Anthony Stokes responds to criticisms of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe…
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Marvel fan. The Avengers is easily my favorite comic book movie, and I think what Marvel Studios is doing is the most innovating thing going on in cinema right now, so much so that other studios are copying their idea of a shared universe to varied success. Don’t get me wrong this is not a fanboy write up, where I talk about how Marvel movies are flawless. I think Thor: The Dark World was a major misstep, which is even more apparent when you see the fantastic Guardians of the Galaxy, which almost shares the same plot. This is more of somewhat defending Marvel against some criticism that frankly doesn’t make any sense to me.
“All Marvel Movies Are the Same”
I’ll be the first to say that this critique probably has the most grounds of all the complaints people have. Every franchise has its formula, but with Marvel a lot of the times it’s much more apparent. Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man each befriend a kindly scientist in their origin stories for example. Every Marvel movie has a large amount of comedy except maybe The Incredible Hulk. But I think after Phase One this complaint has become less and less valid. Marvel’s entire Phase Two so far – save Thor: The Dark World – has been radically shifting the direction of the MCU. I understand that Iron Man 3 isn’t for everybody, but isn’t that a good thing? After the utter rehash that was Iron Man 2 isn’t it good that Marvel made a movie that’s not supposed to be appeal to everyone? Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a movie that completely takes a tone unseen for a Marvel movie and becomes a surprisingly sombre and straight forward thriller. Guardians of the Galaxy is the biggest risk of all, and even though it is really just Avengers in space, it’s clear that no two Marvel movies are the same anymore. Even ushering in at least two new origin stories for Phase Three, I think Marvel has addressed this complaint pretty well.
“Where Was So and So?”
The only time this complaint actually had any ground for me was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and only because it deals with the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hawkeye should have been mentioned at some point. Other then that we don’t need to be told where every individual Avenger is during each solo movie. It’s called suspension of disbelief. You go into a movie accepting that some things are going to go unexplained. And seeing as there’s no S.H.I.E.L.D. presence in any of the other Phase Two movies so far we have no idea what the timeline is. Events could all be happening at the same time, or maybe all will be explained in Avengers Age of Ultron. If people can read a comic with a shared universe and accept this then they can watch a movie without questioning it.
“Too Much Comedy”
We’ve just hit the tenth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As I previously mentioned in some form or other all these movies are comedies to an extent, except The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’ve heard people complain about a joke that Tony Stark makes after Pepper “dies” in Iron Man 3 that undercuts the emotional weight. I’ll give the person who can answer this question all the money in my bank account right now. What jokes does Tony make? This phantom joke that everybody references that nobody can point out. I’ve gone through and watched the movie several times and I still can’t find it. For me, the Marvel movies have never gotten to a point where they’re too jokey. There have been some jokes that have fallen flat, mainly in Iron Man 2 and Thor 2, but more or less I feel like the humor is necessary in telling these grandiose stories. Marvel movies are constantly making their heroes look like asses to make them more relatable to the audience. From Tony Stark falling through his garage ceiling to Thor getting tased, sometimes it helps not to take your heroes seriously all the time.
“They Have Thin Villains”
This will probably be the most controversial, but Marvel Studios movies have not really had that many great villains. The bad guysare almost always just there as a foil to the hero. Walking, talking MacGuffins creating an obstacle that the hero needs to stop it to save their respective world. And yet, four Marvel movies have got around 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. By no stretch of the imagination is Rotten Tomatoes the final say on whether a movie is good or not, but critics have enjoyed them. But you can’t have a good movie without a great story and a great villain, right? I don’t think so. So what if Marvel movies have thin villains and thin story? If it makes room for character development for our hero, then fine. And so far a number of villains have made an impression on me – Obadiah Stane, The Winter Soldier, Loki, The Mandarin, and even Justin Hammer. We don’t need Marvel to suffer from what pretty much every Batman movie has of the villain overshadowing the hero. Marvel makes good heroes and DC makes great villains. Marvel is just playing to its strengths. If you’re only complaints with Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers is that their villains aren’t fleshed out enough, maybe you need to take a page out of Marvel’s book and shift emphasis from the villains back to the heroes.
Overall Marvel is producing fun movies that you can enjoy with your entire family. They’re exciting and recently becoming fresh and new and cutting down on the rehash. Avengers: Age of Ultron looks like it’s going to be the Avengers sequel we all want. It looks much darker, and since Joss Whedon has likened it to The Empire Strikes Back, I think we’re in a good place right now…
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.