ali abaday
Jan 07 2018

Marvel secure in its cinematic reign

Although many think that comic books are for kids, for a certain group of adults these magazines are a lifelong passion. Following each issue, keeping up with the story and sometimes coming across the valuable original of an old comic are a thrill for these fans.

With the changes to cinema, especially in the visual effects department, superheroes have gained universal recognition. The release of X-Men in 2000 and Spider Man in 2002 brought us the first of many comic book movies with high production values. Over the years, Marvel and DC Comics, the two best-known comic brands, have sold the rights to their characters to very different companies.

This created a problem: characters that worked together in some comic book issues could not appear together on the silver screen. But with bankruptcy on the horizon for Marvel, the company took the decision to start making films of the characters whose rights they had retained. The man behind this project was Kevin Fiege, and he called it the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Putting the previously filmed Hulk films aside, Fiege envisaged a new film series based on the Iron Man character. Robert Downey Jr, a star who other film studios had frozen out, was given the opportunity to play the role of Iron Man on the condition that he would not disrupt the set. The resulting film ushered in today’s era of blockbuster superhero movies.

At the end of the film there was good news for fans of the Avengers who wished to see these heroes fighting side by side, as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury mentioned the group of heroes, heralding their appearance on film.

The Marvel Comics character "Iron Man" is shown in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters April 23, 2008 in a scene from Paramount Pictures upcoming film of the same name. REUTERS/Industrial Light and Magic/Handout
The Marvel Comics character "Iron Man" is shown in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters April 23, 2008 in a scene from Paramount Pictures upcoming film of the same name. REUTERS/Industrial Light and Magic/Handout

Ten years have passed since Iron Man’s release in 2008, and Marvel has played its hand expertly throughout the period. The company’s planned film projects have only grown in scale since the comic book giant was acquired by Disney in 2009. At the moment, the company has no rivals, and even the efforts of its closest competitors, DC and Warner Brothers, have not yielded much success.

After the release of Black Panther this year, Marvel will introduce the most evil character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos. Avengers: Infinity War is expected to bring the year’s highest box office receipts, on a similar level to Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017. The filmmakers also hope that the sequel will top the box office in 2019. Exciting news for fans came during the Disney D23 expo in Los Angeles this year: Thanos’s children will take part in the “Infinity War”.

While Marvel brings its heroes together for the Avengers series, the company does not hold back from releasing films of its characters’ solo adventures. Moreover, since the company holds tightly to its schedule, any new characters added to the universe are weaved nicely into the storyline. Most importantly, even if the fans have to wait three years between instalments of a character’s films, Marvel’s advertisements and films keep ensure they do not forget the plotlines, and keep their anticipation high.

Cast member Hugh Jackman poses at an industry screening of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California in this April 28, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Cast member Hugh Jackman poses at an industry screening of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California in this April 28, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

This success has also brought some criticism. Yet almost every film company is now attempting to create a cinematic universe to populate with the characters whose rights they own. Warner Brothers and Legendary Entertainment have teamed up to work on the MonsterVerse; Universal is gathering its old horror movie characters in the Dark Universe; and Paramount and MGM are primed to create a crossover universe with the Transformers and GI Joe franchises. It is unclear which of these projects will have success, and none are expected to match the MCU.

One might ask why DC, for years the greatest rival to Marvel, has failed to live up to the cinematic success of its competitor. In the end, the Superman and Batman characters are better known than any of the heroes in the Avengers. There are many possible reasons for this, but the one that seems most logical is that DC’s project was brought together hastily with a view to turning a guaranteed profit rather than innovation. Eventually, box office receipts and audience reactions reflect this lack.

In fact, the success of DC’s best work to date, Wonder Woman, was more in the style of Marvel than their usual films. Firstly, it was left to Patty Jenkins, a relatively unknown director who had not shot a film for 13 years. The essence of the title character was related well in the film, but also tied in well with later films in the series. As a result, Wonder Woman achieved a box office success that was close to that of Dawn of Justice, the first time Batman and Superman had faced off on screen.

Actor Gal Gadot attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Wonder Woman" at the Pantages Theatre on May 25, 2017 in Hollywood, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP
Actor Gal Gadot attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Wonder Woman" at the Pantages Theatre on May 25, 2017 in Hollywood, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP

This year, DC is set to release the animated film Teen Titans Go, as well as an Aquaman solo film. After that, they have an ever-changing list of releases. Yet, no matter how much that list changes, and no matter the company’s future plans, there does not seem to be much chance of success for DC: even when the company tries to capture the parts of the comics that readers love best, they do not account for the effect these parts will have on later releases. It is best to leave this explanation at this; any more detail would require a new article.

There is more in store for fans of comic book and video game adaptations in 2018. Among the most highly anticipated of these are Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander; and New Mutants, a spin-off of the X-Men series with horror elements. Fans will also look forward to the sequel to Deadpool, a film that drew huge audiences, as well as the sequel to Ant Man, the most comedic hero in the MCU. Finally, there is the eagerly awaited Venom, Sony’s first attempt at a film in the Spiderman Universe that does not feature the web-slinging hero.