Over the weekend on Nov. 4, Marvel announced Spotlight — a new subset of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spotlight content, starting with next January's Echo, will comprise MCU TV shows and movies that “our [Marvel’s] audience doesn’t need to have seen other Marvel series to understand what’s happening.”
This is clearly a creative decision driven by the fact that moviegoers and TV watchers now need to be caught up on dozens of movies and TV shows to understand what is going on in the MCU. While this isn’t a huge problem necessarily for the diehard fan, the casual enjoyer of Marvel content now feels like they’re having to do homework.
Even for me, an avid comic reader and someone who covers streaming content, watching Marvel’s offerings has started to feel like a chore. I am behind on Loki season 2, which hasn’t lived up to my expectations, and I didn’t even finish Secret Invasion after a forgettable first episode. So having a show that you can go into blind is a refreshing change. Star Wars did something similar with the Visions anthology series, and it's one of my favorite shows in that franchise.
Here’s the problem though. While Spotlight does fix a big problem with the MCU, it still doesn’t fix its biggest problem.
That problem? The content just isn’t that good.
Marvel has a problem with content that Spotlight won’t fix
While keeping with the MCU timeline required time and energy in the past, we were happy to do it because Marvel’s TV shows and movies were actually good. The burden of following the continuity from Captain America: Winter Soldier to Captain America: Civil War to Black Panther didn't feel so heavy because, for the most part, people liked those movies. Not a single one has a Rotten Tomatoes score lower than 90% and they have audience scores that largely match (notably, Black Panther only scores a 76% with audiences, but with review bombing concerns, take that with a grain of salt).
Critically, five of Marvel’s 10 worst MCU movies have come since 2020. And while the TV shows started hot with WandaVision and Loki season 1, it’s been hit and miss since then at best.
But now? Well, now keeping up means consuming content that’s often mediocre at best. In the past year alone, Marvel has put out two movies and two TV shows. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Loki season 2 were relatively well-received by critics (and I personally found Guardians Vol. 3 to be enjoyable), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Secret Invasion were bad, with even the most rabid fans panning the latter in particular.
That’s Marvel’s biggest problem and one Echo needs to fix. If the MCU content gets good again, then all will be forgiven. After all, we forgave Marvel once before after a run of mediocrity that included Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World because Marvel figured things out and put out an incredible run of movies to finish The Infinity Saga. We’ll forgive Marvel again if it puts out TV shows and movies we want to watch.
But Spotlight doesn’t fix that, and currently, things aren’t looking great. Critically, five of Marvel’s 10 worst MCU movies have come out since 2020. And while the TV shows started hot with WandaVision and Loki season 1, they've been hit and miss since then at best.
The good news: Spotlight means more people may give Echo a chance
The good news for Marvel is that by treating Echo as a newly branded Spotlight show — again, that means you don’t need to know anything going in — more people may be willing to give Marvel a chance. The investment for fans is much lower than shows like Loki season 2 or movies like the upcoming The Marvels and casual viewers won’t feel alienated from the outset.
So if Echo is good, then there’s a real chance it can spark a revival for the MCU and become one of the biggest streaming TV shows of the Winter. And I’ll admit, I’m open to giving it a shot after watching the trailer despite hearing whispers that there are concerns Echo won’t be good and it being released all at once is Marvel sending it out to die. But it needs to be good. Otherwise, that shiny new Spotlight banner will be as tarnished as the rest of the current state of the MCU.