Marvel movies are fun. Fun. Lots of fun. Boy, they are fun. If you go see a Marvel movie, you can expect a fun time. Fun, fun, fun. If you look up "fun" in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Kevin Feige, probably laughing while watching one of the MCU movies. Which, in case it wasn't already established, are fun. We are young. They're so fun that it wouldn't be surprising if the final Infinity Stone is changed to be the Fun Stone.
And, frankly, "fun" just isn't enough.
There really isn't a single word more synonymous with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point than the f-word: it's literally impossible to find a review of any new outing that doesn't use it at least once (two of the three 2017 releases have it at the center of their Rotten Tomatoes' summary), which is echoed by fans of all degrees across social media; when deflecting the common criticisms against the MCU of similar feeling movies, studio head Feige said "if what they have in common is they’re all really enjoyable and fun to watch, then I’ll take it"; and in the SDCC trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos announces his entrance by proclaiming, "Fun isn't really something one considers when balancing the universe, but this does put a smile on my face."
That's right - the big bad of the entire franchise thus far in the movie described as the first part of the epic culmination of its first 22-movie arc begins his conquest by saying how much of a gleefully good time he's going to be having. Grand epic? Nah, it's just fun. And that's the problem - the MCU has become so hooked on fun, it can't be anything else.
What We Mean When We Say Fun (This Page)
What We Mean When We Say Fun
Let's not mince words. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not bad. In fact, it's really, really good. Across its 17 movies and an ever-growing number of TV shows, there's some of the best the superhero genre has to offer; when it comes to the big screen even the weakest offerings are still at worst average. Fun really is an apt descriptive phrase too. The movies are big, blockbuster entertainment for the 21st Century, with a foot in the real world without the fear of going to crazy places, and a strong understanding of the balance between character and brand. It should be stated, in no uncertain terms, that the movies discussed in this article are good.
That now said, it's important to clarify what we really mean when we say Marvel movies are fun. As a word, "fun" isn't some grand declarative. Just below that picture of a gleeful Feige in your dictionary is probably something about "amusing", "lighthearted" or "pleasant". When it comes to criticism, it's thus almost as versatile a phrase as "interesting", and just as empty by itself (hat-tip Captain Fantastic). On the scale of engagement, it sits just above "interested" but a couple of rungs below the fully-fledged "entertained". It's OK to use, but when "fun" is the baseline summary of a full work, then it's an indication of modest goals averagely met: fun is enjoyability in the absence of everything else; to be fun is to be fine but frivolous.
And that's what people genuinely seem to mean when they say Marvel movies are fun. It is the greatest praise that can be given to something that at its best is good - they are enough to keep us consistently engaged for two-and-a-bit hours but not to warrant a stronger word - and the MCU should be more than that.