Editorial / Film Review

Franchising Film Debate: Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and How It Changes Cinema

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After leaving the cinema at the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), I was left with a really big question. Well, to tell you the truth, I was left with many questions about the plot and conclusion of the film (don’t worry. No spoilers here), but this one really stayed with me: Does the future of film lie in franchising their products?

Avengers: Infinity War saw the conclusion of Phase Three in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What are phases? Well, I’m glad you asked. Marvel, now the proud adopted child of Disney, has created such a diverse and sprawling cinematic world that they have had to separate their films into phases like so:

Phase One:

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Phase Two:

  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)

Phase Three:

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Avengers Film (2019)

 

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Christian Tate’s map of the MCU – accessible here: http://www.christiantate.co.uk/?p=990

 

Speaking as a hardcore fan, I obviously love this universe and have seen every single one of those films on that list. However, we have seen the same concept go terribly wrong before in the DC Universe and The Dark Universe franchise after the failed attempt at The Mummy reboot in 2017.

So what does it take to make a successful franchise, and has Marvel shot themselves in the foot with this latest instalment? When some of my friends were asking me if they should see the film without seeing all the others, for the first time ever I actually said “No”. Normally the Marvel Universe has always been a great one you can casually watch at your leisure and just go along for the ride. I have always walked into these films privy to information from the comics to help/annoy my friends and family if there was ever any confusion about the plot. So never before had I suggested that someone not see a Marvel film, purely because at this point there were far too many interconnecting storylines that literally nothing would make sense to a new viewer.

When a film references another character, as they do in this film too, they are normally subtle enough that even someone who hasn’t seen Captain America (for example) can still get the gist and enjoy the film. While this film does contain those same elements, the primary storyline would require far too much explanation for the casual viewer that they would be left confused and frustrated.

Th DC Universe has always struggled with this as they try desperately to catch up with Marvel after years of successful universe building. The creation of Justice League was going to be the test to see if they could pull off the same concept as Marvel and, sadly, they fell short of the mark.

But are fans sick and tired of having to piece bits and pieces of information together to get a plot? The biggest criticism I have received from Infinity War is that there are no strong connections to the characters. This shocked me as I love the characters but I realised it could be because these people haven’t seen every film and there was not enough time to re-establish every connection to each character. Is this okay or is this going to drive fans crazy? Does it matter if you don’t understand a post-credit scene when you can just look it up later or will this alienate a large sum of cinema-goers out of persevering when they feel too lost?

Now that Phase Three has concluded, what can we expect from Marvel and can they keep this popularity up as the Universe expands beyond something you can quickly binge watch in a couple of hours before the next movie is released? By creating this billion dollar empire, have they also backed themselves into a corner where they can’t come back from?

While I obviously loved the film, this question really stayed with me: does the future of film lie in franchising products? Personally, I hope not. While I love being rewarded as a die-hard fan with subtle references, it doesn’t feel right if a film can completely ostracise its audience members and that to enjoy the film to the fullest it requires homework. I look forward to seeing the continuation of this franchise and to see how they handle this problem in the future.

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