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Josh Brolin's rumored return to the MCU is a big problem for Marvel

The studio has to stop killing the Mad Titan, and instead be okay with letting him stay dead

Thanos in Avengers: Endgame
Image credit: Marvel Studios

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Things are strange at Marvel Studios right now. 2023 was decidedly Not A Good Year for the previously untouchable MCU franchise, with multiple films failing to meet expectations at the box office and high-profile series getting scrapped, delayed, or completely reworked midway through filming. The studio that once could do no wrong seems to have lost its golden touch and fans are busy trying to figure out what that means.

Most of the time, that means going back to what has worked in the past. For Marvel Studios, that might mean going back to a time when Thanos roamed the cosmos and the Infinity Stones kept popping up in the most inopportune places, like Loki’s scepter or inside Jane Foster. The fact that even Josh Brolin has talked about the return of Thanos to the MCU speaks volumes to how desperate fans are to see Marvel reverse its fortunes after a lackluster 2023.

With the future of the Kang Dynasty up in the air and Disney reportedly cutting back on the number of Marvel projects coming to cinemas and Disney+ in the next year, fans who had previously powered through an unimaginable onslaught of content on an annual basis now have time on their hands to reflect on the state of superhero films and they have found themselves reminiscing about the good times. Like an old couple looking through their scrapbook on their porch, we’re all getting nostalgic and wondering if we can go back again.

The nearly constant rumors of stars like Chris Evans or Robert Downey Jr. suiting up one last time are a symptom of that nostalgia, something that, in the case of Brolin, has meant killing alternate-universe versions of Thanos over and over again in shows like What If…? Because Marvel hasn’t managed to top the Thanos Snap in subsequent films, there is an unwillingness by both fans and the studio to move on to something new. Even their post-Endgame box office wins were either nostalgia-fueled crossovers like Spider-man: No Way Home or the capstone to tentpole franchises like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

To be clear, Marvel and Disney aren’t looking to recreate the success of the Infinity Saga – they want to recreate the magic of Avengers: Endgame. Specifically, they want to recreate the magic it had at the box office. The business of Hollywood demands that the next thing be bigger and better than ever before. But the thing about endings is that, well, they end. Even when they lead to something new, that needs to be different from what we’ve seen. Otherwise, it isn’t an ending but just an interlude in a continuing story.

It is probably still unlikely that Marvel will bring Thanos back for another canon MCU appearance outside of a flashback, but the constant noise about Brolin and Evans and Downey Jr. reprising their roles shows that the mindset of both Marvel Studios and their fans are stuck in the past, unwilling to embrace the change necessary to see the next phase of superhero movies take shape. If fans can't move forward, then it is unlikely that Marvel or Disney will force them, which is going to result in more superhero fatigue, not less.


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About the Author
Trent Cannon avatar

Trent Cannon

Contributor

Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)

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