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Based on an analysis by editor David Lynch, Inverse.
It’s hard to imagine the movie world today without the existence of the MCU. Over nearly 15 years of development, the “baby” of Marvel Studios and Disney has become a massive empire with millions of fans, a money printer with terrible performance, and a pioneer for The cinematic universe model is being pursued by many other studios.
Up to now, Marvel has not shown any signs of stopping but has even continued to “encroach” into the television market, with more daring works in terms of content and ideas. What If…?, their latest series on Disney+, has officially taken the audience to explore the vast multiverse with many different realities, many different stories of already familiar characters. This makes the MCU more diverse and unpredictable than ever, with too many ideas that they could exploit in the near future.
Formed in 2008, MCU has now become a powerful empire with a huge number of products.
In the spirit of What If…?Inverse site has conducted a small analysis: What if the MCU didn’t exist, or didn’t succeed as it is today? What if Iron Man didn’t create an earthquake in the movie industry in 2008? What if more than $8.5 billion in box office revenue is just a dream number that has never actually existed? And what if the acronym MCU never became the most famous three syllables in pop culture?
Without the MCU, Hollywood will sooner or later have equally massive cinematic universes
To imagine how Hollywood would change if the MCU didn’t exist, we need to look at the direction of this movie market in 2008, when Iron Man was released. In it, there is an undeniable fact that sooner or later, an empire of the size of the MCU will also form. That’s according to JD Connor, Professor of Motion Picture Arts at the University of Southern California (USC).
Professor Connor said: “Hollywood wouldn’t be so different if the MCU didn’t exist“. Next, he pointed out two main development trends: First, large companies will seek to acquire smaller brands to increase their position. And second, filmmakers in Hollywood will often develop safe works that are easily accepted by audiences instead of risking their lives with bold creative ideas.
If the MCU doesn’t exist, sooner or later another cinematic universe will emerge.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 significantly eased restrictions on brand mergers as well as media ownership. This has spawned a whole new environment of development, allowing ambitious ideas, like the cinematic universe, to be developed with less risk.
Connor continued: “After this law was promulgated, the playing field was almost exclusively owned by the big guys, big corporations with big ambitions for profits as well as long-term stability in movie works. That has raised the audience’s demand, making them more and more expect movies on a larger scale“.
In other words, movie franchises with many interconnected parts are what the audience is aiming for. This trend will continue to grow, whether Iron Man succeeds or not.
Why is franchise development an inevitable trend of Hollywood, not independent films?
One of the reasons the MCU is so successful today is that the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, and his creative team have worked together towards a common goal. However, if this cinematic universe did not exist, would the superheroes be torn apart to become new independent stories?
Spencer Harrison, co-author of the study Marvel’s Blockbuster Machine (Marvel’s blockbuster generator) at Harvard University, said the possibility is highly unlikely, and that another Marvel franchise will replace the MCU: “I think at the moment, Hollywood still wants to invest in creating different intellectual property assets, and then exploiting them to make bigger stories.“.
Franchise is an inevitable development trend of Hollywood with or without an MCU.
In Harrison’s view, the dominant way of thinking in Hollywood is to maximize financial potential by exploiting familiar characters in a cross-cutting storyline, divided into different parts. The most obvious examples are the Spider-Man series by director Sam Raimi, The Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson or The Matrix by Wachowski. Hollywood wants to create true sequels in a common script, instead of just creating single works like the first James Bond movies.
Therefore, if not Marvel, another franchise will still emerge instead. For example, Warner Bros.’s DC Cinematic Universe Extended (DCEU), which was originally a project to compete with the MCU but soon encountered many problems due to lack of investment and impatience like Kevin Feige and others. partner did. However, in a universe where the MCU doesn’t exist, and the competitive pressure is gone, is there any chance of success for the DCEU?
Harrington said: “The DCEU won’t go downhill that fast. They will not be hasty, hasty in building the Justice League. And Zack Snyder can exploit his ideas into many different movies, cook at will and create the most thoughtful dishes.“.
Disney will invest in another franchise to replace the MCU
It is the operating model and success of the MCU that has spurred many movie franchises and other cinematic universes to develop explosively as they are today. The sublimation of Iron Man is also one of the main reasons why Marvel Studios caught the eye of the Disney giant, thereby entering a new era of success. However, Professor Connor said that if Iron Man fails, Disney will probably skip Marvel Studios, but will continue with its plan to acquire many other small studios, typically Lucas Films, a deal that once cost them. cost up to $4 billion.
Disney needs franchises hot enough to support its theme park chain.
Connor said: “Disney has a strength that other competitors do not: It is a chain of theme parks. They need new characters and franchises to make this park chain more attractive and attractive (like the Avengers Campus park that they just opened in early June). And with such multi-million dollar parks, they need to choose the themes and characters that already have the most fans.“.
This explains why Disney will definitely have to create a new cinematic universe if the MCU does not exist or fails. Moreover, the needs of the audience are changing and becoming more fragmented. This makes directors and producers be wary of investing heavily in films in which the cast of characters is completely new. Sticking to faces that are already familiar to the audience is clearly a much safer and more profitable option.
However, the influence of the MCU on Hollywood and world cinema cannot be denied
Hollywood was already facing a lot of big problems before the MCU achieved the success it is today, especially before the strong growth of streaming and gaming services – two areas that were extremely explosive in the decade. past. Jeff Bock, media analyst at Exhibitor Relations, said: Without the MCU, the position of movies could be even more shaken by the strong resurgence of entertainment genres. other places like streaming or gaming.
It has been suggested that the box office success of the MCU movies not only makes the audience more stratified, but also reduces the chances of other smaller studios to break through. Jeff Bock disagrees with this statement, because he thinks that without the MCU, the chances for those small studios to break through are even lower.
The MCU and the superhero movie line contribute to pushing audiences to theaters more.
Bock said: “It is a fact that the superhero movie line was born to help the film industry in general. It creates motivation, it urges the audience to temporarily take their eyes off the television and streaming content to go to the cinema. Without superhero projects, there is a high probability that the number of moviegoers will decrease significantly, and the number of small films produced will not be as much as it is today.“.
In the event that the MCU really doesn’t exist, Bock thinks the movie market will be flooded with works with a cosmic adventure theme, and “a lot of sequels to movies that shouldn’t need a sequel“. In addition, then Hollywood will reuse the old formula that they successfully applied in the 80s and 90s: It is to assign the main roles of big blockbusters to actors that audiences are already familiar with, for example. like Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
Bock explains: “In the old days, Hollywood’s strategy was to just choose the actors who attracted the most viewers, brought in the most money and put them in a new context, a new story. That is no different from bringing Batman, Superman or Thor into new scenarios, worlds. That’s really what they’re doing even now“.
The future of the MCU
Currently, the MCU has undergone more than 13 years of development with 25 different movies. However, Bock thinks that in the future, this universe will develop to the point where the characters will no longer be as closely associated with actors, the way Tony Stark is with Robert Downey Jr., as they are today.
For Bock, the real question should be: What if the MCU never ceases to exist? He said: “They can completely reboot (reboot) Iron Man as many times as they want, for as long as they want. To talk about the “longevity” of superhero movies, we are still at a young stage. Like the horror genre, this genre will never go away“.
According to Inverse
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