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Marvel movies have not felt the same since “Avengers: Endgame.” (Op-Ed)

There used to be a certain magic in rushing to midnight showings of the latest Marvel film, an exhilarating mix of anxiety and excitement as you found your seat, reclined, and started munching on popcorn. Light laughter and chatter die down as the theatre goes dark, and you can feel theatergoers’ hearts beat in sync as the iconic Marvel fanfare plays, comic book pages flashing across the screen behind the red and white logo we all know and love. But not anymore. Now dedicated Marvel fans would rather wait for the damn movie to show on Disney+ rather than spend $20 or more on a disappointing experience.

The climax of the Marvel franchise was Avengers: Endgame. We saw Steve Rogers return to his own time, Thor accepting Loki’s death and moving forward, Clint Barton returns to his family, Bruce Banner’s exit, and the harrowing, heroic deaths of Natasha Romanova and Tony Stark. The gang calls it quits, and Marvel cannot seem to replace any of the beloved characters that were part of a ten-year legacy.

Phase Four includes Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Yet, nothing feels the same.

Black Widow should have come much earlier but it does pay a beautiful homage to Natasha Romanova’s compelling character arc and provides a bit more context and humanity. Shang-Chi is fun but feels completely disconnected from the narrative, as does Eternals. No Way Home is objectively the best part of Phase 4, with the return of Andrew Garfield and Toby Maguire reprising their roles. Doctor Strange sets a unique array of horror, with trippy graphics and a blood-soaked Scarlet Witch, but ultimately is CGI soup. Love and Thunder is a slapstick comedy that just isn’t funny by any means and loses all of Thor’s character development. Wakanda Forever was beautiful, but the loss of Chadwick Boseman has left a scar on the hearts of those who adored his portrayal of T’Challa; you simply cannot replace his energy and skill.

All these narratives feel so disconnected from one another, with no throughline. Diving headfirst into multiversal storytelling takes away all the stakes. What is the point?

As fatigue plagued Marvel fans, the studio wasted no time in Phase 5. We are three films in, and I simply don’t care anymore. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania felt more like a Star Wars film and did not interest me very much at all. Why should we care about the Quantum Realm if we are never going to see it again?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 triggered me with graphic scenes of animal abuse and death. It’s not a film suitable for children. You may remember the heartbreaking film Where the Red Fern Grows (1974) and the remake of the same name made by Disney in 2003 — my three-year-old puppy-loving self violently sobbed and screamed at the end of that traumatic tale. While it’s lovely to give Rocket a story, they did not need to show the graphic deaths of these animals. I couldn’t enjoy the film at all because every fifteen minutes I was met with animal abuse.

The Marvels felt rushed. I adore Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel, but the writing was a slog to get through with stunted dialogue and a Carol Danvers who lost all of her heart. She is literally married to a random Prince on a planet in which the language is singing. Come on, man.

I haven’t been to the theater to see any of the Phase 5 films, and I’m glad I didn’t waste my money just to be disappointed. I love Marvel, I love the comics, but Phase 5 feels like a capitalist cash grab rather than masterful storytelling involving beloved characters. Little of Phase 4 was memorable, and none of Phase 5 so far has been memorable either. The magic is gone.

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