The Marvel Universe
The Marvel Universe has grown a lot since its beginning in the 1950s. What started as a series of comic books would become one of the most popular entertainment franchises in the world. Marvel has since expanded to explore mediums such as comic books (of course), short films, feature films, video games, and a television series all based on characters from the Marvel Universe. While certainly ambitious, having so many entertainment outlets marketed more towards the mainstream can cause inevitable problems with canon. In addition, new stories that aren’t based on the original comics can disappoint more die-hard fans. My goal is to discuss how the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded and how it branches away from the original roots of Marvel Comics.
I am not very familiar with the original comic books, so most of my experience comes from the movies and doing my own research. I do know though that comic book plots can be very complicated, with official canon, non-canon issues, issues dealing with hypothetical plots, and even crossovers with the DC Universe. People who aren’t completely invested in these plots would naturally be confused. It is my belief that these intricate plots are streamlined for film to appeal to audiences and fit all of the plot points into a 2-3 hour window.
However, film adaptations for anything tend to get mixed reactions out of fans. The most common complaints I’ve come across are that the adaptations are either too true to the comics and less appealing to the casual moviegoer, or they deviate too far from the source material in an effort to please the average, non-comic book reader. One example I can remember is people complaining that Spiderman didn’t use webshooters in the 2002 film Spider-Man, but instead shot webs out of his wrists directly. Another I found had to do with the order of events that will lead up to the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron and eventually Ant-Man, namely that Ant-Man is directly responsible for the events that happen in Age of Ultron and should go first. Lots of these complaints are easily shrugged off by people who don’t know about the comics, but comic book fans feel as if their beloved characters are just being used.
Perhaps the most confusing aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that there are a few of them: One run by Marvel Studios, which is responsible for The Avengers, one run by 20th Century-Fox, responsible for X-Men, and the other Sony Pictures Entertainment, which makes The Amazing Spiderman movies. These separate universes alone completely mess with the original story, as all of these characters have technically interacted at some point in the canon. No doubt that fans would love to see these universes come together on the big screen, but money and rights prevent this from happening. Because of this, shared plot elements are left out of the storylines.
However, coming from someone who doesn’t know almost anything about the original source material, I would argue that these separate Marvel Universes have become so different from each other that having them all suddenly show up in the same universe would destroy all of them. At this point it would be hard to imagine the entire universe that X-Men created suddenly mesh with the Avengers because neither one of them was created with the other in mind. They have different histories and rules to follow, and unless the creators reboot everything, which would be a very drastic and probably stupid idea, these worlds are going to stay separate, much how Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is unrelated to the planned DC Universe. So, even though Marvel could be even more transmedia, it would be in everyone’s interest if they just stick with what they created.
Ultimately, the original Marvel Universe is just too big to do the hardcore fans justice and please the casual moviegoer. It appears that the universe is only going to get bigger with Marvel phase 2 and 3 in the works, as well as with future X-Men and The Amazing Spider-Man movies planned. In the interest of making widely accepted films, the new Cinematic Universe takes certain aspects of the canon and incorporates them in ways that work on film, effectively creating new stories based on, but not bound by the source.