Is This the Endgame for the Age of Heroes?

At the center of 2023’s “The Marvels” is Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, who, if you’ll recall from the 2019 film “Captain Marvel,” destroyed the all-powerful A.I. leading the Kree empire. Joining Carol Danvers is Monica Rambeau, a.k.a. Photon a.k.a. Pulsar a.k.a. Spectrum, who was first introduced in “Captain Marvel,” then later featured in the Disney+ series “WandaVision,” where she was granted superpowers after an encounter with reality-altering witches. And joining these two Marvels is the teenage New Jersey native Kamala Khan, a.k.a. the titular character of the Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel.”

That’s a lot to take in, which is why the first few minutes of “The Marvels” is just a series of flashbacks designed to catch the audience up before the action even begins. Even for dedicated fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the amount of prerequisite knowledge required to watch any M.C.U. movie or show nowadays is tantamount to a college course.

And it seems like audiences are tiring of the constant homework assignments. A year of diminishing box office returns is more proof that the casual superhero moviegoer is becoming more and more of a rarity given how much is being asked of them, which is full, multiplatform investment.

These franchises are spelling their own downfalls, as the price of entry into the fandoms has become frustratingly high for the dedicated disciples of these worlds, and not at all worth it for casual viewers or prospective new fans. This year has been a prime example of what happens when a pop-culture movement takes hold of an industry and then overreaches. We’re witnessing Ragnarok.

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