Co-hosts Robert Meyer Burnett and Mike Bawden talk about hopes and disappointments … from the MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS and AVATAR to the misadventures of Captains Picard and Pike – all on today’s ROADTRIPPIN’ podcast.
All these multi-verses just seem to be making our fantasy life much more complicated.
by Mike Bawden
My ROADTRIPPIN’ co-host, Robert Meyer Burnett, and I talk about the end of Season 2 for ‘Star Trek: Picard’ and the start of Season 1 for ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ which – to put it mildly – were a bit underwhelming. There’s got to be a better way to end a multi-generational, time-hopping, convoluted mess of a story between two old foes than to just “hug it out” and call it a day.
And it seems hopes for the MCU’s latest chapter (the thirtieth in the continuing saga) are high, but caution flags are raised for how this franchise will be managed over the next ten years of films and streaming shows. The question Rob and I both share is this: how long can Marvel keep pulling from the same well before they come up dry?
At some point, will audiences become confused by all the heroes (and their variants) and numbed by all the action to care? The success curve of the MCU seems to be following a trajectory not all that dissimilar to Marvel Comics – just at an accelerated pace. I suppose it’s possible we could be watching the MCU transition from the “silver age” to a “bronze age” – which might last for a few years, but does this mean the MCU (and other comicbook movies) are looking at a time when they’ll just be considered “too niche” for general audiences and fall out of favor?
And if that happens, I suppose we find ourselves asking the most important question of all … where’s the next big action franchise coming from?
These are big, existential questions affecting the world of genre entertainment and we discuss them in more detail on Thursday’s podcast …
There’s no question that what Kevin Fiege and his team at Disney has done with the MCU is orchestrated in a way that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the world of entertainment. This is pure cross-platform storytelling – going far beyond any of the early “trans-media” properties that claimed to integrate print media (usually comic books and/or graphic novels) with movies or television shows.
The fact that Disney/Marvel managed to shutter the original Marvel TV projects on ABC, Netflix and other platforms in order to integrate TV and Movie creative under a common office should not be overlooked. The integration here is intentional and expertly deployed. And it’s glorious.
But there is a problem that we identified and discussed in our podcast that I have yet to see be seriously discussed.
How does all this wind down and wind up? When does it end?
Why do I ask?
Will the MCU suffer the same fate as Marvel Comics?
Because I see significant parallels between the MCU and Marvel Comics of the late 80s and 90s. It’s becoming more niche. It’s turned to the multi-verse, time-travel, and variant characters in order to try and provide exciting, re-booted characters and storylines that are different-but-not-too-different for a market that starts to get confused as to who’s who in the pantheon of MCU heroes.
Deep cuts into Marvel lore might work for die-hard fans. But with over 20,000 comic book issues in its library, Marvel’s “backstory” is too overwhelming for the average movie-goer and the MCU runs the very real risk of becoming too unwieldy and cumbersome to understand.
After all, who wants to have to do homework before you go watch a comic book movie?
Now, with DR. STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, Marvel if going all-in on the multiverse concept which will, undoubtedly, bring us more versions of our favorite characters to enjoy. It will also give us opportunities to bring back fan-favorite characters for other adventures, even if they’ve retired (or, as in the case of Iron Man, been retired too soon).
But like time travel, opening the MCU to the multiverse comes with strings attached.
For those of us not familiar with a multiverse concept (or who didn’t pay attention during our theoretical physics classes at Empire State University), the MCU movie-makers are going to have to introduce characters who can help make stuff happen across dimensions. The introduction of gods, demigods, and other life forms existing in one or more dimensions simultaneously will do this to help provide juice to stories – but this just makes the problem more apparent (in my book).
How are those of us who didn’t grow up with Marvel Comics and have decades of background baked into our memory banks expected to keep all of these god-level characters in relative perspective when they eventually fight our favorite Avengers or X-Men? And will this just mean we’ll see more heroes get added to the mix because these new heroes will be designed in such a way they can take on an over-powered bad guy (whereas good old Iron Man or Cap don’t stand a chance)?
This doesn’t seem like a good, long-term strategy to me. Casual fans (the majority of movie-goers) aren’t interested in digging too deeply or doing homework before they go see a film. And if things get too convoluted and people get tired of the spectacle (created with effects, music, and star power), the MCU could be facing its biggest challenge yet.
People might stop caring.
What do you think?
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I invite you to listen in on my weekday conversations with my friend and business partner, Robert Meyer Burnett, as we talk about the things we love: great movies, inspiring television programming, nostalgic genre entertainment, and pop culture.
This episode streamed on May 5, 2022.
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