – no question about it. Take, for example, “Captain America: The First Avenger.” In this film, Steve Rogers is a scrawny underdog character looking to make a difference – stop me if you’ve heard this before – who gets his chance to fight against the big bad Nazis. The story is too cliche and basic, compared to later Marvel films

What I love about the second, third and now fourth phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that their storylines have tackled more interesting issues, such as the question of whether even seemingly righteous individuals with superpowers should be kept in check, what constitutes a viable solution for population growth and world hunger, and even looking more closely at groups of people that have been marginalized or discriminated against. It’s these kinds of stories that, in my opinion, have made Marvel movies so popular in recent years. Sure, they’re cool superheroes, but they’re also dealing with some of the same problems that we face or at least wonder about on a near-daily basis.

Now, with phase four underway, I am even more excited with the direction Marvel has chosen to pursue. With their recent series and “Black Widow” film, it seems the creatives at Marvel studios are hoping to tackle more interesting issues. Take the miniseries “WandaVision.” Wanda Maximoff, a historically good character who was part of the Avengers, suffers an emotional breakdown and imprisons an entire town in a simulated reality. This plot makes viewers question whether Wanda is actually the good character in her story – a line of questioning that I hope will be expounded upon in the upcoming film “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” Another example from the recent Marvel productions is the “Black Widow” movie. Between the signature comedic quips, that film displays a message of female empowerment. No, it’s not going to be as upfront about these messages as a film like “Little Women” or “Hidden Figures,” but it’s refreshing to see an action film that takes the time to examine important issues of the modern era.

If the recent shows and films like “WandaVision'' and “Avengers: Infinity War” are any indication of what’s to come, I would say it’s fair to say that Marvel has left its black-and-white storylines well in the past, and I for one am excited to see what’s next.

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