Right now, Marvel Studios is sitting pretty, with the biggest movie of the year (“Iron Man 3“), the biggest movie of the weekend (“Thor: The Dark World“), and a five-series Netflix deal. But, like in any great comic, danger lurks in the next panel. Here are five dangers ripped straight from its own comics that Marvel will have to overcome to succeed in Phase Two and beyond:
Dead Is (Not) Dead
Death is a big part of comics, but is also infamous for its impermanence. Character deaths work in comic books much like they do in soap operas; they are memorable and dramatic, and then get reversed to fit tight deadlines or counter unpopular storylines. Marvel has already resurrected two characters, Agent Coulson and Loki, which calls into question any subsequent deaths. If death loses its dramatic impact, audiences might feel cheated by the cinematic storylines.
Avoid By Seed Planting: To its credit, Marvel doesn’t pull the rug out with these resurrections. It set up Coulson’s return with a few lines of dialogue in “Avengers” (the cards were in his locker!), and Loki is the universe’s greatest trickster (he even got them to make a sequel to The Mask). As long as Marvel plants the seeds for resurrections before they happen, they might feel less like bad writing and fit more in line with a planned universe.
The comics have hundreds of characters, and it seems as though Marvel wants to bring a good portion of them to life on screen. The problem is the “more-is-more” mentality that has served superhero comics so well has never been good to superhero films (*cough* “Batman and Robin”). With so many characters, many are bound to not click with audiences.
Avoid Through Quality: The hiring of James Gunn for
“Guardians of the Galaxy” and Edgar Wright for “Ant-Man” suggests that Marvel just might be able to walk the tight rope between quality and quantity.
Too Many Universes
In the comics, it’s pretty easily accepted that these superheroes exists in the same universe, but that they’re not all going to show up in each other’s storylines. This works for the serialized and fantastical nature of comics, but might prove confusing for general audiences. Can Netflix’s “Daredevil” show up in ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” on the big screen?
Avoid Through Meticulous Planning: Marvel needs to set hard-and-fast rules for its characters and the worlds they occupy, and needs to make those clear to fans of comics and movies alike. It’s been able to do this so far, and the meticulous planning has paid off in billion$ of ways.
Too Many Powers
While watching “Thor: The Dark World,” it’s hard to imagine Loki ever being defeated. After all, he can create holograms at will, which (SPOILER) allows him to fake his own death, presumably kill Odin, and impersonate his dad on the throne. How can you beat that? As the Marvel movies get more out there, they will introduce more and more incredible powers. In fact (SPOILER), it’s highly suggested Avengers 2 will follow the comics’ “Infinity Gauntlet” storyline, where villain Thanos literally becomes omnipotent. That might play well in comics, but on screen is a whole other matter.
Avoid Through Limits: Superman is rarely all-powerful outside of the comics, and even the comics themselves realized they had to rein in his abilities somewhat to make him interesting. Marvel Studios, similarly did a great job explaining relative powers in “The Avengers” (Hulk>Cap’s shield>Thor’s hammer), so hopefully they can make Thanos’ eventual rise to power a little more palatable. Though they might have their work cut out for them explaining the talking raccoon.
Marvel is ambitiously trying to turn quirky comics like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man into tentpole films, hiring masters of idiosyncrasy James Gunn and Edgar Wright respectively. Problem is, though both are very talented, Gunn’s never had a mainstream hit, and Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” didn’t burn up the box office. Marvel is counting on niche directors to make niche characters mainstream hits; something that doesn’t sound so great on paper.
Avoid Through Keeping On Doing What They’re Doing: Then again, this is the company that hired Joss Whedon, the king of geeks, to write and direct an “Avengers” film that grossed more than some countries’ GDPs. Even the first Iron Man was a risk: RDJ wasn’t that big a star, and Jon Favreau’s biggest film to date was Elf. If anyone can continue to make geek chic, it’s Marvel.