Hard to Care When the Whole Set Isn't Available
Why It's Not Worth Buying the MCU Now
As anyone that has read this site for any length of time will know, I love buying movies. I mean, yes, I love collecting various things -- video games, video game consoles (one of each type), Green Lantern figures (I have a lovely display case of all the main characters), Castlevania stuff -- but my primary love has always been movies. I love having a wall of DVDs and Blu-Rays that i can go to any time I want to watch something, knowing that the movies (and shows) I enjoy are always at my fingertips even if I don't have a streaming service that provides them.
Recently, however, there has been one major hole in that collection: the movies and shows of the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Phase 4. That Phase, which began with WandaVision at the start of 2021 and is still going strong through Spider-man: No Way Home and beyond, has yet to gain any representation in my collection. It's not because I couldn't buy any of them but because I, so far, can't buy all of it.
As I'm sure you know, this Phase of the MCU, unlike all previous phases, is comprised of stories told not only in theaters but also on seasons of TV via Disney+. Now, yes, previously there were Marvel shows on NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it)., ABC, and the like. Some of those, such as Agents of SHIELD, even tied into continuity for a short time before being spun out and ignored, rejected from continuity altogether. Those shows eventually made their way to DVD and I picked up most of them when I could. But the new shows? We're missing representation for them.
As a collector it annoys me when there's a hole in my collection. Although I'm not as bad as some (I won't pay hundreds of dollars to fill a single tiny gap in one of the series I own) I do still want to be able to fill all the gaps I can and, when I can't, it makes me want to stop buying altogether. There's a rule I picked up a while ago, the "sixty-six percent" rule (I wanted to say it came from Angry Robot but that website doesn't resemble the blog I remember, so I can't give proper attribution) and the rule dictates that once you have over sixty-sex percent (66%) of something in a collection you have to collect all of it. There is a catch, though: once your collection reaches a natural conclusion, you can stop.
The example for this rule I remember was described as buying all of the Batman comic in a run but stopping when the writer changed. You collected all they did, got the whole of their arc, and now you can stop. This rule applies, in my opinion, since the MCU told the whole arc it was starting all the way back with Iron Man. That film started the first phase and kicked off the "Marvel Age of Heroes" on the big screen. Eventually the movies introduced the Infinity Stones, and Thanos, and built to the big conclusion of the Infinity Saga at the end of Phase III. At that point, if you wanted to be done with the MCU you had an out.
Of course, Disney wants you to stay hooked and they've continued to make movies and shows to support the next phase. Many of them have been good, in fact, and I'd love to own them all (good or bad -- I do own a copy of The Incredible Hulk, terrible as that film is). Problem is that, so far, Disney has shown no interest in releasing the shows on home video. Everything television-related is locked behind Disney+ so you have to subscribe to the streamer if you want to watch any of the shows in Phase IV.
Some of you are probably saying, "they aren't yet, but they likely will get released at some point." Maybe, that might be true, but let's look at the films that have come out in Phase IV: Black Widow is already out for purchase, as is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, while Eternals has its release date set. Hell, Amazon is already taking pre-orders for Spider-man: No Way Home and that film is still in theaters. And yet the shows have no clear indication they're ever coming out.
Just look at WandaVision, which has been out for over a year and still doesn't even had a pre-order available on any (reputable) Online marketplace. There's plenty of merch out for it, shirts and posters and Pop-figs, but the home media of the series? Non-existent. Same for every other show that Disney+ has put out in the MCU. This would be fine if these shows could be ignored the same way the Netflix Marvel shows could -- good on their own but they don't tie into the larger continuity, so buy or not as you see fit. However, these newer shows do tie in and are relevant. Wanda comes out of WandaVision more powerful and appears then in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and then only way you could follow her story is if you watch the show. Falcon becomes Captain America, but to see his journey you need to watch The Falcon and the Winder Soldier. They are essential.
The sad fact is that is that Disney seems to be sitting on these shows to keep subscribers locked in. This isn't unheard of behavior as Netflix does the same thing with shows it produces on its own -- plenty of Netflix shows remain locked in the Netflix vault and its only the shows made by other companies, like Marvel at the time, that eventually got home media releases. it's just annoying in Disney's case because up until now all of their media has been coming out, in proper fashion. Now, though, the Disney+ money is more important than anything else.
That sucks because, honestly, they were going to get my subscriber money either way. I want the have the media on my shelf but I also want to see the new stuff as it comes out. I'm the perfect double-dip for them and they could take all my money. Now, at some point I have the vibe that I'm gonna get tired of not being able to own the whole MCU and then I'm going to start wondering if I even care about keeping up. It might just be the way my brain works but if I can't have it all eventually I then think about if I want any of it at all. This is the kind of move that could actually drive me away so I find other things to watch instead.
Now I have to decide if I even want to pick up any of the movies at all or just be done entirely. I'll hold out hope for a time that Disney will change their mind -- a box set of all the shows in Phase IV still seems like a possibility -- but eventually I'm going to have to give up hope. And when that comes I really will move on. I hit my sixty-six percent. I really can be done now.