Going into the OTT world did sound like a welcoming idea for the MCU once, but very rapidly it got rusted and wasted. But did it really? Was it all so bad?
Back in the fall of 2020, in the post-Endgame era, Marvel Studios decided to foray into the OTT world through Disney+. Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, unfurled an ambitious plan for Phase 4 of MCU. This plan consisted of many movies with theatrical releases and a few tv series with OTT releases. Notably, all these projects aimed to share the marvel universe continuity with their plots. However, the story that unfolded, in reality, was not all a happy one. For our detailed coverage on a statistical analysis of how Marvel performed on Disney+, please read our detailed coverage here. For now, let’s look into The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly of this ambitious plan of MCU on Disney+.
The first offering that Marvel had on Disney+ was an American television miniseries created by Jac Schaeffer – WandaVison. It was set after the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019). The series followed Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living an idyllic suburban life in the town of Westview, New Jersey, until their reality starts moving through different decades of sitcom homages and television tropes. The 9-episode series was directed by Matt Shakman and premiered on January 15, 2021 and concluded on March 5. The series also featured other cast members like Debra Jo Rupp, Fred Melamed, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, and Evan Peters (in a special extended cameo).
The series was a hit among the fans, who loved it and praised its treatment of the titular characters. Along with the nostalgia of retro sitcoms, the series gave a really interesting take on MCU lore as well, by introducing the Dark sorceress Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) as its main antagonist. The performances of Olsen, Bettany, Hahn, and Parris were all praised by critics, and the roles of Dennings and Park as comic relief were also appreciated. The series was nominated for 8 primetime Emmy nominations, one Grammy Award, four People’s Choice Awards, and many more. The series in fact received three Creative Arts Emmys. Counting on its huge popularity, Marvel has already greenlit two spinoffs of WandaVision – Agatha: Coven of Chaos and Vision Quest.
By the middle of 2022, Marvel was already chest-deep in its Phase 4. It was then that they decided to premier their 7th television series – Ms. Marvel on Disney+ on June 8, 2022. The 6-episode tv miniseries, Ms. Marvel, followed Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a 16-year-old fangirl of the Avengers who struggles to fit in until she gains her own powers. The series featured many Indian, Pakistani, American actors like Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Fawad Khan, Mehwish Hayat, Farhan Akhtar, and Aramis Knight among others. Vellani’s portrayal of Kamala Khan received widespread praise.
While introducing a new superhero in MCU, the series had to tackle complex historical events like the Partition of India of 1947, and enact Asian cultures like Hinduism and Muslim and the differences that exist in these people because of their history, along with sci-fi themes of time-travel, alternate dimensions, proved a lot for the series. When serving as a standalone story in itself, the series was easily a triumph. However, when it had to explore the MCU lore as a whole, the series faltered in many places.
The series, which began with interesting characters and their fun dynamics with each other (the Khan family), ended up being unsatisfactory and forgettable to the viewers. Many fans even expressed distaste for the family-friendly aspects of the series or the change of Khan’s powers from the comics, while others called the series “woke”, mentioning Captain Marvel. Even the antagonists of the series – the Clandestines, remained boring and under-powered throughout.
The eighth television series in the MCU, She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, served as the final nail in the coffin for the highly divisive Phase 4 of the MCU. The 9 episode series followed Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), a lawyer specializing in cases involving superhumans, who also becomes the green superhero She-Hulk, after coming in contact with his cousin Bruce Banner’s blood in a car accident. Jessica Gao served as the head writer and Kat Coiro led the directing team. The series also starred Jameela Jamil, Ginger Gonzaga, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Segarra, Mark Linn-Baker, Tess Malis Kincaid, Tim Roth, Megan Thee Stallion, Benedict Wong, and Charlie Cox among others. It premiered on August 18, 2022 and served as the last television series of Phase Four in the MCU.
Although, the series overall received generally positive reviews from critics, with particular praise for Maslany’s performance, however, it got some intense backlashes too. First and foremost, the visual effects of the series seemed naive and not up to the Marvel standard. Caroline Framke of Variety even said that, “…(She-Hulk had) a far more limited budget than its film peers, and attempts to infuse Jen’s story with dated #girlboss energy, She-Hulk also represents an unsteady balancing act that needs more time than it likely has to settle into its own groove.”
The series tried tackling things that went out of hand too soon – breaking of the fourth wall, unfaithful treatment of characters, abrupt story arcs of characters, repelling antagonists devoid of any strong motivation, underpowering Hulk, etc. though the series had its memorable moments (Daredevil’s Walk of Shame, Wong’s cameo, Madissyn, etc. However, they all seemed too futile in front of the overall plot of She-Hulk. Even the K.E.V.I.N. twist at the end of the series left no ripples in MCU or in its fans’ memories. It was just a ‘meh’!