Marvel is undergoing a creative retooling after a rough 2023

After hitting a rough patch in 2023, Marvel Studios is undergoing a creative retooling to save the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Just five years ago, Marvel Studios appeared to be unstoppable. As The Hollywood Reporter puts it in a new write-up, they “had steadily been generating box office gold” with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the studio’s “Infinity Saga” culminating, after eleven years of build-up, with the release of Avengers: Endgame – a film that became the highest-grossing movie of all time (for a while). But then Disney asked Marvel to “scale up in an unprecedented way”, expanding into TV series and animation, “with the goal of the MCU becoming a place with a seemingly endless procession of year-round releases.” Now Disney and Marvel have had to admit that the task was too unwieldy to sustain. Not only have fans complained about a decline in quality in the last couple years, but Marvel projects have also started underperforming. Things got rough in 2023, with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania turning out to be a box office disappointment and failing to break even during its theatrical run; the Disney+ series Secret Invasion‘s viewership numbers ranking it in the bottom third of Marvel’s shows; and The Marvels becoming the lowest-grossing film in the MCU’s 33-film run, reaching only $206 million at the global box office. They did have a hit with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 along the way, but it has become clear that repairs have to be made before the ship sinks, and The Hollywood Reporter has heard that Marvel is indeed undergoing a creative retooling, with studio president Kevin Feige reportedly “recalibrating the creative direction behind the scenes”.

One thing we’ve heard before is that we’re going to see the Marvel output slow down for a while. The only Marvel Studios film to reach theatres in 2024 will be Deadpool & Wolverine (its release date is July 26) – a project that appears to be off to a great start, considering that the first trailer, unveiled during the Super Bowl, became the most-watched trailer of all time. On the streaming side of things, we’ll only see two MCU shows this year: Echo, which was already released, and Agatha: Darkhold Diaries, which just completed a single day of reshoots earlier this month. According to THR, Marvel is feeling very positive about the Agatha show, which they plan to release through Disney+ sometime this fall. This gap between releases is meant to “give creatives some breathing room and give audiences the chance to miss the MCU, just a little bit.”

As of right now, Disney has four Marvel titles scheduled to reach theatres in 2025: Captain America: Brave New World (a film that is undergoing some major reshoots) on February 14, Fantastic Four (which just announced its cast and will be filming this summer) on May 2, Thunderbolts (which is gearing up to go into production next month) on July 25, and Blade on November 7. There is some speculation that Blade could be moved into 2026 so Disney can try to avoid Marvel overload by releasing four movies in the same year.

Although the extensive reshoots have some worried about how Captain America: Brave New World is going to turn out, earlier this month Disney CEO Bob Iger named that film as one of the 2025 releases he is most excited about during an earnings call. During that same call, Iger said, “Some of our studios lost a little focus. So the first step that we’ve taken is that we’ve reduced volume. We’ve reduced output, particularly at Marvel, (to ensure) the films you’re making can be even better.

The Hollywood Reporter was also able to learn that Thor: Ragnarok and Black Widow screenwriter Eric Pearson is currently performing a polish on the Fantastic Four script, as he “has a reputation for taking projects over the finish line.” Marvel is hanging a lot of hopes on that project, as they’re still looking for characters and actors who can carry the MCU forward now that it has lost the likes of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. Can the Fantastic Four‘s cast and characters take their place?

Meanwhile, Joanna Calo, showrunner of the FX series The Bear, has been brought in to work on the script for Thunderbolts.

Another issue Marvel ran into in 2023 was the fact that Jonathan Majors, who played Kang – who was supposed to be the central villain of this new saga of Marvel films – was convicted of reckless assault in the third degree and harassment after a domestic incident. Marvel publicly dropped Majors just hours after his conviction, but we’ve been left wondering how they were going to handle the Kang character… especially since one of the films on the 2026 release schedule is titled Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. That film is currently undergoing rewrites that will “minimize the character or excise him entirely”, so don’t expect it to end up being called Avengers: The Kang Dynasty when it’s released. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Marvel was already moving toward minimizing the character before Majors was convicted, after Quantumania (where Kang was the lead villain) underperformed. Thankfully, the events of Loki season 2 – which also featured a Kang variant – could provide the answers for how Marvel can get away from Kang.

Marvel has hit a rough patch recently, but they’re working on a course correction. As a source told The Hollywood Reporter, “They’re not going to give up. They want to make something great.

Do you feel the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be saved with some creative retooling, or is superhero fatigue too strong at this point? Share your thoughts on the state of Marvel by leaving a comment below.

Thunderbolts
Source: The Hollywood Reporter

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.