How The Marvel Multiverse Doomed The MCU

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Marvel Multiverse doomed, Loki

Now that The Marvels has become the lowest-grossing film in the entirety of the MCU and nobody really cares about television “events” like Secret Invasion or Echo, many fans have stopped asking whether the MCU is failing and started asking what caused that failure in the first place. There are obviously plenty of potential answers, including the sheer firehose of content that transformed our collective passion for tights and flights into ongoing superhero fatigue. But if we had to name a single thing that utterly destroyed the MCU as we know it, the answer is Disney going all-in on the multiverse.

The Multiverse of Meaningless Cameos

John Krasinski cameos as Reed Richards
John Krasinski cameos as Reed Richards

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness gave us the Marvel multiverse at its most intense: the plot heavily focused on the multiverse, which gave the writers an excuse to throw in plenty of gimmick cameos such as Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier and John Krasinski’s Reed Richards. Admittedly, it was fun to see those characters on the big screen…for about two seconds, that is. After that, we realized how meaningless those cameos (and, by extension, the multiverse itself) really are.

Previously, the entire charm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was that all of these interconnected movies were building organically toward major events like Avengers: Endgame. However, the introduction of the multiverse is now just an excuse to bring in fan-favorite characters that otherwise have no impact on the franchise as a whole. It may be cool to see great actors like Patrick Stewart and Willem Dafoe reprise their iconic roles, but when the fanboy scales fall from your eyes, it’s easy to realize those were just cheap cameos designed to elicit even cheaper cheers from an audience that Disney hopes favors nostalgia over decent writing.

The Multiverse of Meaningless Sacrifices

Scarlett Johansson Black Widow Endgame
Black Widow sacrifices herself, before Marvel went full multiverse

Long before Marvel went all-in on the multiverse, the hit Rick and Morty series showed us the nihilistic dangers of multiversal storytelling. In that show, Rick is a jaded prick specifically because his ability to hop from dimension to dimension has taught him that nothing truly matters: he might casually doom the entire Earth in one episode and “fix” things by hopping into a similar universe and replacing its original Rick Sanchez. Ironically enough, even as Disney hired Rick and Morty writers like Jeff Loveness to write forgettable tripe like Quantumania, they forgot the lesson this quirky animated show was trying to impart.

In short, once fans realize that Marvel can bring dead characters back via multiverse shenanigans, they (like Rick Sanchez) become disillusioned with how meaningless everything is. Why do the major deaths of characters like Green Goblin, Loki, and Kang matter when these characters can be resurrected any time a writer is too lazy to use a different character? To put it another way, the Loki series might have stuck the landing, but its very existence makes Loki’s death at the (literal) hands of Thanos completely meaningless every time we rewatch Infinity War.

The Multiverse of Muddled Plots

marvel agent carter
Agent Carter

Here’s something that might shock you: despite being based on Marvel comics, the MCU became a global success specifically because it was so different from its source material. Traditionally, comic storytelling has relied on loyal readers to keep up with many different books for years so they could understand the various crossovers and continuing narratives. By contrast, the MCU specialized in delivering stories that were so entertaining and accessible that they could be enjoyed by fans who had never even heard of characters like Iron Man.

Marvel effectively changed that by focusing so intensely on the multiverse and effectively giving would-be fans a small mountain of boring homework. In order to fully enjoy Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, for example, the average fan would have to have watched the original X-Men movies, the Agent Carter TV series, and even that awful single season of Inhumans. In the ultimate cosmic irony, Marvel leaned so far into appealing to superfans that the MCU lost its general appeal, and the multiverse is at the center of what the future may very well record as the biggest bag fumble in cinematic history.

robert downey jr

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