Movies are changing, and Marvel is at the helm. Join us for the final part of a four part special event as we explore where Marvel came from, how they rose to silver screen prominence, how they’ve changed filmmaking, and what we believe the future holds.
Each month the Cinelinx staff will write a handful of articles covering a specified film-related topic. These articles will be notified by the Movielinx banner. Movielinx is an exploration and discussion of our personal connections with film. This month, to go along with the summer movie season, we’ll be discussing comic books as they relate to film. Feel free to add your own comments or reviews regarding the ever-growing role of comic books in movies.
1.) How do you think Marvel can keep the superhero craze going?
Garrett: Marvel has to find a way to prevent superhero films from becoming repetitive. This will become an increasingly difficult thing to do in the future because they will want to maintain popularity but can’t keep using the same comics over and over. My suggestion is to follow the model of the James Bond franchise, which has been going strong for 50 years. Here is what Marvel needs to do in order to make this happen: 1.) No more hard reboots. Make it right the first time and build the franchise carefully. 2.) Only one villain (if any) per film. Movies like Amazing Spider Man 2 or Spider Man 3 have shown that multiple villains doesn’t work for the feature length film format. 3.) When an actor is getting older, replace them. Don’t worry about fans getting upset. It will hurt more in the long run to retire Iron Man rather than recasting him.
Jarod: For Marvel, continuing the superhero “craze” may actually be a rather easy task. With the powerhouse that Disney is in promotional ability, cross-promoting with Disney advertising dollars and presence ensures the dual company will maintain its current market presence and will only increase its share over time barring any media scandals. Currently the only individuals who can damage the two are themselves. Drama between Marvel and directors/actors such as Favreau and Branagh cannot continue in a widespread sense. Alienating Oscar-winners can be a dangerous venture. Let’s hope they keep it to a minimum.
Dustin: I don’t think they need to do much to keep the craze going, they just need to stay positive about it. Keep the films away from the dark twists and dark stories, and keep them upbeat and family oriented. The “superhero craze” has gone on for decades thanks to comics, and now it’s even larger. Getting kids involved will ensure it lasts even longer, thus the reason Spider-Man being slightly goofy is important. I think what they do need to do is find a way to bridge the movies to comic sales a bit better. Maybe advertise comics and let fans know that yes, comic shops still exist.
Nick: I teach high schoolers, and in this past year, I already began to see what I think is the end of the superhero craze. Kids just aren’t as excited about Marvel movies as they used to be. Don’t get me wrong- they still go see them, but they didn’t have the same enthusiasm for Marvel’s films as they used to. Personally, I think this is a result of the Marvel “formula” and “feel.” So far, even though Marvel films are doing an impressive job of disguising it, they all have the villain rises, world-in-peril, hero wins in the end sort of formula. I think if Marvel wants to keep going strong into the future, their movies will need to offer some surprises and take a few more risks. With so many characters, maybe they should make a hero actually lose once in a while, or sacrifice for the greater cause. In the comics, several heroes aren’t the men or women they were when they started out. For example, when Captain America falls, Bucky Barnes takes over. I think this would be an excellent way to switch out actors and rebuild a lot of the tension I believe Marvel films are losing.
2.) What do you want to see in future Marvel films?
Garrett: I’d love to see more story in future Marvel films, even if that means they don’t necessarily feel like comic book movies. Graphic novels such as Road to Perdition or V for Vendetta have done a fantastic job of transforming graphic media to the big screen with story above all. Furthermore Nolan’s Batman trilogy has really raised the bar as far as what a superhero franchise can be, mostly because it doesn’t feel like just another comic book movie. Future Marvel films don’t have to be all non-stop action and artsy visuals to make an entertaining and impactful film.
Jarod: I would love to see Marvel eventually tackle the Civil War series and hopefully one day, Sony/Fox/Disney can shake hands and let us see the crossovers we so desperately desire.
Dustin: I want to see Marvel finally bridge themselves with Sony. So tired of hearing “it almost happened,” make it happen. What I’m talking about is of course letting Spider-Man experiment with the rest of the universe. I’m not saying give rights back by any means, I love Sony having rights, I just want that rumored “Spider-Man almost appeared in Avengers” to finally happen, but Sony still keeps rights.
Nick: I want to see Marvel take the stories to a more personal level. I don’t want to see heroes saving the world every single time. Instead, I would love to see deeply character-based stories that introduce a threat that effects our heroes deeply. That’s not to say we can’t have some world-saving stories, but I think it would be fun to explore different themes and tones with some of the heroes we love best and it keeps things fresh.
3.) What does Marvel need to do to stay ahead of DC and other popular franchises?
Garrett: While Marvel has always been about making entertaining films, that’s good but probably not good enough to set it apart from the other franchises. Marvel needs to invest in writing and storytelling in order to set itself apart. As I mentioned above, Nolan did a fantastic job of this with his Batman trilogy, and as a result his films feel more impactful and memorable than any Marvel film to date. Consider it as a long term investment. Character building can’t take place in one film, it needs to be spread out over several and the filmmakers need to have patience in setting everything up in order to truly capture the essence of the paper character on film.
Jarod: Staying ahead of DC shouldn’t be a problem. The primary disadvantage of DC is that they have 3 mainstays, the Holy Trinity, that garner the majority of their film platform future (Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman). Unfortunately, Superman is unrelatable to mass audiences due to his alien/god-like status (why watch a film that you know the protagonist in the end isn’t really going to gain anything because he simply cannot be beaten), Wonder Woman is a pre-dominate feminist icon, powerful and relatable imagery during WWII (when women were taking up the male positions at home) an era over 50 years past. And the only success they’ve had is with a relatable hero made famous by an actor who has no interest in playing the role again. Lantern was a complete bust and Oliver and Barry have been relegated to TV. Let’s not touch Martian Manhunter. With constantly changing actors, flopped scripts, and dwindling market share, DC has simply waited too long to try and duke it straight out with Marvel. Their best bet, in my opinion, would be to stick to indie television/film and utilize it’s smaller lines like Vertigo (Sandman/Preacher/100 Bullets//Constantine, etc) where they’ve had successes before with A History of Violence and V for Vendetta.
Dustin: Marvel is good with one important thing, licensing. You walk into any store you see Marvel this, Marvel that. It wasn’t till recently that DC finally started catching up, but it’s still mainly Batman and Superman from them. If DC never learns to expand or finds a way to push other characters, Marvel needs to do nothing. DC has so many great characters that if they do ever figure it out, it will be one epic battle between the two! To be honest I rather have that though than Marvel dominating everything. If Marvel wants to stay ahead, just play the same game they play with comics. To me though, the two going at it will be healthy for the industry.
Nick: The way I see it, if Marvel doesn’t start taking some risks and changing up their formula, they will continue to make money, but their films won’t be the movies everyone gets all worked up over. With other companies following in the mega-franchise model, new franchises will attract the majority of public attention with different kinds of stories and a greater willingness to change things up. While DC would have to greatly step up its game, I think Star Wars poses a real risk to Marvel, and I don’t think it’s the only franchise that will. Throughout their history, Marvel has seen the superhero fad rise and fall numerous times, and unless they are willing to take some risks, I think the fad will fade again in favor of other stories.
4.) Where do you think Marvel will be in the 2020s?
Garrett: I don’t think there will be a point where people stop spending money for big-budget action flicks with recognizable characters in them (look at the Transformers franchise), but I do think that if Marvel continues down the path they are on now that their franchise will have less value in the future than it does today. The biggest threat to Marvel won’t be DC, it will be the revival of the Star Wars franchise. There are lots of interesting places that Marvel could go in the next ten years, but Star Wars seems like it has more potential. Marvel needs to establish its footing now in order to be able to withstand the fight against Star Wars over the next decade.
Jarod: I see Marvel going strong throughout the 2020’s as long as they maintain their position as producers of the films and keep their fingers out of film production. It’s a wildly different animal and comic makers should stick to making comics and let the filmmakers make the films.
Dustin: 2020’s I think will be somewhat the same. I read the comics and I don’t really feel much is changing. I think Marvel is cooking up another epic comic book event, but that’s about it. They already have everything planned out movie wise till what, 2027? That seems about right. I don’t think they will slip at all if that’s the question. I think the overall DC vs Marvel thing will be at its peak though, unless WB simply gives up on DC characters. The only thing that will shake up Marvel is if by some miracle they get X-Men or Spider-Man back, and with what is happening right now, neither will go back until at least 2030.
Nick: At this point, I still have great faith that the head honchos over at Marvel know what they’re doing. I think they’ll need to do some interesting things in the next few years to keep the momentum going, but they have the funds and the ability to take the risks I think will be necessary. As long as they realize that throughout the history of film, great stories are what always make the most money, I think they’ll be fine. So in the 2020s, I think we’ll be in a very exciting space in the history of filmmaking. I think we’ll have several mega-franchises battling for supremacy and they’ll be forced to bring new ideas to the table.
5.) Is there anything else you think is relevant to Marvel’s future?
Garrett: Marvel is an aging entity. Although its films are a relatively new thing, think about how long the company has been around and the fact that Stan Lee is ancient. What is Marvel going to do next? They can’t keep relying on their past glories in order to keep making profitable movies to keep everything afloat. I think we need new heroes. They need to look forward, not back. Why not create a new hero for the films first?
Jarod: The one thing Marvel needs to handle carefully over the next few years is the eventual changing of the guard. As actors age they simply can’t do the things they used to or they simply don’t want to. Chris Evans is already talking full retirement (now that Marvel has paid him a truckload of money), Downey Jr.’s not getting any younger and neither is Sam Jackson. Johansson, Ruffalo, Hemsworth, and Renner will only get older and desires will eventually change. As new actors step in to take over roles, the big question is how will Marvel maintain it’s brilliant connectivity? Will they fall victim to that which affects DC currently? Only time will tell. But my money’s on Mr. Lee and his incredible creations.
Dustin: One thing I’d like to add is that Marvel did get rights back to some characters, one of them being one of my favorite characters. The Punisher. I really badly want to see Thomas Jane back in Punisher uniform, so please Marvel give him a chance! Even if it’s not a full on movie, just put him in part of Avengers or something. Hell give Sony SOME rights and let him be a pain in the butt to Spider-Man. When, or if, Marvel works out a way to use Spider-Man and Wolverine again, I just have one request….. several years of Civil War movies! (Which hopefully means Infinite Crisis movies on the opposite pond!)
Nick: I think a big key for Marvel will be finding a way to allow filmmakers more creative freedom. If Marvel isn’t willing to take risks on their primary characters, then they should pick some characters to allow filmmakers room to play. Give them guidelines if they think it’s necessary, but allow directors to give Marvel movies a unique feel every once in a while. I was extremely excited to see Edgar Wright’s take on Ant-Man, but he exited the project due to creative differences that I can’t help but feel stemmed from him wanting to change the “Marvel feel.” Marvel can’t afford to alienate great creative minds, and should instead give them a little room to create something that might be the next evolution of Marvel movies.
Taking Risks and Killing Characters
Before wrapping up, we posed the same questions to Cinelinx’s Lead Editor/Writer Jordan Maison. Here’s what he had to say:
Jordan: My answer to a lot of these questions all boil down to something rather simple…Marvel needs to have lasting and irreparable consequences in their films. I’m not just talking about organizations falling apart (like SHIELD), I’m talking about characters dying. Yep, I said it. Characters need to die. Not just die and come right back, but be gone for good.
On the whole, this is my biggest issue with Marvel and their films right now. The sense of tension is almost non-existent, because at the end of the day, you know the good guy is going to win and everything will be okay. This is only made worse when you have characters that come back from the dead, or simply were never dead to begin with. Killing off minor characters (Thor’s mother), isn’t enough.
Perhaps I’m being harsh here, but let’s face it, if Nick Fury had actually been killed in The Winter Soldier, it would have totally altered the landscape of the Marvel films. His character has been the glue for all their films so far and is the reason the Avengers were gathered in the first place. Taking him out would make it clear that there are situations where our heroes may not make it out alive, or unchanged.
Jordan: While all of the Marvel movies are entertaining, they need to be something more than that. They need to be able to make us think and keep our brains working long after the credits have rolled. Just because it’s a superhero movie, doesn’t mean it has to be mindless entertainment. That filmmaking model only goes so far, and with the recent bashing Transformers: Age of Extinction has been getting, it’s clear that a lot of audiences are fed up with dumb fun. In order to continue to engage audiences and keep them coming back, well into the future, you’re going to have to offer them more. As such, I worry about Marvel’s business plans. If they simply maintain the status quo in their films (using “cookie cutter” plots and layouts) then it won’t be long before the bubble bursts and we’re looking to something else.
One of the best ways Marvel can combat this (even if they don’t kill off a major character) would be to branch out their films into different genres. Not every movie has to be saving the world from major threats. Smaller stories will work just fine as well. Imagine having a Suspense/Thriller Marvel movie, or even a full on horror film. Superheroes don’t have to immediately mean action and explosions, and Marvel has enough diverse characters to try out other genres and be successful.
The bottom line for Marvel, is that if they want to stay ahead of the game and keep the comic book movie craze going, they have to raise the stakes and be willing to try something different. Their willingness to experiment (shared universes had never been done before) is what led to them being so successful in the first place, and they need to remember that.
So what do you think? Is Marvel on track to maintain their success for the next decade or are they going to have to change things up? Let us know in the comments below!