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Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase Three and BEYOOOOONND


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Well, that model does seem to generate a tidy income, so I imagine that it will continue until it does not.

 

 

Yeah, you're probably right.  I just think stand alone "whee a superhero" movies would do just as well.  Its one thing to have callbacks to previous films (marriage problems) but its another to try to create one huge long story.

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I don't see any of the Marvel films as one long story arc. The Lord of the Rings was one long story arc told in three installments. I have not experienced the MCU in that way. The stories are interrelated, sure, but the events of the first two Avengers movies are not "one big story arc" except to the extent that they share many of the same characters and they fall on a single timeline in a shared cinematic universe. The consequences of one film will inform the events of those that follow, but that isn't a weakness but a strength, as I see it. The same holds true for the latest Bond films, the Fast/Furious franchise, the Bourne franchise, the John Wick films, etc. They all strive, to one extent or another, to create a continuity of character and storytelling that only a successful franchise can achieve.

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I think that what the Marvel films, and others, are doing is really pretty good in terms of developing an ongoing narrative.

 

Each movie manages to be its own thing. You get a complete story in each one. You don't need to watch other movies to get it.

 

BUT watching the other movies in the franchise certainly adds a great deal to the story of any one movie. And any one movie is adding something to the main arc. And the arc is building. In fact, in the next couple of years we should see the culmination of this first big arc as the  Avengers and Guardians go up against Thanos. So there is pay off for this commitment to the franchise. This is important.

 

It's classic dramatic build up. There are mini-arcs within the main arc. But the main arc keeps building. Mini-arcs are good. As my editing tutor liked to say: "It's all about squeeze and release. Squeeze and release." He was talking about dramatic tension. Build it up. Let it go. But don't let it all go. Each cycle should leave the audience a little more breathless.

 

What Marvel is doing that is different to the (old) Bond franchise is building. Building is the main difference between something like Game of Thrones and Gilligan's Island. In Game of Thrones each new episode adds something. Sometimes (about once per season in fact) it throws in a complete game changer. In Gilligan's Island nothing that happens in one episode has any effect on anything that happens in another.

 

Which is more dramatically satisfying? Clearly Game of Thrones. This is because the greater the commitment of the viewer, the greater the cathartic pay-off in the end. Each squeeze and release gets the viewer a little more committed to the narrative.

 

Important note: there needs to be an end. A non-ending arc leads to bored viewers. Look at X-Files. It built. And built. And built. And built. And about the middle of season 4  people switched off in droves. I know I did. Yes, eventually X-files closed its arc. But it was an afterthought. Done in a different medium. I never cared enough to go back and find out what happened.

 

Another great example of what not to do with an arc comes from Battlestar Galactica. I'm sure you can guess where I'm going with this. The arc ended, yes. But the ending itself was a total ass-pull. Any promises from the show runner about "we know how this is going to end" were clearly bullshit. The ending needs to be known, if not from the very start (clearly that's the preference) then from pretty early in the piece. It needs to be known early because you need to start setting it up early in the piece. If you don't people will call "ass-pull" even if it's not.

 

The other thing (beside supporting story arcs) the connected narratives of the MCU (and others!) does: it allows for character development. Character development parallels narrative development. Arcs. Squeeze release. Ultimate pay-off. The difference is it's about the personal story of any one character. And it is this potential that allows the writers to give us flawed characters, or just deeper characters.

 

Luke Cage does feel shitty about the whole getting involved thing. That's because when he was involved (as a cop, in his back story) he got burned. Real bad. More involvement will bring notice. Notice will bring jail time. So he is reluctant to get involved again.  But he does. He undergoes a personal journey and comes out better for it. (Also, Bobby Fish has the documents that prove he was framed. He won't be away long.) The hero refusing the call to action is one of the classic building blocks of narrative, by the way.

 

Another example: Captain America gets to question his country. And he finds it lacking. That's why he shuts down SHIELD, thereby making America a better place than he found it. Yes, could have been done in one movie. But multiple movies helped that character arc build. We know the character better, we understand his motives better.

 

Dramatic tension. It's all about dramatic tension. Now I'm not saying you can't build dramatic tension in one movie. Of course you can. Casablanca About 80 minutes long. The "will they/won't they" is palpable throughout the movie. And one of the best endings in cinema history.

 

But if done well a shared narrative universe can add so much. So much richness. Just having deep back stories or in-universe events that can be alluded to gives the audience so much more.

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I think the more long-form storytelling structure that overlays the MCU "phases" is one of the ways in which the movies get to feel a little bit like the comics. Sure, each issue (movie) is a standalone tale that is fun to experience on its own. But if you get onto the ride and stay on, you get further rewarded with a richer experience after seeing multiple threads woven together into a larger tapestry. The mere fact that Marvel has been able to pull that off successfully to the extent that they have is nothing short of astonishing. Nobody outside of Marvel thought it was remotely feasible given the conventional wisdom espoused by the traditional Hollywood braintrust. I see the MCU as a cinematic triumph, warts and all, especially given just how much worse it could have been (*cough* DCEU *cough*). I for one am not tired of any of it (yet). I still want more.

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Marvel wants to make a huge event out of the movies, a massive Summer crossover comic book happening, because that's the only model they know.

In terms of films, it's the model they frickin' invented, which has made them boatloads of cash, and which everyone else is now desperate to emulate. So there's that.

 

Also remember that Bond only puts out one movie every 2-3 years, not every 6 months. And most of them have grossed around $400-$700M (in today's dollars), roughly on par with Ant-Man & Thor Dark World. The studio has openly talked about trying to make Bond more like Bourne - which notably had a meta-story across multiple films.

 

And as much as I loved the first Die Hard, you can't even compare that "franchise" to the MCU: Die Hard has made 5 films over 30 years, which collectively have made $1.4B, about the same as Age of Ultron alone.

 

I'm not unsympathetic to those of you who prefer more episodic storytelling, because that's clearly not the dominant trend now. But as someone who has always preferred more serial, ongoing storytelling and who spent decades stuck in episodic mediocrity* I say Huzzah!

 

* ST-TNG: don't even get me started...

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I'm not unsympathetic to those of you who prefer more episodic storytelling, because that's clearly not the dominant trend now. But as someone who has always preferred more serial, ongoing storytelling and who spent decades stuck in episodic mediocrity* I say Huzzah!

 

 

I like it to a limit, but its overdone now.  You can't even have comedic TV series without it having to be some grand extended story arc.  Longmire was ruined for me by this desperate push for the metanarrative tying it all together into some great bigger story each season and beyond.

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I doubt she'd wait for that. Her Flight is most certainly faster than any air-to-air missile. And her energy blasts can certainly clear whatever path is necessary. I think everyone is forgetting how powerful she is (didn't Feige describe her as the most powerful hero in the MCU?).

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I'm struck by how black "reactors" online are responding to and commenting on this trailer. I get the distinct impression that the Panther getting this movie strikes as deep an emotional cord with them, as the Wonder Woman movie has with women. Which I can appreciate given the context.

 

(BTW I chose the adjective "black" rather than "African-American," because many people outside the United States are just as interested.)

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