Marvel has made comic books and superheroes cool. Some characters, the ones that made it to film and television, were previously fairly well known. Others remained lesser known to all but those who actually read the comics. Now, through a merge with Disney, Marvel Studios is bringing its universe to the forefront of the entertainment world, introducing heroes and villains to a whole new, and much broader, audience. After the massive global success of all three “Iron Man” films, “The Avengers,” ” Captain America : The First Avenger” and both Thor movies, is there any way that the Marvel Universe can fail?
1. Perfect Casting
One place where the Marvel Universe definitely cannot fail is with its star-studded cast of heroes and villains. The casting for roles in Marvel films is inspired, starting with Robert Downey, Jr. in the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man. Though Downey might not have been the most obvious choice to play Stark, he has certainly pulled off the role well. Now audiences can’t imagine anyone else playing Stark. Other actors in the Marvel film universe include Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson. Clark Gregg’s portrayal of Agent Phil Coulson made the character so popular that he got his own television show after dying in “The Avengers.” Every Marvel hero was meticulously cast to physically embody what audiences imagine each character to look like and to bring a third dimension to each character. The actors add personality and humanity to their roles, making each actor irreplaceable as the Marvel film universe expands and their portrayals of the characters become cemented in audiences’ minds.
2. Super-Cool Villains
Is there any other universe where the audience cheers as much for the bad guy as they do for the hero? Not only do the villains in Marvel films look awesome and have some really cool toys (Tesseract, anyone?), they also possess a charisma that charms audiences and occasionally the heroes trying to defeat them. When people talk about Marvel villains, the one who usually comes to mind is the man who made thousands of Comic-Con attendees drop to their knees to kneel before him: Loki. Though Tom Hiddleston originally auditioned for the role of Thor, Kenneth Branagh’s choice of casting him as trickster Loki was brilliant. Hiddleston steals every scene he appears in with wit, charm and just enough menace so that audiences don’t forget that he is the villain. From Loki’s first scene in 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World” the movie becomes less about Thor and more about Loki. It’s not surprising that rumors have abounded about a potential stand-alone Loki film.
3. Awesome Action
Every Marvel Universe film features action scenes awesome enough to do justice to their comic-book roots. Though a lot of each film’s substantial budget goes toward CGI effects, the money is definitely well spent. Each film features unforgettable action sequences that are more than just cheap thrills. Every scene is a plot point that helps to move the story arc forward. The explosion and ensuing gun battle in a Middle Eastern desert in “Iron Man” is the moment that completely defines Tony Stark’s future. The many action sequences in “Captain America: The First Avenger” help define the characteristics of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and set up future story arcs for “The Avengers” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
4. Connections Within the Universe
One thing that audiences quickly learn about the Marvel Universe is that everything is connected. Even if a character doesn’t appear in a film, that film has some reference to what audiences can expect next. Each storyline ties into every other one, even though Marvel is very good at giving each character independent story arcs and lives of their own. “Iron Man 2” hints at “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Avengers.” “The Hulk” had an after-credits scene featuring Stark. Rather than having a bunch of stand-alone films featuring characters who randomly assemble in an ensemble film, the Marvel films make sure audiences realize that all of these characters exist in one world, even if some of them don’t call Earth home.
5. A Story Arc That Keeps Building
Rather than being action films in which a storyline is secondary, the Marvel Universe offers fans character-driven storylines that just happen to have a lot of action. Before Marvel started creating the seventeen films that will have been released by 2017, the powers that be at the studio developed a massive plan of attack. The Marvel characters that are being introduced, the order in which they’re appearing, is not accidental or a result of audience feedback. Marvel painstakingly laid out a huge story arc plan before filming started on even one movie. This plan includes Phase 1, which ended with “The Avengers”; Phase 2, which introduces new characters, continues the stories of other characters, and integrates television shows beginning with “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D”; and continues into Phase 3. Even when one character’s individual movies leave off, that character still exists in the universe in other characters’ films and in ensemble movies. Fans can’t skip one piece of the Marvel puzzle, because each story builds on to the greater story arc of the entire Universe.
The Marvel Universe has expanded from comic books to blockbuster films, merchandising and theme parks. The characters are so well known, so recognizable, that the company would have to have more than one film tank at the box office for the entire universe to fall apart. Marvel’s success has caused other comic-book heavyweights, like DC Comics, to attempt to develop their own connecting franchises. What sets the Marvel Universe apart is that its characters have their own personalities and humanity, and they exist in a world that audiences can imagine existing within their own. As long as Marvel continues to evolve by creating and building characters that endear themselves to audiences while also being hugely entertaining, there’s no stopping the success of the Marvel universe.