Unless you live alone in an ice cave, you have seen these things we call “movies” along with shorter, lower budget shebangs we call “shows.”
And doesn’t it feel like half of all movies and shows are about superheroes? The other half are Disney+ series about random Star Wars characters, like the new show THAT STORMTROOPER WHO HIT HIS HEAD ON THE DOORWAY OF THE DEATH STAR.
Yet I remember a day, not long ago, when an actor holding a hammer and saying two words absolutely blew us away.
So let’s talk about the rise and fall of Marvel movies, and why DC is like bread dough without yeast: never rose, so it never had the chance to fall.
Here’s how Marvel climbed Mount Mojo and ruled all that it surveyed
1) The climbing crew absolutely rocked
Part of the story is who they picked to climb this mountain: a great crew of actors and directors. Sure, there are some big names like Robert Downey, Jr., and these days every bigshot actor is getting recruited to join the MCU.
But back when they started this climb, their core group was unknowns, who all happened to be named Chris, maybe because the Marvel casting people had a thing for somebody named Chris, maybe the One Who Got Away–who knows. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pratt were all risky choices that paid off. Even Robert Downey, Jr. was a risk, a big name with a history of addiction and rehab.
Whatever criticism you might level against Marvel movies of the past or today, they pick good actors.
I mean, everybody says Sebastian Stan is a nice guy, but after watching this, I thought he was the baddest man on the planet.
2) The writers and studio built up suspense, movie by movie
From the first time we saw an Infinity stone (and they kept popping up in every movie) to that last scene of INFINITY WARS: ENDGAME, WE REALLY MEAN IT, THANOS GONNA DIE FOR REAL THIS TIME, you knew that these movies were building up to a climax. There was a peak to Mount Mojo, and a ginormous purple villain sat on a throne on top of that peak, and shit was gonna happen when the heroes and audience finally clawed their way all the way up there.
You wanted to see what happened.
3) Each new movie added real pieces to the puzzle
You can fire up IRON MAN and microwave a vat of popcorn to binge the first round of movies, and every movie brings you new clues and characters. Even if you knew basically what was going to eventually happen–THANOS GONE WILD–all the little things mattered.
Why DC never got its mojo at all
DC came to this bazillion-dollar poker game with the far-stronger hand: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Joker, and Aquaman.
Before these movies, the Marvel characters (except for Spiderman) were pretty obscure. Thor, Ant-Man, a talking tree and his pet raccoon? Come on. DC should have eaten Marvel’s lunch.
And they mangled it.
Instead of introducing each superhero with their own movie, they did it backwards, and gave us a movie with Batman and Wonder Woman before sending us back in time for a solo Wonder Woman movie and Aquaman flick, and never giving us a solo Batman with Batfleck at all.
You can’t build up to something big when you go back in time with prequels like that.
Instead of having one big bad guy, we got Villains of the Week who were vanquished, buh-bye, we will not see you around.
Marvel keeps stopping and starting with new actors, new directors, and new tactics to rival what Marvel did, and it’s like they don’t know what direction they’re driving.
THE BATMAN was a good movie, and a nice start to a new trilogy. If they’re smart, they’ll use that as a starting point to build fresh. That’s just incredibly hard to do when you have an established Wonder Woman and Aquaman who do a great job and don’t need to be recast.
This opening scene is golden.
Don’t get me started with Flash and that actor.
So it’s a hot mess, which is really too bad.
How Marvel lost its way
I’m not a comics nerd, and neither am I a snob who only watched black-and-white French existentialist films. I’m probably a lot like your average movie fan who sees all the big movies, and the Daredevil/Punisher/Jessica Jones stuff. But now I’m starting to skip a lot of these shows, along with some of the movies.
Because you need to clone yourself to have time to watch it all. There is too much content.
They started out strong. WANDAVISION was amazing, and LOKI rocked. Started watching MOON KNIGHT, love Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke–did not finish.
Haven’t watched any of MS. MARVEL or SHE HULK, and all the other movies and shows in the works just don’t excite me.
THOR: RAGNORAK is one of my fav movies of the whole bunch, yet I have zero desire to watch THOR 4: THOR AND LADY THOR VS PALE BATMAN. I’ll probably check it out on the televisions later. No guarantee.
There’s so much content coming out so fast. Instead of a couple of giant blockbusters every year that you definitely circled on the calendar, it’s a flood that you can’t track.
We’re basically to the point where this SNL skit has become our reality.
2) The multiverse means no character is ever dead, so the stakes don’t mean anything
Yes, the multiverse is a cool concept, and introducing it with Miles Morales was brilliant. A great movie.
After INFINITY WARS and LOKI, though, we know that no character is really dead. I mean, we watched Loki die, and here he is. And yeah, Iron Man died, though if he gets bored in a few years, I bet you every quarter in my swear jar that Marvel could wave $50 million under his nose to show up on set for three days.
Now when a character dies, we don’t really feel it. Because they can just pop into the multiverse and get another version of Thor or Iron Man or anybody else.
3) There is no clear mountain we’re climbing where the One True Bad Guy is waiting
Yes, the writers at Marvel may have a secret plan involving secret wars with the green shapeshifting aliens or Kang the Conquerer or whatever, and all of this will make sense seven movies and thirty shows from now.
Whatever phase they say we are on, and I will not keep track, it is too confusing,
HOWEVER: it’s not clear to us, as an audience, why we need to watch everything to see what happens. These movies and shows used to be all part of one body, with all the parts working together. Now they are loosely connected, and you have to contort your brain to see why it matters, and why you should care.
If your audience has to wonder why it should care, they won’t.