2014 turned out to be an impressive year for Marvel. First, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” impressed both audiences and critics with its political thriller plot and truly game-changing revelation for the Marvel universe: the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D. Then, despite some initial skepticism about how well it would play to general audiences, “Guardians of the Galaxy” — a quirky sci-f film starring Marvel D-list characters — became the highest-grossing movie of the year, turned Chris Pratt into a buzzed-about movie star, and made us all fall in love with a walking tree and a talking raccoon.
However, the sailing hasn’t been quite as smooth for Marvel this year. Although “Age of Ultron” made plenty of money, most fans seem to agree it didn’t completely live up to its potential. Marvel’s origin film “Ant-Man” turned out to be a very fun — and funny — movie, but it didn’t bring in as many dollars as Marvel’s previous offerings. So, what does this all mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and where is Marvel headed in the future?
First off, I’ve never NOT had fun watching an MCU movie. I love the characters, there’s always some funny lines, and I’ve never walked out of the theater wishing I hadn’t spent money on a ticket. There are always some redeeming factors to take away. Still, “Age of Ultron” left me wanting more. Maybe it was too many characters packed into one film. Maybe this time Marvel tried a bit too hard to create a film that was “darker” yet not give up any of the trademark one-liners. Maybe the film contained too many teasers to future Marvel films, taking up plot time that could have been used to add to the story or flesh out character development.
I hope for future films, Marvel will remember that sometimes, less is more (“Ant-Man” is a good example of this). Don’t try to pack too many heroes or plot points into one movie. Also, you don’t need to try too hard to convince us to see sequels with well-established characters — we already love Marvel and have practically pre-ordered our tickets already. ;) Instead of scenes that were more than likely teasers for Thor 3, I would have liked to see “Age of Ultron” throw out a reference to Ant-Man, a new character that general audiences aren’t as familiar with.
I thought “Ant-Man” was a great deal of fun, and I wish it had earned more money in theaters. I am a little surprised it wasn’t able to ride the Marvel brand to a bigger box office take, and I definitely encourage fans to go see this movie. Maybe advertisements needed to communicate more clearly Ant-Man’s importance to the MCU and the Avengers team. Hopefully Marvel will be able to do this for another upcoming origin film starring another more obscure character, “Doctor Strange.”
Going forward, I’d like to see Marvel continue to expand into new mediums. Not every character needs a movie; for some characters, TV may be a better format to tell their story. Marvel and Netflix’s “Daredevil” is a great example of this. The show has a darker, edgier tone and more episodes to develop the characters. It also has one of the most complex and layered villains I’ve seen in a superhero project.
I’m also really looking forward to “Captain America: Civil War.” While this too carries the risk of trying to include too many characters in one film, I think the movie will actually be closer to what fans were hoping for from “Age of Ultron.” The film ups the MCU stakes by pitting two of the most popular Avengers characters against each other — Captain America and Iron Man — and forcing other superheroes to choose sides. I’m glad to see Paul Rudd show up on the cast list for this one; the movie could help tie the Ant-Man character into the MCU. I’m also glad to see other characters like Black Widow and Falcon.