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4 Ways We Can Save the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Guardians of the Galaxy is crushing the box office, so it seems like Marvel has the magic touch. They've been consistently catching lightning in a bottle since frickin' 2008 with so sign of letting up, so it's probably safe to say that superhero movies will be around forever now, right?

Uh ... come on, guys. I love this shit as much as the next utter fucking dork, but you have to remember that these things come and go in cycles. Westerns were the biggest thing in film for decades, but now are guaranteed box-office poison. As I've pointed out before, there's a tipping point here. You can only slam-dance the box office to one tune for so long -- eventually, normal audiences are going to get sick of the fad and move on to something even more ridiculous, like, gosh I dunno, live-action versions of fan-fic.

But I don't want that to happen. I want this to last forever. So I'm going to throw a tantrum and armchair strategize the shit out of this series. So, despite absolutely no one asking me, I'm going to tell you exactly what Marvel needs to do to keep that Money Train a rollin' down Our Wallets Avenue.

#4. Stop Giving Us the Same Ending

So, Guardians of the Galaxy kicked ass. I think the first two-thirds of it is one of the best movies I've seen this year, though that's not really much of a compliment, because Transformers 4 is dragging the average down significantly. Buuuuut then we get to the end, and we basically see, as we pointed out last week, the exact same ending we got in The Avengers:

Marvel Studios
"Quick! We need to have a sky battle to fend off the invading aliens from the population center!"

OK, it wasn't the exact same: The Avengers was about a sky-battle between a rag-tag group of heroes fighting off inter-dimensional aliens who wanted to commit genocide on an entire species with an infinity-stone MacGuffin, and also there was a helicarrier, because helicarriers are rad. Guardians only had the rag-tag group, the sky-battle, and an infinity-stone MacGuffin. If you want helicarriers and genocide in your climax, you're going to have to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

Marvel Studios
And it's still in the sky. Obviously.

And if you want inter-dimensional battles with invading aliens, you'll have to rewatch Thor: The Dark World.

Marvel Studios
Or you could just take my word for it. No one would blame you.

And in Iron Man 3 ...

DC. Ha! No, It's Marvel and We All Know It.
... you get the idea.

Sooooooooo what's up with that, Marvel? You've been totally crushing it with the zingers and character development (two things that seem consistently impossible for most other big-budget movies) but how come, since The Avengers, you only know how to end movies with a big special-effects extravaganza? What happened to Charlie Chaplin duking it out with The Dude, like at the end of Iron Man? Hell, in Guardians it doesn't even really make sense: We've barely even seen Zandar (Xandar?), and have no real reason to care about it aside from our natural human tendency to prefer that innocent people don't die.

Unless ... that's the plan? OK, I have a weird theory, and I really hope that it's what they're doing: Most hardcore movie dorks know that The Avengers 2 is going to end on a downer, because it's the second part of a planned trilogy (see: The Two Towers, The Empire Strikes Back, or even The Hobbit: The Desolation of Snooze. Also, Joss Whedon has said this is happening). Hopefully, this'll be a real emotionally impactful moment, rather than a visually stunning one, and that'll set the trend for all of Marvel Phase 3: Just like how every movie after The Avengers has reused at least one aspect from that climax, each Phase 3 movie will end with stakes that are equally large but more personal, more subtle, more based on emotions than VFX.

But there's something else that needs to happen, and this is more of a stretch ...

#3. We Need to Stop Going to See Spider-Man Movies

I hate to be the one to say this, but if you like the new Spider-Man movies, you're a wrong idiot. This isn't up for discussion. They're the worst kind of terrible: nonsensical plots, shoddy characterization, and one or two redeeming qualities that are guaranteed to make idiots like them (Andrew Garfield's and Emma Stone's performances are great, and that one "A god named Sparkles?" line was really funny). That's the kind of combination that can break hearts, because huge Spider-Man fans will sit in the audience and weep quietly for the movie that they could maybe be seeing instead. Then they go home and rewatch Spider-Man 2 and the studio doesn't even care because it already has their money.

Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"We don't even remember what industry we work in!"

But no matter how bad these movies get, Sony can't stop making them, or else Marvel will get the character back. This isn't technically a good strategy for Sony, since they can't make these movies good without Sam Raimi, but they can't give up because the rights to Spider-Man reverting to Marvel would end the shit out of someone's career. Can you imagine the guy who has to go up to Sony Pictures' CEO and take the blame for Spider-Man appearing in Avenger's 3, and Marvel now has all the money? Within minutes they'd be laying their head on the chopping block and some CEO would be all, "For the crimes of cutting our losses, I, Kevin, of House Sony, sentence you to die." In this instance, literally everyone in the world would be in a better situation (Sony would stop sinking money into movies they apparently can't make good without Sam Raimi around, and Marvel would regain control of their most popular character and do something fucking great with him). Well, everyone except that one dude who's head would roll down the grass and land at the feet of his sobbing children. Ya know what? I don't even blame him for not floating the idea.

fotokostic/iStock/Getty Images
Kevin doesn't exactly keep an open-door policy.

And it's not just Spider-Man: we're also getting a sequel to Man of Steel, despite that being awful. And a Fantastic Four reboot for some reason. And ten more DC properties because Warner Brothers doesn't understand that Marvel is only being successful because they're being fucking careful. If things keep going like this, it's not going to matter if Marvel movies stay good: flooding the market means we're all going to get sick of superhero movies. They'll ruin the freshness of the genre, the specialness, because when every movie is a superhero movie, even the most die-hard fan is going to start wishing for a romantic comedy or a movie about trains or something. So the only solution is that we, as an audience, agree to stop going to see these fucking movies. Pretend they're not happening. And if we have to go -- like, say, it's our job, because we work for a comedy website that covers movies -- we have to promise to do some weird drugs first. That's the only way to preserve our honor.

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J. F. Sargent

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