The Marvel cinematic universe currently holds a massive portion of pop-culture, and things don't look likely to change any time soon, with movies planned until 2019 and demand at its highest ever point. Which begs the question, will this franchise ever come to a close?
Well, every franchise experiences fatigue at some point or another, with audiences always getting tired of something that we get too much of. Think of it as eating chocolate. You taste a chocolate bar for the first time and discover that you really like it, so you feast on it non-stop for the rest of the day until you realize that you've eaten about your weight in sugar and your stomach has started feeling weird. You wake up the next morning and realize you just can't stand the sight of the stuff anymore. And the fatigue that the audience experiences is nothing compared to how the actors are going to feel after doing this stuff for over a decade.
However, there are ways around this. For example, I present to you Exhibit A: James Bond. This spy franchise celebrated its 50th anniversary with Skyfall, and yet, despite being the 23rd movie in the series, it was rightly regarded as up there with the best of them. It also holds the answer to the problem of the actors getting getting tired of their role. Before Roger Moore, no-one could even imagine anyone but Sean Connery playing 007, and yet, Roger Moore ended up being deeply loved as he brought something new to the role. Sound familiar? Yeah, while Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect Tony Stark, there are other, younger actors out there who can take the role to different places and give a unique take on the character. The Bond movies have experienced franchise fatigue a lot over the years, but it provides a textbook example of how to combat this. Take what people love about the character, shed the dead weight around that core and insert elements that are more relevant to a modern audience. Casino Royale showcases this method to a tee.
But don't Marvel make way more films?
True, the MCU outputs at least two movies per year compared to Bond's one every two or three years. So it's going to hit problems much, much quicker. And do you know what else was giving a similar output back in the mid 20th century? Westerns. Which were all the range in their day, printing money and entrancing audiences every time John Wayne walked onto screen. But after their big gold rush, they died out in the blink of an eye, with the whole of America staying as far from the genre as they could. So could Marvel films (and just Superhero flicks in general) be going the same way?
Yes, yes they could. But whether or not they will is a different question. See, the Western just kept beating its head against a brick wall, outputting the same film time after time without any thought towards whether or not people would get sick of it. Marvel has the opportunity to learn from that, to keep pushing the boundaries of their genre whenever it starts to get stale. 2014 was a good showcase of their ability to do just that, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy both changing up the generic superhero formula to some degree. The question is whether or not they can continue to innovate 20 or 30 years down the line when all possible new ideas seem to have been used. But Marvel have another advantage, one that no-one else seems to have clocked as their ace in the hole: DC.
Oh yeah, just mull that one over for a second.
Let me explain. DC presents Marvel with healthy competition. When people go see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in March 2016, and if it's great (touch wood) then about 75% of the audience are going to say to themselves: "wow, superheroes are awesome". Meaning that when they see that there's a Captain America film coming out in a couple of months time, they'll get excited about that, because most people don't realize why Spider-Man and Superman aren't in a movie together. The other advantage that DC (and Fox for that matter) represent is that they will constantly push Marvel to innovate. They're both just waiting for Marvel to have a misfire, or start getting stale before they pounce and become the top dog. The three companies force each other to keep trying new things with their characters for fear of the competition becoming the audiences new favorite.
Isn't there only so much they can innovate?
I'm sure that it's occurred to many of you while I'm preaching so much about pushing the boundaries of the genre that you can't innovate forever. Which you would be right about. But that isn't the whole story. Sure, in 2040 Marvel might have done everything we've not seen before and thus have nowhere to go. But if we're at that stage in 2040, there's an equally high chance that we'll no longer be tired of Avengers style action comedies. In fact, by that stage, there will be a whole new generation of youngsters who never experienced franchise fatigue over Marvel in the first place and will thus love watching the kind of films Marvel made in phase one, beginning the cycle again. On top of that, all those children's parents will be people who were avid watchers of the current MCU and may well be yearning for films that appease their nostalgia towards Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy.
So while no, they can't push the boundaries of the superhero film forever, they can establish a cycle where everyone is happy. Or where almost everyone is happy, there will always be people who aren't happy.
But surely it can't go forever?
Absolutely correct. The sun will explode in a few billion years and then Marvel films shall be no more sadly. But in all seriousness, it's a valid point. There are so many obstacles to creating a franchise with such longevity that it almost goes without saying that at some point, this genre has to wear thin, bringing the MCU with it. Maybe you're right in that regard, but to counter that point, look at the comics. Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor and more have been going since 1962, and don't look at all like calling their 53 years of existence enough. In fact, partially thanks to the films, comics are at one of their most popular points in years. Take Superman as well, even though he's a DC character (the same theory applies). Clark Kent is over 75 years old and yet, with Superman Unchained we were shown one of my favorite Superman stories in memory. The Snyder/Capullo duo are still managing to do incredible things with Batman (Court of Owls, Death of the Family).
Though comics do, admittedly, have their constant ups and downs, that's largely attributed to the fact that there needs to be a publication for each series every week. With Marvel's films, the only need to output two stories a year, and the comics canon will fill up much faster than they can hope to adapt it, meaning there will be a constant stream of new material to adapt, some of which is bound to have sufficient quality.
Will this cinematic universe ever come to an end? It all depends really. How do they cope with the obstacles that crop up? However, I firmly believe that this is a franchise which has the potential to live as long as cinema does, and if there's one thing that Kevin Feige has shown us, it's that Marvel knows how to play their cards right. But to be honest, only time will tell. But here's to a lifetime of Marvel films.
But what do you guys think about the MCU? Let us know below, and if you'd like some more geeky goodness, feel free to head over to Eneition at YouTube where we talk about movies, TV and Games. So until next time guys, enjoy your lives.