Marvel’s post-credits scenes are fast becoming one of the MCU’s biggest problems

Wanda in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Whether we want to admit it or not, Marvel’s post-credits scenes are exciting – maybe even more so than the preceding main event. The MCU’s traditional sequel setups and comedy stingers still give us a reason to stick around until long after the credits have rolled. But they’re starting to go very wrong. Instead of being tantalizing teasers, the cacophony of cameos, characters, and surprises serve as a warning that the MCU is becoming too bloated and going nowhere fast. **Spoilers for every recent Marvel project ahead**

Take Thor: Love and Thunder. Few would have expected Ted Lasso actor Brett Goldstein to show up in the first post-credits scene as Zeus’ son Hercules (in comic book accurate garb, no less) with Thor in his sights. So, when is Hercules returning? It’s very much TBA. After I watched Thor with a friend, they turned and asked me about when Hercules would next show up. A fair question that many Marvel fans will have, but one without an answer. And that’s the problem. The recent wave of Marvel post-credits scenes do not seemingly lead into any known sequel, instead offering a scattergun approach to the future.

Much like how Marvel Phase 4 is in desperate need of a threat to unite Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the MCU’s newcomers, we need a better roadmap for where the post-credits are heading. Post-credits are designed leave a few breadcrumbs for a future project. Marvel is moving further and further away from that idea and instead they are leaving things hanging with an indeterminate endpoint. You know it’s a problem when director Taika Waititi admitted to Uproxx that he himself is "curious" to find out what the plan is with Hercules.

Thor: Love and Thunder

(Image credit: Disney/Marvel Studios)

It's also evidence that Marvel is becoming too unwieldy. By the time Phase 4 wraps up, over 50 hours of movies and shows – almost as much as the previous three Phases combined – will have been released and the ravenous fanbase can’t afford to miss a single second. A glance at the post-credits over this period shows the whole thing is in danger of reaching critical mass. The mid-credits and post-credits sequences alone have introduced (take a deep breath): Clea, Pip, Eros, Hercules, Ten Rings, cosmic rings, Thunderbolts, incursions and Venom. It’s difficult to see where everything fits – and that’s not including the promised introductions of the X-Men, Deadpool, Fantastic Four – without feeling seriously fatigued.

The odd trend of post-credits failing to deliver also extends to them undercutting their own films. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ended with a cliffhanger: Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sorcerer Supreme dropped to his knees and a third eye emerged from his forehead. A tease for Doctor Strange 3? Nope. We see Strange using his third eye in the post-credits scene, and Marvel uses the moment to add yet another cameo: Charlize Theron’s Clea. Eternals provided unnecessary epilogues for its characters’ journeys with the arrival of Pip and Harry Styles’ Eros. Then, at the very end of Thor: Love and Thunder, Jane showed up in Valhalla, having just died. The act strips out a lot of the emotional weight behind Thor’s loss just minutes prior.

So, what’s the answer? Thankfully, Marvel doesn’t need to look very far, just back to how things used to be done. Sure, not every single one was a winner – remember when Guardians of the Galaxy 2 made us sit through five post-credits? – but the vast majority were helped by each one coming to fruition within the next 18 months or so. 

Captain Marvel in Ms. Marvel

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Just look at what happened in Phase 1: Captain America was hurtled into the present-day, Thor’s hammer was found in the desert, and Nick Fury started setting up the Avengers Initiative, all in advance of 2012’s Avengers. They operated with the knowledge that we could point to Marvel’s schedule of upcoming movies and see exactly where that story was heading. With Hercules? Your guess is as good as mine. Even when he does return, he almost certainly won’t be the main focus thanks to Marvel’s propensity for spinning too many plates at any given time.

That’s not to say Phase 4’s post-credits scenes aren’t working. The hits are mostly coming from the comedy skits, like Avengers: The Musical at the end of Hawkeye, Bruce Campbell’s Pizza Poppa follow-up in the Multiverse of Madness, and Wong’s karaoke number in Shang-Chi. Annoyingly, the sequelbait sequences (and all the characters within them) aren’t going to pay off for years, which just leads to the excitement fizzling out and the end result falling flat on arrival.

There’s a reason why WandaVision’s and Ms. Marvel’s post-credits scenes might just be Phase 4’s only real story-based successes. WandaVision saw the Scarlet Witch studying the Darkhold as she hears the cries of her children. The moment ticks all the boxes: it’s mysterious, doesn’t pack too much in, and we knew it would lead directly into Doctor Strange 2 just a year later. Ms. Marvel ends with Captain Marvel in Kamala Khan’s bedroom and ties into The Marvels, coming to cinemas in just 12 months.

Marvel popularized the post-credits phenomenon – now it needs to reinvent them. More urgency and obvious signposting on where these dangling plot threads lead will put Marvel’s big signature sign-off, and arguably its biggest strength, back to the peak of its powers.

Discover what else is in Marvel's future with our guide to new superhero movies and new Marvel TV shows. If you need to catch up, here's how to watch the Marvel movies in order.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.