Marvel movies aren’t that good


Miles Bennett

I’ve been a massive nerd for my entire life. So ever since Marvel started their cinematic universe in 2008, I’ve consistently gotten super excited about most of their films. And even when I feel like too much of a hipster to admit it, I still get that same giddy feeling that I’d get from watching “Spider-Man 2” when I was 6 years old.

But as “Avengers: Endgame”’s release comes closer and closer, I’ve been thinking about something. Lately, the cynical film critic in me has come to the conclusion that most, if not all, of the Marvel movies are just completely average action flicks, that follow a strict formula. They’re not bad by any means, but they’re so basic and similar that I’m honestly having trouble telling them apart sometimes.

Most movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have practically the exact same plot structure, cinematography, tone, action scenes, music, color composition, editing and etcetera as every other film in the MCU.

Since it’s the easiest to articulate in writing, I’ll go over the similarities in plot structure to prove my point. As well, there will be a chart at the end tallying up how many movies follow said plot structure, since it seems like Marvel executives literally have a checklist of necessary plot points to appeal to the widest demographic.

The conflict in almost every single Marvel movie is caused by the effects of a powerful object.

Things like the Tesseract, Thor’s Hammer, the Aether, a machine that emits Gamma Rays or an Infinity Stone are almost always the catalyst of each movie’s conflict.

As well, most of Marvel movie villains are just dark reflections of that movie’s heroes. They’re usually written to be similar thematically, in their origin story, in their skill set and/or in their design.

It’s like a less exact version of an evil clone, which is a cool idea, but gets old if it’s used dozens of times.

Examples of MCU villains being a “dark reflection” include, Red Skull, Yellow Jacket, The Winter Soldier and Killmonger, among many others.

There’s also always a “I or we suck because we lost moment and we might give up our mission” moment present in Marvel movies. It’s normally right before, or at the beginning of the film’s third act and is normally caused by the hero or heroes losing a fight or causing a bad thing to happen.

This can be clearly observed in every Avengers movie, both Ant-Man movies, both Guardians of the Galaxy movies and many more.

And for our final stop on the MCU plot checklist, the main plot is frequently furthered by the protagonist or protagonists getting limited or disempowered in some way.

For example, Iron Man’s plot is initiated by Tony Stark being kidnapped by terrorists, in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Peter is motivated to break the shackles of the limitations that Iron Man put on him and in Guardians of the Galaxy the Guardians become a team by breaking out of space prison.

I’ll stop there for fear of boring any readers to death, but do you see what I mean?

So many of the Marvel movies practically blend together because they’re so similar.

To provide a visual of my point, here’s a chart of which movies have which of these plot similarities.

And, once again, there are so many more aspects of these films that fit into the formulaic Marvel binary. And this “Marvel Formula,” as many call it, prevents any movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe being any more than slightly above average.

And it’s not like comic book movies can’t be great films. “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man 2,” “The Crow,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Logan” and many more are all amazing films based off of comics.

Some of them even have aspects of the aforementioned “Marvel Formula,” but they set themselves apart from other comic-book movies by having their own unique tone, atmosphere, cinematography, characterization, themes and etcetera.

Movies in the MCU seem like they’re trying to be unspecial and bland. Possibly, they feel they need to keep their movies formulaic because the common moviegoer doesn’t like to be challenged by art.

But maybe creating a few challenging, thought-provoking, pieces of art instead of sticking to a formula might bring in a whole new crowd of movie goers who previously thought that comic-book movies are always childish, bland, action flicks.

To be honest, this all doesn’t change the fact that I’m still a big Marvel fan. The cynical film critic in me thinks they’re too clichéd and basic to be great movies, but the huge nerd in me still loves them with all of my heart.

So I’m going to keep watching and debating about Marvel movies, but I’ll always have a critical voice in the back of my head telling me that they aren’t living up to the thought-provoking pieces of art that some of the comic-book and film adaptations turned out to be.