Words by Alexander Thompson
Ah the time of spring. The sun is shining (hopefully), the weather is warm (only if you’re lucky) and it's summer blockbuster season (something that actually consistently happens in spring). This season's biggest blockbuster is Avengers Endgame. To those that don’t know what that is, it the culmination of 21 other films spanning eleven years. It's the most recent installment of the series entitled the Marvel Cinematic Universe based upon the characters owned by the comics distributer of the same name. Just a note going forward, at the time of writing this article I have not seen Avengers Endgame, so there should be no concern for spoilers. Love or hate the franchise it can be said without a doubt the films released under the marvel banner are a box office juggernaut with each entry pulling in crazy numbers. The Marvel films have taken the concept of a shared universe to insane heights that no other franchise has been able to reach. Many have others have tried to emulate the shared universe model with little success.
Looking upon the block buster landscape, two particular franchises come to mind, the DC films and The
Universe. Marvel’s chief rival in the comics business launched their own film universe in 2013 with Man of Steel a new telling of Superman’s origin story. The film itself remained stand alone outside of a few easter eggs for its other properties. It wasn’t until 2016s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice that their shared universe really started to take form pitting the companies two biggest titans, Batman and Superman, against each other. DC’s film universe has seen its share of successes in the form of Wonder Woman (2017) Aquaman (2018) and most recently Shazam (2019). All of their biggest hits have been standalone films focusing on individual characters. All of their joint universe films, featuring direct appearances from man characters, Suicide Squad (2016) and Justice League (2017) received less than favourable reviews. DC and Warner Bros have been able to pull off individual characters successfully, but in all the aspects pertaining to a shared universe, they haven’t had much luck.
The Dark Universe is a whole other can of worms. The concept would be to harken back to Universal’s great history of classic movie monsters, by putting them in a shared universe just like with the MCU’s (Marvel Cinematic Universes) Avengers. Thus dubbed The Dark Universe. The first in this series was 2019s The Mummy, a reboot in itself of the classic franchise of the same name. The film was met with terrible reviews, the point that the dark universe itself may have been stopped dead in its tracks, with no new installments having been released to date. So the question becomes what has Marvel been doing right?
I think a simple answer would be to say that they did it first, and sure I’m sure it’s a factor, but it isn’t the whole truth. In my opinion as a big fan of these movies, Marvels success comes down to two things, taking their time and organization. The MCU began in 2008 with Iron Man the solo film about the now titular billionaire playboy philanthropist superhero. However, it wasn’t until 2012’s The Avengers that all the big names, Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man assembled on screen together. All the films in between set the groundwork for the team up. Small references to other characters in films, so that by the time the team up comes around, there are several very well established characters audiences are familiar with. We have an idea of their personalities and their struggles. In contrast, DC attempted to fast track their team up, by introducing both Batman and Wonder Woman, in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. A lot of the criticism of that film stem from the story becoming diluted by trying to introduce too many things. The shaky foundation was ultimate what led to Justice League’s failure as well. Marvel avoided the problem entirely by making sure it had their groundwork set before throwing all their big names together. With such a solid foundation in place, they were able to slowly introduced more and more characters to the point that they could have films chalked with up to 12 different superheroes without having anyones inclusion feeling tacked on.
This whole concept wouldn’t be possible without solid organization, something Marvel has in the form of a man named Kevin Feige. Feige is the president of Marvel Studios and produced in some way or form every film that falls under the MCU banner. He’s the one in charge of the MCU as a whole. It’s with his guidance that all the films build off of each other. He’s the one that dictates the overall narrative the universe takes. It’s this guiding force that has given the films a coherence, something that DC has been lacking. His way of doing that has been to have all the films either directly or indirectly lead up to one big finale, Avengers Endgame. Starting in 2012’s The Avengers, the mid-credits scene of the film introduced the from the comics the mad titan Thanos, intergalactic space warlord hoping to save the universe by wiping out half the life in the universe. Taken straight from the comics, to achieve his goal, Thanos seeks to collect the six infinity stones, power objects that have made numerous appearance across the 21 previous movies. By using the stones as a thread, Fiege orchestrates the numerous films to build up to its final goal, Marvels greatest heroes doing battle with their ultimate foe.
It’s crazy to think about how long these films have been around, and that the such a long build up is finally reaching its conclusion. The MCU certainly isn’t ending anytime soon, merely it’s main story arc for so many years. I’m sure another 11 years from now the MCU will have evolved into something beyond what it is now. It’s future may be uncertain, but with Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige's track record, I know that future is in good hands and I can’t wait to see what will come next!