Why 2023 is the worst year in MCU history
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has led a charmed life since its inception, crafting hit after hit on a regular basis, and earning billions in the process. But that’s not the case in 2023, with the MCU’s major movie and major series failing, both critically and commercially.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with Iron Man in 2008, and promptly changed the celluloid landscape forever. Overseen by producer Kevin Feige, directed by Jon Favreau, and starring surprise choice Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the film was a hit. And started a revolution.
The Marvel movies popularised the concept of a ‘shared universe’, with the first few films building to The Avengers, and the next phases speeding towards Infinity War. There were stinkers along the way – notably Iron Man 2, Thor 2, and more recently Eternals. But the films were generally well-received, while pretty much all of them turned a hefty profit.
But since Avengers: Endgame, it’s been a mixed bag, with the multiverse causing confusion and both movies and shows failing to hit the dizzying heights of their predecessors. And 2023 is proving to be the MCU’s worst year yet.
The problem with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
The problems started with Quantumania. The third movie in the Ant-Man franchise, this $200 million picture introduced audiences to the Quantum Realm, which had been teased and hinted at in the previous Ant-Movies.
Trouble is, the action down there proved to be much less interesting than a Marvel movie set in either our world or another. Which translated into disappointing numbers. The film made just over double its budget at the box office, which when you factor in marketing and advertising, is a massive failure in MCU terms.
While critics panned the film: there have been 32 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, and in terms of Rotten Tomatoes scores, Quantumania is 31st, managing a lowly 46%.
We weren’t fans either. Dexerto’s two-star review explained the problem as follows: “Ant-Man 3 should be the best of the man-ant flicks. The stakes have been raised. The tone tweaked. And a great villain teased. But Quantumania ends up being the worst film in the trilogy, feeling less like a self-contained story, and more like two hours of setting the character of Kang up for future films. With both Ant-Man and the Wasp becoming bit-part players in their own story.”
A disappointment on all fronts, we ended our review by predicting that Quantumania would be the last of the Ant-Man movies.
The failure of Secret Invasion
With Ant-Man 3 pretty much dead on arrival, fans were hoping that the Secret Invasion series on Disney+ would get the MCU back on track. Sadly, they were misguided in that belief.
Which is a shame, as anticipation was rightfully high for the show. Nick Fury has been the backbone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Day 1, and a fascinating character deserving of his own show.
The Secret Invasion storyline in the comics is also an all-timer, wherein the Skrulls have infiltrated the people of Earth, and secretly replaced some of the planet’s mightiest heroes. But whether due to budgetary constraints or contractual issues, the MCU headliners are nowhere to be seen in this TV iteration. So what we’re left with is a dull spy story with lifeless action and a bland villain.
The show received poor reviews throughout its run, with the series finale scoring 13% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing. Making it the worst-received episode in any MCU series.
Here’s what we had to say about the show in Dexerto’s two-star review: “An uninspiring end to one of the MCU’s worst shows, Secret Invasion Episode 6 has glimpses of goodness but mostly echoes its worst flaws; dull, half-baked, and forgettable.”
What’s next for the MCU?
All is not lost, however, as there are three MCU projects that could turn 2023 around for the franchise.
First up is Season 2 of Loki in October, for which hope are high. That’s because the character is beloved. The first season was well-received. And Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead – who are overseeing this series – have made some of the most interesting sci-fi features of the last few years. So Loki might save the MCU.
Then The Marvels arrives in November. This movie units Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau from Captain Marvel with Kamala Khan from Ms. Marvel, and the early trailers suggest the emphasis will be on fun. The film does also feature Nick Fury, however, so here’s hoping the stink from Secret Invasion has worn off the character by then.
Finally, Echo is also due to drop in November, which revolves around Maya Lopez, a deaf anti-hero who was introduced in Hawkeye. Little is known about this one at present, though the fact that it’s connected to the forthcoming Daredevil: Born Again means interest should be high.
After the devastating one-two punch of Ant-Man and Secret Invasion, any one of those projects could turn the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s year around. But for now, 2023 is the worst year in MCU history.
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