You Mean No One Cares About The Eternals?

Marvel Recalibrating their Studio Productions

In a recent report coming from an insider at Marvel Studios it has apparently been decided that a number of projects that were expected to get continuations in some form are no no longer in the cards. Those films include the untitled The Eternals sequel, the untitled Ant-man and Wasp: Quantumania sequel, and whatever would have followed on from The Marvels, be it a Marvels sequel or a solo Captain Marvel film. Seeing the returns, and fan reactions to those films, left Marvel feeling like sequels would just be putting good money after bad and the studio knows it needs to recalibrate, hard, if they’re going to pull themselves out of their current tailspin.

While this wasn’t in the report, it’s already noted that She-Hulk: Attorney at Law will also not be getting a second season, nor will Secret Invasion (which, for that series, let me just thank all the gods that are listening for that). And, presumably, Loki is also done with its second season, so that’s three more projects you can throw onto the pile. Some fans will be happy with these decisions, some will not, but there’s no arguing that Marvel is at least looking at how much they’ve put out recently, and how much they spent on all of it, and have decided that it was time to pare down and stop all the reckless spending.

I want to be clear, though, that I didn’t hate everything on this list. Oh, I thought the third Ant-Man and Wasp was a tragic misfire, The Eternals was a tedious waste of time, and Secret Invasion should never have been released (because, seriously, it adds nothing and is the least essential bit of content in the franchise, and I’m even including the Marvel One-Shot shorts and I Am Groot on that list). But there were good works there, too, and while I can understand Marvel’s desire not to spend more money on productions that the fans didn’t respond to, both She-Hulk and The Marvels were very watchable and it’s sad to think there won’t be follow-up works there.

Marvel Studios, of course, already has a slate of productions in the pipe, some of which are too far along to cancel at this point. After the (absolutely coming out, no question) Deadpool and Wolverine we’re going to see Ironheart and Captain America: Brave New World and Thunderbolts for sure. We’re also going to get two Avengers films, the second of which will be Avengers: Secret Wars. Marvel’s all but stated they’ve scrapped the Kang plotline and will be going in a different direction for those Avengers films (even changing the name from Avengers: The Kang Dynasty to just Avengers 5 for now), but those two films remain on the timeline so I’d guess they’re going to happen. After that, though, I think we’re going to see a pretty different MCU after this.

To be clear, I’m not a nay-sayer saying the MCU is dead. There is no way Marvel and/or Disney scraps their massive cinematic universe any time soon, and the reason is basic finance. Disney spent a lot of money buying up Fox just so they could have the X-MenLaunched in 1963 and written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men featured heroes distinctly different from those featured in the pages of DC Comics. Mutants who didn't ask for their powers (and very often didn't want them), these heroes, who constantly fought against humans who didn't want "muties" around, served as metaphors for oppression and racism. Their powerful stories would form this group into one of the most recognizable superhero teams in comics (and a successful series of movies as well). and the Fantastic Four in their movie stable (yes, sure, they probably had other reasons too, but for the sake of this article that was a primary motivator). They have shared rights on SpidermanSure, DC Comics has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but among the most popular superheroes stands a guy from Marvel Comics, a younger hero dressed in red and blue who shoots webs and sticks to walls. Introduced in the 1960s, Spider-Man has been a constant presence in comics and more, featured in movies regularly since his big screen debut in 2002. with Sony and, despite whatever bombs they may have had, Spidey makes all the money ever ($1.922 Bil at the Box Office for Spider-man: No Way Home). After the movies currently in the pipe, we should expect the following works in the MCU: Spider-man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four (which has already been cast), and Blade (which is already in full pre-production). Most of the heroes from the previous phases of the MCU will likely be, heh, phased out, and the successful heroes will take over. Aside from maybe a Captain America or another Thor joining the ranks, the heroes featured in the MCU (especially in Phase VI and beyond) are going to be the ones that dominated cinemas back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It’s ironic that we’re headed that direction, really, because the only reason we have the MCU as we know it was that Marvel didn’t have the rights to their greatest superheroes and, instead, had to put together a universe without them. And then suddenly that took off, and Marvel didn’t need those heroes anymore. They could sell audiences anything at any time and it would be a blockbuster. And that held true for over 10 years, until the suits in charge decided that meant audiences really would show up for anything and then they tried the patience of the audience and people stopped showing up. Now the exact heroes Marvel sold off for parts are the ones they’re desperate to use as the tentpoles of the MCU going forward.

That’s no supposition, either. That comes from looking at the list of works that came out in Phase V that could have sequels or continuations in some form. We’ll get Captain America 4, but it’s going to need to do well for Sam Wilson’s Cap to come back in anything other than an Avengers role (especially since The Falcon and the Winter Soldier underperformed). If Thunderbolts doesn’t do well (and Marvel hasn’t had a lot of luck with B-list crossover works recently) we can say goodbye to all the anti-hero characters that were introduced specifically for that movie. And while we love Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel and Kate Bishop / Hawkeye, a teased Young Avengers work hasn’t even been officially announced yet. People assume it will happen, but with Marvel in cost-cutting mode, don’t count on it until we get a statement in support from the studio.

Outside of that, maybe we get that Thor or a Doctor Strange film. People still expect a Shang-Chi sequel even if nothing official has come out. Black Panther will presumably get at least a TV show spin-off, but nothing has been said for another movie (although since it made north of $850 Mil, one more is likely). But these are all legacy works for aging characters. There can’t be that many more movies between them, especially if Marvel keeps dragging their feet getting announcements out. Some will retire, others will get replaced, and we’ll have a different crop at some point taking over.

And then we’re back to Blade, Spider-man, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. And while I expect we’ll continue getting Avengers movies in there as well, that’s a very different looking MCU from what we’re used to. Big names, big crossovers, big characters. The small stories about single heroes going on their own adventures will likely become a thing of the past. Spider-man hasn’t been a down-to-Earth hero since his first movie. X-Men and Fantastic Four never were. About the only one of that set that feels “street level” is Blade and, I mean, he fights vampires. It’s a case of “one of these things is not like the others.” I love that Blade is getting his own movie, but I also am not going to be surprised if he never crosses over with the rest of them (and, frankly, I don’t think he should).

Marvel is going through some shit right now, and it’s a problem of their own making. But there’s a way out for them and it’s clear they’re pursuing it. The MCU we know, and got used to, will probably end at some point and the films that take over, while still using the MCU name, are going to be a different breed. Fans may return, audiences will show up, but right around the point of Phase VI, maybe Phase VII, you’re going to be able to say, “the MCU is dead, long live the MCU,” because, at that point, it won’t even be the same franchise anymore.