Don’t get out your Human Torches and pitchforks yet, folks. Hear me out.
I love what Marvel has done in the past few years with their connected cinematic universe. Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark/Iron Man. Chris Evans IS Captain America. Chris Pratt is Star-Lord. These characters have truly been brought to life in ways that even I, as young as I am at 23 years old, could never have foreseen when I was younger. Around the time when I was in elementary school, the most recent superhero releases were the Punisher with Dolph Lundgren, the 1994 release of the Fantastic Four, and the Captain America release where Cap had wing-ears (?) attached to the sides of his head.
Of course then came the X-Men movies from Fox, The Dark Knight series from Warner Brothers, and the Spider-Man movies from Sony and those took the superhero movie to another level of quality but nowhere near the stratospheric heights of the movies of the now Disney-connected giant we know of as Marvel Studios.
But is it about time to move on from comic-book, specifically comic book/superhero, movies? Could we see a widespread audience rejection of this trend that has been dominating the box office for over a decade now?
Well…yes and no. What do I mean? Let me explain.
Just take a look at Tony St...Robert Downey, Jr.
Unlike the super-heroes in comic books, actors have to age. Robert Downey Jr., arguably the biggest fan favorite of all of the current Marvel line-up, is 51 years old. Now, don’t get me wrong. He still looks a lot younger than that and could totally rock an older Tony Stark for another decade if he really wanted to…but odds are he isn’t going to. Other actors like Hugh Jackman, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellan face this same problem. They are all aging past the ages that their characters are in their most recognizable interpretations.
Yes. I do know about Old Man Logan. I know that it is possible to age these characters and in other cases, just recast them. But my point is that unlike with hardcore or even casual comic book fans, most audience members in a movie theater fall in love with these actors’ portrayals of these characters instead of the characters themselves.
“But…but…but what about Batman?”
Yeah, Batman has been re-casted a bunch of times. However…every time the series has been rebooted, the style of the film has changed. 1989’s Batman and its sequel, Batman Returns, were stylistically different from Batman Forever and VERY different from Batman & Robin. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy changed that tone again and now, Batfleck is going for another stylistic interpretation.
The problem with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also its most impressive accomplishment—its connected world and characters. Without the ability to reboot and overhaul everything, it will be extremely hard to separate the actors and actresses that everyday audiences love from the characters they’re supposed to be portraying.
"Why don't they just call the Avengers?"
If you've watched any post-Avengers Marvel movies, you've undoubtedly had this same thought. The guys over at the studio obviously know about this. In last year's Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is completely floored that he, a cat-burglar with no superpowers, is being called on by Hank Pym instead of the superhero team.
As the movies get closer and closer to The Avengers: Infinity War, this question is going to asked more and more by general audiences.
Now as a practical matter, it makes total sense as to why all our favorite heroes can't be in every movie. Besides the fact that doing so would send each movie's budget sky-rocketing, the people portraying the Avengers are still actors who work on other projects besides the ones they're contractually obligated to Marvel for.
What's the good news?
Well, the good news is that even after thousands of years of entertainment, we still like to be told stories about love, war, and friendship. We still like to be made to laugh and to cry. There is something in us that likes these archetypal stories, even if we often know how they'll end and how they'll make us feel. They haven't gotten old yet, why would superhero movies?
You could argue that tales of super-humans have been around since the dawn of time. Whether it be the ancient myth of Gilgamesh, the tale of Beowulf, or the Incredible Hulk, these tropes have remained popular for most, if not all, of human history.
As far as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is concerned, I do believe that something will eventually have to be done in order to either reboot or drastically upheave the current order. Audiences are fickle and a revolt against these movies could take place pretty quickly.
But if I'm being fair, the folks over at Marvel keep making quality movies and reaping in billions of dollars for doing so while I'm sitting on my couch eating a grilled cheese. Who am I, a lowly fanboy, to give them any kind of advice?
P.S. Marvel, please hire me.