Essays · Movies

Make Marvel Movies Great Again

By  · Published on October 31st, 2016

An evolution against the status quo is needed.

There’s something vaguely familiar about each new Marvel feature. Whether it is the down on his luck protagonist who obtains special abilities, the underdeveloped super villain who is hellbent on destroying the world, or the not wholly justified love interest, Marvel movies have become stale. Alas, as long as these movies keep breaking box office records and satisfying audiences, Marvel has no reason to shake things up. Perhaps Marvel is anticipating this reaction to their upcoming movies and are taking steps to change the formula. Just maybe we will see a new wrinkle to the Superhero origin story. What exactly are those steps and will it be enough to continue their dominance?

“If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.”

Superhero movies aren’t the first genre of film to have that phrase thrown at them. Take a look at many of the Slasher films of the late 70s to mid 90s; they relied on formulas as well. They simply hired different casts with a new unstoppable villain that would eviscerate plucky teenagers until the “final girl” survives the ordeal. Yes, Superhero films have become as predictable as Slasher films. A piece on Hypeable even gives steps on how Marvel movies are written and to see it drilled down that way is despairing. Marvel has done little to change the formula they created with director Jon Favreau on Iron Man in 2008.

For all intents and purposes, Doctor Strange is a remake of Iron Man. With the technology of 2016, Doctor Strange is feast for the eyes and includes one of the strongest casts of a Marvel movie ever assembled. That being said, it is also a remake of Ant Man, Thor, Captain America and any other origin story under Marvel’s umbrella. As far as these pictures go, Doctor Strange is fantastic, but it never reaches any further than the films before it. It is the current pinnacle until the next Marvel origin story of Spider-Man or Black Panther surpasses it due to technological advances.

Thankfully, Marvel seems to be taking steps to alleviate some of the fatigue that is building. The upcoming second Spider-Man reboot since 2012, Spider-Man: Homecoming, will take the character in new directions with a much younger Peter Parker than ever before. That will be the last origin story for a while as two sequels will finish Marvel’s 2017 slate with Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This gives Marvel some time to either introduce a change or Marvel will believe enough time has passed that audiences are ready for another redundant origin story.

With films such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel, Marvel will create stories they haven’t done before. Black Panther will feature a cast primarily of people of color, with the highly acclaimed director of Creed (Ryan Coogler) at the helm. Captain Marvel will be the first time they give a movie over to a female heroine for the title role. Of course, neither of these movies will see the light of day until February 2018 at the earliest.

Outside of featuring leads that aren’t troubled white men, Marvel could try to change expectations. Does everyone of their films have to end with the hero saving the universe once again? With so many villains trying to destroy the planet, it would be nice to feel like they have a chance at success. Even if you left before the end of the movie, you would be sure that the hero would show up in the next big collaborative Avengers movie.

The biggest developments are saved for The Avengers films and the smaller movies are just promises for a bigger extravaganza to come. Have Captain America come into one of these other features and present a fatal development. Iron Man is a wild card now, use that in the story. For a connected universe many of these films are extremely isolated. We are led to believe all these heroes live on the same planet, why aren’t they connected better?

The biggest issue with changing the formula is just how much money goes into making these pictures. The numbers have been crunched and these movies are far from a risky endeavor. At this point, they are sure bets for Marvel and Disney’s bottom line and they would like to keep them this way.

There might be a way to make Marvel movies great again, but changes aren’t coming soon. There might be some light coming with features such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel, but will that be enough? Doctor Strange is a visual delight with one of the strongest casts this side of The Avengers, but it has taken the origin story formula to the breaking point. Perhaps that is enough to satisfy now, but how long can Marvel continue to deliver the same product before audiences grow tired of it?

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.