Joshua Guilas | Staff Writer
[This article is part of the series “The Disney Design: How One of the World’s Most Well-Known Industries Reuses and Revamps its Formula.”]
In 2008, the first entry in the Marvel and Disney’s “Marvel Cinematic Universe” hit theaters. That movie was the one and only, “Iron Man.” One can’t deny the fact that it was memorable with its 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and its $585.2 million worldwide profit at the box office.
Fourteen films later, and the Marvel Universe holds the stories of the incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor. But after watching all these films, one can’t help but notice that Marvel’s superhero movies tend to follow a specific formula. Despite the more recent movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe promising a few shake-ups in the franchise, there are some significant new takes on well-established patterns.
Every superhero has an origin story ever since the originals. Batman’s parents died in front of him, Spider-man was bitten by a spider and Superman was sent from a dying planet. The concept of heros with an origin is still found throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr., was pierced by metal and slowly dying until he made a suit to keep the electromagnetic shrapnel stuck in his chest intact. The Hulk was blasted with gamma radiation to become incredibly strong. In nearly every Marvel movie, a pattern seems to have formed. The title hero goes through their everyday lives until they receive some type of “call of adventure.” Once they accept that call, they learn how to harness their abilities to fight against the villain of the movie.
One reoccurring theme throughout Marvel is that its villains seem to lack much character depth. In an interview with CraveOnline, actor Mickey Rourke, the villain in “Iron Man 2,” said his concept for his crooked character was different than Marvel’s idea.
“…I wanted to bring some other layers and colors, not just make this Russian a complete murderous revenging bad guy,” Rourke said. “And they allowed me to do that. Unfortunately, the [people] at Marvel just wanted a one-dimensional bad guy, so most of the performance ended up [on] the floor.”
Most villains in Marvel movies, like Ronan the Accuser from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Kaecilius from “Dr. Strange” or Malekith the Accursed from “Thor: The Dark World,” have this strange tendency to not be as interesting as their opposing heroes or not as likable, especially in the climax of the movie. For example, Ronan wanted to kill a whole planet because he’s evil. Malekith wants to take over the world because he’s evil. Kaelicius wants to bring the world to an evil dimension because he’s evil. There are few villains who reverse the trend of Marvel’s shallow character development quite like Helmut Zemo in “Captain America: Civil War,” who wants to separate the Avengers because his family died. But Zemo is, thus far, the only exception.
Every Marvel movie to date has a short scene at the end of the credits to hint at what’s coming next.
In “Iron Man,” we see Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, propose an “Avengers Initiative” to our main protagonist. In “Iron Man 2,” we learn that a hammer was found in New Mexico, setting up the plot for “Thor.” At the end of “Thor,” we see a strange blue cube, setting up the plot for “Captain America: The First Avenger.” And tagging along after Captain America is a trailer for “The Avengers.” These end-credit scenes are found in the first five Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, from “Iron Man” to “Captain America: First Avenger.” Even in “The Avengers,” we got to see a strange purple alien, later to be revealed as Thanos, the main villain of the entire Marvel universe.
Nearly every Marvel movie seems to be similar to the last. The films follow a cookie-cutter formula with enthusiasm, as they tie together the plots and characters of a constantly developing series. With more new Marvel movies coming this year, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” may hopefully start to shake the formula a bit more. Who knows, they might even rock the universe.