There is no denying that the MCU is one of the largest influential media franchises on the planet, and Star Wars is right up there with them. You can’t debate that Disney is a massive juggernaut in the entertainment space, owning a monopoly on franchises that print money and stir up incredible amounts of hype. However, as of late, I can’t help but feel the quality of their media is taking a significant dive, specifically in the streaming space over on Disney+.
I should start by saying that I am not trying to take shots at the CW or their Arrowverse shows. There is a lot to be enjoyed over there and over the years I have been heavily invested in their crossovers and tie-ins many times. But still, you can’t deny that a lot of it can feel too cheesy or even cheap at times. Of course, we all know that the budget for a big-screen film adaptation is almost always significantly higher than what you would find on a tv show. And despite all of that media being owned or controlled by the same company, in many cases, different divisions are in charge of the production and delivery. Warner Bros., for better or worse, has definitely made some interesting choices when it comes to their DC Comics adaptations, often facing much-deserved criticism. And now, I fear that Disney is heading down the same path.
Disney+ exclusive content is starting to feel cheap, rushed, or developed by those who simply do not understand what makes these characters and heroes interesting.
Before anyone suggests it, this is not “superhero fatigue”. There are countless characters out there with interesting stories that remain untold. I would argue that what makes us geeks is largely attributed to superheroes and similar mediums and we aren’t getting tired of that genre at all. What is getting tiresome, is how lousy some of the shows feel on Disney+, namely their Marvel shows and Star Wars (which aren’t in the same category).
Disney+’s first major Star Wars show, The Mandalorian, was met with a lot of praise. However, considering the state of the sequel trilogy and how widely divided fans remain about it, the bar was set rather low. Kathleen Kennedy, good riddance, made sure that fans had a strong chance at leaving the theater angry while John Favreau was desperately trying to do something with the first season of The Mandalorian.
Despite all that, the first and second seasons of The Mandalorian had several episodes that felt way out of place. Whether the writing or directing was sloppy or the budget was noticeably all but absent, it was not a perfect show and I often felt weird about how many high scores it got. I liked it, but it was never as good as what people said. Perhaps too many hearts captured by “baby Yoda” were blinded at the time by how cliche or derivative the show felt, or maybe those handful of off-moments were forgiven by Pedro Pascal’s superb performance. Whatever the case, it was clear to me that this was the best things were going to get, especially after seeing the Book of Boba Fett.
I won’t go into that show too much in detail but the Book of Boba Fett was, in my humble opinion, a disaster. The story was terrible, Ming-Na Wen’s cringy overacting was near unbearable and the obnoxious Vespa scooter things are still meme-worthy to this day. That show had very little to redeem itself save for, you guessed it, the appearance of the Mandalorian. And even though Boba Fett deserved better, I oddly felt quite similar to the Obi-Wan series as well.
Obi-Wan Kenobi suffered from a lack of justification. Ewan McGregor was excellent here in his performance and there were some radical scenes. But all too often, the plot felt forced, rushed, and held back by writing that seemed to have been slapped together quickly and carelessly.
On top of that, Moses Ingram’s performance as the “Third Sister” was equally as unbearable as Ming-Na Wen’s, if not more so. The series as a whole had some redemption in Hayden Christensen’s Darth Vader and the battles between he and Kenobi were fun to watch. But overall, the show that featured some of the most popular and interesting characters in Star Wars history just felt so… boring and dare I add, uninspired.
I won’t even touch on the Han Solo film. But even ‘Rogue One’ felt a little weaker than it should have.
But this isn’t just about Star Wars and it isn’t entirely about the shows. The movies, both Star Wars and Marvel, are starting to feel stale. Not because it is too much of the same formula but because the wrong people were put in charge of bringing these characters to life.
Kevin Feige’s vision for Marvel Studios and the MCU is something that is constantly being imitated in other franchises while never successfully being replicated. He has ensured that the MCU slowly but carefully built up a worthy storyline with carefully crafted storylines that all paid off with the Russo brothers and the wrap-up in Endgame where the mad titan Thanos met his end. However, as Phase 3 has ended and Phase 4 immediately began, things have taken a significant nose-dive.
Not just the Disney+ shows, both the films in Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been very hit or miss lately.
While I do not agree with a lot of critic scores or audience scores, I do agree with many. However, I have noticed that while the MCU’s film adaptations are off to a rocky start, namely in Black Widow, Eternals, and Thor: Love and Thunder, the MCU Disney+ shows are suffering big time. Among those are the two most recent in Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel.
Oscar Isaac is an incredible actor, now with some of the best roles in both the recent Star Wars franchise and in the MCU as Marc Spector/Moon Knight. The problem with the show has nothing to do with him, even if his accent as Steven felt a little silly on occasion, is that the show was all over the place. Ethan Hawke’s performance felt unnatural, forced, and once again, occasionally cringeworthy. There was not enough Moon Knight here but that was likely due to some sort of contractual obligations to show Isaac’s face more than not the whole thing just felt so rushed with an improper build-up that never felt satisfying to watch. And then, even though we enjoyed it more, Ms. Marvel also suffered the same thing with even more struggles holding it back.
I won’t’ dive too much into Ms. Marvel, simply because I already reviewed it in great detail and you can read that here on your own, but this show not only felt forced but had a plot that was held together by very thin logic at best. A lot of characters we were supposed to care about or root for came and went as swift as the wind leaving the audience feeling nothing while other characters over-acted like never before. Despite being a lot of fun at times, if not for Iman Vellani’s love of the character and stellar performance, Ms. Marvel would have been another dud under the Disney+ roof.
At this point, I can’t help but feel exhausted as I force myself through more of the same. Nothing about Boba Fett, Obi-Wan, occasionally Mandalorian, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, or the Eternals, characters that all should be exciting to watch, seems to bring about any purpose. They feel rushed or written and directed by people who have very little experience of justification of being in a position to attempt to bring these characters to life. I want the season finale to end on a note that makes me wish more were to come and not think man, I am glad that’s over. Time to re-watch Mad Men for the 50th time. And unfortunately, these movies and shows just aren’t working as well as they should.
Disney, these characters deserve better. Don’t just push content to make money. Make something of quality that you are proud of and the money will pour in.
While the MCU has more content out there than Star Wars by a long shot, the problem is not that it’s too much, but more so that the right people are not being selected to craft these properties and build their worlds. Whether the directing feels off for two or more episodes out of a limited six, or maybe the visual budget was hacked to pieces to save for some executive’s bonus after the subscriber numbers were at a less-than-expected loss, the Disney+ platform is forcing us to believe that these characters deserved better. Because, in the end, if you choose someone who does not understand the vision to write or direct, or to have some big-time executive or producer cut costs to make it look and feel cheap, you might end up with something that feels akin to the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow where the boring heroes go to die.