Movie Content Plus Video We Need To Talk About The MCU’s Third Act Problem

We Need To Talk About The MCU’s Third Act Problem

We love the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There has never been anything like it in cinema. The depths of characters, humor, heart, action–these movies transcend their genres. But then why do they keep ruining their movies with lousy third acts? The MCU has a bad habit of spoiling small, personal climaxes with large-scale CGI confusion. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a family drama that ends with two blurry dragons bashing into each other.

Black Widow was a family drama that ended with a big, loud explosion. It’s like every movie is trying to be bigger than the last one, which is desensitizing audiences to the spectacle. In this video, we talk about why Marvel Studios keeps doing this, and how we think it could be better.

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Written and Edited by Pavel Terehovsky (
Hosted by Ryan Arey (

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Shang-Chi is very good, it has outstanding action, interesting characters, and a solid story. But then I got to the big battle in the end, and suddenly the big CGI demon-dragon showed up, completely ruining what was shaping up to be a fantastic and emotional culmination. And then it hit me, this is sort of a problem, isn’t it? And not just with Shang-Chi. This is an issue that plagues so many MCU movies.

The big battle, in the end, has always been a hit and miss. At times it’s the perfect climax, a great mixture of style and substance. But there are way too many MCU movies that end with an overblown, loud and messy cgi third act. It is as if there’s some mandatory requirement for the third act to be this bombastic main event, a spectacle for the sake of being big. Many times, these climaxes completely ignore the characters’ arcs or the emotional culmination of their stories.

It’s a strange habit, one that has become the MCU’s biggest Achilles’ heel. OIt’s a problem with most of Marvel’s 2021 movies, and even their shows. And it’s so baffling that it keeps happening, because the MCU always improves and gets better on so many other aspects, but the third act problems keep coming up, time and time again, hindering some of the best movies in the franchise.

To make it clear, my issue here isn’t with big battles and spectacle. There’s nothing wrong with spectacle, it’s only natural that superhero movies will have a lot of spectacle and action, especially in the third act. Some of the best superhero movies end with a big battle. The problem here is the execution of these big battles, and their connection between the hero’s story and the movie. The perception has become that bigger means better.

Another issue is how mandatory these big climaxes have become, as if a superhero movie isn’t complete without a big climactic main event.

But every story needs its own distinctive culmination, and that’s where the issue lies, too many of the MCU’s movies tend to ignore that, giving us big climaxes regardless of what the story needs.
This is why I chose to use Shang-Chi as an example. Not because it’s a bad movie, because it’s not. But it does illustrate this problem very well.

Shang-Chi is a story about a family conflict. The fractured relationship between Shang, Xu Xialing and Wenwu creates an emotional family drama, and that’s a recipe for a great story.

The movie masterfully crafts the complicated relationship between Shang and his father, revealing their past through flashbacks, and this builds a powerful conflict, leading to an emotional culmination.

At the end of act 2, Shang decides that in order to stop his father, he must kill him. This is a crucial moment in Shang’s arc, it’s a strong conflict leading to the final battle – will Shang kill his father or find another way?

When Shang faces his father, it’s visceral and intimate, as both father and son are trading blows while trading blame for Ying Li. It’s done really well.

And the fight itself is fantastic, the choreography and the martial arts are spectacular, and I love the clever usage of the rings.

So up until that point, the fight is emotional and powerful … and then the big giant demon-dragon shows up, ruining what was shaping up to be an incredible climax.

The fight between Shang and Wenwu is everything we needed, an epic climactic duel between two incredible martial artists. An emotional father and son conflict. This is a movie about martial arts, and this final battle was meant to parallel the beautiful fight between Wenwu and Ying Li at the start of the movie.

This is basically the same as Luke clashing with Vader in Return of the Jedi. And could you imagine if that duel would have ended with the emperor turning into a giant monster? No, it would have been horrible.

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