‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Shows Marvel Isn’t Slowing Down
Following April’s record-setting Avengers: Endgame release, it would be understandable if Marvel’s movie outputs slow down a bit. Should they take that step, however, it likely won’t be until 2020.
The final installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “phase three” debuted last week with Spider-Man: Far From Home, and took home over $600 million already, with a billion-dollar box office already clearly in sight. Though hero fatigue could set in at some point for Marvel and the entire movie industry, that appears to be a long way off still (at least for the hit franchise). On top of the impressive box office returns, Marvel films also spawn millions and millions of views around related content. Some of that is, of course, Marvel-produced (see owned properties, the coming Disney+ shows, etc.). But plenty more comes from the internet at large.
Using data from video measurement company Tubular Labs, you can see just how much Spider-Man alone has driven social video conversation over the last 90 days. The character’s been generating at least 100 million social video views per day (across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram) since late April, with most of those revolving around the film, both before and after its release.
It’s proof positive of just how much of a content animal these movies have become. Avengers: Endgame was accumulating even larger view counts weeks after its release, and the hype around the MCU’s “phase four” has already arrived despite no plans being officially confirmed. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is likely to end those questions later this month at ComicCon, however, which should itself spawn an entirely new batch of videos breaking down each and every word he said — and which heroes he said them about.
What’s been astonishing about the MCU’s success to-date is how it’s largely relied on what were less bankable heroes until very recently. Prior to the release of 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel’s “marquee” names were the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man (coincidentally, all heroes Marvel had previous sold the rights to). In the time since, Marvel’s made household names of the likes of lesser-known characters like Iron Man, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Ant Man and more, all while coming to an agreement on splitting Spider-Man’s rights with Sony, and reacquiring the X-Men and Fantastic Four through parent company Disney’s Fox purchase.
Now, with Marvel’s most popular characters on board, they’ll be able to set a course for the future that has a healthy mix of comic book diehards, dedicated MCU moviegoers and the general population that is now much more familiar with a lengthier and more diverse roster of heroes.
At this point, we don’t yet know when the X-Men and/or Fantastic Four will be integrated into the MCU. But in the lead-up to those big moments, it’s rumored fans will see movies revolving around Black Widow (already filming for 2020 release) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (a third film in that series), along with sequels for Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and Black Panther. The even more obscure Eternals are getting a movie as well, as will Shang-Chi, the MCU’s first Asian lead character. At some point in this run, you’ll also assume a third Spider-Man, and a team-up film under the Avengers banner. Other comic book characters like Namor the Submariner, Nova, Black Knight, Captain Britain have appeared in the rumor mill, but who knows how many of those (if any) would skip ahead of the aforementioned X-Men and Fantastic Four.
Marvel is uniquely positioned right now to both combat and cause superhero fatigue all at once. Though other hero films have continued to be released from other sources (rival DC Entertainment chief among them), Marvel has set a standard that has relied on quality actors and smart storytelling, regardless of how known or unknown the characters are to a larger audience at the onset. Finding the proper release schedule, interconnectivity, character mix and actors were all strokes of both genius and luck through the MCU’s first 11 years. Now as it looks ahead toward the rest of its second decade, they’ll be even more critical.
Without giving anything away with regard to Far From Home‘s plot, that film was equal parts forward facing and introspective. You didn’t necessarily have to see ALL of the previous 22 MCU films to get it, but there’s been an increasing number of instances in recent films from the franchise where that is indeed the case. Endgame was the apex of this, with an entire film of callbacks and fan service, and Far From Home was a spiritual successor in that regard. Especially with regard to the fabled post-credit scenes (they’re back for this one, by the way), you’re completely lost on one in particular here without seeing other films.
Is that a viable strategy going forward? It’s tough to say, as someone that has seen all the films myself and gets the references in real-time. But if the franchise wants to keep expanding its audience and make new films with new characters less serialized with regard to previous movies, limiting the interconnectivity would help avoid that dreaded fatigue. The early MCU films were loosely tied, and you didn’t see them bonded until the first Avengers film (2012); and even then, not every film was just the next “episode” of the perpetual superhero TV show. It helped keep the movies fun, rather than work, and was as inclusive as possible.
Though there are no signs of Marvel’s popularity really waning, there are still lessons the studio can learn before committing many/any of the sins that could cause such a decline. Given their success to-date, it’s likely Marvel’s already out ahead of these factors. With some time to breathe between now and 2020 (which should lead off with Black Widow in the spring), we’ll know soon enough if the next chapter looks like the previous ones, or it plots a new course entirely to its benefit.