The common phrase “biting off more than you can chew” comes to mind with Marvel and their attempt to squeeze the maximum amount of profit they can out of the cinematic universe they have created. Prior to the upcoming release of Captain America: Civil War, set to hit screens this upcoming May, the accumulative box office earnings are reported to be in the vicinity of $19 billion.
Regardless of the critical reception to these individual films, the momentum and planning to churn out more versions of the same is set to continue. The second phase beyond the original 2012 meeting of Marvel’s The Avengers started with a third installment of Iron Man, sequels to Thor and Captain America, and introductions to Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, with the latter seemingly having absolutely no cross-over with the franchise whatsoever.
Ironically enough, the versions that splinter off from the Marvel universe seem to have more success with further distance from Iron Man and the rest of the gang. Guardians of the Galaxy cleverly utilized a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the genre, something that was taken to another level with the highly successful 2016 film Deadpool, a Marvel picture completely separated to a rival studio in 20th Century Fox.
As the schedule is set in stone for more releases until 2019 and further to come, the time, talent and budget is there to reinvigorate the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even in a world jam packed with invented characters from comic books from generations ago, super heroes remain iconic beacons of childhood escapism and adult nostalgia. In some cases, if the films are good enough, it is the parents who delve into genuine escapism.
So all is not lost, but for the future to be saved the movie makers and studio executives must take note of the errors that got them here in the first place. These are the 10 ways the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ruined movies for everybody, and 10 mistakes that should be avoided moving forward.
10. Limited Character Development
Over the courser of 20-plus films, the dynamic between common characters has changed to a degree. We know because of the trailers that Captain America and Iron Man will be at war in the new film, but aside from this the audience understands how every character operates. Tony Stark is still a charismatic egomaniac, Bruce Banner gets big and green when he gets angry, Captain America is a diligent and loyal servant to the country and Thor loves to use his hammer. Sometimes these characters are put under severe stress where the audience sees a moment of vulnerability, but it is fleeting and usually followed by a happy ending.
9. Television Series Overshadowing Movies
While the cinema focuses on the big picture, the Marvel television series are truly grounded in reality and because of this, are all the more better for it. Without the exaggerated CGI effects and Hollywood big stars, series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones tick all the boxes the films fail to – character development, plot twists, blurring between good and evil, and a genuine build up of tension and horror. Actors in this series aren’t just there to cash in a paycheque either, giving performances of their life to illustrate the complexity and darkness of the world they live in.
8. Too Many Movies
In the short time the blueprint was put down for Marvel to cash in on the super hero phenomenon, the following films have been released since 2008’s Iron Man: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. With a third Captain America coming out in May, there is set to be a debut for Doctor Strange in November, a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, new Spider-Man, a third Thor, Black Panther, two new Avengers films, Captain Marvel and Inhumans. These are just the films that have been announced so far: 23 films in 11 years.
7. Everything Centered Around Box Office Figures
Studios now are dictated to by box office figures. Just like television programs and ratings – hits and dollars equal content. Not the quality of content by the way, just the volume. As the dip in critical response falls, the box office has increased for Marvel. With the original Iron Man tipping just over $500 million worldwide, the figures skyrocketed up to $1.5 billion for the first installment of the Avengers, while the sequel still reached a mammoth $1.4 billion. Audiences have appeared to switch off their critical reactions to the franchise and continue to turn up in big numbers. Bigger box office paves the way for bigger budgets, bigger casts and bigger effects. But better films? Far from it.
6. Terrible Bad Guys
Outside of a handful of exceptions like Loki, a character that might have been used too much over the course, the rest of the villains have been fairly forgetful. Good guys are the cornerstone of a super hero movie, but the bad guys and girls make the film. From Ronan The Accuser to Ultron, Red Skull, The Winter Soldier, Whiplash, Iron Monger and Thanos, the villains have failed to pack a punch so far to leave the audience wanting more. Contrast this to Vincent D’Onofrio’s superb depiction of the complicated Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, and there really is no comparison. All of the cinematic bad guys want to destroy the world and the Avengers, but Fisk genuinely wanted to help Hell’s Kitchen, in his own sick and twisted way. Far more believable and grounded in reality.
5. Difficult To Keep Up To Date
Having already established the elongated and overdrawn scheduling for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only the studio executives and diehard fans of the franchise would know where the plot is at any given moment during the series. As the television series starts in earnest off its own accord and breakaway films like Guardians of the Galaxy drifts into its own universe, not to mention breakaway films from other studios like X-Men and Deadpool coming into the mix, the overall picture for general audience attendees is awash with one giant collage of blockbuster super heroes. They may appear to follow a chronological order until flashbacks and back-stories muddy the waters even further.
4. The Hulk Fiasco
Lou Ferrigno had the character down to a tea during the 1970s and 80s when he played Hulk for the television screens, but where the Marvel Cinematic Universe dropped the ball more obviously than any other debacle is the casting of the green machine. Eric Bana did a serviceable job for the stand alone 2003 version, simply titled Hulk. Then no less than 5 years later the character was rebooted again with Edward Norton for The Incredible Hulk, another film that received less than flattering reviews. With that film at least falling into line with the schedule, the character was recast again from Norton to Mark Ruffalo. A terrific actor in his own right, Ruffalo is only popping up during installments of the Avengers without getting his self-contained movie. Seems a waste if talent and bad planning beyond belief.
3. Hasn’t Lived Up To Expectations
Remember the first time Samuel L. Jackson’s character Nick Fury showed up in the credits for the first time at the end of Iron Man? The excitement and expectation reached fever pitch and set the marker for a future adaptation of The Avengers, a film which was suitable but the franchise has since worn out its welcome. The critical response waivers from mediocre to very good, without any installment standing out on it’s own two feet as a memorable picture for the ages. An increased reliance on CGI effects dulls the authenticity to create a bland and predictable environment that appears to stifle creativity from a filmmaking standpoint. For a franchise that is raking in close to $20 billion, the budget to make something of more substance is well and truly there.
2. No Sense of Humor
There is a difference between including humor in a picture and having no sense of it. For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is very much the case of the latter. Aside from a few Tony Stark quips about Thor’s choice of wardrobe and Black Widow giving Captain America some dating advice, all of the films take themselves too seriously for their own good and when they do try to poke some fun at themselves, it falls flat. This is one of the key features why Guardians of the Galaxy had such a breakout, something writers and directors should take note when scripting the next installment.
1. No More Self-Contained Films
As was pointed out with the absence of exploring the Hulk through Mark Ruffalo, each adaptation of a Marvel film now has to reference or work off the Avengers. Tony Stark’s Iron Man will be an ever-present character and protagonist in the new Captain America film while Thor, Loki and Black Widow have never been far around the corner. Perhaps it is all part of the master plan, but without these characters going off on their own adventures to delve into their psyche and personal struggles, it comes across as nothing more than cross-promotion building to the next Avengers installment.