The Marvel Cinematic Universe Has Been Dethroned . . . for Now

Spiderman Across the Spiderverse
Credit: Disney/Marvel

Can you name the top-grossing movie of all time?

Did you guess Avatar? If so, you’d be right. However, for a short while, the Marvel Cinematic Universe held that claim to fame, rising high above Pandora only to finish second place in the long run. What a glorious run it was, however–one that seems like it was decades ago when the MCU ruled the world and life was less complicated.

It was 2019, and we’d waited a year since Avengers: Infinity War to find out what would happen after that pain-inducing snap! Theatres roared in excitement, tears were shed, and friendships were eternalized as Captain America raised Mojlnir alongside the returning Avengers to help finally defeat Thanos and save the lives of trillions. Marvel fans rejoiced at the perfect culmination of an 11-year journey spanning across 23 films known as the Infinity Saga, which set Marvel as the front-runner in big-screen entertainment.

Avengers: End Game was the perfect movie, and its revenue reflected that. The film brought a vast spectrum of emotions for viewers, and Hulk smashed the box offices around the world. When the smoke cleared, and our favorite heroes had returned from the blip, fans, who were virtually left breathless, were also left questioning how Disney’s Marvel Studios could continue their success. They’d set an almost unobtainable benchmark for themselves with the conclusion to the original Avengers films. One that has left fans clamoring for explanations as it seems the MCU has all but fizzled out.

Today’s MCU

thor god of thunder marvel studios serious superhero chris hemsworth armor

Credit: Marvel Studios

The question of how the MCU would move forward was a fair one. The next phase of the MCU seemed to be on the right, albeit different, track with successful films such as Spiderman: Far From Home and Disney+ titles like Loki and WandaVision. Recently, however, fans have been left underwhelmed by Marvel productions. And rightfully so. Fans have complained of weak characters, wonky storylines, and overall the MCU mightiest heroes just being “too silly.” The mighty Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, recently opened up about the direction of his beloved character in an interview with GQ. 

“I think we just had too much fun. It just became too silly. It’s always hard being in the center of it and having any real perspective… I love the process, it’s always a ride. But you just don’t know how people are going to respond.”

Although Thor: Love and Thunder seemed to do well at the box office, fans of the franchise were not satisfied with the story, and subsequent MCU productions have done poorly.

“While the awful “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”  raked in $120 million over the long Presidents Day weekend, ticket-buyers and critics were both put off by the Paul Rudd stinker. On Rotten Tomatoes, the squishable film nearly tied franchise-worst “Eternals” (47%) with 48%. Even more tellingly, the unrelentingly stupid and impossible-to-follow “Quantumania” scored an underwhelming B from the audience-survey service CinemaScore. That’s a big fat “Splat!” – New York Post author Johnny Olekinski.

Additionally, fans have voiced their displeasure with titles such as She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and Ms. Marvel. The films break the traditional molds that Marvel fans became accustomed to during the first three phases of the MCU, and they have been picked apart by critics and comic lovers alike.

Now, I will admit that as a Marvel fan in general, I take these films and shows for what they are and have thoroughly enjoyed them, but generally speaking, the bar was set too high with Avengers: End Game, and fans are not happy with the product the MCU is feeding consumers. Marvel fans, much like other franchise fanatics, can be very protective of their favorite characters and how they are utilized or depicted. It seems as if the MCU has gotten too far away from the formula that works for movie-goers, but not to worry, as there has been a bright spot recently for Marvel products, but not one owned by Disney!

Insert Miles Morales!!!

Into the Miles-Verse

Miles Spiderverse GIF - Miles Spiderverse GIFs

Credit: Tenor










Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Sony Pictures have literally saved the day for Marvel fans with Spiderman: Across the Spiderverse. Lord (writer and producer of the film along with Christopher Miller) recently stated in an interview with WRAL news:

“Everything is the wrong way, but it feels right.

As the film explores the mysteries of the Multiverse in its own right, Lord hit the nail on the proverbial head with his observation…it just feels right! The film opened strongly during its debut weekend, currently sitting at a hefty 208 million box office gold rush! With its quirky use of animation, fresh storyline, and comic-accurate use of the Multiverse, there isn’t much about the film that isn’t likable. Spiderman fans, young and old, are flocking to see the new film after the original, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, also had a strong showing.

This newest Spidey film follows Miles Morales, Brooklyn’s own friendly neighborhood Spiderman, as he partners with Gwen Stacy once more. Much like the first flick, Across the Spiderverse introduces a surplus of multidimensional spider-beings, some good, some not-so-good.

So Who’s Better?

Spiderman Across the Spiderverse

Credit: Disney

Although not on par with Avengers: End Game during its first week at the box office, Across the Spiderverse has demolished recent MCU products in their first week (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quatumania 32 million; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 118 million). This isn’t to say the MCU is really dead in the water in terms of earnings, as Thor: Love and Thunder and Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness both performed well during their first week but were met with extreme criticism from die-hard Marvel fans in the long run.

Given the success of Miles and the gang, we have to ask if this new film is the superior Marvel product. Is Miles’ version of our favorite web-slinger superior to the MCU’s version played by Tom Holland?

Ryan Arey at ScreenCrush.com gives a pretty compelling argument for Across the Spiderverse being the top dog in his most recent review of the movie (spoilers below in the linked video).

Arey calls the film “the second-best Marvel product of this decade” and says that the film “highlights what’s been bad about the MCU over the past few years.” And maybe he’s right. Maybe the fan-favorite Spiderman character has been replaced by this Sony version?!

Miles is Supreme for the Time Being

Spiderman Across the Spiderverse

Credit: Marvel/Sony

I’ll admit, that was a tough subheading to write as Spiderman is my all-time second favorite Marvel character (Thor is absolutely the strongest Avenger, by the way), but the Miles character is such a good fit for what Spiderman was supposed to be, and without the complex merging of stories to tell a larger tale, it just seems to work. Without the complex nature of the MCU compound stories that are determined by other series of films, it’s just easier to process Sony’s version of Spiderman. Let’s not forget the MCU’s Spiderman wasn’t even introduced in his own film. This isn’t to say that the MCU is bad or doesn’t own a formula that works, it’s just complicated. Sometimes fans want to just enjoy a movie without connecting every single dot or rummaging through the Internet to find secret meanings to hidden easter eggs. Burnout is real, and when you have to spend a week watching supporting content simply to understand the plot, that’s definitely a recipe for dissatisfaction. Just ask Star Wars.

Across the Spiderverse also doesn’t have to compete with the ridiculously high expectations that Avengers: End Game left for the MCU. Truth be told, there were less than stellar products prior to the Avengers joining forces to fight Loki in New York (looking at you, Thor: The Dark World), but the culmination of the story left fans yearning for more, and the appetite was insatiable. So much so that it didn’t matter what product went to the box office next, Marvel fans would be left questioning why it wasn’t as good as End Game.

There’s Still Hope for the MCU

Sony will no doubt continue capitalizing on the success of their newest feature. New partnerships to promote the film are certain to continue to boost its sales. With an open-world video game sequel scheduled to drop sometime this year and marketing presentations in other popular titles such as Fortnite, many will continue to feel their spidey senses tingle as the world can’t get enough of Morales and Stacy! This refreshing take on Spiderman proves that you don’t need an intricate web of stories to keep fans happy. Just keep back to the basics. Until the MCU finally starts getting back to its roots, fans will happily take a deep helping of this new breath of fresh air. That is until Miles officially comes to the MCU.

About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!