The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the greatest accomplishment in the history of cinema and pop culture. And that’s no exaggeration or fit of hyperbole. Sure, a smattering of hipster nerds on Twitter act like there is something better than the MCU, but those takes age about as well as a tuna sandwich left in an impounded Dodge Charger in Macon, GA, over the course of a summer.
Any sensible person acknowledges the MCU is the GOAT.
To be clear, I’m not talking about any movie that includes Marvel characters, I’m talking about the wholly Marvel written, directed, and produced films, beginning with Iron Man in 2008 all the way through Spider-Man: Far from Home and now into Disney+ shows like WandaVision. This is a claim that I’ve made before but it’s worth revisiting and I’ll sum up my argument here, as I know you won’t review the syllabus.
First, Marvel is new to the business. Iron Man dropped in 2008, meaning the franchise is barely over a decade old. Other movie franchises are undeniably successful, but some like Fast and Furious are 20+ years old, while others like James Bond or Star Wars are over four decades old! For Marvel to release what will be 23 films in a little over a decade is impressive.
Second, Marvel is the most financially lucrative franchise of all time. MCU movies have made 9.1 BILLION dollars in U.S. theaters (adjusted for inflation), dwarfing Star Wars by more than a billion. And when you include international theatre money, Marvel’s worldwide total balloons to 22.5 BILLION, which doubles Star Wars’ 10.3. That gives the MCU an insurmountable lead when you take a glance at their upcoming slate. It’s not even close at this point. (Full data here.)
Third, Marvel movie quality is shockingly consistent. Sure, Marvel cranks them movies out and they make money, but are those darned movies any good? After all, you are an artist; the currencies of this world mean nothing to you! It’s only artistic integrity that drives you!
Well, out of the 23 current MCU movies, there are eleven…ELEVEN!…of them that have a Rotten Tomatoes score at 90 or above. By golly, that’s darned good, folks. What’s crazy is that the last 2 releases are 90%, so it’s not like we are seeing any drop-off in quality whatsoever.
What’s more, the lowest rated Marvel movie according to RT is Thor: The Dark World at 66%. That’s not a great score, but it’s hardly a stinker as compared to many franchise movies. Besides, that 66% even feels like an outlier as most of the other non-90s films hit in the solid 70s or even high 80s. (For example, the brilliant Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 “caps” at 85%, which is silly low for a movie with that much heart.)
But do other franchises top those Rotten Tomatoes scores? Outside of a couple franchises, it’s not even close. The Harry Potter franchise actually had a higher overall aggregate score until Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther edged Marvel higher, so it competes in terms of quality. The Star Wars franchise scores positively as well, except the Prequels pull down the overall aggregate.
By comparison, the X-Men, Batman, Spider-Man, and Transformers franchises have some real stinkers. Batman v Superman got an embarrassing 27 tomatoes, X-Men: Apocalypse came in at 48, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen got a 19.
In short, Marvel has proven they’re a 90% free throw shooter, so even if they clank one off the rim, you better bet the next nine will be nothing but net. (Full scores here.)
In summary, the MCU isn’t done yet. Black Widow is on its way. Hey, maybe it will be one of the rare mediocre Marvel movies, but its sure to increase the MCU’s financial lead, if nothing else. Plus, you know in your heart it’s going to be good.
And Shang-Chi and the Eternals will follow, bringing even more new characters. Maybe they will only carve out a small little corner of the the MCU. But is there anyone alive who doubts that Shang-Chi has the potential to be an international hit?
What, we haven’t mentioned WandaVision?!? Good news! Disney is giving some nerds a new thing to complain about, which is that the storylines from the Disney+ Marvel shows will carry over into the movies. This messes up my box office math, those complainy McGees will tell you, as Disney+ viewership isn’t expressed as a box office figure.
But complaining about Disney+ in this way is how you can be correct by the letter of the law and still be charged with public indecency. You know, like when you’re caught wearing pants made of clear plastic. Yes, you’re wearing pants, but you are also still nude. Not that that has ever happened to me. That you can find out.
But I’ll play that game and we won’t talk about box office revenue with WandaVision, we’ll just talk tomatoes. WandaVision – despite being an experimental mash-up of sitcoms and superhero drama – is at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was a hit, pure and simple. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is in a similar position, despite being an entirely different genre.
The result: The Disney+ offerings are only further cementing the MCU’s status.
Even if Thanos returns and re-blips all the heroes away again, he still can’t wipe away the remarkable feat that Marvel has pulled off in a decade’s time. Truly, whether you judge them by quality, through the lens of capitalism, or the best way, which is by the amount of joy they’ve brought you–the MCU really is the GOAT.