Over the last decade, Marvel Cinematic Universe films produced by Marvel Studios have dominated the box office and raked in the money unlike any film franchise ever has. Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, the first of the MCU films, the series has become the highest grossing film franchise of all time, grossing more than 22.5 billion worldwide. This includes Avengers Endgame which shattered previous records, becoming the highest grossing film of all time, with a whopping $2.797 billion worldwide and sending Avatar with its tail between its legs into second place.
It goes without saying that audiences have gone bananas for action hero movies, and Marvel has been spearheading and feeding the craze. What Marvel has, whether you like it or not Mr. Scorsese, at its disposal is a huge library of characters/protagonists that audiences love. They love them so much that they’ll head to the theater to see them in droves. It doesn’t really matter if the film is verifiably good. Audiences relate to characters like Chris Hemsworth’s Thor or Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man. They don’t need the plot to be super well developed or the storylines be interesting. In other words, it’s the actor/character they are showing up for, not the actual meat of the film.
It’s not just the character/actor recognition that draws in the crowds. Marvel is using its domination in Hollywood to toss these beloved characters into darn near any genre they choose. It’s no longer pure superhero action. Marvel’s Ant-Man is a heist flick, Captain America: Civil War is a political thriller, and Doctor Strange is a kung-fu melodrama, with the sequel shaping up to be Marvel’s first foray into horror if rumors turn out to be true.
Now audiences can get the best of both worlds wrapped up in a familiar Marvel package, the genre they love masquerading as other genres simultaneously. This doesn’t bode well for other superhero franchises or action movies that don’t offer up the blended appeal of Marvel, though DC Comics is quickly following suit. As for the genres they embrace, the audiences will no longer feel the need to go see the next horror movie from Jordan Peele when they can go get their horror and hero fix from Marvel.
More Marvel, More Money
According to Marvel insiders, the studio has movies planned through 2028. That’s eight more years of Marvel mania dominating the box office if current trends continue. In the next two years alone, audiences will get seven new Marvel movies: Black Widow, The Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, another Spiderman movies, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther II.
What does this mean for the rest of Hollywood and filmmakers not interested in making Marvel like Scorsese? It’s hard to say, but it’s likely that as Hollywood chases the hits by throwing dollars at predictable targets like it always has, there will be more superhero-mega movies and a few less straight-up period pieces, rom coms, thriller, and so forth. Directors uninterested in making big-budget Marvel motion pictures will likely weather this barrage of over-the-top cinema by catering to audiences who have grown exhausted by the Marvel machine and the endless sequels they churn out. Granted these viewers may be smaller in number, and are likely to have very little effect on Marvel’s box office domination. But the need of original content for the growing number of streaming services ensures a place for nearly all genres across TV and film. Eventually, Marvel will have to evolve, too, but for now their superhero-genre blending formula seems to be working for them—really stinking well.
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