Contrasting the Superhero Cinematic Universes!

2016 has been an exciting year! Marvel Studios have launched their epic Phase Three with a bang, DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice kicked off a lot of controversy, and we’re getting psyched for the latest instalment of Fox’s X-Men franchise. With not one but four attempts going on to build superhero Cinematic Universes (more on that later), this seems like a good time to ask how it’s going…

1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Kudos to Marvel Studios, they were first to try their hand at a Cinematic Universe, and their success has led to countless studios and properties trying to emulate them. 2008’s Iron Man was a high-risk strategy; tying the superhero franchises together like this risked weakening them all if some of the films didn’t perform. The real pressure was on 2012’s The Avengers, though; if that film failed to deliver, then the whole MCU project would have collapsed in on itself.

It didn’t fail, and the MCU is now entering its Phase Three. With Phase Three culminating in the double-film Avengers: Infinity War blockbusters, we now know Marvel are viewing Phases 1-3 as an ongoing saga that comes to a gripping conclusion. Phase 4 will essentially relaunch the MCU. It’s a sensible strategy, because it neutralises the ‘escalation’ problem that’s often plagued the comics; with every superhero uniting against Thanos, the temptation would be to constantly try to find ways to make the next movie “bigger” than the last.

Thanos is the villain of Infinity Wars!

Thanos is the villain of Infinity Wars!

Marvel Studios have built the MCU with a great deal of care. The key idea has been that they’ve tended to introduce a superhero as a solo franchise, and then weave the superhero into the broader fabric of the MCU. With the concept more firmly established now, though, they’ve recently begun to switch things up. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon made a major cameo in Ant-Man, for example, while Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther both made their début in Captain America: Civil War.

One thing that’s not changing is that each franchise within the MCU is being encouraged to stand on its own two feet. Stylistically, the slapstick humour of Ant-Man contrasts with the political depth of Captain America: The Winter Soldier; the space opera of Guardians of the Galaxy contrasts with the fantasy-esque approach of Thor: The Dark World. It’s a winning strategy, because it allows each franchise to have its own unique style and tone, while fitting into a broader universe. Doctor Strange, due out later this year, looks to capitalise on this a lot, with a tone and style reminiscent of Inception.

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