Will’s Honest Opinion – Thanos: Hands of Fate – 3-19-18
If you’re a Marvel fan, or just your average run-of-the-mill genre movie fan, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say: “a new ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ trailer dropped last weekend.” DT even did a FREE Special Trailer Reaction Show the day it came out. This movie is the culmination of a decade of planning, execution, and world building. The decade long, 18 film span, will undoubtedly be the go-to source for future Hollywood execs of what to and what not to do for franchise building in the upcoming decades (for better or worse). In 2008, Marvel set out with a promise, and on April 27th, 2018, they’re about to make good on that promise. An entire generation grew up on these movies. Some were fair. Some were bad, and some were tremendous. And although I have huge hopes for this new entry, I can say from a stance of guaranteed certitude, after Av3… I’m out.
Due to a combination of franchise fatigue, and superhero movie malaise, I’ve been entrenched in this industry since Batman 89′ and gone through the highs and lows it had to offer. It is like chasing a dragon, and nothing is more beneficial to a well performing movie than the hit-or-miss nature of releasing sometimes up to 3 films a year by the studio. In fact you could make a compelling argument that the only reason Marvel was able to get this far was due to the shortcomings of 25% of it’s entries. You need to learn from your mistakes, and it becomes increasingly difficult to continue to top every previous entry; especially when you have 18 of them in succession. Baseball is only interesting because home-runs are so infrequent. If everyone hit it out of the park on a continual basis, audiences would become expecting of it, and much less forgiving when someone didn’t nail it on the first try. They’d also become bored because the stakes of success would be minimal. Meaning, you can’t have good movies without bad ones.
However, my retirement from the fandom of this industry seems to be akin to a lost puppy always coming back to me. Even after I’ve left it blindfolded and lifeless at the bottom of a ditch, it finds it’s way home again. Case in point: I actively went into ‘The Last Jedi’ wanting it to be my last Star Wars movie, and in return was treated to my favorite entry since RoTS. I went into ‘Aliens: Covenant’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’ with predetermined speculation, only to be wowed by both, and singing their praise at the end of the year. Transversely, I bought tickets to JLA as soon as they were made available, and couldn’t remember hating a movie so much in the theater since ‘Rings’. And regardless of Marvel hitting it’s stride, It’s too soon to say whether I’ll be back for Av4 or Marvel’s reboot of F4, and X-men in the mid to late 2020s. (With any luck I’ll be working on those movies then, and not reviewing them.)
But why is this important? Why am I treating my genre-film going experience like a drug addiction that I need to quit? Because it’s not mine anymore. It’s not made for me. I don’t get the same high I used to. And although one could argue that it’s me who’s changed, I think it’s the films themselves. I speculate that Marvel kept on top by changing the recipe for the drug with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. At that moment the movies became more template based and the dialogue was punch-up driven. Since then, Geek Culture was officially hijacked by mass audiences, and these studios are knowingly playing with your emotions like an abusive spouse. It’s become a toxic domestic relationship between the producer and the patron. They’re somewhat inescapable, and similar to the overuse of social-media, they can have profoundly negative affects on our lives if we let them. It’s easy and true when I say: “They just don’t make’m like they used to.” And not because the storytelling techniques have changed or improved.
When I was growing up, the biggest rivalry was between Xbox and PlayStation owners, and if you had both, there was little in the way of debate, because you didn’t need to justify anything to anyone. But now, Geek Culture has encroached so far into Mainstream Culture that these movies are no longer about the message they’re trying to send, but rather the politicizing of their success. ‘Black Panther’ is a fine movie, but it’s global marketing and hype is what brought it to a 97% on RT. Movies can’t just be about entertainment anymore. Instead, people are being sold the value of winner picking. When high profits are met with high Rotten Tomato scores, and not the other way around, the system for poised collapse. I can’t spend more than 5 minutes on YouTube without seeing 20+ videos in my suggestions box, all claiming to tell me why ‘The Last Jedi’ is the worst movie of all time, or how Disney doesn’t know what they’re doing. Let me tell you something, they do.
Let’s talk about YouTube for a minute, and how they’re structured. These companies win even when they lose. If a movie or game comes out and does well, YouTube and it’s affiliates profit off of the free advertising that is generated by the onslaught of: reaction videos, movie/game reviews, play-throughs, or video essays. The Av3 trailers didn’t get 5 million views on YouTube. They got 50 million views by proxy of fan reactions and analysis videos. Now let’s say a movie does terribly, and the fans hate it; well unless you’re ‘I, Frankenstein’, you still profit. ‘Ghostbusters: Answer the Call’ has one of the all time lowest ratings in YouTube history, but the ads played before the trailer are still guaranteed monetary gain for the higher-ups. Negative reaction videos are met with 200% more views than positive reaction videos, and again, that’s ad revenue directed straight back to the top. Also, keep this in mind; negativity keeps the conversation alive.
[ Slightly off topic. When you see a posting about Stormy Daniels, Trump golfing, No gays in the military, or whatever brain fart Trump expels in a tweet from his tiny baby hands at the moment, he’s keeping the conversation alive. NOW THIS IS IMPORTANT. These acts are ensuring a win for him in 2020. Trump is a demagogue. He thrives off of infighting. It keeps him on top to see others arguing over him. It creates sympathy for him by his followers, and enrages his opposers; causing them to become reactionary and exhibit the very behavior a sound person should abstain from. So, for the love of God, if you don’t want Trump to win the next election, you need to stop talking about him. Demagogues only go away when you ignore them, like Freddy Krueger.]
This type of marketing is applicable to all mainstream media. Disney does this every time they release another interview with Mark Hamill claiming “Luke wouldn’t act like that”, or Snyder tweets shade about facial hair. It’s all part of the plan. They refer to this type of “theater” in the movie ‘Chef’. Now back to Marvel.
Marvel has done everything they said they would, and has profited immensely as a result. They also had the added benefit of DC losing battle after battle in an attempt to play catch-up. Ironically, DC has been killing it in the comics for the past 5 years, while Marvel has become the pushers of mediocrity, recycling storylines over and over, or introducing female versions of known characters as a way to stay fresh and relevant. This in turn may be DC’s saving grace in the years to come. When you sell out of your first issue of ‘Dark Metal’, after printing 250k copies and eBay is still asking for $25.00 per issue, you’re doing something right. Which brings me to back to my point of retiring from all things “geek”.
Recently it was reported that Marvel has 15 movies planned between now and 2022. Will this be too much? Over saturation is the death of anything. WB knew this and waited 4 years between The Dark Knight and TDKR installments. They let the film breathe and have it’s moment. Marvel on the other hand, pushes it’s limits with occasionally releasing up to 3 films a year, and somehow keeps the bough from breaking (for now). When Marvel started, I don’t think anyone could predict where the industry would be right today. Av3 could have been a modest film if the others did marginally decent at the box office. It could have been the final swan-song many dedicated fans received as a reward for sticking with the series for the better part of a decade. But instead it’ll most likely be the biggest movie of 2018, and cement Marvel’s footing deeper in the space. Of course there’s always the possibility the movie will suck, and I’ll lose interest in the MCU out of utter boredom. Or… it’ll be great, and I’ll be able to drop my habit after getting one last awesome high. I’d say it’s about 50/50.