The Marvel Cinematic Universe peaked, plateaued and is now taking a nosedive.
In 2008, Marvel sparked an era of superhero-obsessed fans with “Iron Man,” followed by dozens more comic book-inspired movies and an ever-expanding Avenger universe. After more than a decade of Marvel, the obsession is waning, fans are experiencing Marvel fatigue.
“Avengers: Endgame” raked in more than $2.7 billion worldwide in 2019. During the previous year, “Avengers: Infinity War” made roughly $2.1 billion worldwide. But as the Marvel hype plunges, so has the cash flow. In 2021, “Black Widow” made $379 million, a fraction of what its predecessors made, per Box Office Mojo.
Critics are also suffering from Marvel fatigue.
One of Marvels most recent releases, “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” was panned as “The worst Marvel movie yet …” by the BBC.
“I’m getting bored just typing all this up. More concerningly, it looks like the filmmakers themselves were bored putting it onscreen,” Bilge Ebiri, a film critic for Vulture, complained of the movie.
Despite dying interest, Marvel is not slowing down. The cinematic giant has nearly a dozen movies slated to come out during upcoming years, including “The Marvels,” which comes to theaters next month.
As moviegoers ponder whether they still care to spend their precious time and money on stale superhero movies, let’s take a moment to remember Marvel’s heyday.
5 Marvel movies worth rewatching
Full disclosure: I am not a Marvel mega-fan. I’ve seen most of the movies at least once, but I don’t every superhero’s backstory or middle name. I prefer the lighthearted, humorous movies over the action-heavy ones like, “Captain America: Civil War.”
Marvel shines when it doesn’t take itself too seriously and has comedy-centered scripts — here are five Marvel movies worth a rewatch.
1. “Iron Man’ (2008)
We owe “Iron Man” for sparking a decade of movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and for putting Robert Downey Jr. back on screen.
Downey nails his performance as arrogant genius and emerging superhero Tony Stark/Iron Man — setting the tone for dozens of Marvel movies to come. “Iron Man” set the superhero movie bar high, and few movies in the genre can touch it.
Downey is largely to thank for the success of “Iron Man” and subsequent “Avengers” movies. His charismatic performances brought fresh life to superhero movies. Killing Stark off in “Avengers: Endgame” might’ve contributed to the recent death in Marvel’s success.
“If every superhero franchise had a Robert Downey Jr., the genre might actually be watchable again,” NPR wrote at the time of the film’s release.
With an ideal balance of humor and action, “Iron Man” is the type of superhero movie worth rewatching on a Sunday afternoon. Unlike a handful of recent MCU releases, “Iron Man” does not feel like a cash grab or another bland action movie written to push the Avenger narrative forward. When it came out in 2008, it was an original take on what superhero movies could be — funny, lighthearted and not too action heavy.
Critic score: 94%, per Rotten Tomatoes.
2. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014)
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is Marvel meets “Star Trek” meets Ziggy Stardust. It’s loaded with everything a superhero space movie should have: a killer soundtrack, eye-catching costumes and special effects, a band of misfits and a hilarious script.
After roughly half a decade of standard Marvel movies such as “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” it was high time MCU switched things up — “Guardians of the Galaxy” did just that. It provided a reminder that the best Marvel movies prioritize humor and style.
“Finally, some jokey superheroes,” praised the London Evening Standard at the time of the film’s release.
Leaving behind the Avengers Tower to travel space with the “Guardians” is refreshing. Although the characters are eventually knitted into the same storyline, it is fun to see Marvel ditch its standard backdrop and characters for something more offbeat.
Critic score: 92%, per Rotten Tomatoes.
3. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)
When you blend the talent of Taika Waititi, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston with the Marvel Cinematic Universe you get a wildly creative and hilarious take on superheroes at their most vulnerable state.
After a series of too-serious Marvel movies, “Ragnarok” shook things up in the most delightful way. Critics praised the movie for its fresh, lighthearted energy.
“Director Taika Waititi has transformed Chris Hemsworth’s buff, brooding superhero into a comedy god in this highly entertaining threequel,” applauded the Daily Beast in a 2017 review.
“It’s witty, it’s weird and it goes against decades of bloated, overserious comics fare,” praised the New York Post, at the time of the film’s release.
“Thor: Ragnarok” reinvented what an entertaining superhero looks like — Thor didn’t need to be a perfect hammer-wielding hero with flowing blond locks to keep audiences entertained.
Critic score: 93%, per Rotten Tomatoes.
4. ‘Black Panther’ (2018)
There are dozens of reasons “Black Panther” is the highest-rated Marvel movie — the star-studded cast, Academy Award-winning costume and production design, James Bond-like action, discussion worthy story and cultural significance — to name a few.
“Whether or not this is the best film Marvel Studios has made to date — and it is clearly in the discussion — it is by far the most thought-provoking,” wrote the Atlantic when the film was released.
“Black Panther” made history as the first movie out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be recognized at the Oscars, with seven nominations: best costume design, best original score, best production design, best sound mixing, best sound editing and best picture. The superhero film took home golden statuettes for best costume design, best original dcore and best production design.
Critic score: 96%, per Rotten Tomatoes.
5. ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
Taking on the third major cinematic adaptation of high school superhero, “Spider-Man,” is a tall order, and Marvel delivered. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker does not have the moody intrigue of Andrew Garfield’s or the original feel of Tobey Maguire’s but he brings a youthful, playful energy to the screen, something lacking in previous Spider Mans.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” might not boast the best plot or action sequences from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but maybe that is what makes it so re-watchable — it’s cheerful attitude, hilarious script and low-key connection to the typical Avenger Tower backdrop.
“An utter gas, a fast and very funny superflick that inserts Spidey into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe without ever losing sight of what makes him unique and beloved,” praised the Atlantic in 2017.
Marvel’s first “Spider-Man” movie is humorous coming-of-age film first and a superhero movie second. Which is probably why someone like me enjoys it.
Critic score: 92%, per Rotten Tomatoes.
After more than a decade of Marvel, the obsession is waning, fans are experiencing Marvel fatigue Read More