Now this might be confusing for some of you. After all I had just written that DC is about to beat Marvel in cinema. Why the sudden Pro-Marvel post? Because upon seeing the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 I was instantly reminded as to why we love Marvel. I still stand by my last post, that Wonder Woman will be a game changer. However, when it comes to understanding what viewers want, Marvel has it down. After all, they’ve spent years refining the Superhero Movie Formula.
Joss Whedon sums up Marvel’s formula best.
“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”
This quote, along with the GotGv2 trailer’s record numbers highlights that formula. Drama, action, suspense and most importantly humor. A light hearted reminder that all of this is make believe and that you should enjoy it. The trailer featured all of this and that’s probably why it had 81 million views in the first 24 hours of its release.
DC learned this formula, but a little too late. Man of Steel was absolutely depressing and it continued in Batman v. Superman. Tell me you didn’t cringe at the balcony scene in BvS where Supes flew off all mopey. I don’t think he smiled once during that whole movie. It’s one thing to write an interesting dynamic character with flaws, it’s another thing to write about a Kryptonian Emo. I blame Zach Snyder for trying to copy The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. followed suit and then everything spun out of control.
Suicide Squad is when it hit home that DC might be doing things wrong. A trailer company posted a wildly popular trailer for the movie. It showed crazy antics, funny quips and a fun Squad. Too bad the director didn’t get that memo. Upon seeing the depressing, gritty feature film, the studio went back to the same trailer company and asked them to edit the movie and make it fun. Both movies were screen tested and the “funner” movie won out. There’s only so much editing that can be done in order to save a movie. In this case I felt the movie was…ok. Critics slammed it for being choppy and a glorified trailer.
Back to Marvel, while DC continues its identity crisis Marvel is churning out quality enjoyable films on a consistent basis. GotGv2 is the perfect example. James Gunn understands the Marvel Formula, wrote a movie tailored to it, filmed it (with little resistance from Marvel Studios) and the freakin’ trailer is already breaking records. There is a trust between Gunn and Marvel Studios, and rightfully so.
Just looking at the trailer, you can tell GotGv2 is going to be great. There’s giant aliens, a swarm of space ships in a dogfight, and every character shines in their 5-10 seconds of screen time. If you didn’t laugh at the Rocket Raccoon/Baby Groot scene then you have no soul. The trailer is fun, the movie will be fun. This is Marvel at its best, a fantastic world of make believe where you sit and enjoy the ride.
The Marvel Formula stems from the comics. Comics are the ultimate form of escapism. Some people read about super powered people because they feel powerless. I feel that most people want to escape these troubling times. So who wouldn’t want to see Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot banter? Or Drax burst out laughing at Starlord’s revealed secrets. Marvel understands our desire to immerse ourselves in a dynamic fun world so they roll out the red carpet. They create ups and downs, depressing and uplifting scenes so that the movie is never dull but rather a rollercoaster of emotion.
Perhaps “formula” is the wrong word. Formula implies that it’s the same thing every time. A repetition of material in the same order. No two Marvel movies are the same so I can’t call it a formula. Maybe the word I’m looking for is “understanding.” Marvel has an understanding about what people get from their stories. They know that they invest in the stories. They know that a dark or scary scene adds drama to any movie. And they also know that the “joke” that Joss talks about is so important. Because in the end we don’t go to the movies to watch someone else’s depressing struggles, we go to escape our own. That’s why we need that perfectly timed joke, it’s so we know everything is going to be ok.
I’m glad Marvel understands this and I eagerly await Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Till next time!