Why the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels empty

Why the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels empty

What makes a fictional universe good? In this requested episode of Overrated, Vox’s Phil Edwards explores the past and present of fictional universes to try to figure it out.

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Fictional universes and crossovers have been around long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Green Hornet radio show had a crossover with the Lone Ranger that kicked off the trend. In comics, the Marvel Universe started long before Stan Lee was at the helm.

But these crossovers have a problem: They can privilege business relationships ahead of storytelling immersion and really interesting universes. As the Tommy Westphall Universe shows, crossovers often become a map of business decisions rather than of integrated fictional stories, and that leads to worse stories.

This problem plagues the MCU as well. When Marvel engineers crossovers, they aren’t thinking about a universe transformed by superheroes — they just want more quips, explosions, and cash. Or at least that’s Edwards’s argument — do you think the MCU works?

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50 Responses

  1. Vox says:

    You know that one font every comic book uses? Phil Edwards explains where it came from, and how it became so enduring: http://bit.ly/2EoOE6a

    • James Benson says:

      ‘this is happening, my channel is over’…

      I never heard about this channel before, probably because I’m not a retarded.

    • Jim Bo says:

      Mr Edwards, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone who watched this video is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    • AndroidPolitician says:

      psst Vox check out and possibly pin my clarification comment on this video lol.

  2. aDAMN says:

    Some guy at Vox: Hey the people asked us to criticise the MCU.Here are a few valid arguments:

    1.The conclusions of certain movies sometimes felt meaningless in the sequels(Tony getting back in a suit after Iron Man 3,Thor forging the Stormbreaker after being able to control his powers)

    2.Some of the villains are a little bit shallow and their deaths in the movie they are introduced in are expectable/unimpactful(Aldritch Killian,Darren Cross)

    3.On the technical side,their music is forgettable and their colour grading makes the characters look dull

    Vox: McU tOo MaNy chAraCtERs nOt gOOd

    • BAMF Busta says:

      I agree with you on every thing except Tony being back in a suit. He did give it up but after the collapse of Shield the Avengers had to reassemble to take the fight to Hydra. So from 2014 to 2015 they were taking down Hydra bases and leaders, and recoving weapons and tech as well as the Chituari stuff and Loki’s staff. Which went missing and was taken by Hydra during the collapse of shield.

    • Pro Bot says:

      What about the non-marvelstudios mcu items? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, Inhumans, The Punisher, Runaways and Cloak & Dagger. Not so empty and trash?

    • Keaton Clough says:

      Valid points but i have a couple “counter arguments.”

      My counter arguments correlate with your numbers.

      1. I see this again and again and so many people seem to be missing it…. What you said about Thor is wrong. Thor fought Thanos (with just the power stone) and lost with new his “controlled power.” Thor knew that he could not win with his power and he needed something more because he knew that Thanos would get even more powerful as he collected the Infinity Stones. This is why he searched for the new weapon. He could not beat Thanos with his power alone. So no it is not meaningless, it was a heroes arc to become powerful enough to defeat the enemy.

      2. Completely correct. However other than Hela, recently, every villain has been compelling and has strong viewpoints. Thanos, Erik Killmonger, and the Vulture were amazing. While yes there have been countless boring Villains for the sake of getting beat up. However, the direction they are heading recently has shown the opposite, which is great to see. Especially with actors like Jake Gyllenhall in the midst of future Spider-Man villains. MCU has realized this criticism and from here on out will fix it.

      Darren Cross in my opinion is quite a compelling villain. His constant exposure to the particles made him go psycho and we got to see that slow progression into craziness. His father-son relationship mixed with his craziness made for an interesting motive.
      Also to note here: Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy will get more development in the Captain Marvel movie. Should be nice to watch Guardians of the Galaxy after this.

      3. Here is where I completely disagree with you in regards to the music. The color grading is a great criticism and I agree.

      Marvel music is quite amazing. The Avengers theme that is constantly replayed is amazing. It made the original avengers movie even better. Guardians of the Galaxy is made by its soundtrack. James Gunn methodically chose songs to suit every scene that required a song. It was truly amazing to listen to.
      Black Panther got one of the most popular rappers to make a album dedicated to it. That is not forgettable in anyway. That album was great and I still listen to it,

    • ZuffyG says:

      It’s funny how so much people thought Ironman was giving up on being Ironman at the end of 3 lol

    • babby says:

      tbh on the third point, the avenger’s theme is hard to forget but i agree with the rest

  3. Eric Smith says:

    I’m not a big comic book fan or MCU fan, but you can’t deny the amazing job Marvel/Disney has done connecting these films into a cohesive universe. On just a technical scale, weaving so many different story arcs and characters into one universe is nothing short of spectacular. While I think most the movies they make are pretty stale they are at least competent films (unlike DCEU). That Infinity War movie was cinematic history and was executed far better than I imagined possible. Yes the stand alone films cannot take certain creative liberties because they have to fit into a larger narrative, but that is the point. That’s what makes what they have done so impressive. Even people who don’t enjoy the films can tip their hat and recognize what they have done is quite the accomplishment. Stuff like this makes you look uniformed, just wanting to be a contrarian for views sake. This analysis “feels empty.”

    • Finn Babby says:

      Eric Smith >I think the movies are lame
      >Infinity War was amazing


    • Eric Smith says:

      +Finn Babby I’m talking about the solo movies, they are mostly boring. They tend follow the same cookie cutter plot with uninteresting antagonists, often with powers that mimic that of the protagonist. That’s why Infinity War was interesting, Thanos actually had some development and the threat felt more substantial. I’m more praising the IW for the massive undertaking of uniting so many different characters from the stand alome films. I didn’t think they would be able to pull of giving the characters enough screen time while moving the story forward, but it was well balanced.

  4. Pedro Martinez says:

    Ok I prefer DC but this argumentative video is lacking

  5. Jared Bumalay says:

    This Video Got So Off-Topic lol

    • cold daniel says:

      vox was precise…its criticism was abt mcu business model drawbacks behind it like limiting artistic freedom,frced crossovers,generic rehash frmula plot, shitload of easter eggs,fake stakes,cheesy cringy 1 liners….

  6. Carlos Ortega Elizalde says:

    I thought the dislike ratio was because angry fans… but the dislike ratio is because this is really bad written and produced :/ it leads nowhere, says nothing, no point, I tried watching it again but nothing makes sense!!! this video actually feels empty.

  7. Kesh says:

    “son…just don’t”

  8. Madison Sellers says:

    In the Spiderman homecoming example, they completely skip the fact that TONY FREAKING STARK is a key character in the movie. They discuss the avengers multiple times and he even offers Peter a position on the team. Them trying to argue that Spiderman HC doesnt make huge tie ins to the MCU is destroyed when taking this into account.

    • SpankMeSanta says:

      That movie was annoying, I was expecting a good spiderman movie but got an “Iron Man Jr” movie where the suit does everything for him.
      Pretty funny and entertaining movie at the theatres though.

    • jp3813 says:

      +SpankMeSanta Tony Stark: “If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.”
      Hence, the final act of the film. Iron Spider is from the comics, btw.

    • Joshua Parsons says:

      +jp3813 Infact I think he had it in civil war the comic (I’m not a comic but don’t hurt me)

  9. B-doe - ThatsHowitBdoe says:

    Everyone join me in smashing the dislike button! lol

  10. Stuart Blue says:

    “The MCU sucks because ummm well, there are a lot of characters and D.C. has a lot of Spiderman is cool though don’t forget Stan Lee wrote ummm, snow globe. You know?” – Vox

  11. Vyas says:

    What stupid line of argumentation is this? No basis for any points made. Also, in the next post, they’ll make the point that Marvel fanboys disliked this video to the ground. While in reality, this is really a clickbait, low research and poorly produced video

  12. Channing Callahan says:

    Please have facts instead of your stupid uneducated opinion that means nothing! Not one thing you said in this video is even a valid criticism. I don’t really know why I expected better though, it’s Vox

  13. Chris Davis says:

    Well currently the MCU is feeling empty because ya know…


  14. EdNorty says:


  15. Payton L says:

    8:47 But wasn’t the entire point of civil war to emphasize on the effects of superheroes on earth? I’m confused…

  16. Jacob Rochester says:

    A Team at Vox is usually insightful. This just falls flat. “Would anyone be surprised if Disney forced a Star Wars Marvel crossover”. Do you seriously think that would happen? Do you think that Kevin Feige would actually let that happen? I’m not mad Vox I’m just disappointed in you.

  17. The Gray says:

    I clicked for the dislike, but stayed for the comments.

  18. Fernando Perez says:

    Alright, listen, Vox. I normally like your stuff. It tends to make sense, is accurate for the most part, and is intriguing. So I’m gonna tell you this as a longtime reader and watcher of your content, not as another ranting Marvel fanboy: this is a mess. Is the MCU perfect? No. But what you’ve set out to accomplish in this video just lacked evidence and ended up becoming more of a history lesson on connected universes. That would be fine if you hadn’t tried to throw in an overly controversial opinion.

  19. magicmarv98 says:

    Not a troll,
    But that was a bad video.
    Sorry, but u proved no point and bringing x-men made ur case only worse

  20. I bet i can hit 1000 subs without a video!!! 123 says:


    I would have to disagree

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