Marvel has been consistently dominating the box office since The Avenger’s hit theaters in 2012, but why has that been? How have the kept the franchise going so strong? There are two large factors for that: Building Narrative and Style.
Building a Powerful but Accessible Narrative
We all know how The Dark Knight blew the world away with its take on a superhero movie, but Marvel was able to do something no one thought possible before. They created a Universe. Everyone knows how it was done. Establish individual heroes and then create a team-up. But how has the hype continued? How has the interest kept going?
The reason is that Marvel focused on making each installment an important chapter, one that always builds. Each “Phase” has a number of movies for individual hero or hero teams that leads to another large-scale Avengers. But even the movies in-between show the after effects of each big event and the crucial steps to the next. This makes each film feel like its own event. But each film does well to nod at what happened before. Marvel makes it so you can enjoy Age of Ultron without seeing Winter Soldier, but the narrative will be far more rewarding if you do. And it feels less like a chore because of their consistent quality. Leading to the Second Point:
A complaint I often hear is that Marvel movies are too similar. That’s fair, many have a similar structure, and it isn’t hard to find a hero who’s snarky. However, I believe that though they may be similar, it makes their world more authentic. While Doctor Strange and Ant Man may have ingredients as to what made Iron Man such a treat, they still have their own identity.
Ant Man is nearly a straight heist film, Doctor Strange is a surreal and and imaginative character journey, and Guardians is a Space Opera with a retro swing.
Marvel film’s style often reflects the light tone, but films like
Civil War and Winter Soldier show the harsh effects of debates without a clear right and wrong. They ask: security or freedom? Appeasement of the public or the saving of many?
Marvel knows how to walk the line with these questions, but doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. It knows the weight and doesn’t try to make it seem heavier. Now every other studio is trying to make a consistent universe, from Kong Skull Island to The Mummy. The Marvel movies are by no means perfect, but with Avengers 4 coming, I don’t see the Marvel train losing steam anytime soon.