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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Word "Megafranchise" Makes Me Never Want to See a Blockbuster Ever Again

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 2:59 PM

THE GREEN GOBLIN The 4,897th villain in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
  • THE GREEN GOBLIN The 4,897th villain in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes out later this week, and it's one of the best Marvel movies so far. I'll have a full review later this week, but in the meantime, I'm having a hard time gauging how interested in the movie people actually are—I know some who can't wait for it, but I also know some who have enjoyed other Marvel movies, but who, at this point, are having a hard time telling the studio's nonstop barrage of blockbusters apart.

Winter Soldier does a pretty good job differentiating itself—it's an action flick that doubles as a paranoid thriller—and seems to embody Marvel's strategy of making each of their characters fit into a (slightly) different genre. (Thor's fantasy action, Iron Man is sci-fi action, this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy is full-on space opera comedy... action.) But there's still a lot of Marvel content out there—maybe too much—and it's only a matter of time until everything starts bleeding together for moviegoers who aren't interested in keeping a spreadsheet to keep all these characters separate. (Eventually, that means Marvel's movies could run the risk of looking more and more like Marvel's actual comic books: A shrinking, niche product that, in respecting the complicated history of what's come before is impenetrable and unwelcoming to new readers, or, alternately, a shrinking, niche product that, in revamping what's come before, pisses off longtime readers.)

But that's a problem for another day, because Disney's still basically just printing truckloads of money every time they put a new Marvel movie out. Which means all the other studios with superhero properties are trying to replicate that success by creating their own "megafranchises," like Marvel's: Sony's about to cram 90,000 Spider-Man movies down our throats (only some of which will actually feature Spider-Man); Fox is gearing up to crank out as many X-Men and Fantastic Four movies as they can; Warner Bros. is still fumbling around, trying to figure out how to make more Superman and Batman and Justice League movies. Naturally, each studio's films will all be interconnected, so moviegoers feel like they have to see them all, and naturally, this is not sustainable: At some point, mainstream audiences are going to tire of superhero movies, even if—as in the case of The Winter Soldier—the better superhero movies do a pretty solid job of feeling unique in their genre.

Watching other studios try (and, so far, fail) to replicate Marvel's success is a weird little side-hobby for those of us in Hollywood's peanut gallery. But just as watching Hollywood's box office receipts somehow became a mainstream activity, I wouldn't be surprised if watching these studios' attempts to make their own megafranchises became something of an entertainment in and of itself. io9 already has a piece worth reading: "Which Studio's Attempt To Copy Marvel's Movie Universe Is Most Doomed?" The headline of that piece is telling: It's hard to imagine any studio actually succeeding in the same way Marvel has, let alone managing to do so before audiences start to tune out.

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