>how do you even measure the intellectual level of movies or do you just 'feel' like they are?
You measure by how they treat the viewer. As an example, in Captain Marvel there is a scene where she's breaking out of her chains. If the writer thinks the viewer is a retard, they'll add a shot of a side character going "She's breaking out!", which is exactly what they did. For a movie that expects its viewer to be moderately intelligent they'll assume the viewer can pick up on visual clues, like in Alita: Battle Angel (which doesn't require you to be a genius but you'll miss some stuff if you're not paying attention).
This has to do with the changing nature of the film business because of competition from streaming. The number of films released by major studios is down, as are the prospects of mid-budget films https://www.the-numbers.com/market/ https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/05/is-the-mid-budget-movie-an-endangered-species
The studios are competing by betting on epic big budget films, much as they did in the sixties in their first battle with television. They also have the advantage of playing about as well everywhere in the world.
So, when you're spending 200 million on a single film, your focus is going to be on making sure the investment pays off, not innovation or art. That's why nearly all big movies are adaptations, reboots or sequels and why they're all so samey. The Marvel films in particular have hit upon a very efficient formula. Modern information technology has allowed media companies to narrow down the most safe and profitable content in media produced today.
They almost always have generic plots. And the epic ending is usually either battling thousands of faceless drones or fighting a villain who monologues every time the fight is about to transition, the serious hero says something serious, the jokey hero says a quip, then they generically fight some more, then something something sky beam does shit, the villain gets arrogant because the plan is working, then the hero says the final quip and the villain makes an “oh shit” face then dies.
Avengers, Age of Ultron, Infinity War, Thor Ragnarok, both Guardian of the Galaxy movies, Endgame and Black Panther to name just a few marvel movies all do this.
The reason this slides and is liked is because they don't know nor understand alternatives of the past or future. People have no hope so they look up to mythological tales set in modern era and the destruction takes place which one might enjoy in a nihilistic way. It very much reflects many more simple hero-stories of Greek Mythology, however lacking the counterbalances in the form of tales of Oedipus, Orpheus and Phersephone, the Illiad and Hercules' labours. These criticized many aspects of over-powered Greek heroes like Theseus, who just win at everything and are smarter and stronger than anyone they meet.
This reflects Adorno's laments on cultural decay and machinization, in his theory of social spectacle and the resulting industry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-m_7G31yh4
I wonder from time to time if Adorno and the other Frankfurts were purposefully targeted as conspirators specifically because cultural degradation has always been a reactionary racket, and the right didn't want competition from the left in the marketplace. After all, the CIA has literally admitted to helping this along, with people like Gloria Steinhem being their direct assets as well as Ghettofication and subsequent thug subculture after revolutionary leaders were removed and replaced by angry liberals. >https://www.lipstickalley.com/threads/how-the-cia-created-gangsta-rap.701728/ >https://newspunch.com/cia-hip-hop/ >https://daily.jstor.org/was-modern-art-really-a-cia-psy-op/