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Why Marvel Cinematic Universe Has Been So Successful

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On April 27, Marvel Studios will release “Avengers: Infinity War.” The highly-anticipated film is the nineteenth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the culmination of everything that has taken place in the franchise for the last decade. In the last few years, other studios, most notably DC, have tried their hand at the shared universe concept as well, with less success. Why has Marvel been so good at it while other companies have failed?

One reason why the MCU is so successful is because how groundbreaking the franchise has been. Before 2012’s “The Avengers,” a massive superhero team-up using characters from separate films was unheard of. There was a big fear that there would not be enough balanced screen time for each hero and the movie would flop. However, director Joss Whedon made it work for all six of them and the film is considered one of the greatest superhero movies of all time and racked up over 1.5 billion dollars in the box office worldwide.

But Executive Producer Kevin Feige did not settle there. In 2015, the sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron” brought back the six from the first film and added three more heroes to the big screen. Whedon, again at the helm, allocated enough time for all nine to have a role and the movie was also a success. The next year, “Captain America: Civil War” featured a dozen superheros and was very well received. Both movies surpassed a billion dollars in the box office.

Upon seeing Marvel’s success with the superhero team-ups, DC Comics attempted to recreate the success by doing the exact same thing, called the DC Extended Universe. In 2017, six of their heros joined together in “Justice League.” Despite the same concept and the same number of superheroes as “The Avengers,” the movie flopped in the box office and received terrible reviews. One possibility as to why the movie did terribly was because Marvel had succeeded with twice as many superheros a year and a half earlier and was prepared to bring together over 20 heroes in “Infinity War” in less than six months, essentially leaving DC treading on old ground.

Another reason for the MCU’s success is that they tap into different genres of movies. The franchise has had traditional superhero movies but has also adapted them to other styles of film. For example, “Ant-Man” is largely a crime-heist film, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” are space operas, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” are political thrillers, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a high school comedy.

“I love Marvel’s willingness to embrace other genres in this franchise,” said Sam Freeman, junior. “It feels like I’m watching something different with each movie.”

The DCEU, however, has struggled to embrace this diversity. Five films into their shared universe, many of the same critiques have repeated throughout each movie. The majority of critics have said that all the films are made from the same mold and are rather dull.

Many reviewers have also said that the majority of the DCEU movies, specifically “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League,” have too much variation in tone and style within a film. Some fans of the franchise have complained that the movies do not take from the comics enough and instead alters their heroes, while Marvel tries to recreate their characters closely to what they were in the comic books.

“I prefer DC to Marvel,” said Jonathan Delgado, junior. “But the DCEU tries to alter their characters dramatically, like how Batman mass murders people in ‘Dawn of Justice.’ He doesn’t do that in the comics. Marvel doesn’t change their heroes.”

The MCU has also worked so well because Marvel constantly brings their fans back to their heroes. Starting in 2013, at least two movies in the franchise has been released each year, with three movies each in 2017, 2018, and 2019. This keeps supporters of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy in the loop and returning to the universe multiple times a year.

The DCEU has struggled to keep bringing back their fans consistently. While bad reviews have plagued the franchise, there has been some large gaps between the movies. After “Man of Steel,” the first film in their universe, released in June 2013, there was not another DCEU movie until “Dawn of Justice” came out in March 2016. Within that nearly three year gap, five MCU movies were released. After “Justice League” came out on November 17 of last year, there will not be another DCEU film until “Aquaman” enters theaters on December 21 of this year.

Marvel has succeeded with their franchise also because of when the movies are released. According to movieinsider.com, over the past few years only a few major films are hitting theaters a few weeks before and after an MCU movie comes out. For instance, “Black Panther,” which came out in February, opened its first six weeks in theaters at number one in the box office and has broken a billion dollars worldwide due to little competition from other films. The success of Marvel’s films have also scared some movies into changing release dates.

At the beginning of March, the release date for “Infinity War” was moved up a week from May fourth to April 27 to add more hype to the film and give it more breathing room before “Deadpool 2” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” hit theaters on May 18 and 25, respectively. Shortly thereafter, New Line Cinema moved up the release date of “Rampage” from April 20 to the 13, most likely due to the threat that “Infinity War,” which is currently projected to make over 200 million dollars in its opening weekend, presents.

The DCEU, however, has struggled partly due to the fact that they release around the same time as other big films, and gets diminished due to Marvel’s better track record. In June 2013, “Man of Steel,” the first film in the DCEU, hit theaters a little more than a month after “Iron Man 3” hit theaters. Despite having been out for a month, “Iron Man 3” kept rolling and made over a billion dollars, while “Man of Steel” struggled in comparison, making 668 million.

Likewise, “Justice League” came out two weeks after “Thor: Ragnarok” hit theaters. “Ragnarok” was in the process of making 850 million dollars and was very well received by fans and critics alike. “Justice League,” however, was poorly reviewed and made just 655 million dollars, the least in the DCEU. Part of its failure was due to the success of “Ragnarok” and the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in December, which made over 1.3 billion dollars worldwide.

“I think the success of the Marvel films comes from the fact that they are made by fans,” said Paul Bettany, who portrays the android Vision in the MCU. “[Feige] really loves these characters.”

“Avengers: Infinity War” hits theaters on April 27. The movie includes Robert Downey, jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Josh Brolin as Thanos, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-lord, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. A sequel, currently untitled, releases on May 3, 2019.

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Why Marvel Cinematic Universe Has Been So Successful