Marvel Studios has been responsible for bringing some of Marvel Comics’ most iconic characters to the big screen to the delight and adulation of fans and moviegoers across the globe. Thanks to revolutions in cinematic technology, characters that were bound to the printed page and stilted, low budget TV or movie adaptations now leap off the screen and at viewers in mega-budget cinematic spectacles.
According to Money Nation, Marvel Studios has generated billions of dollars at the box office and there is no real end in sight as it prepares to unleash a slew of comic-based movies through 2020. Doctor Strange held the number-one spot at the box office for its opening weekend and generated $85 million over the course of those two days alone. The Marvel Studios formula has been hugely successful, but their constant reliance on that formula has worn thin. Marvel movie tropes have given fans more than a few reasons to complain, and odds dictate at least a few cliché Marvel movies will be inflicted on audiences in the near or distant future. Here are some bad MCU tropes that Marvel Studios should definitely avoid going forward.
Part of the problem of having a concealed identity is the tendency for the hero’s enemies to threaten the people the hero loves, either by accident or as a result of the hero’s real face being revealed. Sometimes this grows into another trope, “Killing the Good Guy’s Loved Ones,” but usually just serves to spur the hero into decisive action, like the threat to Pepper Potts in Iron Man 3. It brings a sense of urgency to Tony Stark's actions from that point on. But once again, it sets itself up for failure.
Hulk and the Abomination, Captain America and the Red Skull, Thor and Loki. It almost seems like Marvel Studios can’t make a movie that doesn’t pit the hero against his diametric counterpart. It is a trope intended to contrast characters against their opposite and not-quite-equal reflections. It’s a move that has been successful in the past, but it’s time for Marvel Studios to take advantage of the plethora of no-goodniks at their disposal. There are villains available who are in no way similar to their protagonists and shouldn’t be. Let the hero define their character by being who they are, not by being who their enemy isn’t.
They take lumps, maybe lose a supporting or even lead character, but the protagonists always, ALWAYS, even if there’s bound to be a sequel, win. As superhero genre movies continue to strive for greater realism, it will be necessary at some point to craft endings that don’t satisfy the viewer’s need to have every conflict neatly wrapped up in two-and-a-half hours. Sometimes, the hero loses and will have to pick up the pieces next time around. When the audience knows the hero will win at the end, it reduces the tension the movie is supposed to be eliciting. This is a trope that needs to be turned on its head for the sake of good storytelling.
The trope of having a hero born because another character dies is maybe the oldest power fantasy hero cliché there is. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, when Quicksilver dies, it galvanizes the Scarlet Witch and rallies the protagonists, leading to their ultimate victory. While the victim in Age of Ultron is a hero, usually the victim is either much older or much younger and, more likely than not, female. There are far better storytelling conventions to be used than this cliché tradition.