“Warren Thomas Carrigan Jr. Marvel movies are like
I got serious life issues > Wow I got superpowers! > Let me figure out my powers and start saving people! > Some guy with powers comparable to mine is doing something bad and I need to stop him! > Bad guy beat me up pretty bad > recovery/self-doubt > best friend/love interest reassures me that I can do this > Bad guy emerges again and I fight him and win > credits with a “secret” scene at the end.
I cannot take credit for the above summary of the plot of the standard Marvel film and I would love to give credit but I unfortunately neglected to keep track of who that individual was, but I do feel it is rather accurate. It has been said that Marvel has a formula, and this is pretty close to it if not spot on when it comes to the structure of that formula.
This is obviously a tried-and-true structure that the Marvel films have long since been locked into. There are minor variations with each film but nothing that is radically different. Look at the current Spider-Man movies or Ant-Man or Captain Marvel. Heck even the Thor and Iron Man movies or Captain America films follow this.
Because of this formula these films are good spectacle but are also uncreative storytelling. These are films where the beats of the individual story are exceptionally predictable. Let me try to explain my feelings.
I will start with an example from my own life. Many years ago I worked a part-time job at a nightclub in my area washing dishes overnight. There was one particular DJ there who played one of three of the same musical sets every night he worked. There were small differences between each, but those differences were minor. You could reliably predict the next song. The MCU has that same problem. They play the same song every time. There are small differences between each, but those differences are minor. You can reliably predict the story.
Sometimes I think this is a lack of creativity on the part of those making the particular movie I am viewing. You are guaranteed to look good and get a nice paycheck so why try? Why take risks even if the studio allows (which I doubt)?
But I think the greater issue is that because of their excessive budgets these films need to appeal as broadly as possible, and Marvel Studios waggles their finger and says “No!” That means you play it safe from beginning to end and the above formula has proven quite safe. $100+ million makes people risk adverse. I am not against big budget films. But if you’re going to waste all that money on a by the numbers formula don’t do it. The big budget gives you a big toybox. Use it.
Personally I would like to see either the budget cut or directors being given more creative freedom. Either be forced to make tough choices on what you can and cannot do or the studio should let the creative minds run wild and do whatever.
I can only speak for myself but the use of this formula has made me essentially uninterested in Marvel films. I don’t have the excitement other people do for them. They are not something special yet they should be right up my alley. They can be entertaining but nothing I’m hungry for. I can wait.
There is nothing new or exciting because I can reliably figure out the story once the main characters are introduced. And what good is a sequel when it will go through those exact same steps again? The lack of creativity leaves no strong reason to watch another one when it is released.
This formula just causes a film to have memorable action scenes but a largely forgettable story. In particular when it comes to Ant-Man there are plenty of great visuals, but I find myself struggling to recall the story. Homecoming and Far from Home blur together for me. Heck, I get elements from those three confused too.
I hope future Marvel movies either ditch the formula or are willing to play with it more. Until then I’m not sure why you or I should pay the money either in a theater or on streaming to see one of these.