Marvel needs to stop being so formulaic

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It’s time for Marvel to branch out and stop being so formulaic with its movies. Despite taking risk with relatively unknown characters, their stories and vision need an upgrade. Thank the Doctor Strange news for sparking this.

I am as big a fan as anyone else of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even I will admit that the movies tend to be a bit formulaic. The MCU has proven to be the most profitable movie franchise in cinematic history and has claim to having the highest grossing movie of all time with Avengers: Endgame. Even with its success, it’s safe to say that it doesn’t make itself diverse enough from some other comic book films like Logan or Joker. In fairness, it’s hard to change up what you’re doing when it’s working so well, but it may be time to change things up a bit. 

Avengers: Endgame marked the end of an era for the MCU and a new beginning going forward with new characters and eventually a new overarching supervillain like Thanos. It is very clear that following Black Widow, they will be introducing some interesting and new heroes with The Eternals and Shang Chi while also continuing their known properties like Thor, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange. All of this makes sense and will likely continue the success that they’ve had so far, but there’s more they can do. 

Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy seemed to be the least formulaic prior to Infinity War and Endgame and showed how good the movies can be when you allow the director to have more opportunity to do their own thing with their own style. I’m here to say though that Captain Marvel proves that the studio does not like to take too much risk when introducing a new standalone movie. It actually ended up being the least forgettable big blockbuster movie of the year for me and by no reason other than it just feels bland. 

The movie comes off as being the same type of story that we got with Iron Man or Ant-Man and doesn’t really try to do much more than establish this new character. It’s a good movie, but it doesn’t distinguish itself by taking any chances. It’s hard to say that it was a bad idea because of how successful it went on to be, but honestly the MCU at this point is almost an automatic box office draw for the audience. The movies are averaging around a billion dollars at the box office each and that’s because of the audience support for the franchise. 

I’m here to say that it’s time to push the limits of what they have done before in order to give us movies that will truly stand on their own and stand the test of time. All of this stems directly from the recent news announced by director Scott Derrickson that he will be leaving the Doctor Strange sequel over creative differences. Normally I would be ok with this because the studio knows best for what they’re trying to do and if the director and studio can’t agree then it’s probably best to step away from each other. This instance feels a little different when you take into account the conflicting reports of the film prior to his announcement. 

If you aren’t familiar with any of the recent news then I’ll break it down and the simplest way. It was reported that the movie would lean heavily on horror and be a true horror movie, but then another report stated that the movie would not be going in that direction and would not be a horror film but would have some horror elements. Both of these reports seem to come from two different parties, one being Scott Derrickson (not directly of course) and one being the studio. I believe that it is this one point that caused the split between the two and eventually making Scott leave the project. 

It’s unfortunate because while also very formulaic, the first Doctor Strange movie was very unique and had a great visual style that you could tell came straight from Scott’s vision. It’s one of the few MCU movies that distinguishes itself from the others despite its familiar plot. Scott also comes from a horror background so leaning into horror more would make sense with his experience. If we also take into account that the movie is called Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, then we could assume that it’s going to be a crazy trip of a movie that could very likely have some interesting horror elements. 

Again, I don’t know the details of what transpired and whether or not Scott’s vision was ultimately worse than what Marvel wanted to do, but it’s unfortunate to lose a guy that already had a great vision with the first film. All of this leads to my biggest problem with the MCU. The fact that they won’t branch too far out of what they always do for every film. They do allow the directors a lot of free reign when it comes to their vision and how they go about directing the movie, but they all feel so similar and not diverse enough. 

You already have a loyal audience that is going to go see your movies no matter what. I know that risking going too far out may cause you to lose some of your audience, but here’s my argument. As proven by Joker and Logan, you can change the stories you tell with the characters you have that are already established and still continue the success. The only downside is that you risk the movie not being as well received by the audience. 

Really it’s a tough situation they find themselves in if they’ve ever considered it. I think the biggest question is how long can the MCU be sustainable with their formulaic approach that they have. Of course it’s been over 10 years now and it’s worked incredibly well so far, but I feel that at some point the audience won’t necessarily get tired of their movies, but rather be looking for something that feels different.  You can still tell the stories you want to tell and still allow it to be something unique and distinguished. 

Would allowing Doctor Strange to lean heavily into horror really be that big of an issue? I don’t know the details, but I would assume the problem wasn’t with the overall story of Doctor Strange 2 but with the actual vision and direction of it. Horror movies have proven to be big hits even as PG-13 movies and have given us what we want out of horror. Keeping with that rating, you can do a lot with bringing in the horror genre, but I suppose the question is whether or not they would lose their established audience by giving something they’re not expecting. 

Of course, you may scare some kids if it truly is a horror film, but I still feel that if the movie is great because of this approach then it won’t matter because the audience will still come. I think now is a better time than any to give themselves a chance to branch out and take a little risk. Now I don’t know what we’ll be getting with their new titles Eternals and Shang Chi, and I could be proven wrong when they’re released if they distinguish themselves. I may be wrong entirely when Doctor Strange 2 releases and ends up being amazing despite feeling formulaic, but I think Marvel needs to take a minute and really consider allowing a little bit of risk with the success they’re having.

When I talk about risk I’m talking about the actual stories and direction because honestly can anyone argue against the fact that they’re one of the riskiest studios out there? Guardians of the Galaxy, Eternals, Shang Chi….Nobody outside of the comic world knows who these characters are and it’s risky to drop that amount of money on them, but I think they need to allow themselves to give us something a little bit different. Something that will make us go “wow, I never thought they could do a movie like this”. 

Look, I know that this is sure to have some debate and there are plenty of arguments to be made, but this is how I feel and I may be wrong. I think that their Disney+ projects have a lot of potential of being something different and I think that they will push their limits eventually, but I want movies that standout and won’t be forgotten about after a year. I think it would be wise to balance both their formulaic approach and their distinguished different approach to test the waters and see if it can work. There have been other movies that have proved it can work, but I think they need to test it with their own universe. 

Maybe they’ll give it a shot, maybe they won’t. Either way I just want great memorable movies that we can have serious discussions about long after their release. And I hope they were right in separating from Scott Derrickson. 

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