I'm Worried Audiences Will Get Tired Of Straightforwardly Good Movies – TheGamer

Movies with no interest in connected universes are doing well right now, but will audiences miss the complex web after 15 years of the MCU?
In 2023, the bottom fell out for superhero movies. The trend that had made even bad movies box office gold for over a decade now seemed to be box office poison. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, The Marvels, The Flash, Blue Beetle, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom all underperformed or outright flopped.
Audiences were rejecting superheroes to some extent, but they were also rejecting the interconnected, labyrinthine, meta storytelling that had increasingly defined comic books’ big screen adaptations. Movies weren’t just movies anymore, they were bloated episodes in TV shows that dropped new installments a few times a year, and unless you were really invested in keeping up with the overarching narrative, the individual stories didn’t have much to offer.
2023 wasn't just rough for superhero movies. Plenty of expensive sequels underperformed previous entries. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning and Fast X made less than their predecessors despite costing more, and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny barely made its bloated budget back.
Movies like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water shifted the paradigm. Both were sequels, but both could also be enjoyed on their own terms, with thrilling action and easy to understand, character-focused stories that, most importantly, actually had satisfying conclusions. The trend intensified in 2023, as Oppenheimer — a standalone drama with no sequel ambitions — became the third-highest grossing movie of the year. And toward the end of 2023, Anyone But You and The Iron Claw proved to be breakout hits. Anyone But You is a straightforward romantic comedy. The Iron Claw is a straightforward family drama. I like both movies (love, in the case of Iron Claw) and I'm heartened to see both find success.
Barbenheimer seemed to usher in a new era for Hollywood, and I hope it truly did. It's really cool that none of the three highest-grossing movies of 2023 were sequels (even if two were based on IP and one was based on a book). But, as I increasingly find myself going to the movies to watch terrific one-off stories that require no prior knowledge, I do wonder if audiences will grow to miss the interconnectedness that defined the era of MCU dominance.
Of course, cinematic universes haven't entirely gone away if you still want them. Though the MCU only has one new movie on the schedule this year, there are still plenty of TV shows planned for 2024. Sony has a bunch of Spider-Man spin-off movies headed to theaters. And though I’m skeptical we’ll actually see a Star Wars movie anytime soon, there’s plenty of the Galaxy Far, Far Away on Disney Plus. I’ve gotten bored with a lot of this stuff, but it’s still there if you want it.
It was easy to get tired of it when we were inundated by it, and when Marvel had the hubris to ask viewers to watch several TV shows to keep up with its movies. There's a real level of fatigue among casual moviegoers with Hollywood's overreliance on franchises. My wife's default reaction at hearing about new legacy sequels or reboots is irritation. She refused to see the new Mean Girls on principle despite being a fan of the original. There's generally a sense that Hollywood has pushed it too far, and can leave no stone unturned into a 20-years-later sequel series where Kelsey Grammar is the only member of the original cast who came back as a regular.
But, I wonder if audiences will miss the little dopamine hit of seeing a character they recognize from a '90s animated series hinted at in a live-action movie, or the deep dive they did when Thanos first showed up in a post-credit scene. Marvel wove a complex web and I can't help but think that a single thread, however strong, may leave some audience members a little bored.

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Andrew King is a Features Editor at TheGamer. He has been working as a journalist since 2016 and is a museum caretaker in his spare time. He loves immersive sims, RPGS, and David Lynch movies.
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