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Anthony Mackie says the Marvel Cinematic Universe is limited by the source material, but we're not sure that's the problem

I mean, one of its biggest strengths has always been weaving its own narrative.

Sam Wilson - Captain America
Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney+

It's no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been having a bit of trouble recently, yet it remains big and profitable enough to keep the spark alive and shift plans around so the upcoming big-screen releases and Disney+ shows are much better. Now, Anthony Mackie is adding his voice to that of the critics', despite, you know, playing the new Captain America.

The actor, who's now shooting Captain America: Brave New World - which arrives on February 14, 2025, after big strike-related delays and rewrites - is currently promoting the international release of 2023's pretty solid Twisted Metal TV adaptation. Of course, he was asked about the Marvel sandbox and had a spicy take about its limitations.

Via Radio Times, the actor explained the decades and decades of source material available to pluck storylines and character arcs from often restrict the narrative possibilities of the movies and series they make for. "I would say the Marvel thing is completely different, just because it's such a space of controlled entertainment," he said, "Like, there's only so much you can do. There's only so much creativity you can bring to the table, because Stan Lee gave us so much content...it's like, you can't really go outside of the lines of those comic books."

While he's got a bit of a point, Marvel has to honour what's written on the pages to a certain degree, I'd say it's a strange way to look at Marvel Studios' recent quality control problems, since these criticisms were far less common among Marvel actors when the studio was putting out banger after banger. In fact, one of the most praised aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has always been how most of the stories managed to weave well-known elements, story arcs, and characters from the comic books into all-new tales that managed to surprise hardcore and casual audiences alike.

Captain America: Civil War wasn't a straight adaptation of the original comic book series. Same goes for Thor: Ragnarok or the Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame two-parter. Part of their massive success was due to the genuine intrigue surrounding them and where the overall narrative would go next. If the MCU has struggled to evoke such feelings as of late, it's because of how scattered everything - even in the good entries - has felt. I doubt any fan is looking at the treasure trove of material available to rework for the screens and going 'yep, having too much of this stuff is limiting what they can and can't do' after the studio's amazing Infinity Saga run (2008-2019).

Up next for Marvel Studios is Deadpool & Wolverine, the third installment of a unique subfranchise that should still find great success at the box office unless it irredeemably sucks. Meanwhile, its parent company is trying to absorb Overwatch 2's dwindling, but still juicy, community with Overwatch but Marvel. As Doctor Hulk would say: "These are confusing times."

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