Friday, March 26, 2021

Marvel: The Biggest Risk in Hollywood Part 1 of 2

Marvel: The Biggest Risk in Hollywood Part 1

It’s been stated that Marvel Studios does not take risks and they only makes a series of safe generic popcorn films.  This idea is wrong.  While the Marvel films are on the fun side of storytelling, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is far from safe.  Marvel tapped into a market that comic fans have been clamoring for since Richard Donner’s Superman (1978). 

If a Batman/Superman film was released mid 90s it would have been the biggest blockbuster of the decade....well after Titanic.
These connected universes existed in comics since their rise to popularity in the early 20th century.  The comic universes became more defined in the 1980s by the more popular publishers DC and Marvel.  In the 70s/80s Superman gave us 3 films and also made a guest appearance in a Richard Prior film.  By 1989 it was time for Tim Burton’s Batman which resulted in another 4 films until the franchise became holy-bat-nippley stagnant. 

We still like him better than Michael Bay

Like clockwork 11 years later we got Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) which kicked off the superhero film pandemic.  From there we got a slew of Marvel properties being produced by multiple film studios.  The main reason stated for this slew of comic movies was special effects became more accessible and affordable with the use of digital effects.  In reality, Marvel was selling the film rights for almost all their properties to anyone with sacks of money to help recover from a bankruptcy in 1996. 

What we got were mediocre films like Daredevil (2003), Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (some people love it, I think it’s just a remake of Superman with webs), Ghost Rider (2007), and Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003).  After the initial appeal of comic movies started to die down in Hollywood due to mixed reviews and poorly made films, Marvel with some help from producer and hero to all nerds Kevin Feige convinced them they controlled film rights to enough of their superheroes to produce their own films.  Marvel also decided to keep the rights to the any properties that reverted back to their possession. 

Kevin Feige is the secretary treasurer of all nerds in the world.
Thus they laid out their very simple plan.  Make five blockbuster hits!  It couldn't be more simple. They would produce Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and then combine them all into one huge movie called The Avengers (2012).  What the @#$%^&*!? Does that sound simple to you?  Are there any studios out there that can make 5 blockbuster films in a row?  Most film franchises of any nature teeter-out after the third installment.  Marvel did something no studio ever attempted. 

No one believed American could be the Russians in Hockey, no one believed Marvel could pull off an Avengers film.
Sure, there are currently 6-8 James Bond films, 10+ Star Trek films, and 8 or more Star Wars films.  But none of these movies ever set out to be more than one film.  George Lucas said he had a trilogy planned all along but was never sure if he’d get to make it.  It was unheard of for franchises to have such a vast interconnecting story.  The billions of dollars Marvel agreed to invest in this endeavor had never been done in cinema before.  So perhaps it’s important to make certain when that type of investment is on the line that you delve into simpler story themes. 

Somehow the simple stories resonate the loudest and leave the greatest impression.
Look at how Universal Studios handled Ang Lee’s Hulk.  They went for a more experimental and artsy story and ended up with a 2 hour action snooze. There is no denying Lee’s talent or faulting Universal for letting him take a chance at a different way to tell the superhero tale but it was an experiment that proved to fail.  Lee’s Hulk in conjunction with Elektra (2005), Ghost Rider (2007), and Raimi’s third installment of Spider-Man (2007) risked burying the superhero genre.  Marvel’s approach saved superhero movies and created a fun interconnecting world that fans could follow and rewatch time and time again to see how this film universe intersects. When this plan was first announced with Iron Man, fans were skeptical it would come to fruition. 

If any of those Phase 1 Marvel movies tanked it would have spelled defeat for the possibility of an Avengers film.  The ultimate dream of any comic fan was seeing all of their heroes and villains united together in one ultimate movie.  Marvel delivered that in spades when the first Avengers was released.  It was such an ultimate megahit that now all the film studios are trying to jump on the bandwagon without understanding how Marvel did it. 

Some films fail because a studio hires a Director that doesn't understand the core meaning of the film.

Written by
Joseph Ammendolea
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®