Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe Too Big?

By Joe Strange


The year is 2017, (I don’t know how, maybe time travel, you grabbed that time gem or something) and on the Marvel slate this year is the sequel to a film that stars a raccoon and a tree, yet another Spiderman reboot and the third Thor entry, and that’s just on the big screen.

In other mediums you’ve already had four seasons of Agents of SHIELD (ABC), two seasons of Daredevil (Netflix), as well as a series Agent Carter (ABC), Luke Cage, AKA Jessica Jones and at some point around this time you’ll have Iron Fist and the Defenders (All on Netflix) to binge on.

On top of all of that we’ve also maybe seen the Hunter/Bobbi Morse spin off from ABC that will feature the two Agents of SHIELD characters in lead roles, as well as the John Ridley reinvention of an existing Marvel property, also in ties with ABC.

By the end of 2017, a year and a half away, all of this plus the five Marvel One Shots and dozens of tie in comics, amounts to seventeen feature films, four television shows and five Netflix originals, some of which have multiple seasons.

That’s a buttload of stuff to watch, but I suppose it keeps Coffee Time News ticking over doesn’t it?

What I want to talk about (now that I’ve got the counting out of the way) is whether or not Marvel is going a little overboard with its cinematic universe.

Back in 2014 it was easy to follow; we had the films for everyone, Agents of SHIELD for those who liked a weekly dose of the MCU and the one shots for a bit of short fun, as well as the comics for those who were really committed, but it’s looking like one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest strength; interconnected serial story telling, could also be its down fall.

Think of the impact that Captain America The Winter Soldier had on the first season of the Agents of SHIELD. Here’s a film that absolutely turned the world of a TV series upside down, which assumed that the viewers of the show had already seen the film, which wouldn’t really have been an issue, but it’s worth noting that the episode that recognised the events of the film aired the same week as the Winter Soldier‘s release. So if for some reason you couldn’t get to the cinema in the opening week but kept up with the show, then bamn, that’s the twist of the film ruined for you. Sorry about that.

Now imagine if every instance of a big crossover or repercussion was this volatile. Did you watch all of Luke Cage in one week? (Umm, yes, we probably did) well I hope so because there’s a huge spoiler for it in this week’s Adventures of Hunter and Bobbi (that’s what we imagine it’s being called). Oh and did you manage to watch Doctor Strange? No? Well tough because he’s about to make waves in the world of Iron Fist.

Now I realise that I’m exaggerating quite a bit, and Marvel has a good habit now of making their cross over mentions to a minimum, Daredevil was a great example of simple references that helped incorporate the show into the universe without over doing it, but with more shows and properties to keep track of how long will they be able to keep it up?

Not everyone can watch all of Daredevil in 3 days, not everyone can get to an opening night screening of the latest MCU film, a lot of people don’t have enough time to keep up to date with all of the series, especially if the two ABC spin offs run simultaneously besides Agents of SHIELD or one another. It’s a danger that Marvel has to take into account as they ride this freight train of a franchise.

Don’t get me wrong, I really admire the scope of this project, this multi-media universe that is so accessible and rich, but as it gets bigger, the chance of it imploding under its own hubris grows as well.

It’s something that I really like about the DC universes; The Flash and Arrow run side by side, but even when they cross over (as some characters visit the other city or the like) they never give too much away, as I found out when I realised that I was a week behind on Arrow and watched the Flash episode in which they visited Starling City and nearly pooped my pants because I was afraid of spoilers.

It was fine, I made it to the loo in time and the show was very spoiler free.

Not only this but, as we’ve been told time and time again, the television universe of DC is absolutely separate from the film universe that includes the Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice. Which means that if you can’t seem to get into the adventures of Oliver Queen or Barry Allen, you need not worry about not catching something in the upcoming Batman Vs Superman.

It might all be fine, Marvel’s Universe may grow and grow and become more powerful than you could possibly imagine, and I’d be happily proven wrong, but there’s always the chance that we’re overcome with characters, story lines and lore that make keeping up with the MCU a chore.

Likewise, the introduction of the DC spin off Legends and Supergirl (if the latter has the rumoured connection) could cause that universe to fall into a downward spiral, or it could make it all the richer, we just don’t know.

For now, all we can do is hope that our shows stay entertaining, our worlds rich and our actors in the studio’s good books, because I don’t want to even think of the raucous that recasting beloved in-universe characters would cause.

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