A Marvel Time

So we heard the news, we read the stories and they are all beyond what most expected it to be. Not only is Black Panther in 9th position at present, it is still on the course to get to 8th position within 2 weeks, surpassing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. It is unlikely to catch up with his brother on 7th (Age of Ultron), which now implies that within the coming week 4 Marvel movies will be set in the register of the 10 most successful movies of all time. These are The Avengers, Age of Ultron, Black Panther and upcoming racing to number 4 or higher is Avengers: Infinity War. some of the players saw this coming (I was one of them), yet I was late to the party, merely because I never looked at some of the other numbers, for me it is and will remain the joy of watching a movie on the screen, preferably the big silver one. I expected this to some extent, as I mentioned it in my blog ‘the successful and the less so‘ last week, still seeing that the movie made a global $1,166,407,350 in 10 days is still hard-core awesome. And Netflix is picking up on it, and has been for some time. You see there is a good, an evil and a dangerous side to all this. When we consider the ones in Netflix Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel’s Agent Carter, Marvel’s Inhumans, Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Marvel’s Luke Cage, Marvel’s Iron Fist, Marvel’s The Defenders, Marvel’s The Punisher, Marvel’s Runaways and Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger they might think it is all good and dandy, but the danger is that there will be too much Marvel on the retina’s and they will learn the one lesson that Paramount learned too late with Star Trek, too much of it is also not a good thing. I accept that like comic books I never read them all. I was nuts about Batman and the X-Man, and my youthful best friend was all about the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, so on Saturday we read the ones we bought and quickly exchanged them on Sunday to give back on Monday, a ritual that went on for years because as younger people our budgets were limited. The fact that we can let ourselves go on Netflix like a teenager who ‘accidently’ gets locked in the pastry shop all night long has several issues which we will not go into. The evil side (yes it is), is not how the approach is made, it is how it is translated to the screen, the fact that the social roles of Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson are reversed, because in this day and age it would fit either way, but the darkness of the original comic books is lost when we see “acquire superpowers while forming a romantic relationship“, the actuality is lost, because in the actual story it was not some “superhero love story”, they were captured and experimented on to make drugs more efficient in creating addiction, the experiment went wrong and they acquired superpowers, they were set together in a deep bond because of the rage and violence, drawn together as they needed to rely on one another. That darkness that was the appeal for many who loved the comic and it all got a little more interesting as police detective Brigid O’Reilly became Mayhem. So we have a switched setting, that darkness gone and I am uncertain that ‘watering down’ American issues is any way to get anything done, that darkness held an appeal, that appeal is now lost. The danger is also escalating as more series take a ‘lighter’ setting to the visualised darkness that some readers embraced and watering down remains a bad thing.

We acknowledge what Marvel has achieved and we are in awe and in desperate need to view of what comes next, but by saying that, we need to see that some of the darker parts have their own appeal, it was voiced many times with Logan (2017), the darker side was well captured and it was widely regarded as the best Wolverine movie of the lot, Wolverine basically left on a high and that should have been comprehended by those in charge of the Marvel IP.

I believe that to some extent, the Rotten Tomatoes score seem to indicate my version of deviation from the comic books when we see the Punisher with a mere 62%, yet as I am extremely unaware with the some of the comic books, I cannot explain Iron Fist (18%) and the Inhumans (10%), I am willing to wager that the oddity of the Inhumans is more like the Guardians of the Galaxy (little exposure to either comic book), yet the movie got it just right, whilst the Inhumans on the TV series might have (speculative) faltered there.

I reckon that we all have our guesses on that; I am merely telling you that my guess will be as good as yours. It is actually a shifting situation, as the fans got introduced that the Marvel series are moving to Disney, there is a side of me thinking that this is a bad move, not that they move to Disney, but that they move away from Netflix, you see, Netflix has massive momentum and Marvel alone cannot create that momentum for Disney overnight. They need to realise that they are poisoning their own well, they are setting the stage where they decrease momentum. Netflix has 118 million paying viewers, there is definitely space for a second channel and by the time Disney resets its brand to ‘include’ the mature watchers, they will optionally have lost 3 years and many millions, so whilst we see nearly a dozen series take hit after hit on amount of viewers, how do you think the future for all these productions are set? It is not merely the advertisers who take a back gander in all this, whomever is making that decision at Disney needs to realise that they are undersigning close to $200 million loss for longer than a short term, so by the time the momentum is back on the road half a billion is gone, with almost no option to recapture that, do they not realise that?

And no one is insensitive to the Marvel Universe, most of us have been exposed (beyond the comic books) through animation series, TV series and other means of exposure like video games and we all know it works, yet in that light being extra careful, not brazenly blunt is the way to go for a long term setting with a fickle viewing audience, because DC is just one step behind. They had several fumbles and whilst the relaunch series started their successes with Smallville (2001-2011), they still have the same issues that Marvel has. I believe that Constantine showed part of that flaw. It has the goods, yet in my personal view was not willing to be dark enough, it is a view that Europeans and former Europeans share and in all that it is an important side, because they are 50% of Netflix at present and they represented 61% of the Avengers: Infinity War revenue (actually the non-Americans are that), but a massive part is Europe and in the equation of revenue that is a lot more important than the producers realise. You see Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddlestone are not just excellent actors, they are non-American actors and that ‘non’ part is equally important. Europeans seems to be identifying themselves easier to these actors which is becoming more and more of a factor. And that is nothing negative on the quality of any of the American actors, which is of the highest quality. So as we realise that non-American parts are increasingly important, why is the embrace of the story so often too deeply soaked in American ‘value setting‘? It is not merely that a person like Mark Wahlberg was in Boogie Nights, he was awesome as an actor, it was merely the setting and directness of Boogie Nights that captured the global heart, the fact that this movie was American in origin was even more astounding. That is the captured emotion Marvel (DC also) needs and I believe from my side that going deeply dark on some of the series will not be negative, most will see it as a refreshing side to a comic book universe that has many colours. I believe that in that regard Witchblade was made too early, it merely got through 2 seasons, like the Darkness (also a Top Cow production) it was deeply dark and as special effects could not match the comic books (it pretty much can today) as well as the need to be dark as hell (pun intended) showed over 20 years a setting embraced by many readers and mostly appreciative of the amazing illustrations. Marvel still has a few option (they have loads actually), yet the setting of a darker presence they have the series Moon Knight, which ultimately led to the Secret Avengers (how secret can a comic book actually get?). Even as it started with the inclusion of Captain America, Black Widow, Ant Man and War Machine, it would also give us temporary people that have been in several comics like the Avengers and Thor (Valkyrie), X-Man (Beast) and New Warriors (Nova), Moon Knight, even as you might have seen him in a comic or two with Spiderman, remains unknown to a much larger audience. It would also grace presence from Hawkeye (played presently by Jeremy Renner) and Venom (agent Venom), the Flash Thompson version. So not only are a few characters darker, the interaction might allow for a level of darkness, or perhaps better stated ‘living via less legally accepted values’ to interact with the greater good. It is a part that Civil war scratched on, yet as we know that it had been in the central side of many comic books for the longest of times (the DC Azrael series as well as Knightfall), the acceptance that we have that by the book never gets us anywhere and going overboard to the extremely other side is also accepted as ‘existing’, those who are in denial of that existence, please look up ‘mercenary’, ‘Blackwater’ and ‘Aegis Defence Services’, so there is that to consider. We are already seeing the reality of certain places and the issues they provide and solve (and create). So part of Moon knight is already fraught with examples that go back to the Congo and as present as Syria (some Russian corporation), the absence of that darkness is in the end not a good thing, things become ‘too vanilla’ is perhaps not the right tone, but when we consider the near impossible achievement that Avengers: Infinity War created, we need to see that staying on that exact course is not achievable as it started with almost a dozen other movies (3 Iron Man, 3 Thor, 3 Captain America, 2 Guardians of the Galaxy, 1 Dr Strange, 1 Black Panther and several Spiderman’s), so that foundation was well designed and part of the creation of the hype, but pulling that off again might not be possible to that degree. Now it becomes a melting pot of settings between light and dark, good and wrong, evil and optional.

Philosophically we could speculate that we are shaped as people through the interaction of extremes, so ignoring the other side, or perhaps trivialising it through caricature characters like MODOK (Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing), we can giggle on it in the comic books in an obsolete episode (read: one off), yet when it becomes the main boss in a TV series, the people will change channels to watch the late news pretty quickly. I believe that making Constantine much darker, by adding these options and by not making Cloak and Dagger some love story, momentum could have been gained. There are plenty more opportunities there, yet I feel that the overall package might at some point become lesser. I feel that the evidence shown in the movie Watchman, the darkness that Rorschach represented was perfect, overall the exposed darker side was what made the movie an absolute gem and of course there was no lack of evil when we saw a blonde version of Matthew Goode playing Ozymandias (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

So if that one side of Marvel can get addressed they will optionally be having an even bigger marvellous time than they are already having. there is larger premise to my consideration, we see this over the ages as Marvel has had its share of ‘darker’ characters, it is seen in Spider Woman, who is originally set as “In her first appearance, Spider-Woman was to be an actual spider evolved into a human as imagined by writer/co-creator Goodwin. Her debut was shortly followed by a four-issue story arc in Marvel Two-in-One in which Wolfman presented a different origin retcon as he felt her original origin was too implausible for mid-1970s readers“, it was the sales of Marvel Spotlight#32 that took it to a new level. Even now as we see gene splicing, we see the setting of adding to the human gene, yet the setting of adding human sides to the other gene is still a little far-fetched, yet in 40 years we have gone from ‘too implausible’ to merely ‘implausible’, so there is progress. In all this we have the presented setting like the movie Ex Machina, Kirk Langstrom (man bat character from Batman), Venom, my favourite Alex Mercer from the Prototype series and last but not least the original X-man Beast both the Kelsey Grammer and the Nicholas Hoult edition. There is a league of settings that Marvel (as well as DC) already offered and it seems they are stepped over (read: partially ignored), not merely in one part as they weren’t as successful as the Asgardian characters or the billionaires Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, we can debate that all day, but the American setting is getting more and more ‘wrong’ ((less accepted might be a better term), implying that darker series will be a lot better received that most American producers can fathom, I merely need to point at the success of American Gods to make that point.

So let’s see that we can all have a marvellous time between now and 2020 (when the Infinity War hype passes), because after that we still want to go to the movies, watch Blu-ray and Netflix (those who have not passed away by then that is).

Was that dark enough? Have a fun day today!

 

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