Got to love Marvel. Whether you respect them or condemn them, they’re here to stay.
Let’s be honest, whilst the fatigue is definitely there, there’s no way Marvel – or at least Disney’s take on Marvel – is going to leave us anytime soon. If the overwhelmingly positive response to Captain America: Civil War along with the huge amount of box office dough the film drudged up is any indication, they’re here to stay and they’re here to stay for a long time. There are decades of comic book history and hundreds of superheroes the House of Mouse can mine, and as long as the technical quality and representation of the hero is sound and we do a big crossover every once in a while, people aren’t going to care that absolutely none of the films work as their own standalone thing and that Black Panther was a poorly written extra who we never got to know, and I don’t want to know about because he doesn’t seem very important. Chadwick Boseman’s performance is enough for people I guess. I’ll never understand the concept of liking a character solely because of the actor. Do people really think Heath Ledger was the sole reason why the Joker worked in The Dark Knight?
But these aren’t new arguments and most fans seem to accept that about the MCU. Instead, I want to talk about why I continue to stick with this universe even though the appeal has long since faded and the stuff I used to enjoy from it has held up about as well as a post-Blade Runner Ridley Scott film. Well for starters, the reason I ever got into Marvel in the first place was because of Spider-man. The guy was and still is my favorite superhero growing up and even though I never liked any of his shows or films, his concept always fascinated me and I always favored buying his games or picking him in one of the fighting arcade games over the X-Men. And X-Men itself was a big factor, even though that particular property is owned by Fox. Wasn’t really big into the shows or the films from that side either, but they weren’t terrible and I liked the idea of people getting persecuted because they had super powers. I never really grew up on Batman or Superman. The former showed up here and there, but it wasn’t until college that I’d try out DC’s stuff.
My parents (particularly my mom) are big superhero fans themselves to the point that they took my brother and I to see all the movies starting with the first
X-Men Spiderman film, and they watch all the shows like the Netflix stuff and CW’s output. Actually, it’d be more accurate to say my entire family loves superheroes just as much as they love Star Wars and Avatar: The Last Airbender whilst I’m practically the only one of the group who can’t stand Iron Man and such. Well that’s a bit of a lie. I really liked Iron Man when I first saw it on the big screen, but that was really only because of Robert Downey Jr back when he was fresh and because the other superhero films I saw (Fantastic 4 anyone?) set the bar so goddamn low. The overall plot was a bland “hero against villain because of standard conflicts regarding technology” thing and I couldn’t summon up any energy to watch the sequel in theatres when it came out because the first appeal was gone (I did see it later though and oh dear god did it suck). I did like the first Avengers when I first saw it too, but that was mostly for the idea of combining all these heroes into one film, and I never liked needing to see the other films that came out prior. Hated The Incredible Hulk and Thor since their plots were so pre-fabricated that it hurt, whilst Captain America was kinda meh to me. And of course, when Avengers 2 came out and it was just more of the same except Ultron was more threatening, I got bored with it pretty quickly.
It’s pretty much been a bit of a love/hate relationship with the universe’s various films since, and whilst I would initially enjoy stuff that did something different like The Winter Soldier, the appeal would always fade over time when I inevitably rewatch these movies and realize it was only different by Marvel’s increasingly low standards and not when you compare it to the non-Marvel spy thrillers. But Ant-Man was the real killer. Good god did I hate that film. Paul Rudd’s character was nothing but Tiger from Tiger & Bunny with all the character flaws and relationship with his daughter stripped away, the heist plot was unimaginative, and the villain…man I don’t even remember his name or who his actor was. He was so goddamn boring with his motive to sell weapons and the fact that he amounted to nothing more than a random thug who just put on the suit. It was at that point that everything I previously liked about Marvel was shattered due to my frustration with how these films never shake things up after eight fucking years reaching its boiling point and, well, Civil War was the next film so what do you think happened?
But of course, I still haven’t given you guys the reason I continue to watch the MCU despite all that. After all, I don’t even like this non-standalone nature stuff when it’s done on TV, so why would I like it in movies? None of my favorite anime series have more than a quarter of pure build-up (and I’m usually not that generous). And it’s not like I don’t have alternatives when it comes to good superhero stuff, even if I’m not a comic book nerd. I generally like the Batman movies and there quite a few superhero anime that I enjoy. I even kinda like My Hero Academia despite it not breaking new ground (and the fact that it’s more a shonen action anime – another genre I’m not too fond of – than what we expect from superhero stuff) because of Deku’s earnestness and how he struggles to become a hero compared to his classmates. And Marvel-wise, I like the Netflix stuff and the first two Blade films, so it’s not like I’m lacking when it comes to stuff from that particular company either. In fact, it’s because I like all those things that I dislike the MCU, because they do the superhero thing so much better and seeing Civil War after watching something along the lines of Tiger and Bunny is such a huge step down.
There are two big reasons. One is that my family is so big into the thing that I couldn’t escape even if I wanted to. The second aka the more personal one is that they’re pretty much the Western equivalent of watching anime – or to be more precise, the worst aspects of anime. And there’s just something about having a Western equivalent to my main hobby that’s really comforting, mostly because when my friends ask me why I dislike what they do, I can point at these films and go “because it’s worse than this shit!”. It’s actually really funny how almost none of my anime colleagues keep up with the MCU the way I do because of the very thing I can say about the anime they like, only with superheroes. “I can forgive a weak story because I like the character so much”. “I want to see this character in her own solo film/series”. “Best girl”. These are the exact same defenses I’ve seen for stuff like 90% of what gets popular in anime, and yet for some reason when your story has a guy in a silly costume and his name isn’t Zero, somehow it’s not okay. You never see me saying that shit for my preferred genres, if only because I have one preferred genre and it’s called “good”.
I have my genre biases sure, but the failings of Marvel’s stuff and the majority of what gets popular in anime are just too major for me to ignore no matter what the genre is. First off, this project has been going on for almost twenty movies now. Most franchises can’t even handle three movies, so why would I be interested in something that goes on for that long? If Durarara is any indication, I’m really against the idea of characters trying to sustain a franchise by their charm alone – which is a shame because I actually like some of Marvel’s characters and they really deserve a good story the same way Batman gets ’em (especially poor Spiderman). And as Jojo/Monogatari/Detective Conan has shown, I’m also against the idea of a franchise running on forever and trying so hard to connect everything. What can I say? I don’t read superhero comics, I’ve been burned too many times with sequels in the past, and I’ve been surprised too many times with new experiences to settle for staying in a comfort zone. On the rare chance I see a continuation to something I enjoy in a season preview, I always go “well hopefully it doesn’t fall apart here” before browsing the new stuff for the unknown – and much more exciting – hype.
But then again, it’s the same power this universe has on the general public that keeps me coming back in general. I mean I don’t mind paying money to see these things on the big screen since it’s not like I’m going to stop these films from being popular, and I make enough to get by. And as I’ve said in the past, I have a certain fondness for bad stuff, because it makes the good shine all the more. Wouldn’t watch so many shitty shows a season if I didn’t have that belief. A lot of the Marvels films (and anime I keep up with for that matter) are mediocre, don’t get me wrong. Who remembers The Incredible Hulk or the Iron Man sequels these days? But the actual practices from the overblown marketing to the determined insistence on connecting everything, no matter how forgettable Thor 2 ended up being, appeals to me in a “wow, this is the complete opposite of what I enjoy about movies. Must delve more into this” sort of way. A friend of mine recently told me that’s what he genuinely likes about the universe at any rate.
The worst thing a piece of entertainment can be is utterly mediocre in both quality and practice, because you can’t get excited for them, you can’t discuss them, and you can’t use what they get wrong as something for future creators to learn from. They’re just lacking, worthless, and repetitive. There’s a reason people still talk about the Star Wars prequel trilogy over other shitty sequels like those Pirates movies, y’know? I haven’t seen the new X-Men movie yet, but I can already tell it’s going to be the worst superhero movie of the year due to how all the reviews are confirming my suspicions from the trailers that it takes that middle-of-the-road approach I really hate to see, along with how we’re getting another fucking Wolverine movie and an X-Men film set in the 90s after this, which doesn’t tell me anything about what said products will be about. There was a time when Fox’s approach to the Marvel stuff was preferable to Disney’s because at least they were standalone for the most part and they tackled relevant issues and the action is actually half-way decent. Unfortunately, said “better nature” really works against you when you run out of ideas, and I can’t see anywhere interesting for X-Men to go at this point without a complete rewrite of everything that makes it X-Men.
Personally, I’m all in favor of the 90s sequel being as offensive as possible just so that we can get the discussion boards as long as Batman v Superman’s. It’d definitely be a lot easier than making Apocalypse or The Last Stand. Just have it be nothing but two hours of Jean Grey blowing up a bunch of lesbians, inside-out. And if you’re feeling suicidal, make them all a bunch of white women wearing black face.
- Any X-Men creators who may be reading this blog, please don’t be that suicidal.
- Mind you, Dr. Strange is already being seen as more offensive than Daredevil in regards to its portrayal of Asian characters, so it’s already got a pretty good lead at being memorable.
- Most mediocre anime I’m watching at the moment is Twin Star Exorcists, which I’m only watching at this point because of how early it gets subbed.