Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Bottle-Neck

As I had mentioned in a previous post, there's a good chance that Fox doesn't have enough time to make their "Daredevil" reboot before the rights revert back to Marvel Studios/Disney.

However, yesterday there was a moment where it appeared that Marvel had done something unexpected and rather brilliant. They supposedly offered Fox an extension on "Daredevil" in exchange for some of the cosmic characters from "Fantastic Four". Unfortunately, it appears that Fox isn't biting, but in this moment, something that had been nagging at me for quite a while regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to the forefront.

After the massive success of "The Avengers", a lot of people expressed concern regarding whether or not Marvel Studios had anywhere to go but down. I'm not in that camp. I thought "The Avengers" was a great movie that provided everything we were expecting, but it certainly wasn't an insurmountable success. I loved it, but it was by no means a perfect movie. Much like "The Dark Knight Rises", nothing really reached me deep down on a visceral level and kept me thinking after I left the theater. Unlike TDKR, however, it didn't need to. "The Avengers" did something unprecedented and it did it very competently and with its own unique style. It succeeded because it is greater than the sum of its parts and it exists as a proof of concept for a new age of superhero movies. As much as I enjoy it, I won't be surprised if the next Avengers film surpasses it. Perhaps not in a financial sense, but definitely in terms of quality. Now that we've established that this sort of film is possible, they can start raising the bar in terms of plot and character.

That being said, there was one major concern I had regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe and with this recent "Daredevil" debacle, I think it's actually a pretty serious problem.

Marvel Studios is only going to be putting out one or two movies a year, but they have more characters than they know what to do with.

I mean, let's look at what we've got down the pipeline. We've got "Iron Man 3", "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", "Thor: The Dark World", "Ant-Man", "Guardians of the Galaxy", and "Avengers 2". This would presumably carry us through 2016. That's four years from now. Unless they start dabbling in other forms of media as well, this is all we're getting for the next half-decade.

Meanwhile fans are clamoring for movies about Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Punisher, Iron Fist, etc. as well as asking for solo films for Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, and Ruffalo's Hulk.

The hard truth of the matter is that Marvel Studios can only make so many movies, they definitely don't want to saturate the market by releasing too many movies in any given year, and they also want to focus on their established characters (Iron Man, Thor, Cap) so the majority of these characters will probably only show up as supporting characters if at all.

This is not really a BAD problem to have. It's good that Marvel Studios has so many options in terms of which characters to explore and can take their time to make their choices carefully without flooding the universe much like they do with their comic universe. The problem is just that while it would be great for Marvel to get the rights to Daredevil back, it would likely mean we wouldn't get another Daredevil solo film for a long, long time, if ever. He could theoretically show up in some capacity in other films, but that would be about it.

So frankly, Marvel made the smartest possible move when they tried to trade Daredevil in for Galactus and Silver Surfer. Those characters are really handy to have around, especially now that they're getting into the cosmic stuff. And now that Fox has apparently turned down the offer, even though I know that Daredevil is 90% sure to be returning to Marvel now, I can't help but feel a little disappointed.

Maybe things will change after "Avengers 2". Maybe Marvel Studios will have started making enough money that they can afford to produce three movies each year and the bottle-neck will be less inconvenient. Maybe they'll start licensing their properties out again but with stipulations that the characters have to remain in-continuity (though I'm not sure how many studios would agree to that). Maybe they will start making television shows that tie into the universe and give us a chance to explore more of the lesser-known characters and act as a sort of spring-board for the feature films. They are still looking to make a Hulk TV show with Guillermo Del Toro, but it sounds like it probably wouldn't be in-continuity. They looked at maybe doing a show about Jessica Jones which would have been in-continuity, but it didn't get picked up.

Right now, I think the biggest problem the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to face is the fact that they can only expand the universe at a rate of about 4-5 hours per year, and I think that will get pretty frustrating. Maybe not right now, but if SDCC 2016 rolls around and Marvel doesn't announce a solo film for Doctor Strange in Phase 3, I'm going to be pissed.