Has Marvel Created a Monster?

From the moment Marvel’s The Avengers hit the screens more than five years ago, the average viewer could feel a shudder ripple through the entertainment world–it was an overnight cultural phenomenon that changed the trajectory of modern cinema. The movie itself was an obvious commercial success as well as being critically acclaimed, somehow managing to squeeze Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, and others into the film all while finding time to give their characters depth. At the time of its release, it was the third highest U.S. grossing film of all time, bringing in 623 million dollars in the states alone ( info courtesy IMDb.com). But we already know the story of The Avengers–now, five years later, we can find exactly how those ripples altered the course of cinematic history–and if these changes are a good thing.

From left: Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo. (Image from canwestillbefriends.net)

The Avengers is to the film industry what the 2013-14 Golden State Warriors were to basketball–an unexpected juggernaut that left competitors scrambling to find ways to replicate the success. In the case of the Warriors, teams were left looking for a response to the onslaught of 3-point shots that they took while for The Avengers, rival filmmakers were left with the task of creating their own cinematic universes to respond to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

To be clear, the most obvious rival to Marvel for the master of the cinematic universe is DC, Marvel’s antagonist since what feels like the dawn of time. Other, more surprising contenders, include the MonsterVerse, which will focus on the Godzilla and King Kong movies, and the Dark Universe film series (The Mummy was its first installment). The film industry isn’t the only one testing the expanded universe waters, though. Toyota has recently begun an ad campaign for their C-HR which features snippets of modernized fairytales such as Cinderella and Rapunzel that all take place in the same universe and seem to be building toward some kind of crescendo.

The concept is simple–filmmakers witnessed what they perceived to be a turning point in the industry and responded by making their own universes and cashing in. The issue, however, is that the majority of these universes have not been properly planned out–or at least not to the degree the MCU was before it was released. Playing catch-up, as these studios are doing, leads to rushed films and often thoughtless scripts, as the writers and directors are often forced to put an unfinished product out to the public. One of the most disastrous examples of this is Suicide Squad. The studio seemed more concerned with its marketing blitz than the film itself, as evidenced by the film’s 25% rating on rottentomatoes.com.

Despite a star-studded cast that featured Margot Robbie and Will Smith, Suicide Squad underwhelmed both critics and audiences. (Image: businessinsider.com)

Speaking of rottentomatoes.com, one easy way to determine the difference between the movies produced for the MCU versus their competitors is to look at their review scores on the site. Five of Marvel’s fifteen movies scored 90% or higher and their average score was 81.6%. By contrast, the DC Extended Universe films have averaged 49.75% with Wonder Woman being their saving grace, sitting at a 92%. Perhaps this is a hopeful beginning to an upward trend for DC films or perhaps it is merely an outlier–only time will tell. As for films from the MonsterVerse, they sit at a respectable 75%, Marvel’s most formidable opponent in terms of critical success. The Mummy, currently the only film in the Dark Universe, scored 16% on the website, not inspiring much hope for a successful film franchise to rise from its ashes.

A common theme in the basketball world is that the superteam that is the Golden State Warriors is bad for basketball due to their dominance on the court. Maybe the same can be said about the MCU–studios are struggling to keep up and in their struggle they are producing films more to fit a profile than to be a creative, successful, stand-alone film. There is, however, a popular counter-argument for those who say the Warriors are bad for basketball: Their success will lead rival teams to step up their game and become better versions of themselves in order to take down the Goliath. For now, we can only hope that the MCU has this kind of affect on the industry rather than one that justifies studios to make a thinly veiled cash grab The ripple formed by The Avengers is being felt by the entertainment world now more than ever but there’s no reason to think it will end at these ripples. Maybe in response, rival studios will begin to make waves.

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