In an interview with BBC Newsbeat, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger told them that he saw no end in sight to the Marvel films. “Marvel,” Iger said, “you’re dealing with thousands of characters. That will go on forever.” Yes, it can go on forever, but should it?
Since the early 2000’s when the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises burst onto the scene, superhero films have grown into a common staple for movie goers. While Tim Burton had brought them into a more serious dark and gritty world with Batman in 1989, the new millennium brought a new style for the genre. This also included much larger marketing budgets and even bigger names to the billing.
With Iron Man in 2008, Marvel started something that hadn’t been done before. They mimicked the crossover nature of the comic books the films were based on in order to create a more cohesive world. Tony Stark wasn’t just bouncing between Afghanistan and Malibu, Thor was somewhere out there and Captain America had been friends with Tony’s dad! This shared universe would grow to be more and more utilized in a post-Avengers world, with characters popping up in each other’s films.
This has proven to be a wildly successful formula. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown steadily, and now incorporates less mainstream characters such as the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. It is clearly working towards a major crossover in the Avengers: Infinity Wars films in 2018 and 2019. Where will it go from there? The path isn’t clear, and that doesn’t seem to deter Disney.
Not every character has a loyal following or can garner enough support to create a feature length film.
There are many stories that can be told using the many characters of the Marvel comics, but this will eventually plateau. Not every character has a loyal following or can garner enough support to create a feature length film. If they intend to keep pace with the current lineups (a bunch of single films followed by a crossover) they have to have characters who can stand on their own first.
Now, there are some things they can do to logically stretch the franchises out. Sam Wilson aka the Falcon could take over for Steve Rogers as Captain America at some point in the films. This will also help fight back against the MCU’s near all white cast. Perhaps after the current slate of films, we may finally see a Black Widow film assuming Natasha Romanov is still alive and Scarlett Johansson still wants to playe her. Maybe we can go back in time and see her formative years, allowing for a recast.
This has not been to say that Marvel has no ability to continue on in a Post-Infinity War world. The the fans deserve to see something of where this world is going. They can’t lay it all out now without spoiling something. However, statements like “that will go on forever” create a tension. It almost calls back to the Epic Rap Battle between Stan Lee and Jim Henson. Walt Disney shows up to tell them they will be “cranking out magic and assembly line whimsy”.
There comes a time when all good things must come to an end. If Marvel can continue to create compelling new stories or change things up like they did in Captain America: Winter Soldier, it should be welcomed. On the other side, continuing just for the sake of continuing runs the risk of damaging a beloved intellectual property. Perhaps the increased competition from DC’s own burgeoning cinematic universe will provide the healthy competition needed to spice things up. But there have been countless shows that have been allowed to go on too long, with critics begging for them to stop and fans growing more and more disenfranchised. Please, Disney, don’t allow the Marvel films to go that way.