Debayan Ganguly (Dev Ayan) is an MBA with 2 years of experience in B2B sales. He likes to write and spread his learnings through blogs.
Honestly, I have never read any comics. So my introduction to all of the memorable comic book characters is through the movies, which will be the basis of my article. Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU began in the year 2008 with the release of Iron Man, and since then, there has been no looking back.
According to a report by Statista, the MCU has earned a box office revenue of 22.56 billion USD as of November 2020 with 23 movies with 980.5 million USD average per movie.
Now, what are the things that have added to the franchise’s success? What are the right steps that Marvel had taken that made it such a massive success with a positive brand image?
Marvel has been Continuously Expanding.
MCU didn’t stick to one superhero or one trilogy before going into the next. RIght from Iron Man 2, we knew they are planning an ensemble cast movie with all the Avengers coming together. They simultaneously put their eggs in different baskets, from Thor to Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy etc. These ensured people were aware of the Avengers when it was first introduced.
When they continued with Phase 2 and 3, more superheroes like Spiderman, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, were added and newer superheroes kept coming in subsequent Avengers. The audience of every kind has one or more superheroes to look up to; they had an option before them in terms of choosing their favourite.
Even after releasing their Magnum Opus Avengers Endgame, they continuously expand into other superheroes like the Eternals, Sang Chi, She-Hulk, Fantastic 4 etc.
In terms of storytelling, too, the setting is vast. From a techie billionaire Tony Stark from NY to a God of Thunder Thor to space adventurers Guardians, they have many characters sketches and arcs to choose from. Some movies were action thrillers like Iron Man movies; some were CGI heavy mythical like Thor, some involved Time Travel like Endgame, Doctor Strange, some involved space travel like Guardians. This diversity is one thing that keeps them from getting stagnated into one subgenre.
Stories Answer Everything.
Marvel has a habit of leaving Easter eggs and foreshadowing many future events. Almost everyone can anticipate their next move, which keeps the interest afoot even without a formal announcement or movie trailer. The MCU has glamourized the post-credit scenes in movies and spoilt us wanting more from every movie. Even today, I hope there is something at the end of the end, even in non-MCU movies.
Also, Marvel dares to step beyond the apparent Good vs Evil trope. They question the rationale behind the necessity of Superheroes in the Civil War. They showed how two different ideologues could exist within the same team. The characters ask who is responsible for the destruction their actions cause and whether they should even exist.
Also, when they ‘blipped’ half the universe, they answered all the queries that may arise due to the blip in the subsequent movies and series. Spiderman homecoming talks about how an elder brother was admitted to a lower grade upon returning after the blip. There have to be some economic repercussions when half the population is removed from the earth and reappears again. These after-effects are shown in the series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, where the blip immigrants, when asked to vacate the lands when their previous owners returned and leave for their home nations, caused a stir of revolution and gave rise to a militant group.
When Endgame showed Time Travel, the sacred timeline started having branches; we are introduced to another group known as the TVA in the series LOKI.
They Tell Our Stories.
Though they are a superhero franchise, the stories are very much relatable. Money and resources may make you arrogant; Tony Stark proves the fact. But arrogance doesn’t make you a wrong person or a selfish individual. Grief affects our superheroes as much as it affects us. Through WandaVision, MCU talks about grief and loss could have severe ramifications on an individual’s mind. Wanda, an orphan who had lost everyone earlier, couldn’t control her sanity upon losing the love of her life to Thanos. As someone who has been a subject of continuous science experiments and had given up on life after committing serious crimes under the influence of someone, Bucky had gone through a lot. This site is seen in his ultimate sacrifice. When he finds solace in Sam Wilson’s family and smiles of satisfaction, we as the audience couldn’t help feel his emotions too.
Through the TFTWS series, they address the issues of immigration, inequity of resources in the world, and not every branded terrorist group is rooted in evil. They also highlight racism in the organisations and give hope to the racial minorities. Through their representations, they went beyond just portraying diversity for the sake of it. They now have an Asian Superhero and Indian in the Eternals’ team.
All these stories make MCU a fantastic universe to consume because it is a reflection of our own and the society we live in.
Every Character has More to Offer.
People love watching origin stories and spinoffs because they are invested in the stories of the side characters. The side characters like Loki, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Wanda etc., are so well written and developed that the viewers would love to see them have their own story. While their audience loves iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, they also want more other characters.
When they create origin stories or spin-offs, they often give more than just telling a story. They build on the characters. They show a side of the character that was never seen.
Every character in MCU is unique. We may term the Guardians team as a bunch of mad talkative people, but each character has their uniqueness. At the same time, Racoon is a talkative shooter, Gamora is a gymnast, Peter Quil appears to be bland from outside but has deep emotions for Gamora.
The Actors Rarely Leave the Franchise.
Being a movie franchise, it depends on the actors to convey the character to the viewers. We rarely see the actors being replaced by someone else in the series.
Except for James Rhodes’ character being recast to Don Cheadle, there has not been any change in the casting, whether it is a solo movie or an ensemble cast. When we see RDJ, we know he is Iron Man. When Captain America walks in, we know it is Chris Evans. Even Sam Wilson, who is the new Captain America, has been made so by Chris Evans. The actor, in essence, hasn’t changed. This essentially helps build the character with higher recall.
Having the same actor play the same role instead of continuously changing actors based on Box Office collections makes Marvel a step ahead of DC. The actors have proven to be trustworthy and capable of carrying the characters and the audiences' expectations well.
So what do you think makes Marvel interesting even after a decade? What will the subsequent phases hold for us? Whatever it is, MCU is undoubtedly going to be even more enjoyable with each movie.
- • Highest grossing film franchises and series worldwide 2020 | Statista
The Marvel Cinematic Universe series was the highest grossing film franchise in the world as of November 2020, with total worldwide box office revenue of 22.56 billion U.S.
© 2021 Debayan Ganguly