How Marvel Changed the Game By Prathik Karthikeyan from Jindal Global Law School
Comic Book Superheroes are all the rage right now but what most people forget is that they very nearly died out just before they achieved their current mainstream success. Most people predicted that drawn comics would go extinct very soon after the dawn of digital media as they could not hold a candle to the visual realism that digital media provided and they almost did go extinct as their sales dipped steadily from the 1980’s but suddenly new life has been breathed into them and the past decade has seen record comic book sales and the entire culture surrounding comic books come back to life and most of this has been attributed directly to the wild success of one particular movie franchise the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the MCU. But what sets the MCU apart from earlier super-hero movies given that there have been several, over the years, whether it be the numerous iterations of Superman, Batman and even the then Sony owned Spiderman none directly resulted in this craze that the MCU managed to create around their characters. The main problem was that audiences had genuinely gotten bored of the same old narratives that superhero media provided.
The reason Marvel succeeded where others failed to garner interest was their ingenuity whilst creating these films, they not only created the frenzy around movies with a shared universe but also gave whole new dimensions to the traditional caped crusader movies. Firstly, Marvel’s original selling point was the fact that it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill sequel after sequel type franchise but rather they popularised the concept of a shared universe where separate super-heroes exist in the same universe and characters crossover from time to time which actually created a huge amount of buzz right from their first movie where they had Nick Fury appear at the end of Iron Man (2008), as to the next installments of films where all the characters come together in one epic battle of good vs evil in the Avengers. To their credit they even popularised the entire wave of post credit sequences as teasers for upcoming movies which now has become the norm for most comic book movies. This concept of shared universe was such a smash hit because it kept the audiences continually guessing as to who will appear where which also gave the film’s creative team more freedom to explore the complex relations between these characters something which they underpinned in Captain America Civil War. The concept of a shared universe is now being copied by a lot of other franchises and the response has been lukewarm to say the least, with DC’s Superhero shared universe, and more recently The Mummy (2017) attempting to replicate a shared universe with characters from classic novels. There’s even a plan to have Godzilla and King Kong be part of the same shared universe however, none of these franchises have quite achieved the formula of success that the MCU has replicated time and time again. One of the main reasons for Marvel’s resounding success is the way in which each film is significantly different from the other and not all of them have the same good guy vs bad guy plotline which superhero movies have espoused for so long. Ant-Man is a movie about a heist, Captain America The First Avenger was a war time drama, Doctor Strange was a more mystical visual movie; the fact that each of these movies although they operate under the same wide umbrella of having superheroes are made in very different ways with an equally diverse squad of directors which makes the MCU as a whole more palatable to a wider audience but also avoids falling into the trap of being the same type of movie just with different villains, a rut that most superhero franchises seem to be deep into by their third installment but the MCU continues to draw rave reviews from critics and fans alike for it’s fresh content despite it releasing it’s 17th movie this year.
Apart from the fact that they are genuinely well made movies with great attention to detail and character development which superhero films in the past genuinely missed out on, what the MCU has done is popularise somewhat unknown comic book figures as well through their comic book movies, case in point the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Before the movies even people who were into comic books didn't know the Guardians but today after two edgy space adventure movies Starlord and Groot are now household names, the MCU did what many thought to be impossible and used a mostly unknown group of Superhero’s and made one of the most commercially and critically successful movies of the year. With MCU movies planned right till 2021, we can only hope that the best is yet to come.
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