May 2, 2008 “Iron Man” is released. Almost ten years later to the day, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the highest grossing movie franchise ever, making almost 15 billion dollars, with five of its installments clearing $1 billion individually.
Since the beginning of the MCU, the marketplace of Hollywood movies has changed drastically. After the huge success of the “The Avengers” in 2012, other studios sought to create their own connected universes. The DC world owned by Warner Brothers just attempted its version of “The Avengers” this past November with “Justice League,” which received a disappointing turnout. “Godzilla” (2014) and “Kong: Skull Island” mark the beginnings of the “MonsterVerse.”
However, Marvel’s success has had impacts on the success of other movies beyond just the creation of other connected universes. This past year, the highest grossing movie that was not a sequel or remake of any kind was Pixar’s “Coco,” immediately followed by “Dunkirk,” and “Get Out,” both of which are also original movies, and rank 13 and 15 respectively on the box office list.
While it is not impossible to make an original and financially successful movie in today’s climate, it is becoming increasingly more difficult. Studios seem to be strongly favoring movies that have a substantial fanbase already attached.
The only original non-animated franchises that have begun since 2012 are “Pitch Perfect,” “John Wick,” “Neighbors,” “Ted,” “Magic Mike,” “Ride Along,” “Pacific Rim,” “The Equalizer,” “Daddy’s Home” and “Bad Moms.” Most of these are comedies, only “Pitch Perfect” has generated more than one sequel, and the highest grossing of them, “Ted,” ranked ninth in 2012’s box office results. So clearly, it has proven difficult to start up a lasting franchise in recent years.
This is not necessarily a decline from before, but none of the aforementioned pairs seem to have the potential to take off like original series of earlier years that have since become huge, such as “Jurassic Park,” “Fast and Furious,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Star Trek,” “Alien” or “Mad Max.”
I am not trying to downplay what Marvel has done. I am sure it is not their wish to stifle the success of original movies, though that does seem to be one side effect of their success. Credit must be given for how well Kevin Feige has done in creating his connected universe.
First of all, he has ensured that all of the individual movies are pretty good. The lowest IMDb rating for any MCU movie is 6.8, which is a fairly average rating. This is something that cannot be said for the competing DC universe, which has received much lower ratings for some of its movies. The individual films have also combined in satisfying ways, namely with the first “Avengers” movie, but have also given individual attention to many of the main heroes. In the more recent movies, characters have crossed over into movies that aren’t exactly theirs, most notably Iron Man appearing in movies named for Spiderman and Captain America. However, this is sort of an inevitable occurrence in a fictional world that is connected in this way.
The franchise does not take as much advantage as it could in developing its characters given the ample amount of time that each is given. But it cannot be denied that the people behind Marvel’s movies care about the stories that they tell and not just about making money, which is refreshing to see.
“Infinity War” looks set to fully connect almost all 18 preceding movies in a massively satisfying way. Even if it does not, the massive scale of the film will serve as an undeniable testament to how and why the landscape of Hollywood movies has changed.