As I sat through the teary finale of Phase One of the MCU, I couldn’t help but reminisce on how it all started out: a movie about a billionaire arms dealer(he was, btw) who sees what his weapons are actually being used for and decides to fight against the people responsible, including those in his own company.
A simple movie, which after credits rolled had a character say to our newly knighted hero: I’m here to talk about the Avengers initiative. Soon, one film after the other, the first Avengers premiered and grossed a whole lot of money ($1.5 billion for a superhero film was insane!) and set a standard for others to follow. However, others have certainly tried, but the phrase ‘cinematic universe’ is mostly uttered with Marvel movies in mind. So, how exactly did it manage to pull it off?
- They planned for it
I’d like to think that His excellency Kevin Feige sat with a couple of creatives and executives with a chart, standing before them with a marker and a whiteboard, quoting Martin Luther King: “I have a dream.”
Based on the way the movies were released, how they intertwine with each other and how they lead into the next story, clearly they had a plan for it when nobody thought it could be pulled off(except in sequels and crossovers, I’d like to think)
- They didn’t follow a trend, they set it
With the success of the first Avengers, they realized the formula: Individual hero films that lead into a mashup. This worked well for them, given that there was already a pre-planned skeleton waiting to have meat on its bones.
While I love the DCEU, especially its latest entries, I feel like they tried to follow this trend, albeit in a hurry (looking at you, BvS) and failed, hence a need to revamp the franchise with Marvel’s own trend that worked, as explained below:
- They gave characters their own stories
I’ll be very honest: the only previous relationship I had with Marvel was with X-Men Evolution and the Sam Raimi trilogy, hence Ironman wasn’t someone I even knew existed. Yet, after sitting through that movie, I regard it as one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. I understood what drove the big three of the Avengers based on their movies not to mention the other characters I had previously never heard of and gave them a good enough story to relate with.
Comparing it with the DCEU(I still love it!), particularly Batman V Superman, I didn’t feel the same way. Much as Batman is, well Batman, the version I saw was a changed man, and much as the film tried to explain why he ended us the way he did, i felt a solo story would have helped clear this up. also, why was Wonder Woman there? What was she doing in Gotham? Yes, they gave us a great solo film, but it would have helped the crossover if their solo stories happened before it.
- They set their own rules of engagement
I’ve heard many people complain that MCU movies joke too much. That a serious moment is often punctuated with a joke that reduces its seriousness, and that it’s not as ‘dark’, etc. however, this is their style of storytelling. Many of their audiences were introduced to this with the first three films and resonated well with it; and if anything, it attracted more audience members due to the friendly tone it took, and this has served them well up to now.
A plus they did was not to rely on the comic book origin of the heroes and use their existing popularity as a way to get people to theatres; rather, they gave them backstories that fleshed them out as their own characters, e.g. the Maximoffs, though many still wanted to compare Quicksilvers. I know I did.
- They didn’t buckle under pressure
A lot may have been said about their light tone, connected movie and TV universes, not to mention their average villains. In fact, I said a lot, if I’m to be perfectly honest. but the buildup to their big baddie Thanos was worthwhile, and I feel that that was the goal all along. Had they sidetracked even a bit, we wouldn’t have that awesome moment:
There you have it! My five reasons as to why the MCU is the quintessential cinematic universe, and others may be looking up to it behind closed doors while screaming “F*ck Marvel!” with the raging mob.
All images credited to their respectful owners.