It's been five long years since Marvel Studios released Iron Man and started their campaign to dominate the superhero film world. By 2013, they have become the undisputed king of summer. More so than Warner Bros, Fox, Sony, or anyone else releasing movies about men in tights, Marvel has consistently crafted crowd pleasing movies that have gained not only commercial success, but critical respect as well. Finally, with 2012's The Avengers, all the ground work Marvel laid down — the multiphase plan, the consistant film universe, slowly building a team of heroes together — finally came together in one final cresendo that cemented their place on top of the superhero game. While Warner Bros. still struggles to even get a Wonder Woman movie off the ground, Marvel has already lapped them with the speed of Quicksilver. Marvel has managed to release film versions of all their major characters, but within that triumph lies a whole new problem.
Where does Marvel go from here? How do they continue to create new franchises if they have already adapted all of their most prolific characters to film? The studio has become a victim of it's own success.
Stan Lee said in a recent statement that "the people at Marvel are looking through our whole list of candidates and wondering which ones are we going to use now. They are going to do the Black Panther. They are going to use Doctor Strange. They are going to do Ant-Man. They are going to do the Guardians of the Galaxy. And they’ll probably do the Inhumans." The answer to Marvel is to start creating films based on second and third tier characters. Heroes that may not be familiar to the average person or even casual comic book reader. While these characters might not be the most recognizable ones, maybe that's a good thing.
With their third phase of films, Marvel is looking to adapt their second and third string heroes into new franchises. This will give characters that have seen little exposure outside of the comic book circle to a wider audience, but it also means that Marvel might have to change the kinds of movies they are used to making. These characters exist on the fringes of public's collective consciousness for a reason. Sadly they are not the most marketable heroes.
Whether Marvel likes it or not, it's going to have to get a little weird. Characters like Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy are not your typical superheroes and therefore can't be adapted into your typical superhero movie. These characters are very different from Iron Man or Thor or Captain America. The Guardians of the Galaxy, in particular, has within its ranks a surly gun-toting raccoon and a fighting tree with a very limited vocabulary. Some of these characters will stretch the boundaries of what fans think superheroes might be, but Marvel needs to highlight those differences rather than hide them away.