Look up cinematic juggernaut in the dictionary (if Oxford ever recognised such a silly phrase), and right beside it you’d see the words ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’. Having dominated cinema screens since the inaugural film, Iron Man in 2008, the gun-blasting, street-swinging superheroes have inspired audiences across the world, and have also made their fair share of industry enemies, none more so than director Martin Scorsese.
Releasing his fury against the series in several impassioned outbursts, Scorsese wrote in the New York Times that the films are a “market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption” believing that each addition to the franchise, therefore, lacks “revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk”.
Causing outrage on Twitter, and mostly Reddit, several prominent filmmakers and actors came out to rebuttal the claim, with Marvel pioneers James Gunn and Taika Waititi both voicing their opinion. Recently stating his disappointment, Gunn revealed on the Happy Sad Confused podcast: “It just seems awful cynical that he kept coming out against Marvel, and that’s the only thing that would get him press for his movie”. Waititi also noted at the time in an interview with AP entertainment, “Of course it’s cinema. It’s at the movies. It’s in cinemas…” he adds before turning his head to the camera and jokingly adds: “Near you!”.
What’s revealing is that the two most outspoken voices on the matter are the two directors with the biggest stake in the future of the series itself; they’re merely defending their artistic projects, and rightly so, too. Whilst the Marvel Cinematic Universe may indeed be uninspired on a film-by-film basis, it’s a project greater than the sum of its parts, with the final result a genuinely flabbergasting cinematic feat.
By splitting the series into three unique phases, the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, theoretically serialised cinema, creating three seasons of ‘the Marvel show’ that finished with a grand finale. So after the biggest superhero event of cinematic history, with Avengers: Endgame becoming the second highest-grossing film of all time, where can the series possibly go next? The answer lies not with Kevin Feige or the directors of Avengers: Endgame, industry lackey’s Anthony and Joseph Russo; instead, the keys to the industry lie with Taika Waititi.
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was desperately shouting for some flavour to their cinematic scran, James Gunn and Taikia Waititi came calling. Granted, whilst Gunn was the first to inject some considerable personality into the series, Taika Waititi was the first to establish that creativity with genuine filmmaking prowess in 2017s Thor: Ragnarok, perhaps the finest film of the whole franchise. Disappointed by Disney once before after they fired him for several offensive tweets, James Gunn now seems more preoccupied with helping Marvel rivals DC, with films like The Suicide Squad and the upcoming Peacemaker series.
Taika Waititi’s cinematic elegance and flavour for the wild and wacky is the perfect antidote to James Gunn’s boyish sensibilities and his latest addition into the Marvel universe, Thor: Love and Thunder, will no doubt be a roaring success. Taika Waititi is the creative driving force behind the imminent phase four, promising a series of films that will embrace the wild, wacky and zany, in titles like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
How best do you take the Marvel universe forward after such a success as Endgame? You embrace the surreal and the comedic, and if you want a template for how to do this, look no further than Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.