As it stands, Marvel fans need two days, two hours and three minutes to watch all twenty-three films in the MCU. Even if you skip the credits, that’s a lot of spandex for anyone to handle. No wonder people who missed the first few films are reluctant to try and enter this vast universe ten years on.

Years of increasingly complex continuity are the reason why comics reboot so often in the first place, regularly erasing everything that came before to try and draw in new readers overwhelmed by decades of backstory.

Rather than avoid this confusion, Marvel Studios are now leaning harder than ever into strengthening the connections between all of their films and now their TV shows too.

Marvel Studios

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Marvel boss Kevin Feige confirmed that audiences will need to keep up with all of the Disney+ superhero shows to make sense of their films:

“If you want to understand everything in future Marvel movies, he says, you’ll probably need a Disney+ subscription, because events from the new shows will factor into forthcoming films such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The Scarlet Witch will be a key character in that movie, and Feige points out that the Loki series will tie in, too.”

On the one hand, it’s incredible for fans to see Marvel comics brought to life in this way. For decades, what’s happened in one title has always made a lasting impact on the others, and the interconnected nature of these shows will replicate this in ways once thought unimaginable by fans.

But what about everyone else? That’s all well and good for diehard consumers of Marvel entertainment, but what about audiences who just saunter down to their local cinema to see what’s on? Even people who have only watched fifteen (!) or so MCU films are still expected to know what happened in all twenty-three to fully understand new releases — and that problem will only be compounded further when the Disney+ shows arrive.

Billions of dollars are spent on tickets to these films, but will all these consumers shell out money for a Disney+ account too? And even if they do, will all of them be willing to dedicate six, eight or even ten hours to the likes of Hawkeye just so they can understand a film they might see one day in the future?

From a marketing point of view, it’s genius. By making shows like Loki and WandaVision essential to the MCU as a whole, Disney are guaranteed more subscribers than they might have attracted otherwise.

Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Vision, Wanda, Avengers: Infinity War
DisneyMarvel Studios

It hardly seems fair though. With all of these new streaming services heading our way, more diverse content is available to us than ever before, but also at a higher cost. Cinema tickets are already pricey, so customers shouldn’t have to invest further time and money in Disney+ just to avoid confusion during the latest Marvel movie release.

As you might recall, this wouldn’t be the first time that Marvel have tried to connect their films and their shows together in one cohesive universe. While the likes of Daredevil and The Punisher are no longer with us, it wasn’t so long ago that Marvel sold these shows to us as fully integrated parts of the MCU.

In hindsight, this didn’t play out like we all hoped it would. Instead of creating meaningful crossovers between the Netflix shows and Marvel movies, fans were instead subjected to countless name-drops on the small screen and zero recognition for The Defenders on the big screen.

At the time, viewers considered this to be a bad thing, but now that Marvel are ploughing ahead with their connective strategy full-force, it feels like the Netflix shows actually had the right idea. Imagine being forced to watch the first season of Iron Fist to understand scenes in the latest Avengers movie. *Sideways look to camera five*

Danny Rand in Marvel's Iron Fist on Netflix

Saying that, it’s safe to assume upcoming films will try to avoid this problem for the most part, easing in newcomers with some kind of recap for all the relevant shows. Whether this will actually work in practice is another story though.

With more film and TV options appearing by the day, demanding unwavering brand loyalty in this way could alienate just as many fans as it attracts.

Currently, there are more than two days’ worth of MCU viewing to catch up with so, and that doesn’t even include previous TV offerings which connected with the films from a distance. Now that the new shows are being touted as essential, those 26 hours of viewing time will soon look rather small in comparison, and if you miss too much, then future releases like Avengers 5 may soon verge on incomprehensible.

Avengers: Endgame is out now on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D, 4K and digital download.

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