The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in need of a major overhaul: not only was The Marvels the lowest-earning film in the entire franchise, but Disney recently dropped Jonathan Majors from his role as Kang the Conquerer after the actor was found guilty of assault. The entire next phase of the Marvel universe was built around Kang’s character, and now that Majors has gotten the boot while superhero fatigue sets in with audiences, everyone is wondering what Disney can do to bring that pre-Endgame magic back.
Fortunately, the answer has been in front of us the entire time: The Marvel Cinematic Universe needs to be more like Amazon’s hit animated superhero show Invincible.
Invincible Embraces the Silliness
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has tried to have a more grounded approach to the silliness of comics from the very beginning. This approach is a double-edged sword because it helps make these colorful characters more palatable to general audiences, but it also means the material loses something in translation. Invincible creator Robert Kirkman certainly knows this: as Winter Is Coming reports, Kirkman believes audiences respond to “the weird stuff,” but “you’re never going to see Robert Downey Jr. having a conversation with a fish person in the MCU.”
Invincible tries to “embrace everything about superhero comics,”
Kirkman explicitly points out how Invincible tries to “embrace everything about superhero comics,” including the kinds of bonkers plotlines where Superman “had to marry a mermaid.” Looking at the recent MCU films and TV series, we’re starting to think Kirkman has a point that the MCU needs to be a little sillier. For example, James Gunn is perhaps the only MCU director to lean into that silliness, and his Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (complete with plenty of weird talking animals) was the only Marvel film in 2023 that was a commercial and critical success.
Alien Menace Done Right
It’s impossible to discuss Invincible without discussing Omni-Man. The premise behind this character couldn’t be simpler: he is the answer to the age-old question, “what if Superman was completely evil?” But what made Omni-Man less of a generic threat and more of a meme-worthy menace is that he showed us how truly alien his brand of evil could be, right down to the fact that he thinks of his human wife as nothing more than a beloved pet.
Take a note from the Invincible playbook and create a threatening character whose mind and motivations are truly beyond our understanding.
Now that Marvel needs to replace or recast Kang anyway, we hope that Kevin Feige takes a note from the Invincible playbook and creates a threatening character whose mind and motivations are truly beyond our understanding. Historically, Marvel movies have turned every threat into the equivalent of a shallow human, including evil robots like Ultron and multiversal menaces such as Kang. If we could get the Marvel equivalent of some Lovecraftian terror made manifest, we think that will get butts back in seats far more than our thousandth dose of Whedonian “well, that just happened” dialogue from someone meant to be scary.
A Different Kind of Power Fantasy
One of the most fascinating characters in Invincible is Atom Eve, a superhero who has the power to subatomically manipulate matter. In practicality, this lets her create almost anything she wants out of almost anything she finds, and some fans were disappointed when the first half of the second season showed this character exploring the nonviolent uses of her powers. Such fans were annoyed that we didn’t get to see her character in more animated fight scenes, but here’s our bold suggestion: this character is creating a new template for onscreen heroes, and it’s one Marvel movies should follow.
Atom Eve Doesn’t Want To Kick Butts, She Wants To Make Lives Better
When Atom Eve was given godlike powers, she didn’t immediately think of how many butts she could kick: instead, she began thinking of ways she could make life better for everyone around her using her incredible powers. What Robert Kirkman seems to understand and that Disney doesn’t is that many fans love superheroes because they dream about making the world a better place. Atom Eve wants to change the status quo by offering food and shelter to those who don’t have either; compared to her, Marvel movie heroes like Captain Marvel mostly solve problems by punching them really hard.
Marvel becoming successful again may be as simple as following Invincible’s lead
If Marvel wants to achieve the kind of success and influence that Invincible has, it needs to follow in this animated show’s footsteps. We need alien menaces that make us shiver and we need selfless heroes who make us cheer, and all of this needs to take place in a colorful world where anything can and does happen. These are comic book movies, after all, and Marvel becoming successful again may be as simple as following James Gunn’s lead into making these films as joyously zany as the comics they are adapting.