Marvel announced their Phase 3 plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe yesterday and the best way to describe my reaction is they succeeded in diffusing my excitement about Avengers – Age of Ultron and I’m pretty excited about that sequel.
Some brief thoughts on the state of Marvel:
- In 2009, Disney paid four billion dollars for Marvel. It turns out this was a tremendous deal. Check it out…
- The first Avengers had a production budget of $220 million and worldwide total lifetime gross of $1.5 billion.
- The last Iron Man (released last summer) had a production budget of $200 million a worldwide total gross of $1.2 billion.
- Guardians of the Galaxy (released this year) had a production budget of $170 million and, so far, a worldwide total lifetime grow of $752 million.
- You can check out the rest of the portfolio’s performance on Box Office Mojo, but the point is: it appears they’ve already made their money back in five years and then some.
Four billion dollars still felt aggressive in 2009, but think about what they were buying. They weren’t just buying a catalog of heroes, they were buying a massive collection of stories about these heroes, their origins, their adventures, and often, their deaths.
These stories have been tested. Marvel (and DC) have no issue mucking with continuity to improve the quality of the universe. It’s called retroactive continuity (or retcon) and it allows writers to resolve errors in chronology and reintroduce popular characters.
I think of retcons as bug fixes. It’s the writers not only making sure the stories all fit together, but also that the stories are relevant and entertaining. When you add the fact that comics are a visual medium, you understand that Marvel wasn’t just buying a catalog of heroes, they were buying a whole universe of compelling and tested scripts and story boards.
The cherry on top is the Marvel Cinematic universe is a retcon unto itself. The script writers of the movies are picking and choosing their facts and stories and knitting together what looks like decade long plot lines designed specifically for the big screen.