3 things that sparked Marvel’s D-List Miracle

Plenty has been written about Marvel Studio’s well-scripted, beautifully shot and well-executed Summer Blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Having only been out for 1 weekend, the oddball superhero movie has already grossed US$160 million globally. Not half bad for a film that has only been out for one weekend (and features a talking racoon).

For those not in the know, Marvel has been consistently turning low-value Superhero IPs like Iron-Man, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy into highly bankable franchises, revitalizing a once flagging comic book industry. In fact, many would argue that without all prior successes, Guardians of the Galaxy would not have succeeded at all. So how did they do it? Well, here is what Marvel did right to take our favourite comic book heroes to the epic success they deserved.

They were patient

Instant Gratification
Many have forgotten that Marvel characters had a string of bad misses in the box office before Marvel got it right. The studio itself was not formed until much later, and Marvel had sold the rights of many of its IPs to studios like Fox and Sony Pictures.

These studios would churn out sequel after sequel, often letting down audiences with poorly written stories and poor characterizations. Marvel’s own efforts with “The Incredible Hulk” was also lacking, having taken not one, but TWO shots at the character before giving up.

Marvel, however, didn’t give up. Consequently, when Marvel Studios released the very first Iron Man (2008) movie, it created an immense following that Marvel was able to seize upon readily. It was the very first movie outside of Fox Studio’s Spider-Man and Fantastic Four Franchise to be a major hit.

Serious R&D


Vital to Marvel’s success was the studio’s belief in Research & Development. For the Guardians of the Galaxy script, they hired established screenwriters like Nicole Perlman (Episode writer for “The Black List”), who eventually came up with the Guardians of the Galaxy Script, to write treatments for a set of IPs.

Marvel would let writers pick one IP from a set of comics to write treatments for and allowed them to work out of the lot at Marvel. This allowed Marvel Studios to continuously evolve their stories through outside influences while giving the studio control over the Cinematic universe story canon.

It was from this process that the Guardians of the Galaxy’s hilariously punchy script was formed.

They took immense risks


Kevin Feige, President at Marvel Studios, has to be credited for Marvel’s current box office success. In an era of shrinking box office takings, movie studios have been sticking to tried-and-true formulas. Action, romantic comedies and slasher horror flicks are highly prevalent but put little focus on an endearing script or powerful characterizations. Many studios also pass up the opportunity to create a coherent universe that could extend the experience beyond the cinema screens.

What Feige did differently was to push for a series of movies that would tie up together to make a coherent universe. He took traditionally B-List characters that have not seen time on the big screen in decades (Captain America, Iron Man) or had failed outings (The Hulk) and developed individual movies for most them, then dropped hints in each movie that they would eventually dovetail into each other’s worlds (The Avengers). Feige recognised that for this masterpiece to come together, characters had to be well-written and future-proofed. What happened in one movie had to affect other movies in subtle (and sometimes major) ways. Characters would pop up in each other’s movies once in a while. Suddenly, the Marvel Superhero movies were no longer standalones and every single movie had to be seen.

The Avengers movie proved that Marvel could indeed take a whole host of obscure heroes and make a commercial success out of them.

They were authentic


Results for the Hollywood suits aside, comic book aficionados and avid Marvel Cinematic Universe fans have been abuzz about how their favourite characters had been treated with much love and respect. From costume design to catchphrases to character quirks, Marvel kept a focus on authenticity and a sense of believability.

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