For better and worse, the Marvel movie method is here to stay.
I’m referring to Marvel Entertainment’s strategy for creating their films: Different franchises existing within the same world that play off one another and occasionally cross over in major ways.
When they first introduced the idea, most studios in Hollywood doubted the fledgling studio’s ability to deliver on its lofty goals. A series of movies that would act independently while also tying together? It was unprecedented and unsurprising that many studios believed it to be impossible.
And yet Marvel Entertainment delivered and now rests as one of the more successful movie studios in Hollywood. With success comes imitators, and rival studios are now attempting to create their own shared universes in the hopes of finding similar success.
Warner Bros. has 10 movies planned with its own superhero characters from DC comics. Universal is attempting to unite Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, Frankenstein and other classic monster icons in their own series. Paramount has at least five new Transformers movies on their schedule and has even hired a writers room to map out the numerous sequels.
Marvel Entertainment’s parent company, Disney, has even launched a shared universe model for Star Wars with different anthology films being placed in between the main movies, starting with this December’s Star Wars: Rogue One.
Point is, it’s a lot of movies. This leads to the biggest criticism of shared movie franchises, a very valid one at that: Are they necessary?
It’s a fair question. At what point are all of these movies actually worthwhile on their own, and at what point do they simply exist to expand a brand purely in the name of profit?
The answer is, fittingly enough, that it depends on how good these movies actually are.
The key to the movies’ quality is taking the proper time to establish your universe. Marvel did this far better than its competition, releasing each of its franchise character’s films individually before connecting them all years later. The Iron Man, Thor and Captain America franchises each had their own movies properly introducing and explaining them before they appeared together in the Avengers. Marvel didn’t rush straight to the team-up movie because audiences wouldn’t have a reason to care about it.
Another important part of their strategy was to make sure each movie stood on its own and could be enjoyed as an individual piece of entertainment outside of the larger universe. You don’t need to have seen Iron Man to enjoy watching Thor, or need to see The Avengers to understand Guardians of the Galaxy—they all serve as satisfying movies in their own right.
When one of these movies is simply a preview for the next one, however, is when you run into trouble. Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron are both disappointing installments of their respective franchises because rather than focusing on telling a complete and satisfying story, each is focused on including as many teases and previews of future movies as possible.
There’s nothing wrong with having a large series of connected movies, but the movies can’t rely on that connection. I should be able to walk into Star Wars: Rogue One and enjoy it on its own merits, not as something that only exists to tie into a larger entity.
Make sure the movie’s good, and then worry about where it fits with others.
Harry Sayer is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future.