Yes, you read that right. Days after the Loki finale and I have conceded – the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the greatest cinematic achievement of all-time (When do we start calling it the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse?). I am certain that Martin Scorsese and a significant portion of people will not agree with that statement and that’s fair, it took me a while to come around.
Allow me to say that none of the films in the MCU’s library reach the calibre of a Citizen Kane or a Schinder’s List. It doesn’t defy the odds at the Oscars in such a way like Titanic or Parasite. It doesn’t change the game in how technology is used unlike Star Wars: A New Hope or Avatar. It doesn’t contain the amount of masterpiece-esque films as franchises like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. When viewing the MCU in relation to historic cinematic achievements, it is important that we note the scope rather than refer to each individual title. Let’s discuss the parameters for me to have come to this conclusion:
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe Library
The MCU currently has 24 films and 3 TV series in its library with 6 more films and TV series incoming over the next year or so. All of these films are interconnected in the same universe as the greater narrative between them flows on. One of the impressive things about this shared universe is that as the library of films and TV series expands, future projects need to abide by the storytelling content and conceptual rules established by each previous project. This means that as the MCU continues to build upon and expand its universe, it gets more complex and has to consider more information during development.
The Infinity Saga (Phase 1, 2 and 3) wrapped up in July 2019 with Spider-Man: Far From Home (albeit, it should have been Avengers: Endgame) which took place over 11 years of world-building which started with Iron Man. This saga of the MCU made over $22.58 billion worldwide, over double than the toughest competition of other major franchises – Star Wars and Harry Potter. Granted, the MCU has a much larger films that contribute to that figure; however, the average making of each film is $950 million – only bested by the Jurassic Park ($999 million average) and Frozen ($1.37 billion average) franchises. The impact and popularity of this franchise speaks for itself.
- The direction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
If I am being completely honest, I was extremely excited for Avengers: Endgame and I felt extremely exhausted once the credits had begun rolling. I was experiencing a consistent buildup and anticipation for what came next, that by the end, I figured that my tenure of being an engaged fan was over with the MCU. I’d remain interested and have fun with each future outing but I didn’t think I could’ve remained highly invested in this universe.
The announcements of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki was admittedly met with pessimism as I felt that the characters didn’t have room to develop or that story couldn’t be translated to the screen. Each one of those TV series have kept me highly engaged and immersed in the story – despite whatever flaws they may bear. WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hold little weight on the larger narrative of the MCU so it was Loki that really brought me back into this universe. Loki provides the first tease for the next ‘big bad’ of the MCU in Kang the Conqueror – who appears to be far more intimidating than Thanos. Also, the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse has arrived and it appears that Spider-Man: No Way Home will be the first to deal with the chaotic consequences that are bound to come. If insider knowledge is to be believed, Spider-Man: No Way Home appears to be only the tip of the iceberg in comparison to what Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will bring.
- Kevin Feige is quite simply, a creative genius.
This is arguably the most profound parameter in determining that the MCU is truly the greatest cinematic achievement of all-time. The scope of this universe is tough to gauge especially when there is a flurry of MCU titles coming one after another. To get a feel for it, I’ll refer you to the picture below:
The people in this photo are a portion of the creatives behind the universe up to the 10-year anniversary of the MCU. Expanding on this photo, there are over 1,000 actors and 26,000 crew members that have been involved in an MCU project – this is quickly growing. The person at the helm is Kevin Feige – who has directed this entire universe from 2008 to present. Feige ensures that a balance is being met with each project offering something innovative or refreshing whilst retaining continuity in the universe that fits on one smooth timeline. He is essentially the Kang the Conqueror from the Loki series of the MCU by certifying each project goes on the MCU timeline without variant projects contradicting rules or the larger narrative.
This balance is difficult to achieve, particularly as time goes on – I feared that the MCU would fall into the ‘creative bankruptcy’ territory following Avengers: Endgame. Feige ensures that these MCU projects continue to challenge the formula by allowing different films to explore different genres. Without a passionate creative at the helm, such as Feige, a shared universe can easily fall lopsided as there isn’t a designated person guiding the vision. The shared universe model has been adopted and employed by many studios with very little success.
Following on from Loki, it appears that many of us are back on-board the MCU train and it does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon – all we can do is enjoy the ride. Being a fan of this cinematic universe myself, I see a lot of criticism from critics and fans alike – largely fair and honest criticism; however, I don’t see enough people acknowledging the monumental achievement of this experimental piece of filmmaking. Sometimes it is important to step back and truly acknowledge the collective pieces of the MCU rather than scrutinize each individual piece.
It is not luck that the MCU provides heavily entertaining content and that the continuity flows smoothly, it’s because there is a lot of care, thought and passion behind each MCU project. The MCU has the complex nature of an engine where all pieces are required to function in order to operate at an optimum level. As things stand, the 24 MCU Films has made $22.8 billion at the box office, all received a ‘fresh’ status with Rotten Tomatoes and strong public reception each outing. Executing a gargantuan cinematic universe with this precision and quality is unprecedented and unmatched; this makes it the greatest cinematic achievement of all-time.
Onto the next chapter: