Are Marvel Movies Ruining the Film Industry?

It may seem strange to accuse Marvel of ruining the film industry when Marvel, in particular, is the biggest game in town. Their movies make money hand over fist, with Avengers: Endgame alone making what three or four “ordinary” blockbusters might make. 

However, that very statement speaks to what ails the movie businesses. And it’s not only Marvel that’s the problem. The big studios rely so much on presold titles with their sequels and remakes and reboot that everything else gets lost in the shuffle.

Zendaya and Tom Holland
Zendaya and Tom Holland | Fotonoticias/FilmMagic

It’s telling that there is only one movie this year to make more than $100 million that’s not based on some pre-existing intellectual property, and that’s Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood. But is it fair to blame the mega-budget tentpoles when they’re what’s keeping the business going?

Are Marvel movies ‘all the same?’

A user on Reddit got the discussion going, arguing that Marvel was basically making the same movie over and over. The user said: “They all are incredibly formulaic, and have essentially the same plot, but re skinned with different characters. Sure, some intricacies involving the plot may be different, but overall it’s the same general conflict-resolution dynamic.”

Moreover, the user argued this is bad for movies in general: “Why make a quality movie with a unique plot, unique characters, and a ‘deep’ message, when you can just make a typical movie with a big budget and a couple of A-Listers and still make bank? I can’t be the only one who sees originality decreasing from mainstream films.”

With Marvel so dominating the conversation these days, it’s easy to forget that other series have arguably been “making the same movie” for decades. The James Bond movies have stuck to a basic formula since 1962, the same year Spider-Man was created. So Marvel is hardly the only culprit here.

The movie business goes in cycles

Another argument against Marvel and superhero movies, in general, is that it’s too much dessert and not enough steak. Superhero movies used to come along once or twice a year. Now Marvel by itself releases up to three movies a year. To paraphrase another superhero movie, The Incredibles: “When every movie is super, none of them will be.” 

Something similar happened in the 1960s. Musicals had been dying, but a number of them turned into huge hits and Oscar winners, including West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and particularly The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music was so huge that adjusted for inflation it’s the third most successful movie of all time, way ahead of Endgame down at number 16.  Every studio wanted a piece of that. Musicals were the superhero movies of their day. 

The problem was that the musicals got bigger but not better. One stiff after another disappointed the audiences: Camelot, The Happiest Millionaire, Paint Your Wagon and Doctor Dolittle were all expensive failures that hurt their studios. The musical trend faded away and didn’t come back in vogue for decades.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and the future of movies

To be fair to Marvel, most critics would agree that the movies have been mostly good and sometimes great. Avengers: Endgame was a singular achievement, with Marvel sticking the landing of 11 years’ worth of movies. If any company is going to dominate the industry, it might as well be Marvel, which has a strong vision and usually executes it well. 

Whether folks like them or not, superhero movies are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Film studios are such huge global corporations now that they can take a hit in a way they couldn’t in the late 60s. Disney can absorb a big bomb like Dark Phoenix thanks to making a mint with Avengers: Endgame. But how long will it last? 

There are two folks who know a little something about “ruining the film industry.” Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have been accused of starting this hunger for blockbusters with Jaws and Star Wars in the mid-70s. And they saw this coming six years ago, per the Hollywood Reporter. 

“That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm,” Spielberg said. 

“We’re talking Lincoln and Red Tails — we barely got them into theaters. You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theater,” Lucas said. 

That’s not good for any moviegoer.