Marvel Makes TV Shows, Not Movies

Let's talk about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel makes fun movies that earn a ton of both money and positive reviews. But almost without exception, there’s something lacking with them, even when compared with the far less critically acclaimed and remunerative DC films. I think it comes down to this: By and large, none of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies reward multiple viewings.

Marvel makes movies like it makes single issue comics. They’re intended to be one-and-done. They exist to get you to buy the next. In effect, the Marvel movies aren't movies. Instead, they're episodes of a single TV show.

This means Marvel's top priority, by far, is getting viewers invested in the heroes, so they will pay to see those heroes in the next episode. All of Marvel's efforts focus on charismatic characters. The rest--most everything else we think of as filmmaking--falls by the wayside.

Why bother with good villains if they'll only be in the one movie, quickly forgotten by next month's episode? The only villains of note are those breaking this rule by appearing in more than one episode, groomed, like Loki, to become heroes themselves.

Why bother with interesting cinematography when your audience is there only for the characters, and besides will be too busy with the next movies in the sequence to watch this one again to notice careful visual choices? For similar reasons, why bother with memorable scores?

Each Marvel movie is, in effect, a commercial for the next Marvel movie. It's about establishing relationships between existing characters from across the various sub-franchises, as well as introducing new characters who will appear in future films. No story is ever self-contained, no story is ever done. Every movie is simply setup for the next movie. Which has the effect of making each movie, as a stand alone artifact, somewhat disposable.

This does not mean MCU movies are bad. They’re on the whole quite fun. But they’re never interesting filmmaking. They're expensive network TV shows. Given how enjoyable they are now, imagine what they could be if they strived for more.

Now for some updates.

  •'s book publishing operation is kicking into even higher gear. I signed off on covers for three new books, and four additional manuscripts are working their way through the editorial process.

  • I goofed on my timing for Free Thoughts's 200th episode. Trevor and I recorded it earlier this week, but it'll see release a week from today.

  • I've drafted about half of a new short story, one I'm quite happy with so far.

  • I continue to be surprised at just how stirred up people get about immigration. I tweeted out what I thought was a pretty straightforward point--that arguments against immigration grounded in "property rights" fail on their face--and, man, did lots of people not like it.

Talk to you next week. Or sooner, if you want to hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.