CS Soapbox: The MCU chronology is a critical part of success

Marvel did an impeccable job creating the only and so far only successful movie universe (okay, maybe The incantation). Other studios have tried and failed to set up their own intertwined franchises over the years, but none has revealed the secret to the MCU’s continued success.

So what’s up? What makes Marvel different from the others? Here’s a theory: a strong focus on chronology or an emphasis on releasing films in the correct order.

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Let’s take a step back. Do you remember Universal’s short-lived Dark Universe that more or less began and ended with the Tom Cruise debacle The Mummy in 2017? The problem with this potential franchise starter was that it was just too far too soon. There were mummies, vampires, and a chance appearance by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (played by Russell Crowe). The film was just too strange for the general audience, who also saw through the facade and recognized another cynical money robbery – not so subtle avenger Imitation by monsters where Crowe is Samuel L. Jackson.

Marvel is all about timing and balance, Daniel Son.

Let’s start at the beginning with 2008 Ironman, a relatively simple adventure that relied more on the charisma of Robert Downey Jr. than on CGI-controlled combat sequences. Jon Favreau’s film was personable and fun. And while there were a couple of SHIELD references and a final credit cameo with Mace Windu, Ironman was established as an independent event that happened to pass into Louis Leterriers The incredible Hulk a month later – with the crossover, which is more of a marketing ploy to get people interested Hulk as an almost cinematic explanation of the universe.

Notably, it took Marvel two years to get released Ironman 2that really got it going by officially announcing SHIELD, introducing characters like Nick Fury and Black Widow, and teasing something called the Avengers Initiative.

Even so, Marvel played things pretty close and relied on the audience’s reaction to drive their slate. Lukewarm answer to The incredible Hulk and Ironman 2For example, the audience wasn’t ready for dark and dramatic shots of these superheroes. So the studio has brightened the mood considerably Thor and Captain America: First Avenger. ThorIn particular, it feels like two different films are being knocked together. What begins as a melodramatic Shakespeare tragedy full of fantastic components and contains a scene-chewing Anthony Hopkins (in full-fledged Anthony Hopkins Want Oscar mode) quickly turns into a cheesy fish-out-of-water rom-com with Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Potman .

Captain AmericaDespite all of the emphasis on quirky villains like Red Skull and Hydra, he preferred nostalgia to novelty – the Rocketeer clad in red, white, and blue – and managed to keep his plot generally carefree despite World War II.

However, there are a number of crazy ideas that were introduced in both of them Thor and Captain America, namely the all-important Tesseract (our first introduction to the Infinity Stones, even if Marvel didn’t know it then) and a lot of hocus-pocus regarding cosmic elements, which essentially laid the foundation for it Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel and the one ahead Eternal. Viewers were just too enamored with Chris’s huge body to realize they were being led through a rabbit hole of madness. However, it’s important to note the general lack of frost giants in subsequent MCU films. Thor or otherwise, because this idea was simply not taken up.

And then, after the longer setup, the big one: avenger. Again, Marvel has been extremely cautious with its highly anticipated team extravaganza, relying heavily on Joss Whedon’s snappy dialogue and blockbuster action to create an eye-friendly crowd-pleaser who is secretly full of imagination. Viewers more easily swallowed the film’s fancier elements – the chitauri, the wicked scepter mind control, Hulk, wormholes, and a guy named Thanos – in part because the surrounding components, especially the heroes (carefully sculpted over four years), were doomed like that have fun.

avengerThe success gave Marvel a tremendous amount of confidence. So much so that the studio dabbled in auteur film, hiring Shane Black, Edgar Wright, Alan Taylor and James Gunn to direct its next superhero epics. Except for black Iron man 3 The split audience (despite its massive box office) effectively overworked Taylor’s Thor 2 as a comedy and kicked out Edgar Wright Ant man. Only Gunn was able to effectively push his vision through the Marvel template, which led to it Guardians of the Galaxy, the studio’s most creative and ambitious film – and that’s no exaggeration. There was a lot of riding Guardian how it would further establish the cosmic universe Thor and Captain America and set the tables for Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame by cementing Thanos as the show’s great evil and giving the Infinity Stones a stronger backstory.

Marvel has successfully recycled this pattern of alternation between grounded superhero adventures and fancy fantasy by coating its films with broad comedy. For example, despite its many way out elements and peculiar characters, Guardians of the Galaxy still feels like a Marvel movie because its humor echoes the humor of other Marvel movies. Even Captain Marvelwith all of his Star Trek-like alien designs and sci-fi gimmicks work because, despite its lack of novelty or memorable moments (not to mention its boring protagonist and action sequences), the movie still hits its comedic beats perfectly. And the crowd goes wild.

Entries like however Guardian and Captain Marvel are rarely published in a row. In fact, both films were followed by one avenger Movie; and it is worth noting that Guardian not in the act of Age of ultron and Captain Marvel only played a minor role in Endgameas if the studio wasn’t convinced of the characters’ validity.

Indeed like fancy entries Doctor Strange are usually followed by surefire hits like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or grounded entries that are stripped of fantasy elements. Thor: The dark worldfor example published shortly before Captain America: The Winter Soldierwhich gave way to the above Guardians of the Galaxy. Fantasy. Grounded adventure. Fantasy. Grounded adventure and so on.

Even the most recent TV shows on Disney + have followed suit, but COVID messed up the release order a bit. Black widow should be released last summer, followed closely by Falcon and the winter soldier (originally planned for August 2020) and The Eternals (originally slated for release in November 2020), followed by WandaVision, Loki and Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings. And while this release structure is slightly skewed from the norm (Black widow and Falcon and the winter soldier are quite similar in nature), Marvel still publishes its movie board very clearly in an order in which each movie feels fresh and different from the previous entry.

Saying all of this, Marvel’s success lies in the way it carefully nourishes its audience. A little drama here, a bit of fantasy there, sprinkled with just enough action – all doused with a familiar comedy aesthetic that serves as the franchise’s through-line. Strange as it may be, Marvel is a bit like Hannibal Lector, and we’re all Will Graham – he’s slowly succumbing to our cannibalistic tendencies after years of trying Lektor’s food options. Unless Marvel has changed our appetite for the most bizarre adventures … 10 years ago someone would have been looking forward to it The Eternals?

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For comparison: The DC Universe of WB became dark and heavy with man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide squad before you make a U-turn and lighten the mood far too drastically with 2017 Justice League – a style change similar to RoboCop and RoboCop 3. Some fans enjoyed this contrasting approach to the carefree antics of the MCU, but the general audience just wasn’t prepared for Zack Snyder’s darker leanings. It was all too early. A better approach, at least from a box office perspective, could have been to deliver something similar Shazam! between man of Steel and BvS;; or start Superman’s solo film on a lighter note before venturing into a darker area a few films further.

So did the MonsterVerse, which started in 2014 Godzilla and carried over to 2017 Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the MonstersAudiences couldn’t meet, largely due to the emphasis on large-scale action and extraordinary characters – Mothra and Monster Zero – and weren’t ready to meet. These films needed the steady build-up that fueled Marvel’s first phase and that rounded them off The Avengers… and a stronger hero (like Kong) to put down roots for.

Strangely enough, the DCEU seems to have come along Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a film that successfully continues the story elements introduced in man of Steel and BvS but wrapped them up in a people-friendly event film. Meanwhile, Godzilla versus Kong causes quite a stir, even though it serves as the successor to the blockbuster Godzilla: Kong the Monster. In any case, the films in question deviate slightly from the course set in previous films. ZSJL is lighter than its predecessor and puts a stronger emphasis on hope than man of Steel and BvSwhile Godzilla versus Kong seems a bit more engaging than Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla Episode; and offers an enticing matchup between two well-known characters.

Even so, the trick to a successful film universe seems to be to produce a series of films that are undoubtedly different from one another. Either start light and dark (as was the case with Star Wars) or start dark and go light (riskier but still effective). and don’t feed the audience too much strange juice too early. A slow and steady diet does the job. Too much of anything only leads to indigestion.