Fanboys. We are a rather passionate lot are we not? We love the stuff we like and absolutely despise the things we hate. We are opinionated and speak our mind when someone does our favorite properties wrong. We squeal like little school girls during the occasions when those properties are done justice on the big screen, small screen, or comics. But we have a super power that I think many overlook sometimes: we can sense insincerity! We know when someone is writing, directing, or acting a character they love or when it is just a job. We also know when a creator doesn’t understand the character they are adapting and just want to do “their” version of the character (and sometimes this works). In a nutshell, we can sense when a project is being made out of corporate greed and we can sense when it is being made out of shared love for these characters.
This is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is such a huge success and why Fox and Warner Bros. are going to fall on their face. This is why we LOVE what Marvel Studios is creating; because they love what they adapting.
I don’t know if Kevin Feige did this on purpose or it was a miraculous accident but we can tell that EACH movie (with the exception of Iron Man 2) was created by people who wanted to bring these characters to life NOT just make a quick buck. We didn’t see the “Usual Suspects” of blockbuster creators brought into this project. You know, the guys we know aren’t in this business to make a good movie but to make money. Michael Bay wasn’t asked to direct; Brett Ratner wasn’t even a though, and Aaron Krueger was not asked to pen any screenplay. No, what we got were cult but, in differing ways, visionary directors that have shown a past of being passionate about the movies they wrote or directed. None of them were EVER Summer Blockbuster directors and that is why these movies work so well.
The trend began with the very first film and bringing on Swingers actor and director Jon Favreau to direct the first Iron Man film. While Favreau directed the Jumanji sequel Zathura, he was mostly known for directing comedies or having fluctuating weight for whatever role he played. But when you consider who Tony Stark is and the actor playing him and then you watch Swingers …this choice was ingenious. This was a director who maybe not AS passionate as those that would follow him in the Marvel Cinematic U, he was a hands on director who cared about directing characters and witty dialogue over just some action schlock.
He cared about the character he was directing. But so did the production team behind it because they didn’t cast whoever the big name at the time was. They didn’t just put a mustache on Tom Cruise and said “Here’s Tony Stark.” No, they got a guy who only two years beforehand played the stereotypical villain in the Shaggy Dog Re-make. They chose a guy who probably was blacklisted from Hollywood for a long time …but there was no denying (even though many did) Robert Downey Jr. WAS Tony Stark. Could they have gotten a bigger name? Probably. Would he have been a good Tony Stark? Probably not. And it was this dedication to doing the characters and universe justice that Kevin Feige and Marvel studios have made as their foundation to the universe.
The only real hiccup in the shared universe was Iron Man 2 which did feel a little insincere and more like a two hour commercial for the Avengers rather than something the creators really cared about. Granted there were things that did tie in and foreshadow, but the screenplay and direction just seemed to be more focused on looking at the future of the cinematic universe rather than the characters in the present. Luckily, this was an issue that was remedied in Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger as both weren’t trying to appeal to sell JUST The Avengers.
If they were, we wouldn’t have gotten a period piece and a movie steeped with so much Norse mythology as the next two lead ups to the Avengers. Yes, they tied in to the upcoming movie, but the ties were organic this time. Instead of force feeding the Avengers, the writers, producers, and directors let the characters lead the way to the next big summer movie to be released by Marvel. It is fairly evident that Marvel learned what the fans wanted early on during the Middle string of Phase one films. They realized that we like the shared movie universe but that was only one part of it for us. The most important thing Marvel learned from Iron Man 2: we LOVE when it seems like everyone involved cares about the universe and characters they are writing for.
While I don’t think some of this was a conscious effort UNTIL The Avengers, I believe Feige and Marvel slowly put together what would make this Cinematic Universe not only successful but also what would make it connect with the fans and general audience alike. This culminated in hiring not just a fan favorite writer/director/show producer/ nerd God but someone that THREW himself into his work and the stories he was writing. If they got him to sign on, they knew that the characters would be in wonderful hands. And so it was with the hiring of Joss Whedon did the pieces come together. It was now an effort to match up the marvel property with the director that would best service the character that they and WE care about.
Why was the Avenges so successful outside of just having a bunch of movies to lead it up? It was because they got the right director to write and direct it. They hired a guy who had the above passion for the character but ALSO knew how to write scenes with a bunch of larger than life characters in one room (See: Last halves of season 3 and season 7 of Buffy). Joss knows how to write entertaining and witty dialogue. Joss knows how to write an ensemble cast. That is why the movie, for the most part, was a critical success. Because the studio cared about the universe BEYOND just money; because the director and writers wanted to write something with substance; BECAUSE everyone involved from the very beginning nurtured the project like a plant, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was successful, groundbreaking, and profitable (VERY profitable).
I full heartedly believe that the shared Marvel Universe was created out of love for the character first and profit second. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be seeing the Guardians of the Galaxy directed by James Gunn next summer. If this was about money, James Gunny wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a Marvel franchise. To the general audience, his movies are weird and off putting, but that makes him the PERFECT man to bring the Guardians to life. The same can be said about a lot of the lead actors in the movie. Marvel Studios just released the third highest grossing film of all time.They could afford any huge name.
They could have got Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Dwayne Johnson, but who did they get instead? Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec, a strong character actress that was so perfect for the role that it was too predictable, and a former wrestler was working the straight to video circuit. They went with people that fit the characters. The same can be said with making sure that the long proposed Edgar Wright Ant-Man project was a confirmed film for Phase 3 (PLEASE cast Mary Elizabeth Winstead as The Wasp). Here is a big company that has every reason to take the big studio approach but instead they are going about each film as if it were an independent film. This is how you make both fan boys and general audiences happy.
Now that we are firmly in phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic universe and it has become a critical and blockbuster hit with most of the fan boys and the general audience we are going to witness something kind of amazing. We are going to see two HUGE rival studios trying to fall on their ass because they didn’t “get” what made the Marvel Studios films work. You are going to see Warner Bros. and Fox link their D.C and X-Men franchises together thinking THAT is what made Marvel as a WHOLE a hit. They don’t see these films as passion projects (though some directors might. I could probably argue Snyder and Nolan properties and how much was about style and how much was about substance …but I won’t. We are mainly talking about the studios here), they see the shared universes as paydays. And I am sure these WILL make money. But they won’t be the critical success the original cinematic universe was and I will predict that Flash and X-Force will not make as much as Captain America or Thor.
And why is this? Why do I know that Marvel is going to be riding high as long as they continue the business model they have been using and how do I know that we will be able to see past the other studios as imitators? Because fans can tell something comes from the heart and when something is made for profit. There is nothing telling me that Fox or Warner Bros. are creating their own universes for anything but the box office gross.
S#!T Talking Central