Marvel is gently retooling the MCU

Is the MCU in trouble? Here’s how Marvel Studios plans to recover.

Whether you’re a fan of Marvel Studios’ recent output or not, there is no denying that the financial returns on the studio’s most recent forays have been less than stellar. With the vast amount of film and streaming shows that Marvel has been putting out in the past few years it’s no surprise that some of it has failed to set fire to streaming numbers and box office results. The tides may be turning, though, according to the Hollywood reporter, as Marvel Studios start to retool their cinematic universe.

Two steps forward, one step back?

Deadpool & Wolverine, set to release this summer, is already breaking records, becoming one of the most-watched trailers of all time. Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine were responsible for a vast amount of box office success when they were still under the 20th Century Fox banner. As they step into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they are bringing a lot of that goodwill from fans who enjoyed the 20th Century Studio’s take on the Marvel characters, too. It’s definitely the win that Marvel Studios needs right now after their most recent cinematic entry, The Marvels, represented the studio’s lowest box office performance ever.

While Deadpool & Wolverine might be the only cinematic offering from Marvel this year, the studio isn’t holding back on their plans to expand the cinematic universe with the announcement of The Fantastic Four cast on February 14th with Pedro Pascal of The Mandalorian and The Last of Us fame leading the team.

As for small-screen offerings, Marvel will be releasing X-Men 97 on March 20th which will be a nostalgic treat for fans of the 90’s X-Men animated series. It’s a series Marvel CEO Kevin Feig seems eager to capitalize on, with homages to it already appearing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Ms. Marvel, and The Marvels. Later in 2024 and 2025, we can expect to see WHAT IF…? season 3, Agatha: Darkhold Diaries, and Daredevil Born Again.

Phase 6: Back to the drawing board

How was all this supposed to tie in with the planned event films Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars though? It was a very different picture back at the start of 2023 when Feig said that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum Mania would kick off phase 5 of the MCU by introducing one of the deadliest villains in Marvel history, played by then-rising star Jonathan Majors. Yet less than a year later, Majors would be out after a conviction for assault and harassment of his now ex-girlfriend.

The disappointing box office returns from Ant-Man 3, coupled with the media and allegations around Majors, led to Marvel needing to have a serious rethink about its cinematic future. Within hours of Major’s conviction, Marvel announced that the actor was out. It still remains to be seen if the studio will continue with the character of Kang or not, but it certainly seems like the studio is pivoting.

How the studio plans to turn things around seems to be threefold. The first intention is to reduce output. On February 7th, Bob Iger confirmed what many had expected in an earnings call that the studio would be reducing volume.

“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,”

The second move by Marvel seems to be in the creative department. Eric Pearson, writer of Thor Ragnarok and Black Widow, has been brought in to do some work on The Fantastic Four script, which Marvel obviously has a lot riding on. Jonna Calo, showrunner of The Bear, has been brought in to work on the Thunderbolts script. Streaming series showrunners will now have greater control over their projects. Shows such as Daredevil Born Again, which were already in production, have been given creative reboots with the replacement of writers and directors. According to one Marvel Studio insider, the focus at the studio this year will be internal.

Finally, the release dates for many projects have been pushed back. A large part of this was due to the writer’s and actors’ strikes of 2023, but it does seem to come at a perfect time when less is more for Marvel going forward. Captain America Brave New World has been delayed until February 14th, 2025, seven months later than its originally scheduled release date. Thunderbolts has switched places with The Fantastic Four and has moved up to May 2nd, 2025, while The Fantastic Four moves to the later July 25th, 2025 slot.

What all of this hopefully means is a return to form for Marvel and a rebound in their fortunes at the box office and on streaming.