Marvel Bad

River Tippetts

A couple weeks ago I was coerced into watching “Ant-Man: Quantumania” and that movie was frankly atrocious, which is sad. I liked the first “Ant-an,” and I wanted the trilogy to continue hitting at least the mark of mediocrity. Rather foolishly, I also dared to hope that the movie introducing Kang to the franchise would be pretty cool, right? 


The movie suffered, like many Marvel films do, from drivel for plot and character moments right out of little Billy’s least favorite picture book. In fact the best part of the movie was the visuals, something that isn’t even guaranteed to be good in recent Marvel properties (see: “Thor: Love And Thunder”).

If you didn’t get the hint, I don’t like Marvel. I never cared for the franchise, but after “Endgame,” as many did, I wondered if there was a point in continuing to watch their films. This feeling came both from the catharsis of the “Infinity Saga” ending, and also because, now that it’s been four years, let’s be honest: “Endgame” wasn’t very good. In fact, you can trace back the formulaic flaws in the franchise much further than just phase four, although those recent movies are the worst offenders to any artistic sensibilities.

Marvel was, for a time, notorious for the quality of its villains, which is to say that everyone and their mother knew that the Marvel villains were homemade cardboard cutouts, made of old Amazon boxes with watercolor paint dumped over them. Sorry, let me rephrase. Most Marvel villains are bad. See: Red Skull; he’s a Nazi! Fine. Boring, but acceptable. Bald guys (Iron Man, Ant-Man): the owners of the main characters’ corporations before some falling out who are trying to unlock the secrets of the main characters’ powers. Sure, fine, greedy businessmen are real. Loki; whose motivation changes in every property he’s in so I’m not even sure which version of him to critique (would anyone really like this character if people weren’t thirsting over the actor?). Dark World dude: wants to own the world or something. I don’t know. What a waste of Christopher Eccleston (bet you didn’t even know it was him under all those prosthetics).

And then there’s the end of phase three and also phase four villains. Thanos. The Scarlet Witch for some reason. Gorr,  kidnapper of defenseless children. The SOUL EATER! (Trademark pending, there are a lot of “Soul Eaters” these days). Let’s start with Thanos. Interesting motivation, fun personality, same hobby of collecting rocks like 7 year old girls around the world. Good villain wasted by a silly premise, saved by nostalgia and a literal decade of buildup. But then you have Gorr, who is killing gods because of an evil artifact corrupting him. Cool. And Shang-Chi’s dad who is corrupted by an entity of evil, less cool because of no trademark, and then the Scarlet Witch, who’s… using an evil artifact. See the problem? There’s no passion here, no sympathetic characters, just corporately manufactured disappointments designed to be sympathetic because “well it’s not their fault they’re being manipulated.” Whether it’s some weird attempt at introducing gray morality or if it’s an upcoming theme for the phase, the need for all the movies to fit into the same universe has led them to feeling the same, even with the villains. Terrible.

 Speaking towards a total lack of passion: Marvel TV shows. Delightfully bad. My favorite of these was “Moon Knight,” which was carried in its entirety on the back of Ethan Hawke and Oscar Isacc, who are wonderful. When you break it down, though, it’s a story about dissociative identity disorder, ruined by superpowers that don’t make all that much sense imbued with both all the contracts and manipulation of mythological gods and all the stupidity of Marvel CGI. 

“Wanda Vision” was alright. I loved the first few episodes, but once they dropped the style and turned it into a Marvel fight with red and purple lasers it… kind of lost me. An interesting mystery and engaging representation of grief turned into an anime lazer fight. Actually criminal.

Marvel ruining characters is a long-running habit of the franchise. Here’s another list: Loki (who I’ve already talked about), Thor, Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange… and Thor. My take on Thor is that the first movie was mediocre, his second one was bad, his third was wonderful, and his fourth was the worst of the lot. Thor goes from a self-serious brooding warrior to a joke-cracking retcon to a traumatized crime against who he used to be (although an actually pretty good representation of depression) back to a joke-cracking retcon. His character changes and molds so much to fit the vision of whatever director he’s working with to the point that who his character actually is is completely lost in all the chaos. 

Dr. Strange. From the playful doctor to the serious man burdened with responsibility to a jokester who thinks he’s overpowered and yet doesn’t throw a single fireball as a sorcerer. These characters don’t follow logical progression; why is the dramatically powerful sorcerer, who is characterized by playing the long-game and making sacrifices, casually erasing people’s minds for Peter Parker? That’s not the character I knew and loved in the slightest. That’s just plot contrivance.

There’s a lot to like about Marvel if you’re easily able to shut off your brain, even more if you’re younger than 15. If you watch each movie by itself the continuity problems can be ignored and you can just skip over the especially bad ones. But as a single canon and a developed continuity, it fails in all the places you’d want it to succeed. Marvel’s interconnected structure will be its downfall, and I won’t be watching another Marvel film in theaters except by divine, or journalistic, intervention.

In sum. Marvel bad.