The year was 2008, and there wasn’t much good going on in the world of Marvel movies. Spider-Man 3 had soured the franchise, the Fantastic Four movies were definitely not fantastic, and Hulk was lousy at best. It seemed that Marvel was doomed to have lackluster movies produced by third parties.
Then came Iron Man.
Everything felt right with this movie. The costume was spot-on, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance was spectacular, and the post-credits scene revealed that a larger, connected universe was on its way. Marvel was a David in the world of movie producing, and it showed that it could compete with all the Goliaths in the industry.
Even with some of their most popular characters, such as Spider-Man and the X-Men, in the hands of other companies, Marvel began building an incredible, connected universe in the movies that followed Iron Man. There could be little that was more exciting than the idea of seeing individual heroes coming together and Phase One culminated in The Avengers. Marvel continued strong during Phase Two, with Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy being huge hits. While not every movie has been a shining example of greatness and fantastic storytelling, all of them have been financially successful. Even the movie that people seem to complain about most, Thor: The Dark World, did financially well at a little over 200 million.
Marvel has bulked up and is no longer a heroic David, but rather a hulking Goliath, (pun intended), and I think people are getting tired of it.
When Age of Ultron came out, I read dozens of articles that pointed out every flaw and shortcoming. It seemed like everyone was wanting to bring Marvel down from their now legendary status. This only increased when Ant-Man was getting close to release. With the Edgar Wright problems and Ant-Man considered a B-list hero people were anticipating an Evel Knievel style crash and burn. But Ant-Man did well both financially and critically, and Age of Ultron was still well received even with all the nitpicking people have done.
At some point Marvel will have a flop, since no franchise or company can have success infinitely. But until that flop happens people are going to be looking and waiting for it. Watching a Goliath win again and again gets tiring, and so many people hope to see it fail. And maybe a single fail would be beneficial, since right now people are so anxious to find flaws that they’ll tear apart good movies and magnify any flaws disproportionately. Despite the financial and overall critical success of Age of Ultron, there have been a huge number of complaints about things ranging from stereotypical storylines to nitpicking whether or not Black Widow’s portrayal is anti-feminist.
I recognize that Marvel’s movies aren’t perfect. There are a number of different ways that the movies can be improved, but that’s true for almost any movie out there. The difference is that with Marvel being so incredibly successful with their movies, people love to cry out “See! They’re not so great! Look at all of their flaws!” All because people hate to see a Goliath go so long without losing at least once.
I don’t know when Marvel will finally have a failure. Their lineup for the next few years seems pretty strong, so I can’t pick anything out in particular as the next target. But I honestly think that a flop can only help them, because instead of saying “look at the strained relationship between Banner and Black Widow”, we can finally say “that movie may have had some rough spots, but at least it wasn’t another Howard the Duck.”