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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Devil Dinosaur, Clone Saga, & Marvel's Future

So the numbers are officially in and Jurassic World has beaten Avengers as the third highest grossing film of all time, earning it a sequel that will go head-to-head with Avengers: Infinity War part 1.  This marks yet another major defeat for Marvel who’ve shaped up to have a pretty bad year all around.  Age of Ultron has been subsumed in the wake of hits like Furious 7 and Jurassic World with more competition coming this fall between Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  What’s more Ant-Man hasn’t shown a lot of audience interest and critically it’s only served to raise a lot of problematic issues with the Marvel universe as a whole.  The only Marvel projects that seem to really be gelling with audiences these days are episodic in nature, stuff like the major interest in Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD finally finding a major audience, and Daredevil ending up a major cultural hit.  What does all this mean for Marvel going forward?  Could we be seeing the end of Marvel Studios?

Most likely the answer to that is no but we probably will be seeing a lot of major changes to the Marvel universe’s style and focus in the coming years.  One thing marvel has shown is that they’re very willing to improvise when it comes to line up and universe.  For instance, despite the plethora of plot threads and unanswered questions in Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World Marvel took one look at their low box office returns and decided to backburner any sequel plans.  Conversely Marvel found it super easy to slot a Spider-man movie into the middle of their carefully timed out schedule, only really displacing the movies they were already finding problematic to produce like Captain Marvel and Black Panther.  As such I think it’s more than likely we might see some changes to the upcoming films either in content or just in what’s coming.  

The initial reaction to the success of competition is to try and mimic that success so it’s possible Marvel will try and bring in more characters in the Jurassic World or Furious 7, which brings me back to this article title about Devil Dinosaur.  Devil Dinosaur was a bright red T-Rex that Jack Kirby created in the late ‘70s.  Despite initially starting out as a solo character he’s popped up in plenty of other comics since and even has a prominent role in the Secret Wars tie-in comic Planet Hulk.  If we do see Devil Dinosaur pop up in the MCU Hulk is probably how he gets there and I wouldn’t be surprised if the time stone is how the two collide.  We already know the two remaining infinity stones of Soul and Time will be rumbling towards over the next two years and while the Soul Gem will probably end up in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 the time gem is still free game.  We know Hulk’s story is going to be continued in an upcoming Marvel flick that isn’t Civil War or Guardians 2 so I could easily see Dr. Strange or Loki hurling him back in time with the infinity stone to go hang out with dinosaurs as part of the plan to keep the original Avengers out of Infinity War part 1.
I admit this all sounds a little far fetched and unlikely and the main reason for that is that Marvel is a bit too smart to pull something as boneheaded and basic as just adding dinosaurs to their films to copy Jurassic World.  What’s more likely is that they’ll try and copy Jurassic World’s emphasis on nostalgia for the ‘90s, especially so if that Goosebumps movie later this year gets traction.  The only problem with this is that the ‘90s were particularly hard on most of Marvel’s big cinematic universe character.  That was the decade Cap was a werewolf and Thor was a biker, neither of which are stories you can really tell over the next few years.  What’s the most likely case is that we’ll see some aspect of retro ‘90s reference show up in 2017’s untitled Spider-man film. 
This could rear its ugly head in a lot of different ways.  On the one hand it’s possible Marvel will be so desperate for nostalgic interest they’ll make the new Spider-man film an adaptation of the infamous Clone Saga that dominated ‘90s Spider-man, perhaps turning it into a meta-commentary on the nature of doing a Spider-man reboot so soon after the last one.  Alternatively I could see Marvel fast tracking plans to bring in Venom or Carnage as a villain given the popularity of the symbiotes during those years.  Personally my hope is that they try and play on the memories of the Spider-man animated series by making Vincent D’onofrio’s Kingpin the main villain. 

Honestly, the best thing that could come from all this box office size measuring would be if Marvel decided to take lessons from Fast & Furious’ success.  Fast & Furious has achieved massive success easily on the scale of Marvel studios and part of what helped them get there is their emphasis on diversity.  I’d love to see Marvel pump up the Luke Cage Netflix show or maybe even cast an Asian actor as Iron Fist for when his show rolls around.  More than just getting away from all the gruff white protagonists an emphasis on diversity would help give Marvel a kick in the pants to change its ethos overall.  

All things considered Marvel getting bounced out of its seat of power this year isn’t all that surprising.  The studio spent most of phase 2 in a holding pattern, riding off brand recognition and the audience assumption that all the phase 2 films would be leading up to a big pay-off where the stories flowed together.  When none of that happened with Age of Ultron and then Ant-Man seemed to go backwards towards a more phase 1 vibe, it’s no surprise the public is starting to get a little tired of Marvel just futzing around sitting on their cash.  Of all the studios out there Marvel is the least well suited to simply sitting on the throne, they’re like a shark, if they aren’t moving and innovating, they’ll end up dead in the water. 

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