Is Marvel's Phase 4 Overrated? Avengers: Endgame Directors Respond to Criticism

By Richard Nebens Posted:
Marvel Phase 5 characters

Since the MCU unofficially closed out the Infinity Saga with Avengers: Endgame in 2019, the franchise has been on a roller-coaster ride critically for Phase 4. Even with one of the most beloved projects in MCU history in Spider-Man: No Way Home closing out 2021, this year has been a different story on the big screen.

While Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness came with plenty of excitement, it suffered one of the worst second-weekend box office drops in MCU history due to negative word of mouth. That trend continued with Thor: Love and Thunder, which became one of the lowest-rated MCU movies by multiple sources and has incited concern amongst the fanbase for the franchise's future.

All of this negativity surrounding the MCU's future certainly brings up the question of whether Marvel Studios' time in the spotlight may be coming to an end, or even if the series of films and streaming series is slowly becoming overrated. Well, the directors of the franchise's biggest movie to date have shared their thoughts on the matter, explaining why they don't see it as something people should worry about.

Russo Brothers Address Phase 4 MCU Criticism

Russo Brothers, Marvel

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo looked at the criticism hurled at the MCU during recent Phase 4 releases.

When asked if they see Marvel having been set up as an industry foil, Anthony noted that other studios may see the MCU's success as something "maybe not attainable" for everybody:

Anthony: "The overwhelming success of those movies has caused them to represent something that has become 'other,' or maybe not attainable to some others for whatever reason. Not every movie has to be liked globally."

Joe compared it to his experience with the band U2, in which the peak of their popularity caused him to believe they were overrated. He sees that same conversation happening with Marvel Studios, which he finds to be "sad and cynical and pessimistic" as he looks at these movies being something that fans will "remember for decades:"

"When I was 19, I used to love U2. And then they started getting some commercial success, beyond their MTV early days, where they were the biggest band in the world. And I was like, 'I hate U2. I’m sick of U2. They’re so ubiquitous!' That was just my ego trying to define myself against the masses. Then, 10 years later, I was like, 'I fucking love U2. Why did I do that?' I outgrew it. It feels like a very juvenile conversation. The whole thing feels sad and cynical and pessimistic. You’re talking about movies that 10-year-olds are weeping over and begging to go see. They’ll remember for decades that they were there with their grandfather. Like, give me a fucking break."

The Russos also spoke with Jake's Takes about separating themselves from the MCU after being such a big part of developing the Infinity Saga.

When asked about how they detach themselves from the series, Joe admitted how great it is not to know anything about what's currently happening on-camera or behind the scenes:

Joe: “It’s amazing. We get to detach, as you say, like, we don’t know anything that’s going on, we haven’t…”

Host Jake Hamilton also asked if they could call anybody for any information they really wanted to know, to which Anthony could only laugh. Joe then confirmed that they could do that, but that they want to take in the experience the same way as everybody else, noting how great that worked out with Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Joe also shared how much he loves "the choices that they're making" to dive into so many different genres and the risks that come with making those choices:

Joe: “Certainly, we can call if we wanted to know… Again, we’re film geeks. I’d rather go with everyone else and see it and be excited. I mean, No Way Home was incredible. Like I loved that movie… It was one of the better experiences I’ve had in the theater in a long time. So, you know, I love how diverse Marvel’s getting. I love the choices that they’re making to… swim in different genres, push movies towards horror or absurdist comedy. And they’re taking risks, you know, and people are gonna appreciate those risks and other people are not gonna like those risks… but the good news is they’re not repeating themselves. They’re not doing the same thing that they did for 10 years. They’re going in a completely different direction.”

Previously, Joe Russo shared that Spider-Man: No Way Home was his favorite MCU movie in Phase 4 to date, calling it a near-perfect experience in the theater.

Russos Proud of Marvel Studios Amongst Criticism

Although the MCU has always faced its fair share of criticism, Phase 4 seems to be inviting more negative commentary than ever before. Some of these comments specifically point out issues with CGI and visual effects work, and most recently, Thor: Love and Thunder had many worried about the MCU's overall quality taking a nosedive.

Well, if there's anybody that's not concerned about this sudden increase in negativity, it's the directing duo who led four of the MCU's most successful theatrical movies to date.

As Joe Russo pointed out, Marvel is taking more risks than ever with Phase 4, diving into more emotional stories like WandaVision and expanding the boundaries of storytelling in films like Spider-Man: No Way Home. After the Infinity Saga became one of the most successful franchises in movie history, Marvel had the opportunity to take those risks, and it's clear that the Russos want that to continue over the course of Phase 4.

As for any chance that the pair will return, it seems largely unlikely that it will happen after Joe debunked rumors about the pair being in talks to direct Avengers 5. However, they remain up to date on everything Marvel Studios is doing, and they're usually open to sharing their thoughts on what's on the way.

All four of the Russo brothers' MCU movies are available to stream on Disney+.

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.