Marvel Studios had five of the top 10 grossing movies of 2021. In other words, among all of the 403 movies that were released in theaters in the year of 2021, five of the top 10 were created by Marvel Studios.
Good for them, right?
From the standpoint of someone within the studio, sure! This is fantastic news. Out of the nine movies released, five of them hit the top 10 charts for most money made during the year. But how does the average viewer feel about this phenomenon?
After wandering the University of Pittsburgh campus for a few hours, several individuals were kind enough to give their extremely passionate opinions.
Caleb Bender, a 22-year-old dual Film and Media Productions and Mathematics major, feels that “Movies can be anything.”
He paused for about 15 seconds here.
“Yeah, they can be anything, but they’re kind-of forcing other, more unique movies off of these really important platforms.”
And that’s exactly the problem. Marvel has found the money tree and other studios have taken notice. Maybe more than you would think because since 2020, 36 superhero movies have been released outside of Marvel Studios.
However, Bender vociferously added, “I’m not so sure that they force other studios to create superhero movies. There’s always been a huge amount of them, but the big influence is that they dominate the conversation surrounding films.”
They have, however, created a somewhat interesting phenomenon — post-credit scenes. I recently visited the movie theater to watch Uncharted (2022), and I found myself sitting there after the movie had ended, in a still nearly packed theater, waiting for an end-credit scene. Nearly three-quarters of the previously packed theater stayed in their seats waiting to see if there was something, a cherry on top of the film. To exacerbate my surprise, there was one.
It made me think, has Marvel trained movie-goers to expect this previously unheard-of experience? The first movie that most can recall seeing an end credits scene in is the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Who would have thought that in 2021, 49 movies would have them? That’s just under 10% of movies having an end credits scene, up from the seven films, including non-theatrical releases, in 1986 (3.5%). Does that nearly packed Uncharted movie theater mean that people have become more excited about the movies they’re watching, or have they been conditioned to expect more?
Jake Himes, a 25-year-old Pitt graduate who I found outside of the Morbius theater, had a more negative outlook on these films.
“They used to be super fun!” he said. “But now, I can’t just…go see a two-hour film. I have to study 12 hours of films just to understand what’s happening in the newest Spiderman. The scope is absolutely ridiculous.”
Herein lies another of the many issues. These films are not created within a bubble. They are part of an incredibly interwoven universe where you are “recommended” to have seen the previous installments in order to fully understand what’s going on within the movie that you’ve paid to see.
If a casual moviegoer walks into a theater to watch a Marvel film, they will not understand most of what goes on within the movie. This move by the studio encourages watchers to pay extra cash to see other Marvel movies that they might not have normally seen.
Marvel was not always the money-grabbing, cash cow it is today. They began their “Phases” program starting with the release of Iron Man (2008). Each movie is placed within a category according to the overarching story that it accompanies.
Himes made it a point to say he “loved the movies up to Avengers: Endgame.” Endgame was Marvel’s pinnacle, the shining star on top of their empire. It was a culmination of a decade of work and media, a cultural phenomenon, and it is often seen as the end of their third phase.
After Endgame’s release and subsequent move to streaming platforms, Marvel made the dive off the deep end into television shows, the first portion of their “Phase 4.” The inclusion of television series has taken a toll on many moviegoers. They can no longer watch the upcoming Dr. Strange movie without having seen “WandaVision,” the 2021 mystery sitcom. In other words, the average movie-goer will be missing out.
One individual, who wished to not be named, passionately proclaimed that Dr. Strange is “…way too much of a key figure. He’s just too much of a crutch. There are more interesting ways to make films without him being this central figure.”
People can speculate to their heart’s content, but the real reasoning behind the repeated use of Dr. Strange will likely never be uncovered. Actors who sign to Marvel Studios are required to sign an extremely strict NDA contract, one that limits their ability to speak on the movie’s production.
NDA’s aren’t anything new, but the contracts are allegedly, according to the entertainment site Looper, “some of the strictest contracts in Hollywood.” Additionally, any actor that wishes to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe undergoes a rigorous vetting process, where any light mark on one’s career could mean the end of their prospects to joining these “prestigious” ranks.
To Marvel’s credit, they are high-production films. As of 2019, the average film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe cost $190.4 million. The studio boasts an impressive repertoire, with The Incredible Hulk (the one with Lou Ferrigno) being their lowest-grossing movie within their “Phase” plan. Even their lowest-grossing film was able to accumulate $264.8 million, money which was, likely, used to help with the creation of subsequent films. Look at Marvel however you’d like, but their name attracts an enormous audience and has done as such since 2008.
It should be said, there is no wrong way to enjoy a movie. If you like Marvel, then that’s fantastic! Even if you love the movie that was classified as the worst on IMDB, or one that is bad just because it’s supposed to be bad, that’s totally alright. It should be understood, however, that Marvel is seemingly changing the film industry, one way or another.
Various studios are taking notice, and the up-and-coming opinion is that people have to see the newest Marvel flick in order to stay up to date with the story, just in case one comes out that they actually want to see. It’s important to remember that your money is what speaks to these producers.
Bender left off with a surprisingly apt opinion, one which I believe sums up a widely agreed upon opinion quite nicely.
“Marvel movies are like candy,” he said. “They’re great every once in a while, but if you consume them too much something is gonna end up rotten. The next time you find yourself wanting to watch the newest Marvel flick, I encourage you to think about how many movies you would need to watch to fully understand it.”