Projects like the MCU have proven one thing recently: people still love their epic sagas, no matter how many years go by. While we’re still seeing a number of short, self-contained stories here and there, it seems like everyone is diving into bigger, grander plots.
Now, whether this works or not is an entirely different matter. There have been plenty of attempts at replicating the success of the MCU; one of the most infamous has to be The Dark Universe, Universal’s attempt to bring all of their classic monster characters into one shared world. For a lot of reasons, Universal pulled the plug on this project after only a year and one movie.
The less-expected effect on viewers out of all of these projects has been that audiences are now expected to know a whole range of plot and facts before even coming into the show. This has left a lot of folks asking if they need to study just to watch TV or a movie these days.
Getting into Fantasy Universes
Looking at the most recent releases, one of the most interesting examples is the adaptations of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, better known as Game of Thrones. Currently available is the follow-up prequel, House of the Dragon, and just going by the character names alone, it can be hard to keep track of who is who and what people did.
Having a guide like ExpressVPN’s Targaryen family tree is almost necessary for more casual viewers to see who connects to who in the show, especially given the Targaryen tendency to use the same name over and over with incestuous relationships throughout the main cast. That said, like the original Game of Thrones series, producers have been extremely careful in their storytelling so as to enable casual viewers, as opposed to dedicated fans of the book series, to keep up with the heavy lore and history. Of course, there are still nods and references to more niche characters and plots from the original series, for the benefit of hardcore fans.
This is something that the rival show Rings of Power, a Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings prequel, also seems to have pulled off. The show itself is enjoyable without any previous knowledge. However, it is packed with references and deep cuts of lore for those watching carefully.
What about the MCU?
Probably the biggest challenge facing the directors of new Marvel movies is just the sheer amount of content they’re building on top of. Over 14 years, Marvel has released well over two dozen movies and a whole library of TV shows in the MCU, and while the earlier movies could be comfortably watched without seeing ones before, doing that now is trickier every time, and by the time we reach Secret Wars in 2026, it could be a massive issue.
So far, it’s a challenge that the minds of the MCU have been able to rise to though, and the key takeaway is this: knowing the history and characters behind a show or movie is always going to make it more fun, but at the end of the day, the creators will always work towards everyone having fun watching, even without tons of preparation.