Marvel is killing the popcorn movie. Furthermore, it doesn’t care. And Avengers: Age of Ultron
So says this op/ed piece in Wired
, which is not a diatribe against popcorn films, but against the approach that Marvel has taken to them, and the effect it’s having on the overall popcorn-film genre.
I don’t agree that A:AoU
will have a knock-on effect on all popcorn films – fans love it, critics mainly liked it, and the box office take is healthy, so Disney/Marvel and other studios have all the incentive they need to do more things like it.
That said, I do think the article brilliantly sums up the way I feel about the whole Marvel Cinematic/TV Universe. Namely: Marvel’s stipulation that each part must serve the whole. Apparently the A:AoU
script had to conform to Marvel’s guidelines to the point that a number of scenes served no purpose except as set-ups or promos for other Marvel franchises.
From the article:
•So, once Marvel’s formula has deprived the movie of (a) time for the characters, (b) the potential for the story to unfold in a surprising way, and (c) meaningful consequences, we then get each character’s maximum 10 minutes of focus (which is now more like five or six) cut down even further, with ads for other Marvel products. In Age of Ultron, we lose several minutes of valuable time that could be spent developing our characters to visit Wakanda and establish Andy Serkis as a villain, not because he’s important to the plot—he’ll totally disappear after this one scene—but because there’s going to be a Black Panther movie. Thor has to be taken out of the action for a while so that his scientist friend can help him hallucinate the premise of Infinity War. Captain America gets a flashback that doesn’t relate to the plot, but does remind you that he used to date Peggy Carter, who you can catch every week on ABC’s own Agent Carter! Etcetera.
Now, I get that the above is more of a problem for an ensemble franchise like The Avengers than it would be for a standalone MCU franchise. And I also realize that interconnectedness is a key feature of the Marvel comics.
The thing is, that's easier to do with comic books that have been around 50+ years than it is with films and television. Universes don't mean much if the characters are one-dimensional and the stories are nothing but a series of epic fight scenes.
And even then, I have to say one of the reasons I stopped reading Marvel comics in the 90s was that same emphasis on interconnectivity in the Marvel Comics Universe. The result was too many damn crossovers. It got to the point that you had to read ten or eleven titles to be able to follow what was going on. Which of course was fine with Marvel because $$$$$.
Apparently Marvel wants to do the same basic thing with the films and TV shows and spinoffs of both. IMO, eventually it's going to backfire. Some MCU fans I know are already complaining that some of the TV shows have writing that's not Whedon-levels of clever. God knows how they're going to feel when they realize that Robert Downey Jr can't play Tony Stark indefinitely, which is going to ruin the continuity.
And now Warner Bros/DC are looking to emulate the same Cinematic Universe formula (since DC Comics, of course, does the universe/crossover thing as well), which seems to be a problem for a lot of fans
because the existing DC film aesthetic has already been established by Chris Nolan’s Batman films and Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel
. Which is apparently a bad thing because those movies sucked.
Which is news to me. Not Man Of Steel
, of course (which I haven't seen, but I know it wasn’t that well received by Superman fans), but the Nolan Batman films. I seem to remember comics fans generally liking them (especially The Dark Knight
), apart from some minor quibbles and the inability of The Dark Knight Rises
to live up to TDK. Then the MCU happened, and now suddenly it seems all the fan sites are talking about how the Nolan films were actually awful the whole time because they’re not as fun as the MCU films and are about stoopid things like intelligence and emotion.
I might be imagining it. Or my memory is faulty. Maybe it’s just that Nolan’s Batman was better by comparison to every superhero film before it, but now it suffers in comparison to Iron Man
and the Avengers cos they're superhero films done “properly”. That’s arguably true of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films – I remember fans seemed generally impressed with the first two (not so much the third one, admittedly), but none of them have really aged well. Which I suppose is one reason why they rebooted it.
Anyway, I’d just as soon both Disney/Marvel and WB/DC drop the whole Cinematic Universe concept – especially if it’s only going to serve as a cross-promotion tool for other properties. FULL DISCLOSURE #1:
I haven’t seen A:AoU
. Or any of the Marvel TV shows. FULL DISCLOSURE #2:
I like Zack Snyder as a director. And I don’t care who knows that.
This is dF