What to Marvel at

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Marvel media (movies and TV) are something Serdar and I discuss a great deal because they influence modern culture and modern creators.  They’re unavoidable culturally, commercially, and in influence on the media being developed now.  Unfortunately, I think Marvel productions are leading people to the wrong conclusions.

Is this going to lead to me bashing the films?  No, because most Marvel media are good and many are great!

What would you find in a typical Marvel production?  Near-universally excellent casting, some of which cultivates or recognizes considerable talent.  Direction, productions, and effects deliver breathtaking action and heart-touching moments.  Scripts may not be award-winning, but they are clear, well-paced, and often surprise with genre analysis and interesting twists as Serdar notes.

If you want to be entertained and maybe get a bit more?  Marvel delivers.

The problem I have with Marvel is that it’s omnipresence has a warping effect.  Everyone is trying to do extended universes – which is nice in small doses but boring when everyone does it.  Once a rare subject to cover, superheroes are everywhere – and I like superhero stuff.  Marvel did well, but now everyone is doing Marvel, and there’s a sameness to it all – an unsustainable one in my opinion.

Success breeds imitation, and I’ve had enough imitation thanks.  To add to all of this, imitating what Marvel did – quite well – misses the major lessons of how Marvel made this work.

The secret of Marvel is valuing competence.

The lesson to take from Marvel is not to imitate what they make, it’s to look at how they consistently deliver solid, entertaining productions.  Analyze the effective and surprising casting.  Note how the films and shows pace themselves.  Examine the use of genres and genre-bending (especially as superhero stories are essentially meta-genres).  Learn from the media, not the overarching gigantic media machine.

Trying to imitate Marvel will only produce imitation without the foundation – and it probably won’t work unless you have money to throw at your efforts.  Instead, you can look to the foundation to find out how to build your own thing.

Besides, there’s only so much room for the same thing.

Steven Savage

What Has Marvel Got To Lose?

[This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin.]

So having seen Thor 2: Return of Loki and some other guy with blond hair, it’s obvious (and as in being discussed all over the internet) that Marvel is going large. Huge. Enormous.

This all sounds like it may lead to a rather “rocky” crossover with a real gem of an idea that could get you stoned if you did it wrong. Wow, that metaphor got out of hand.

So what is Marvel doing having, as it were, thrown down the gauntlet?


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Fear Of A Checklist Planet (Or Universe)

The Fan To Pro gang often chats about various issues, and one issue that came up as Serdar and I discussed the Marvel adaptions that sometimes it felt like Marvel was checking off boxes on what to do.

This isn’t to say that Marvel hasn’t done some good stuff.  I consider “Captain America” to be a fine piece of filmmaking with a great central actor, “Iron Man” to have managed to inject old-school charm into high-tech adventure, and “The Avengers” to have done the seemingly impossible with style and heart.  Frankly, the studios and staff are to be commended for making actual, good, movies.

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