How Marvel Changed The Cinematic Landscape
As everyone knows, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame has arrived in theaters and is currently shattering box office records. Performing well at the box office is not a new occurrence for the studio with their films averaging around $887 million worldwide at the box office per film. Excluding Endgame, the franchise has grossed over eighteen billion dollars worldwide, and we can only expect to see this number skyrocket in the coming weeks. Most industry experts thought that Avengers: Endgame would debut close to a $300 million weekend domestically, but the film quickly soared past that number (which settled at $357 domestically) with theaters all over the country being sold out. After its second weekend, it has blown past the $2 billion mark and is expected to overtake Avatar by the end of its box office run. To say this is unprecedented is an understatement; to say that a cinematic event like this might never happen again in my lifetime is mind-boggling true.
You might be wondering why I went to the trouble of crunching numbers and emphasizing Endgame’s box office performance. We all know it’s dominating the box office without the specifics included, but the truth is that the success of Endgame hasn’t come easily. Sure, the numbers are pouring in; profits look good. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wrote a great script. The Russos’ directing skills are at an all time high in this movie, and the actors and actresses gave all they had to their roles. And yet all of these individual aspects don’t account for what we’re seeing unfold.
We knew that Avengers: Endgame was being billed as the “culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe” to this point, but the truth is that Endgame’s success rides on the way that Marvel has permanently changed the cinematic landscape. There were successful franchises before the MCU, and there will be plenty of successful franchises after their heyday has long passed. However, they changed the game. They established a formula for comic book films that combined action, heart, and humor. They told stories that stood on their own and deftly connected them to one another. They had new characters debut in others’ sequels. They perfected the idea of after-credit scenes, leaving us all in anticipation after every movie concluded. They slowly, painfully built a cinematic experience where the characters are not done growing after one, two, or even three movies.
It has not been a quick process; it has been the careful planning of ten plus years spread out over twenty-one films. It was built on risk after risk that all started with letting Jon Favreau cast Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man in 2006. Since then, they have brought on directors like James Gunn, the Russo Brothers, Scott Derrickson, and Taiki Waititi; directors that the general movie going population knew little to nothing about. They have introduced the greatest misfits in the galaxy, a trippy adventure through the mystic arts, and a hero literally named Ant-Man (admit it: most of you were not excited when this one was announced). Some of these risks have not paid off as well; I think most of us can admit we’re more than happy to skip over Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 2 in our MCU rewatch marathons. Even then, though, these films move the narrative along and introduce some important thing, concept, or person to the greater Marvel universe.
All of this eventually leads us to the conclusion that is Avengers: Endgame. The film doesn’t just resolve the villain of Thanos and the devastating snap at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. It wraps up the storyline of every single one of our original six heroes. It’s not just about bringing back the characters who were dusted. It’s about the transformation of a selfish, billionaire playboy into a family man willing to make the sacrifice call. It’s about the honorable and just man out of time that reclaims the life he desperately wanted and lost. It’s about the scientist who realizes that maybe his experimentation in gamma radiation wasn’t a mistake after all. It’s about the cool guy with the bow and arrow reclaiming the anchor of his life: his family. It’s about the self-centered son of a king forgiving himself and surrendering who he thinks he should be for who he is. It’s about the spy with red in her ledger transforming into the woman who found where she belongs and is willing to do whatever it takes to make things right.
These stories aren’t built over the course of a three-hour film.
These stories are built over ten years of careful and intentional storytelling.
Most of the films we encounter on a weekly basis will be a standalone story or might end up in a trilogy, but Marvel has created something entirely different. They’ve created an entire universe of beloved characters that somehow and amazingly all connect to the others. It’s an incredible feat in storytelling and cinema, and it’s why Endgame is dominating the office. They took a genre of film that many mocked twenty years ago and proved that these beloved comic book characters could be translated to the big screen in an interconnected universe. They spent ten years crafting stories that made us care deeply about every single one of these characters, and it worked.
Marvel has changed the cinematic landscape. That didn’t start with Avengers: Endgame, but this latest film and its box office performance proves the impact these stories and films have made.
And all we can do now is wait to see what this studio has planned next. I’m not sure anything will ever top the event that is Avengers: Endgame, but I guess we will have to wait and see.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.