Warning: Contains spoilers for Thor: Love and Thunder.
If there’s one thing to take away from MCU Phase 4, it’s that it should be perfectly fine to say that MCU movies are bad. The MCU has been a pop culture powerhouse for almost fifteen years, and as such, it’s developed a fanbase that includes many people who will ardently defend it at every turn. As good as that sort of passion may be, it’s not always warranted, especially with some more recent entries.
MCU Phase 4 has been releasing many more projects that have been met with mixed or negative reception than the previous phases, and oddly enough, this has caused some people to become more defensive of the MCU. Rather than criticize the shows or movies for, to name some common criticisms of MCU Phase 4 projects, bad CGI or lackluster storytelling, many have gotten into the habit of saying that the criticisms are overblown at best and entirely out of line at worst. Both will usually lead to heavy vitriol levied at anyone who had any sort of criticism, even those said in good faith. While the MCU is far from the only fandom to have this sort of behavior, it’s certainly become one of the more noticeable to engage in it in recent years.
The less-than-positive reception of some of the more recent MCU movies has ironically made people more defensive of them, but if anything, said reception shows that it should be okay to say that MCU movies are bad. With how popular the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, it makes sense that there would be people defending it at every turn, but that sort of blind faith and refusal to listen to other points of view just make its shortcomings look even worse. There are plenty of reasons why it should be okay to criticize MCU movies, especially when some of their older projects are taken into account.
Most MCU Movies Are Very Well Received (By Critics & Audiences)
One of the biggest reasons as to why criticism of MCU movies should be more understood than they often are is that at the end of the day, most of the movies still get great critical and audience reception. While more recent Phase 4 MCU entries have gotten less positive reception than their predecessors, the fact that most entries have been well-received means that people do still enjoy the MCU, as a whole, especially with some movies still being held in high regard years after their releases. Not only that, but Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Spider-Man: No Way Home were Phase 4 movies that were well-loved by people and — especially in the case of Spider-Man: No Way Home — became critical and financial successes, and while numerous factors played into that, they still serve as proof that people haven’t started hating everything the MCU has put out as of late. If people are having problems with MCU movies, then it’s likely because the movies are doing something wrong as opposed to them hating the entire MCU timeline, and that alone should give people the right to criticize them.
Marvel Got Away With Some Bad Movies Before Phase 4
Another reason why criticizing Phase 4 movies should be fine is that Marvel had plenty of bad movies before Phase 4 started. Ant-Man and the Wasp, for example, is widely regarded as an average movie at best that existed largely for its cliffhanger tie-in to Avengers: Infinity War, and even when it’s being viewed favorably, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still seen as the weakest of the Avengers movies. Not only that, but The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor: The Dark World all received largely negative reception from fans and critics alike, and to this day, they’re still largely seen as the worst movies in the MCU.
There are plenty of MCU movies people accept as being forgettable at best and bad at worst in both MCU Phase 1 and MCU Phase 2, and that’s why it should be okay for people to not like more recent movies. All of the previously-mentioned movies and more are disliked for reasons such as bad visual effects, lackluster stories, and poor handling of their characters, and those are the same complaints that have been levied at many of the more recent MCU movies. It’s hypocritical for it to be okay to criticize The Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World for those sorts of problems but not Eternals or Thor: Love and Thunder, so someone having those sorts of criticisms shouldn’t be seen as being inherently in bad faith. Bad movies didn’t hinder the MCU in previous phases, so there’s no reason why they would do so now, and as such, there’s no reason why a bad movie shouldn’t be declared as such.
Eternals’ Bad Reviews Were A Turning Point For The MCU
Chloé Zhao’s Eternals seemingly marks the point at which the MCU Phase 4 divide started. Before its release, Eternals was incredibly hyped up as the next big movie for the MCU; advertisements and interviews repeatedly emphasized the all-star cast, the visuals and cinematography that were enhanced by filming on real locations instead of a green screen, and how its director, Chloé Zhao, was going to tell a story with a completely different style from the rest of the MCU and just won an Academy Award for Best Picture with Nomadland. Little of that paid off, and Eternals was near-universally panned by critics, eventually becoming the first MCU movie to become certified rotten on Rotten Tomatoes.
Critical reception to Eternals was incredibly bad, and excluding Spider-Man: No Way Home, that started a trend for the rest of MCU Phase 4, so far. Both Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder have been heavily criticized for elements such as their stories and visual effects, with Love and Thunder having an infamously mixed to negative reception after being one of the more highly-anticipated movies of Phase 4. There isn’t an exact reason for why this is happening, but one thing all three of those movies have in common is being hyped up as major entries into the MCU with directors that will bring a unique style. As such, it could be that a continual failure to live up to the hype is amplifying their faults to the point that criticisms come off as especially harsh, which then forces people to be especially defensive when talking about them.
Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder are hardly terrible movies, especially compared to the more established weak entries into the MCU movie selection, but if they’ve each been criticized the way they have one after another, then it probably means that there are actual things that they’re doing wrong, or aspects of the larger MCU leading to these attitudes and discussions. With how big the MCU has gotten and how many of their movies have been met with positive reception, it makes sense that people would get defensive over the movies that are being hit with negative reception, but those opinions aren’t inherently unfounded. Movies like Phase 4’s Eternals and others both before and after it have done plenty of things wrong, and it shouldn’t be a problem for someone to talk about that simply because there are plenty of MCU movies that largely hit the mark.