Marvel‘s Secret Invasion just ended, not with a bang but with a whimper. While the MCU‘s earlier Disney+ shows (WandaVision, Loki) were watercooler hits, this star-studded, $212 million miniseries made little impact on the pop-culture landscape.
More embarrassingly, Secret Invasion‘s finale may have earned the worst reviews in MCU history. Viewers are already calling out the episode’s 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, highlighting criticisms about incoherent political storytelling and a thin plot.
It’s an underwhelming result for a project starring the universally adored Samuel L. Jackson. Even the budget attracted pushback, as fans wondered how Marvel could spend blockbuster money on a normal-looking drama with minimal action.
This arrives at a time when audiences are rejecting mediocre installments in previously-bulletproof franchises. 2023 has already seen several blockbuster superhero flops, contrasting with unprecedented hype for Oppenheimer and Barbie. Both of those are standalone films, and both are thriving due to their artistic quality and word-of-mouth buzz.
The MCU may be entering its flop era
It feels like we’ve reached a turning point for the MCU’s brand of multi-strand storytelling. New spinoffs can no longer expect an automatic audience—and this raises questions about the upcoming franchise calender.
The next MCU film is The Marvels, co-starring Captain Marvel and two heroes originating from separate Disney+ shows. In other words, a project that implicitly expects viewers to do homework.
Meanwhile, on TV, the next new releases are Echo (a Hawkeye spinoff), Ironheart (a Black Panther: Wakanda Forever spinoff), and Agatha: Coven of Chaos (a WandaVision spinoff that hinges on the viral success of a novelty song in 2021). These aren’t famous characters with a significant built-in audience. And after Agatha‘s release in mid-2024, Disney+ may run out of material due to the Hollywood strikes.
Whether it’s a business or an empire or a Hollywood franchise, no project can keep expanding indefinitely. At some point, something’s got to give.