Marvel Studios has had fans on the hook for years now - ever since they first announced their Avengers Initiative in 2008. However, while most Marvel fans have had one big destination in mind for all of these superhero solo movies and team-ups (a cosmic showdown with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet), in recent weeks we've gotten wind that Marvel's plans may not be so simplistic - and that some other big event films could be on the way.
Here's the short version of what we've heard: The Avengers: Age of Ultron could end with the team fractured, and Iron Man retired; Captain America 3 will start the "Cap vs. Tony" conflict at the foundation of Marvel's Civil War; Avengers 3could introduce a new team roster - with the original members and cosmic characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy all returning for a major Marvel event film ("Infinity Gauntlet," "Secret War," "Annihilation").
That's a much more elaborate plan than the simple pattern of launching a handful of solo films before another Avengers team up; but it's a plan that may become necessary for sustaining the MCU - and maybe the superhero genre as a whole. Here are 5 Reasons Why Superhero Crossover Event Movies Will Be The Next Big Thing - That Need to Happen.
5. The Sell
The Avengers set a new bar for what audiences expect from major blockbuster event films. CGI scenes of mass destruction and a headlining movie star are no longer enough, as moviegoers now want one-of-a-kind event experiences that will draw them out to the theater - and make the hefty price of watching a film on the big screen actually worth it. Branding is everything these days, and in both TV and Movies it seems that things labeled as major, not-to-miss "events" are the only big draws left.
Both Marvel and DC have seen in the post-Avengers era that (while still lucrative) superhero solo films - that DON'T star Robert Downey Jr. - are not able to generate that same billion-dollar box office and zeitgeist-bending buzz that a major team-up film like The Avengers did. In the current model (solo films and team-ups), that means earning less money to roll out superhero origin films and sequels, while settling for that big pay-day every few years when The Avengers or Justice League get together. Not surprisingly, the studios probably want the money to flow faster (and more consistently) than that.
DC and Warner Bros. have arguably broken the Marvel mold first by putting Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice into production. That followup to a solo film like Man of Steel is the perfect example of "crossover event film" appeal: The title alone (with "Batman" and "Superman" in it) is enough of a milestone to put butts in seats; add in Wonder Woman, and you truly have a DC trifecta worth people's time at the theater.
It doesn't stop there, either: word is DC could conquer other hurdles by teaming characters like Green Lantern and Flash together for their own mini event films. Strength in numbers and all that...
On the Marvel side, Captain America 2 used characters like Black Widow and Falcon to give the film more of a "mini-Avengers" feel, and got some strong financial returns as a result. Word is Captain America 3's storyline will take this approach even further (new Avengers team, Iron Man supporting role) - likely to draw even more viewers (and dollars) in. After that, if rumors are true that Avengers 3 will be quickly followed by a major MCU event film, Marvel will have a trio of event flicks (Cap 3, Avengers 3, MCU Crossover Event) that could each tap that billion-dollar mark due to their bigger scope and wider character inclusion.
In short: fans want more bang for their buck these days, and seeing Thor go on a second or third adventure just isn't enough; even Iron Man 3's billion-dollar reward came with some underlying fan exhaustion. Robert Downey Jr. may be right that the superhero genre is getting worn out - but somehow we think people will still turn out to see a crossover event film that puts Iron Man next to Rocket Raccoon.
4. The Actors
One aspect of the super hero genre that's long been a point of curiosity is the human element. Much of what the genre demands from its stars (long-term contracts, many revisits to the same role, a seemingly endless cycle of production and promotion), is very counterintuitive to the traditional process and fulfillment of acting (character exploration, closure, new exploration). So how (beyond fat paychecks) will stars of The Avengers or Justice League hack it for so long, running circles around the same (arguably juvenile) sandbox?
Answer: By doing less to more effect.
Robert Downey Jr. is the poster-child for how superhero actors will adapt to the changing genre; after his career got a new lease thanks to Iron Man in 2008, Downey has not ventured very far from Tony Stark (Sherlock Holmes is a close cousin) - though that is starting to change now (see: The Judge). Behind the scenes, RDJ has been quite vocal about both his exhaustion with the Tony Stark role, and the unfair demands Marvel can put on its actors; but with this news of his appearance in Captain America 3, it seems a smart compromise has been reached.
By including Tony Stark in the next Cap movie - and kicking off the "Civil War" conflict - Marvel is allowing two of its most visibly exhausted actors (RDJ and Chris Evans) to share the weight of a single film, rather than having to each carry a film on their own. That means less time on set; split duties for marketing and promotion; while also putting their characters through major developments that they can explore much quicker through interaction with one another, as opposed to the slower arc of a solo film. Those are clear advantages for the actors - and for the fans, seeing Cap take on Tony Stark is going to be more exciting than just about anything else they would otherwise imagine for either Cap 3 or Iron Man 4.
Going forward, it would make sense for there to be "mini crossover event films" to go along with the full franchise-spanning crossover blockbusters. It's already happening on the Netflix front (with Daredevil, kicking off the lead-in to a Defenders crossover event), and the track record for returns is already established (Cap 2). By grouping them together, more often, the studios will likely find themselves with happier stars; after all, who doesn't like to get more out of having to do less?