This past Summer was a big one for Marvel. With two untested properties (Thor and Captain America) hitting theaters as a prelude to The Avengers, it was important for those films to succeed. Otherwise they could lose much needed fans for their ultimate team-up movie. And while they were big box office draws and did well critically, Marvel’s films are still falling short. So I’ve come up with 4 ways Marvel can fix their films for the future.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed both Thor and Captain America, but they still left me wanting more out of them. They are enjoyable popcorn flicks, but never quite rise above the typical ‘blockbuster’. They lack a certain oomph that pushes them into the status of greatness like The Dark Knight. While, this isn’t normally an issue for most film’s, it is for Marvel because they’re churning out a lot of movies that all feel roughly the same.
While it’s great that they are at the least maintaining the same level of quality and success, it still saddens me that they aren’t reaching further; trying to do more and go above and beyond with their films. So here are some ways to fix these issues:
Get Rid of the ‘Cookie Cutter’ Template
All of these Marvel movies are really starting to look the same. Part of the problem is that most comic book origin stories are essentially the same: normal guy gets abnormal powers and decides to do something special with them. Obviously this doesn’t just pertain to Marvel, but considering the amount of movies they’ve released in a relatively short amount of time (and more on the way), it gets repetitive.
While the stories are different in each movie, they all follow the same structure: A guy with no powers (Thor lost his remember) goes through some hardships, and eventually comes into some power. Then they go through some soul-searching and some event compels them to come to the rescue. Of course a love interest in thrown in there to help keep them more ‘grounded’, and then there’s some epic battle to close it all out.
The problem as I see it, is that Marvel realized that what they did with Iron Man worked. From there they discovered a formula to create fun and entertaining comic book movies. And that’s the issue, it really is a formula. They aren’t eager to mess with what’s been established and so haven’t tried for anything new.
Sure they’ve refined the formula over the years, but that doesn’t change the fact that they keep sticking with the same stuff. What this gives us are films lacking in a lot of substance, and left me seeing double this past Summer.
With all of the sequels they have coming up for their properties, they have a chance to toss out the old formula and really try for something new in each film. Something that can push them beyond mere popcorn flicks. I mean, if Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and Captain America 2 all follow the same essential plot, even the die-hard fans would find themselves growing bored of the franchises.
Take The Avengers Out of the Equation
This was easily the biggest problem with Iron Man 2. Factoring in The Avengers tie-ins really jacked with the plot of this film. For the most part if felt (and was) completely tacked on and felt out of place. While it was essential for setting up The Avengers to come, it hindered the story a great deal, from fully coming into it’s own.
Thor and Captain America handled The Avengers elements much better. They incorporated it far more into the story of Thor, and nearly eliminated it in Captain America. The problem is The Avengers have been such a huge factor in all of Marvel’s movies and I can’t say that (outside of any “cool” fan service) it really helped the story of the films. I mean, it’s almost like Marvel didn’t think these heroes could shine on their own and thus needed as much crossover crammed in to help them.
At the end of Thor especially, the main thought I kept in my head was “how much better could it have been, if they didn’t have to do all the Avengers setup?” I mean, that’s a lot of screen time they could have devoted towards developing it’s main characters into people we truly care about, or even developing the love story which was laughable. So instead of spending more time learning about Loki or really being able to see Thor’s transition (from arrogant bastard, to cool guy), we had to waste a ridiculous amount of screen time on a set-up for another movie.
Is it really worth sacrificing story in order to create a commercial for your next film? I don’t think so. Captain America handled it better mostly because of the time it’s set in. Even so, there were still dedicating a good 10-15 minutes on Avengers set up, which is quite a bit of screen time. I’m hoping that after the Avengers, the subsequent sequels will take out all of the Avengers crossover stuff; if only to let them shine on their own.
Less is More
While cameo appearances from other Marvel characters are cool for the fans, they don’t do a whole lot for the story outside of taking up a ridiculous amount of time. Thor was probably the biggest culprit I’ve seen so far. There were tons of side-characters thrown into this movie, that the main hero got hardly any screen time. This made his self-less sacrifice at the end of the film a lot less believable. There just wasn’t enough screen time dedicated to him and his changes for the better. And if we’re to believe his that ‘love’ changed him, then they totally dropped the ball on showing it.
Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) was completely useless in the film. All she did was giggle and give Thor an opportunity to explain away his ‘god’ status as being an alien. The Warrior’s Three were pretty much useless. They were a mere plot device to get Thor back and an excuse to bring the Destroyer to Earth. In reality the filmmakers could have picked any random character to achieve the same purpose. Outside of the “oh cool” factor, they were pretty useless. Let’s face it, even their ‘battle’ was pretty lame. And don’t even get me started on that pointless Hawkeye cameo.
Iron Man 2 and even Captain America suffered from the same problem; there were plenty of characters that served little-to-no purpose, but I feel Thor’s story suffered worse from it.
Marvel needs to start whittling down the amount of characters in a film. I understand trying to show how interconnected everything is, but when your fan service gets in the way of storytelling, there’s a big problem. What they need to do, is make some hard edits to the characters they have in a script and make sure everyone they use serves some purpose for the story.
Pace Yourself; Don’t Rush
This is actually a problem that also afflicted DC’s Green Lantern movie, but Captain America went really far with this one. I loved that Captain America had a fairly slow start and did a good job of setting up his character. I actually was getting attached to him. Then in the last 45 minutes, they crammed in a bunch of stuff, and left a lot of that development behind.
All in that time he goes through and decimates Red Skull’s various buildings one-by-one, and unlike his first conquest, we never get to really see it. Instead we got a montage, and then suddenly we were on the final base with a showdown between him and Red Skull. It happened quick and felt incredibly rushed.
I understand the idea. You want to make your heroes feel epic and...well, heroic. And the best way to do that is to have them do as much as possible. The problem with that, is you’re sacrificing the better story by shoving as much in as possible. I mean, imagine if Captain America had only taken down a couple of Red Skull’s bigger bases? Then instead of finishing the entire war between the two in about an hour’s worth of time, you can spread it out over a couple films. This would allow both characters to develop more, and as their fates became more and more entwined, their final confrontation would have been even more epic, because of that build up.
But no, we have to cram it all in because we’ve got to set him up for The Avengers (so this is really 2 problems in one). The same can be said for Thor’s ending, when he finally regains his powers.
Like I said before. I did really enjoy the Marvel movies, but I have concerns going into the future. I want change, and I want epic. These properties have to potential to go beyond, if only Marvel could break from the mold and try something new. I mean, it’s no surprise to me that the best Marvel film of the year, X-Men: First Class, (which had brilliant pacing, wonderful character development and balanced action) wasn’t even made by Marvel! They’re too afraid to try something new for fear of failing, which would thus destroy their team-up films. Hopefully The Avengers will try some new things and be successful enough that Marvel will be bold enough to branch out.
A film/video editor at heart, Jordan dips his hands in many areas of filmmaking, including producing and VFX. On top of that he's a huge nerd and cartoonist, though you shouldn't hold that against him. He's been writing on the film industry for a number of years now and has had his worked featured on a number of other major film sites.
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