Is The Marvel Cinematic Universe The Greatest Film Franchise Ever?

Guess who doesn't belong? image - Flickr / JD Hancock
Guess who doesn’t belong?
image – Flickr / JD Hancock

Well, another super hero movie has arrived in theatres. I may not know a lot about comic books (note to self: read more comics), but I was certain that Captain America: The Winter Soldier would be a good, if not great, movie.

Based off of Ed Brubaker’s awesome “Winter Soldier” story arc from the comic of the same name, Chris Evans back as Cap, and Anthony and Joe Russo of Community fame behind the camera, how could it go wrong?

Okay, okay, I’m sure there are plenty of fan boys/girls and critics out there willing to pick this movie apart and say that there are many ways in which the movie could and did go wrong, but the results are definitely in favor of my opinion: 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and over $300 million at the box office and climbing. I’ll be adding my 20 bucks to the Marvel Studios coffers soon enough.

They’ve really created something unique haven’t they, the people at Marvel Studios? Ever since Iron Man came out all the way back in 2008, each Marvel-based superhero film has been commercially and critically successful. Does that mean that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the greatest movie franchise ever?

Oh damn, I’ve started a debate that’ll be going nowhere soon, haven’t I?

Well, before you guys weigh in with your picks and arguments, let me take care of a few things before I present my argument as to why I think it may well be the greatest franchise ever.

Yes, James Bond has way more films than the MCU with no end in sight; Harry Potter has made more money, and we got a new Star Wars trilogy (yay!) just around the corner, with a lot of hype and resources behind it.

Okay, first off: you can make a Bondesque franchise from Wolverine alone (which looks like the route Hollywood is taking on that front), and lest we forget, Wolverine is an off-again, on-again member of the X-men and Avengers, who have had dozens if not hundreds of characters within both groups, each individual hero/heroine with their own backstories, plotlines etc., Harry Potter’s story is complete; superhero stories never end, they just get picked up by a new generation of writers. Star Wars…yeah, okay that’s a good counter-example; Disney wins either way, doesn’t it?

It’s funny to think that no one in the press thought that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be successful, once upon a time.

Alright, I confess, I told a little lie; a couple more points. X-men got the ball rolling back in 2000; it was the success of that film which revitalized superhero films in general, after Batman & Robin nearly killed it off with its rampant campiness and “bat-nipples”; Blade started the upward climb back into the public consciousness in 1998. Superman was the first blockbuster superhero movie way back in 1978. Yes, yes, it is a classic, no doubt about it.

Now, the Marvel film franchise, how is it different?

As many film critics and comic book fans have pointed out already, Marvel Studios has started a grand experiment that no one’s ever really done before in the film industry. They have plotted out the film franchise identically to how the Marvel and DC comic book multiverse has been constructed; multiple plotlines existing in the same universe.

Every once in a while you have what’s known in the comics’ industry as a “crisis crossover event” where many, if not all of the major players in the comic book universe ally or fight each other to deal with an enormous threat.

DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, written and drawn by Marv Wolfman and George Perez respectively, was the first time this type of thing has been tried, back in 1985-1986 . Since then there’s been a lot of universe-shattering cataclysms, both in Marvel and DC of course: “The Infinity Gauntlet/War/Crusade” “52” “Civil War” “Final Crisis” and “Blackest Night” being among the most famous and/or well-received, after Infinite Crisis started the trend.

The Avengers will not just go down in history as one of the most successful films ever. It will also be seen by many a comic book fan as a landmark event: multiple characters, each given their own films to shine, then being brought together in one movie.

Comic book fans have a lot to appreciate in this movie: it is well-acted, well-plotted, there’s lots of witty dialogue and awesome action set pieces, every character gets their own time in the spotlight, and the film somehow doesn’t feel bloated, slow, or too big for its own good. I tip my imaginary hat to Mr. Whedon and Mr. Penn. Well done sirs.

There’s a reason why DC/Warner Bros., haven’t tried this yet with their own properties. Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye are not well-known to the public. Thor, especially his appearances from the Silver Age, looks and sounds ridiculous, and Cap’n ‘Murica (f*** yeah!), is a piece of propaganda from a much harsher time.

Yet, it’s all worked out so far, somehow.

DC has only trotted out Superman and Batman movies, because everyone knows them. Its safe money; yes, the Dark Knight Trilogy is awesome. Yes, of course DC/Warners have started to catch on and mimic Marvel’s approach, if the announcement of the Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman (?) and Justice League movies going into production, are any indication.

Marvel however, has gambled far more than DC has, and it has paid off handsomely for them so far. It annoys me that there is a live-action Guardians of the Galaxy movie coming out before Wonder Woman.

I didn’t even know that Guardians of the Galaxy existed until about seven years ago, when I started getting into comics; all Wonder Woman gets for being a feminist icon for over 70 years, is a 1970’s TV show, a direct-to-DVD animated movie (which is very good, by the way), and a supporting role in the DCAU.

Rant over, on to my final observation. So, what Marvel started here has already become huge and shows no signs of stopping. Already we got about half a dozen franchises in the works, with more on the way. We got more Thor, more Captain America, maybe more Iron Man, Ant-man, Doctor Strange, the list goes on.

Heck, speaking of the Avengers, how about Wasp, Black Panther, Wonder Man, and Hawkeye? Why don’t they get their own movie(s)?

If they’re willing to put Guardians on the silver screen, how about, hmm, let’s see… Ms. Marvel, or Iron Fist? Marvel Studios has a huge stable of characters, a huge backlog of storylines, at their disposal. Now that they have officially thrown down the gauntlet with Avengers, the sky’s the limit. Of course, realistically speaking, not every movie can be good or sell well, but hey, we all seem to like superheroes right now, so let’s all sit back and enjoy the show. TC mark

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