Are There Too Many Marvel Movies?

Nazim Duran and Will Dawson

With Doctor Strange coming in as Marvel’s newest release, the question often gets posed: has Marvel made too many movies?  

For decades, people have adored superhero films.  In 2016, 5 of the 10 highest grossing films were all superhero films.  One of these five was in fact Doctor Strange, which placed 9th overall and grossed $610,700,569.  Superhero films have continuously been the most popular movie genre, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe stands out among the crowd.  Since 2008 with the release of Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gained extreme popularity.  Fans love the huge set pieces, the classic heroes come to life, and the subtle comedic relief.  But has it gone too far?   

Superhero films have many advantages and many downsides.  Many people read the comics as a child, and absolutely adore Marvel.  For these people, the Marvel Cinematic Universe allows people to see their favorite childhood characters come to life on the big screen, and offers many advantages to viewers.  

But still, many people watch a superhero film movie solely to see the superhero.  Regardless of how good or bad the movie may be, the audience will often love it because their favorite character is in it.  This offers a major downside, yet the Marvel Cinematic Universe capitalizes on this phenomenon.  By creating simplistic movies for theirs fans with popular character, huge, fancy set pieces, special effects, and comic relief, they successfully please their audience.  Some movies may have more depth than others, but the majority of these movies stay at the basic level of simply enjoyable.  

The D.C. franchise, however, offers the polar opposite of this, delivering, in our opinion, near-perfect movies like The Dark Knight and dreadfully sloppy ones like Batman v Superman.  D.C. has been awarded several Oscars for its pieces, most notably receiving Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Heath Ledger as the Joker) for the Dark Knight.  Meanwhile, the only Oscar Marvel has ever won was Best Visual Effects for Spider-Man 2.  Marvel seems to play it safe with its movies, and this has surprisingly worked towards its popular success for years.  

This raises the question of whether artistic ambition is actually worthwhile for a company. Some of the most critically-acclaimed movies like Fight Club, Psycho, and 2001: A Space Odyssey were originally smashed by critics because of their alien ambitions.  Despite their criticisms, over time these movies became ones that have been remembered for generations.  Marvel has made some spectacular movies, most notably The Avengers, but one could argue that these movies have no artistic ambition.  It is because of this lack of depth that some argue Marvel movies will not be remembered for generations.

This raises another question of what constitutes “artistic ambition”.  In our view, a movie generally has ambition if it contains a new idea, new characters, or new plot elements never seen before, but this is not always the case.  Doctor Strange both follows and strays from this idea.  The movie seems to hold ambition because it provides a fresh new storyline.  The character of Dr. Strange has never before been seen on the big screen.  Benedict Cumberbatch is a new actor for Marvel, and he does a wonderful job lending himself to the role of Stephen Strange.  His journey through the mystic world has never been touched in a Marvel movie, and this makes the movie noticeably unique.  In many ways, Doctor Strange is a relaxing change from the constant stream of Avengers-based movies, and proves that Marvel has the will to branch into new terrain.  

But on the other hand, Doctor Strange’s plotline is strikingly similar to one seen thousands of times before in movies.  The storyline is closely-based around the hero’s journey, a basic formula used for storyline.  Stephen Strange enters the Spirit World, gains allies like the Morbo and the Ancient One, and proceeds to learn the basics to harnessing spiritual energy.  He proves himself by battling Kaecilius, and gains the timepiece as a reward which he must use in the final battle against Dormammu.  Doctor Strange also suffers from the “end of the world” plotline, one that superhero movies reference time and time again.  This plotline can be effective in enhancing the plot’s tension, but after being used so frequently for so many decades, it is painfully predictable.  

With both of these arguments in mind, it is hard to decide whether or not Doctor Strange is a worthwhile entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  On an even broader scale, it is hard to decide whether or not Marvel has made too many copies of the same movie.  While it is evident that Marvel should not and will not stop making movies any time soon, it is possible that the end of Marvel’s stride may eventually come.