Marvel has had a pretty good streak in the recent years. Even looking at the marvel movies not owned by Disney, the past couple years have seen X-men First Class, The Wolverine, The Amazing Spiderman 2, and every MCU movie after Iron Man 2. Admittedly, there are groups of people who didn’t like a few of them. Some people weren’t fans of the Amazing Spiderman and others didn’t appreciate Captain America or The Wolverine. As a whole, however, Marvel seems to be on a winning streak.
One of the biggest reasons for this success has been the focus of a few, primary characters in each movie. Every successful Marvel movie since 2011 (I’m ignoring the abomination known as Ghost Rider 2), has focused on the primary protagonist and those who logically surround him, as true to the comics. Captain America had Bucky and the Howling Commandos. Thor had Sif and the Warriors 3.
The two notable exceptions to this rule are the Avengers and X-men: First Class. The Avengers had a lot of characters, but almost all of which were set up in previous movies. First Class, although including a wide roster of mutants, focused on about three (Professor X, Magento, and Mystique). The others, even the villain, got considerable less screen time. I think that’s why it worked.
So what’s my point?
Marvel movies have a formula, and they’re about to break it in two of the next three Marvel-based movies.
Historically, the three biggest flops in Marvel movies have all suffered the same curse: too many characters.
Spiderman 3 had Spidey facing off against Venom, Sandman, and the second Green Goblin, while trying to introduce Gwen Stacy. The result was catastrophic. Somehow, Peter sported emo hair and Saturday Night Fever danced his way down the streets of New York.
X-men: The Last Stand saw the introduction of Juggernaut, a more present Kitty Pryde, Multiplying Man, Beast, Angel, Callisto, and whoever that Porcupine Man was supposed to be. All the characters came across flat, several ones we cared about were killed, and everyone battled for screen time against Dark Phoenix and the anti-mutant serum. Yikes.
X-men Origins: Wolverine had a similar problem. In an attempt to include a bunch of fan-favorites, Wade Wilson was shorted on screen time (I won’t even talk about the end. The fury still boils inside me) and Gambit saw about five minutes of collective screen time. The movie had other issues, of course, but an excess in characters did not help.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 is approaching rapidly. We have three confirmed villains, but the trailer seems to be hinting on even more. All this is building towards the Sinister Six, so it’s natural that many villains will be necessary, but it appears that The Amazing Spiderman 2 has forgotten lessons learned by Spiderman 3. At least three villains will appear. In an estimated 2 and a half hour runtime, will there be time for them? Paul Giamatti has stated that Rhino is a background character, so I am thankful for that. It just looks like this Marvel movie is about to suffer under the same problems previous Marvel movies have seen. Time will tell.
At the same time, we see Days of Future Past approaching. In a similar way, we have seen teased dozens of characters. Empire released 25 covers with different characters. 25. Different. Characters. I am happy that Brian Singer is back behind the wheel of the franchise, but I worry about the number of different characters we will see. It looks like they’re bringing back Toad (who was last seen struck by lightning while being rehearsed a cheesy line), Beast, Shadowcat, Storm, Iceman, Havok, Colossus, and even William Stryker, not to mention our primary characters of Xavier, Wolverine, Magneto, and Mistique. Then, on top of this, we see the introduction of Quicksilver, Trask, Warpath, Blink, Sunspot, and Bishop.
How will they have time for this?
It sounds like many of the characters have only a couple scenes. Rogue was supposed to be in it, but her one scene was cut. This gives me hope that the movie will handle the surplus of characters in the same way X-men: First Class did, but this is still an excess of characters. Is it wise? Will it work? Time will tell.
It’s important to note that Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy have not been mentioned thus far. Both movies appear to be handling relatively low character counts, in stark (pun intended) contrast to the movies from the other companies. This only serves to enhance my appreciation and respect for the Disney-based Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Historically, comic book movies with too many characters generally don’t do well. The Amazing Spiderman 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past both hold record-breaking villain or mutant counts. This does not spell doom for the movies just yet, but if not handled well, we could see cramped or shallow movies in the next couple months.
Only time will tell.