The first article I ever wrote for The Weather Vane was a movie review about how I thought the then-recent movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” was better than “The Avengers.” Since this is the last movie review I’ll ever write, I wanted to take this chance to talk about where I think the Marvel/ superhero/comic book movie world is now.
Overall, I do not have a great opinion of most new superhero movies, and there are so many reasons why, but the major issues that consistently arise are usually related to creativity. Most modern superhero movies are not made by people who want to tell a story; the big decisions are made by a board of people who are only worried about their bottom dollar, and creativity doesn’t sell as many tickets as formula.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is a great example of an experimental film that Marvel made. It was a fresh one-off movie that James Gunn had a lot of control over because if it was bad, then Disney could just forget about that side of Marvel’s galaxy. “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” on the other hand, looks like it is just going to be a rehash of the first film, but with more predictable jokes and less likeable characters. In these kinds of films, no one is surprised by anything, and backstory is used as a substitute for character development.
“Doctor Strange” had interesting visuals placed above a derivative story and characters. “Captain America: Civil War” tried to be smart, but ended up just being confusing, and even then had major plot holes and character inconsistencies. “Logan” and “Deadpool” are examples of great movies with a lot of new elements; however, they seem to have been anomalies on Fox’s part more than an actual attempt to create good movies, as the next few movies in their lineup are sequels and more blockbuster team movies that are likely to turn out like “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
This trend is not going to change any time soon because it is a great business strategy. Marvel has grossed at least half a billion dollars on every movie they’ve made in the past five years, and other studios have noticed. Besides the Marvel and X-men franchises, there’s the DC universe, Monsters universe, Hasbro universe, Star Wars universe, Kaiju (Godzilla/ King Kong) universe, Lego universe … and that is not even half of them. The franchise strategy forces movies to be entertaining, but not innovative or provocative, so that they can fit together like television episodes more than movies.
While it is easy to make complaints about “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” I see more potential for the DC universe than for most others. Their movies so far have not been good, but DC is giving their directors creative control to tell a story instead of hiring no-name directors who are willing to color inside the lines to become established. There is a reason Suicide Squad deservedly won an Oscar before any Marvel movie was able to. It was not a good film, but the costumes and makeup for that movie were incredible and risky.
I’d like to finish by saying that these movies are not bad; they’re just not very good. I am not trying to force anyone to change what they like, nor am I snootily dangling my “superior taste in movies” over the masses, but I think that higher standards for new and creative content is going to be necessary to stop every studio from making the same movies with a fresh coat of paint, because no one is going to hold them accountable except for viewers.