Why MARVEL is Meaningless.

by , Monday July 31, 2017
Why MARVEL is Meaningless.

"The Marvel franchise is just a bunch of passable movies with no true meaning."

- Chrissy Sky

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has officially twisted itself into the lives of most of us on this earth. The movies are among the most successful of all time. But there's an enormous difference between a great movie and a good one. Here's why I think Marvel doesn't make the cut. 

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I, for one, really like most of the films Marvel have produced, with the exception of Antman and surprisingly, Doctor Strange... Yes, even though I adore Benedict Cumberbatch to the moon and back, but we'll get to that later.


Firstly, what exactly is a "passable movie"? 

passable   ˈpɑːsəb(ə)l    adjective

1. just good enough to be acceptable; satisfactory.


A passable movie is not one that is made with care. It only does just enough for the audience, making us satisfied with the experience of seeing that movie, but does not emotionally grip us in any way, and we fail to see the true meaning or message behind it.

One key feature of a passable movie is, for example, when a scene undercuts its own dramatic purpose with a joke. In other words, a scene (or several) that starts out as serious but becomes trivial. This is known as bathos. Bathos is a reoccurring "technique" used in the Marvel movies, and that is essentially why I have come to see the many flaws with the franchise, and why I deem it passable.

Unfortunately, bathos is way overused in Doctor Strange. Take this scene for example, about three quarters of the way through the movie;

Strange has just said goodbye to Christine, realising that he must take on his new responsibility and leave his old life behind. The Cloak of Levitation drapes itself over his shoulders while he stares back at his own solemn expression through a mirror. Meanwhile, theatrical music plays in the background. He reaches for his cloak collar and pulls it straight, only to then have it caress his face in a comedic fashion.

This scene didn't make me laugh like it was supposed to. It made me disappointed. I wanted to feel what the character was feeling - the seriousness and dangerous responsibilities that he must now take on, the intensity of the situation - but that emotional connection was sacrificed for a halfhearted joke. Whilst this scene creates a smile or a laugh for most people, it destroys whatever drama the film was going for. It makes a potential climax into an anti-climax.

The best movies are those that can maintain the comedic scenes without sacrificing the all-important emotional connections that the audience develops with the characters. One of these movies is actually The Fault In Our Stars. However, if Doctor Strange had died at the end of that movie, I would honestly not care less, because there was never any connection made. For me, that's a shame, because Benedict Cumberbatch is a phenomenal actor, and one that conveys believable raw emotion with his characters, for example when he took on the roles of Alan Turing and Sherlock Holmes. In Doctor Strange, he is made redundant by the lack of tonal control.

Whilst bathos can be a very handy tool in filmmaking, it must be used in the correct way. It must be subtle and cannot reoccur too many times. In both Doctor Strange and Antman (and most other Marvel movies), bathos is dramatically overused, which causes us to be passable viewers. We still enjoy what we are seeing, but we lose all sense of how the movie actually makes us feel, which in turn defeats the point of cinematography altogether. Anyone can create a story that people will love, but not many can create a story that people will feel, a story that really tugs at your heartstrings, a story that conveys truth. 

The scene I described in Doctor Strange is one that can be seen in all superhero movies out there. It is essentially the answer to this famous question:

"Will this character accept and take on the obligation or burden that their new power or ability has given them?"

The scene's purpose is to drive the audience into the final action of the climax, which could be an important confrontation with the antagonist, or an intense battle scene.

Anyone can argue that the jokes in Marvel movies are funny. Hell, even I think they are worth a little chuckle and I'm the one writing this blog post. But that isn't the point I'm getting at. There is almost always a cost that must be paid when using bathos, and that is the loss of the drama and the intense wave of emotion that the audience is supposed to feel immediately after.

Wonder Woman, however, is one film that really connects emotionally. Wonder Woman symbolises truth, honor and courage. There a few other Marvel heroes that actually stand for something. Unlike in the other films, Wonder Woman does not possess constant bathos. Instead, the filmmakers use the music and cinematography to make the audience truly believe in the character of Wonder Woman. It is then that we actually feel something. The film has more meaning because we are emotionally invested in the character's life and beliefs and self-sacrifice. Our judgement is not clouded by an array of jokes when there is no need for them. 


In my mind, the filmmakers of Marvel have little confidence in their own work. They fear that there isn't enough drama, that there isn't enough emotional connection there in the first place. They fear the movie will flop. So instead, they overshadow the movie with comedy. That is ultimately why Marvel is so popular, because they make us laugh, and ultimately why they have been converted into passable movies with no real meaning behind them.

I believe that films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool were born from the overuse of bathos in the Marvel franchise. Why do I think that? Because we expect these movies to be funny. We expect them to make us laugh and we go to see them in the cinema purely because they are comedic. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with using bathos. We all still love the Avengers and we all still enjoy a good Marvel binge. But are we missing out? YES of course we are! When you think of superhero movies you think epic adventures, danger, dramatic cinematic moments designed to keep you on the edge of your seat.  In my opinion, none of that really exists anymore. There's no symbolism, no clever filmography or camera work that makes us feel a certain way. They are not great movies. They are just something to be watched, instead of something to be felt.


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Credit to JustWrite and The Nerdwriter for the underlying idea, I mixed their basic principals with my own opinions to create this blog post.


Side note: This blog reflects my own views and in no way instructs people to think in a certain way. The Marvel franchise is successful for a reason, and even though as an aspiring filmmaker, I have these opinions because I like to analyse the cinematography in films, I still really like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


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