The MCU is timeless and well loved by many–both in its decades of comics, and in their evolution to a for-the-screen franchise. Afterall, the MCU was irreversibly expanded with Iron Man’s debut in 2008, and the 30 movies to follow. Amid these movie’s grandness, however, shows such as "Agents of Shield" served to fill in the gaps. They were not necessary for understanding the plot of each new movie, though they added extra glimpses of the MCU that the movies missed. More than this, they helped to tie eager audience’s over while each new movie was in production. In recent years, however, the role of MCU shows seems to have changed.
Without watching "WandaVision", audiences would only have half the story of Wanda’s fall in "Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness." Without "Hawkeye," audiences would lack the entirety of Kate Bishop’s introduction to the MCU. In short, Marvel tv shows no longer seem to be the periphery stories they once were. More and more, the plot points, characters and events in these shows are pivotal to understanding the movie that comes next. One might claim this new emphasis has incited new investment in these shows–a depth of quality necessary for matching their film counterparts. At the same time, is the new weight placed on these shows too great?
One of the most wonderful aspects of watching the Avengers movies, from first to last, was the shared experience for the audience. Each new movie was an event in itself, a key step toward where every arc intersected. But the necessity of MCU shows has created a far less linear path–one that is near impossible to follow without a subscription to DisneyPlus. Have the quality and value of MCU films been diluted by their television counterparts? Were MCU shows more enjoyable without the pressure of their greater plot stakes? Has the MCU simply spread itself too thin? While the MCU’s magic seems to be rooted in its ability to carefully weave many plots into one, have its shows thrown too many threads into the mix? For any franchise to remain in the public eye, it has to keep their attention–though one might wonder if MCU shows are the best way to do this. This article could go in a couple of different directions–both in support, or against MCU shows-examining one, or many. This is just a change I feel has greatly impacted the MCU in recent years, and one that might be interesting to examine.
Comic books, back in the day, were the dose of tiger balm to the congested chest. They were painful narratives that made us think, that put our problems into the perspectives of a false world so a hero could show us they can be solved and the villains of our lives vanquished. Unfortunately, the solutions are solely on the page or on the screen, now with the Netflix series’ of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, but does that erase the effect they have on us as viewers and readers?
Do the shows take some issues too far? Present them too blatantly or too straight-forward for escapism?
Are they too real and too relevant? Or exactly what we need?
Something else to consider would be whether or not the intention of comic books is still escapism. As entertainment becomes increasingly politicized, the escapism aspect may sit on a balance with a desire to provide political commentary. If you wanted to do that more broadly, too, you could look at the balance of escapism and commentary in modern comic books or their adaptations (like Daredevil/Jessica Jones/Luke Cage), which I feel like is what you might be trying to do. There's an excellent article about Ta-Nehisi Coates discussing his run of Black Panther which touches on this --> http://kotaku.com/ta-nehisi-coates-is-trying-to-do-right-by-marvel-comics-1769418783 – Sadie Britton7 years ago
I think the subjective nature social consciousness makes this a hard question to answer. Comics have always run the gamut from utterly ridiculous to uncomfortably real but a lot of that is in the personal interpretation. Most comics aren't going to be as clear in their messaging as Captain America punching Hitler in the face. The X-Men arose as an allegory for the Civil Rights movement but not every white comic reader in the 60s was thinking "I see, this is like how we treat black people". However black comic readers may have connected with the story in a different way. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage both seemed overtly political but technically were recreations of plot lines that were decades old. When Brock Turner is making headlines, Jessica's inability to consent holds more weight. When Black Lives Matter plays a large part in the political sphere, a bulletproof black guy (in a hoodie) holds more weight. Your environment and your gender/racial/sexual identity change whether you view it as a nice work of fiction or a very political one. – LC Morisset7 years ago
Whoever decides to write a piece about this topic, must keep the line about comic books being "the dose of tiger balm to the congested chest." Otherwise, no success will be achieved. – T. Palomino1 year ago
In light of the relatively recent comments on Marvel films made by the likes of Scorsese and Coppola, does the superhero film have a place as an artistic work? Is it a modern reiteration of older genres of filmmaking (the Western, the gangster film, etc.) replete with popular cultural furnishings? Or, as the New Hollywood filmmakers suggest, does Marvel’s cinematic universe mark a downward spiral in quality for the cinema of America (and likely the world at large)?
The most important part of writing on this topic is establishing what is a "good" and "bad" film. While Scorsese and Coppola are considered great film maker's, their opinion on films at times are subjective. And while they've have been praised throughout the years, we have to acknowledge that they have bias on what they believe is "good" and "bad". Most people will simply let their comments go without actually questioning them, because they've established themselves as an authority on film through their successful career. But by that same metric we could say people Micheal Bay and Seth Rogen are great film makers, as they have had successful films. Meaning simply finding someone in film that believe superhero movies are "good" would be enough to counter the opposing opinion. What makes a quality film can vary from person to person. Good example of this is many people felt Star War's the last Jedi was a good movie. Though when you look at critical and fan opinion the feeling were split. So, I would recommend using your early paragraphs to establish how you will be measuring a films quality and then apply that to modern Superhero films and the films that Coppola and Scorsese believe are "good". I find this topic really interesting, albeit a difficult one to discuss. This is mainly because people use personal enjoyment to decide if a film is "good" or "bad" when that is entirely subjective and can vary from person to person, as how we may react to an experience can vary greatly. My last bit of advice is there are people out there who get pleasure from pain "masochist". And people who can enjoy eating shit. Pleasure is always subject to the individual. It is the same when discussing the quality of a film. – Blackcat1303 years ago
As with any form of media, trends come and go. The initiation of the MCU encouraged a lot of failed imitations of the "cinematic universe formula" (see universal's Dark Universe, the DCEU, and the limping corpse of Sony's Spider-Man universe). However, I would argue that such criticisms from Scorsese etc are indicative of the wider blockbuster "genre", the commodification of individual films into franchises owned by huge conglomerates, and the frequency with which blockbuster films are now produced. As Warner Bros, Universal, and especially Disney continue to churn out more and more productions, it's almost inevitable that the quality will begin to decline. We're now looking at several tv series and 3 or 4 MCU movies per year, as opposed to waiting three years between each Star Wars film, as it was in the 70s. The commodification of franchise cinema has a lot to answer for, and the MCU's consistency in terms of quality can likely be attributed to the singular vision of Feige, so at least everything is consistent. The lack of this same vision is the same reason that the new Star Wars films have felt so dissonant from one another and have been suitably lambasted. So yes, I think a case could be made for the MCU signalling the end of "quality" blockbusters, but less mainstream art pictures, smaller studio productions, and independent films will likely remain unaffected. However, the precedents set by the MCU have bled into other blockbuster franchises who all want the same financial returns; so I'd argue for blockbuster cinema their concerns are valid. – NathanialEker3 years ago
Interesting questions! Building on an earlier comment, I think we need to understand the criterion for assessment. If you are talking about 'quality', is this purely subjective? If so, a definitive answer to your closing question is impossible. However, might there be more objective measures of quality? Or might we ask the question in terms of more objective criteria? For example, if financial measures such as ticket sales or profitability could serve as any indication of quality (perhaps indirectly, as a measure of how much individuals/society are willing to pay to enjoy a film), then one might argue that Marvel is doing just fine! Of course, there will probably be just as much disagreement around what metrics/measures should comprise 'quality' as there is around the subjective opinions with which we started! – jeolsen1 year ago
Analyse existentialism and Thanos as a free and responsible agent of change through his own genocidal acts in the name of environmentalism, make a comparison to the environmental concerns we face today and if Thanos was right in his efforts to decrease or eliminate the population.
Interesting idea! I think it's also worth considering the idea that since the Infinity Gauntlet was so powerful, Thanos did have other options (e.g. doubling resources or reforming our existing structures/policies to be more sustainable). How does the possibility of these other options (which may have their own flaws, to be fair) further complicate the morality involved in his snap? – Demetra4 years ago
What DC and Marvel seem to differ between is style of superheros, the way in which they exist. Superman for instance is basically invincible and is also almost always right and just, which is part of the appeal to some people. While if you take Tony Stark from Marvel he has human faults and characteristics. There are many other characters that could fit into one category or another between the new universes. However, with Captain Marvel in the field now some say that she too is just too powerful, not relatable. Take the difference between Inhuman and Human archetypes of comic book/movie characters and explore why people find such interest in one or the other, is one more entertaining, or emotionally connecting? Are ‘human’ characters more emotional to the reader/audience because of the relatability? Or is the ‘inhuman’ character more appealing because it plays to people’s wildest dreams and fantasies?
This is why I love Marvel.
People by design are social creatures. They love to connect with people on an emotional level, which is why when they read a book or watch a movie or TV show, they have a better connection with fictional characters that have a sense of human nature within them. That does not mean they need to be human per se, but they must have human characteristics. Such as vulnerabilities that anyone on earth can relate to (the loss of a love one, feeling cheated, having a disability, falling in love, being bullied etc. The more human experiences the character has, the more relatble they are and the more the audience will like them. – Amelia Arrows4 years ago
The Marvel and DC cinematic universes have created superheroes that benefitted from the US military industrial complex then turned their backs on it. Captain America became a hero from the Army’s super soldier serum in The First Avenger then rejected surveillance overreach by government agencies in The Winter Soldier. Iron Man inherited a vast fortune from Stark Industry’s weapons development then restructured the company to clean energy development at the end of the first movie. Batman’s endless array of tech toys originated as US military prototypes of Wayne tech repurposed for war on Gotham’s crime. Nonetheless, super heroic courage, genius intellect, and god like powers are always depicted preserving the status quo (late stage capitalism with grossly corrupt governments protecting global income inequality as the earth burns) and actively combatting those who strive to fix such problems. For example, Thanos aims to eradicate overpopulation and Killmonger plots to undermine white global dominance by destroying US and NATO military superiority. What can we make of this ambiguity in superhero comics and movies?
I think it would also be interesting to explore what Superman and Batman represent. Admittedly, I'm not very involved in the lore, but much has been made about Bruce Wayne being a wealthy man who, besides fighting supervillians, also stops people who do petty crimes who obviously are way more economically disadvantaged than him. – Emily Deibler4 years ago
Yes exactly! Superman on the other hand has the power to shut down the 100 companies producing 70% of the carbon emissions leading to climate destruction but settles for foiling jewel heists and working as a reporter – Will Nolen4 years ago
Also, we should add Batman's obsession with surveillance and information collection... If I were to tackle this topic, I would definitely bring up Robert Kirkman's Invincible, where the main character is constantly confronted with this ambiguous dichotomy. – kpfong834 years ago
Absolutely kpfong83! Batman's surveillance and his schemes to betray each of his allies "just in case" all echo American foreign policies even with fellow NATO members (as I recall in 2015 the NSA got busted for wire tapping German chancellor Angela Merkel).
– Will Nolen4 years ago
I feel like this is really a question about what's good for individual people vs. some theoretical "greater good." Superheroes like Batman and Superman, from my admittedly limited understanding, seem like what they want is to keep "the peace" by ensuring a relatively stable society in which most people can live normal lives, even if it might leave some members of that society vulnerable in certain respects. Meanwhile, the bad guys you mention have big dreams and big ideas about how to remake the world, but the only way to accomplish these goals is to cause a lot of personal suffering, even to the people they're supposedly trying to help. – Debs4 years ago
I think that you might be right Debs but this superheroic pro-status quo perspective is quite limited in that the definition of who benefits from that "relatively stable society" does NOT include a huge portion of the global population (e.g. the 99% of the population in developing countries, the poor and other disenfranchised in the developed countries- PoC, LGBTQ, poor, etc.). So these superheoes end up reflecting the pov of the ruling elites and their beneficiaries which might explain why many superheroes tend to be white males from middle and upper class backgrounds
– Will Nolen4 years ago
Really great topic! I can't help but think of Roland Barthes' argument that our dominant contemporary mythologies serve to reinforce our dominant, contemporary social value systems. In his analysis Barthes looks at all sorts of things -- including advertising for detergents and professional wrestling -- and if he were writing today, he'd definitely include a short essay on recent superhero films. The film Black Panther would be a great film to focus on, with its competing ideas -- with one idea emerging as the clear victor -- about how we might address lasting economic and social disparities. – JamesBKelley3 years ago
I’ve seen nothing but severely conflicting opinions on whether the Marvel films are going in a good direction or not. Audiences appear to be either diehard fans of the entire franchise, or completely disillusioned about the direction of the films. Despite this, there’s a continuously large following, and I’d be interested to know why.
This is definitely interesting division to explore. It might be worth digging into why a similar but largely more negative split is occurring in the DCU as well. Is there something about these comic book worlds that especially lend themselves to diehardness and division? – JustinMoir5 years ago
When considering how women are viewed in film, I like to think of the Bechdel test. This test (and I am paraphrasing here) says that if a movie does not have two female characters in it that talk about something other than a man, then it fails. Unfortunately, not all of Marvel’s movies pass. How do these depictions of women (ie, their lack of roles that include interactions with other women, the way that only men are discussed when interactions do occur, etc) affect real live ladies? How does it affect society? How does it support the systematic oppression of women and perpetrate the patriarchy?
I agree that Marvel fails it's female characters, and women, as a whole with it's representation of women. It rarely treats women badly, and ocasionally has some really good female characters (see; Black Panther). But it's just in sheer numbers and representation that it fails its women. For every 4-5 men there is one notable female character. (See Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy). It fails to show women do much of anything as a whole, as even the supporting female characters, are delegated to just being "the girlfriends." And even the superhero women eventually become someone's girlfriend. Women cannot exist long in the marvel universe without being attached to a boyfriend or love interest. That si where Marvel fails most. There are hardly any women in the movies as headliners, and even when they are they are put into usually forced relationships. It's a shame. – Dimitri6 years ago
I have found majority of films that aren't targeted specifically to the female demographic fail the Bechdel test. I think it would be interesting to focus on how a lot of people criticise the test, without realising that if it is normal and common for men to have discussions not around the opposite sex, then it should be normal for women as well. – Zohal995 years ago
You could contrast this with how the DC has tried to target more towards women (and POC but that's not the main focus here) especially with a movie like Wonder Women that featured a largely all female cast and a female director. Her character also eventually exists without the male hero and can exist without him. – Pamela Maria5 years ago
Marvel has used the superhero movie genre to tell a wide variety of stories – for instance, a heist film (Ant-Man), a spy thriller (Captain America: TWS), and a war film (Captain America:TFA). The same is true on television, where the Netflix series deals with such serious issues of race, sexual abuse, toxic masculinity, and much more. As the slate of superhero content stretches out massively into the future, can it be constantly used to tell varied interesting stories, or are the limits already beginning to show?
This is a great topic! Especially in the wake of Deadpool 2! The first Deadpool was a rom-com, while the second was a family movie at its roots. Because this is such a bizarre approach for a superhero movie, there's theories floating around about what the next Deadpool will be. (The AtZ Show on Youtube speculates that it might be a mock-umentary, something to look into btw.) – M K Keane5 years ago
What is the 'Marvel Formula'? I like this topic but the formulaic aspect is unclear to me. Are you saying that Marvel movies are usually action type films? Huh. If so, I think Marvel's use of humour can be a limitation, in the sense that it's a staple in Marvel films. On another note, there's the overarching plot (or continuity) that blankets all individually released films—the past few led up to Infinity War. But what's next? Marvel's cinematic universe is amazing, but I worry for the day when it could seem 'dragged out'. (Then again I'm an uncultured non-comic book reader who doesn't know what'll happen after Infinity War, ack.) – Starfire5 years ago
The rights for Namor the Submariner has officially reverted back to Marvel Studios. With every character in the current MCU adding a certain physical and emotional aspect to the Avengers’ dynamic, what would Namor’s contribution be? Could his aquatic setting provide a similar contrast as Thor’s Asgard?
More fighting and graphics is required. – Zyana Hault7 years ago
Based on what I know about Namor, he might be best introduced as an enemy to the Avengers. He's often protrayed as such, and I think they could play up the angle of him reacting to what he thinks are attacks against him and his kingdom via pollution from the surface. He seems like a character who could really put the majority of the human race into perspective with the MCU, since in the other movies the villain is doing something blatantly evil for the sake of evil, and it's often hard to sympathize with their motives.people as a whole are usually the victims/a general population that needs protection from a villain doing something undeniably evil. He could be one of few villains in the MCU whose motives are relatable. – chrischan7 years ago
Seven years later, is it still a little premature to talk about this subject? – T. Palomino7 months ago