Summary

  • Less is more, as Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo points out the dangers of oversaturation in the MCU Disney+ TV show lineup.
  • Quality over quantity should be the priority for Marvel, with high-quality shows being the key to keeping fans engaged.
  • With a new focus on sequels and fewer releases, Disney’s Marvel release plan aims to address Ruffalo’s concerns about the overwhelming amount of content.



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Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo is spot on with some light criticisms he recently leveled at the effects of the MCU‘s Disney+ TV shows on the wider shared universe. Television shows have been part of the MCU since Agents of SHIELD premiered shortly after The Avengers in August 2013. From there, series like Agent Carter and Netflix’s Defenders saga continued to supplement Marvel’s big-screen adventures. However, the role TV shows play in the wider MCU significantly changed with WandaVision.


Before the shift to Disney+, the array of MCU TV shows had a one-way relationship with the big-screen Marvel Universe. However, starting with WandaVision and continuing on through the most recent and upcoming MCU TV shows, these small-screen adventures became integral parts of Marvel Studios’ narrative plan. More doesn’t always equal better, though, and Ruffalo expressed in a recent GQ interview that more content diminishes the “mystique” of every release. Read his full thoughts below:

“I think the expansion into streaming was really exciting, but the thing about Marvel movies is you had to wait three years and that created a mystique.”

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Oversaturation Is Hurting MCU Releases

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

It’s understandable to see why the idea of a more unified and interconnected television branch of the MCU was a compelling idea to Marvel Studios executives. However, an unfortunate mix of drawbacks has stopped that from being the case overall. The first issue is that there has been a massive increase in the required viewing hours to stay up to date with the MCU. Even if not every TV show is relevant to the bigger franchise-wide narrative, there’s no easy way for audiences to know what’s mandatory and what’s not.

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WandaVision, for example, is central to understanding Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, while The Marvels picks plot threads from three different TV shows. Others, like What If…? and Moon Knight, have hitherto not had an impact outside themselves. There’s a big difference in time commitment between asking audiences to devote the hours for 2-4 movies a year vs 2-4 movies and 2-3 TV shows.

MCU Phases

Movies

TV Shows (Disney+ Only)

Total

1

6

0

6

2

6

0

6

3

11

0

11

4

7

8

15

5

6

8

13

While there were Marvel TV shows airing earlier in the MCU, they were much more clearly treated as optional side projects that cinematic fans had no obligation to watch.


Moreover, as Ruffalo correctly asserts, more Marvel releases mean that each one feels a little less special. With only 2, 3, or 4 Marvel releases a year, there’s a workable marketing cycle of anticipation, hype, enjoyment, and post-release fades. However, too many releases mean it’s hard for those not actively searching out MCU information to keep track of what’s releasing when, what’s a movie and what’s a TV show, what everything means, and what’s necessary to watch. That’s not even accounting for other superhero franchises also being around, like the Sony Spider-Man Universe.

Marvel TV Can Work If Quality Remains High

Loki with his TVA family in Loki season 2


While oversaturation and demands for an increased time commitment from audiences are valid concerns about television’s place in the MCU timeline, there’s little doubt that Marvel Studios’ best shows don’t work as a proof of concept for how quality will almost always draw an audience. WandaVision started things off strong, offering a genre-bending story that wouldn’t be nearly as doable as a movie and actively contributing meaningful character development to the overarching MCU. Similarly, Loki has remained the MCU’s best multiverse story to date, with incredible writing, acting, and visual effects.

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Another point of interest is that, in general, the most positively received MCU TV shows feature characters people already care about. While it makes sense that TV can be used to explore lesser-known characters and build them into a bigger brand, the MCU’s best TV shows have tended to center on already-established heroes like Scarlet Witch, Loki, and Hawkeye. Though Secret Invasion, starring Nick Fury, proves that big names alone aren’t enough. While slowing down the number of TV shows is a smart move, what remains must be of high quality and easy to get people excited about.

How Disney’s New Marvel Release Plan Addresses Ruffalo’s Concerns

Fewer Releases & More Franchises

Scarlet Witch manipulating Agatha Harkness in WandaVision

Fortunately, change is on the way. Recently, Disney head Bob Iger revealed that there will be a slowdown in MCU releases and a renewed focus on sequels for successful brands. While potentially disappointing for some, there’s little doubt that it seems to be the right move. Less content means more time to polish each release. Moreover, it should make it easier for casual audiences to keep track of what’s coming out and how important it is to the MCU. This is bolstered by the new “Marvel Spotlight” banner that debuted with Echo, designating projects that work as stand-alone viewing.


The focus on sequels and franchises means it’ll also be easier to get invested in specific characters and stories again. The early MCU delivered relatively quick sequels for its central heroes, but, shockingly, there’s not a single currently-announced sequel to any MCU Phase 4, 5, or 6 projects outside The Avengers 5 and 6. This means characters like Shang-Chi and cliffhangers like the giant Celestial sticking out of Earth at the end of Eternals have been left unaddressed – a complaint that can hopefully be resolved in the name of an MCU revitalization.

Source: GQ

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