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May 12 2014

The Nerdist Writers Panel discusses the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marc Bernadin asks the fellow panelists whether the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just a big writers room run by Joss Whedon. The conversation starts at 55:10.

I am not a 10-year-old boy.

Just saying.
Nor am I, or any of my friends, all of whom love or at least like them. I think the comment about it being aimed at children primarily is obviously the case, but (like Disney films) there's a clear desire to also be appealing to a grown-up audience, and at least for me and those I know, they're managing that quite splendidly.

And I don't think the comparison of this being so vastly different from Nolan's Batman in scope is valid, as the third one was not announced until after the second. It was never officially a trilogy until they then decided to make it one, and so audiences were being strung along in the exact same (albeit far less efficient) way. The MCU as a whole certainly feels more never-ending than those did, precisely because it announces things years up front and keeps proving those announcements are reliable, but that just means they're better at being open-ended than the Nolan films were. Not that it's a different approach as such. If WB could have had Nolan continue making Batman films indefinitely, you can bet your house it wouldn't have ended with film 3.

As far as independent closure and a feeling of finality in the various films go, I'd argue they've got more so than most ongoing superhero comics ever do. Of course there are threads that keep going, but there's always been a main plot, and it's always been resolved by movie end. And none of them have ended on anything resembling a cliffhanger (though perhaps Cap 2 got a bit closer than most). They certainly have as much of it as the Harry Potter films did.

I think the writer's room comparison is valid, though. I think the point of it all being one unified story where each chapter might have a different feel (as per the director) but share a universal vision (as per Feige) is sound. And much like it sounds Blacker does, I think that's why I really respond to the MCU. I love the unified vision, and I love that it's more like TV and less like traditiona cinema.
I skipped to the 55:10 point because I didn't care about anything they were saying. I wish I'd skipped the whole thing. It is filled with stupid.

They're not really movies? Uh, no. They're on a screen, in a theater, and they're 2 hours long. They're movies. Trying to get metaphorical about how being a very loosely connected franchise diminishes them, a standard he doesn't remotely thinks applies to the much more interconnected Batman movies, is just stupid.
I dont think they are aimed at children. Dont get me wrong; a good work of art is a good work of art and can be, should be, actually, enjoyed by people of any adult age, inclusive those aimed primarily at children. This is not me trying not to love something for children. Im 35 and still read Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh with real glee and no sense of being wrong for doing so, quite the contrary. They are as great as ANYTHING else ever written.

I just dont think these movies are aimed primarily at children. At all. The same way Agatha Christie, Wells or Sherlock Holmes arent either. Not everything is aimed either to children or adults, in fact, few are. Most are just works of art that can be enjoyed by all, maybe at diferent levels, but even Peter Pan will have connotations as an adult it didnt have when you were 8 and it was written for you when you were 8, primarilly.
I don't agree that the movies are aimed at 10 year olds. For one there are a lot of political implications in both The Avengers and Cap Amer like green technology and NSA spying/drone discussion that would be just fly over a child's head. Second Drew McWeeney of Hitfix has made a point in his reviews to talk about how he has taken his children to some of the Marvel movies but has not taken them to others because of their content.

I have been thinking about this phenomenon of movies as television a lot. I feel that major companies are looking for the holy unending franchise so they can keep making money and sustain the company. This is exactly what different episodes of television are. Before the auteur television of The Sopranos and now Game of Thrones television tried to act like movies because of an inferiority complex. Now it seems that movies are trying to replicate television because the experience of building story and character and story of long periods of time are more satisfying than a bold auteurish statement. I feel that the comment of Whedon running a large writers room has a large implication for how story is being told by corporations across different media and that the statement is worthy of more unpacking.
If they were aimed at 10 year olds, why are many (most?) a 12A rating?
What's wrong with them being aimed at 10 year olds? Go to any toy shop, it's full of Avengers toys. My little cousin who is like 5/6 loves the films. I would much rather these big popcorn films be made for him, and enjoyed by me, than visa versa. There are enough films that I can watch that he can't.

I haven't listened to this ep yet, but if you're interested in a very good discussion about the MCU, I recommend having a listening to the Cap 2 (and Peggy Carter) writers one. You can find it on the Nerdist Writers Panel feed -- I just tried to find it on the site just now, but the site is a bit of a mess in terms of searching for content.
I think that the statement that "these aren't like other films" is exactly the point. They AREN'T like other films, and that makes them one of the most innovative forms of storytelling to come to movie-making in the last 20 years.

@loki "I love the unified vision, and I love that it's more like TV and less like traditional cinema." Yes, this exactly. Traditional cinema needed shaking up, the same way that TV needed shaking up when Netflix came on the scene. The way we consume and relate to movies is changing, and Marvel is the first studio to really grasp this and adjust the medium accordingly. Art has always been influenced by developments in technology and vice versa.

The comment about these films being aimed at 10-year-olds is completely missing the point. These characters are archetypes as old as storytelling, and their journeys (individually and as a group) hearken back to the epic myths and fables of old. The big, supernatural elements are a medium for asking big philosophical and moral questions - like, "Is redemption possible after you've built an empire based on mass murder?" or "How do you deal with life when your past and everyone you love has been stripped away?" (Questions that, incidentally, were also addressed on Angel and Buffy, respectively.)

It's the same reason I loved the new Battlestar Galactica, because it asked the biggest questions it could: "What's right and wrong, when the fate of humanity is hanging in the balance?" You can't get more epic than that.
There's a difference between something that appeals to a range of ages and something that is aimed at a specific age range.

Marvel's films are not aimed at 10 year olds, but can be enjoyed on different levels by a range of ages. There are references and jokes that adults will get much more readily than children. There are explosions and some spectacle that children will enjoy much more than adults. There's nothing wrong with that at all.

But I'd disagree that these movies are specifically aimed at children. You know what definitely was not aimed at children? Christopher Nolan's Batman films. Those were very much adults-only in tone. You can look at the level of violence between The Dark Knight (especially the pencil scene) and Iron Man as an example.
If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now the holy grail of cinema does this signal the death of "the movie"? Is all screened media going to be big bold serialized story telling?
I am disproportionately angry that men in spandex are not aimed specifically at me and will complain on the internet about it while lying about the depth of Winter Soldier.
@tausif "Is all screened media going to be big bold serialized story telling?" Doubtful. Marvel's approach to movies isn't a holy grail, it's just new. When television first appeared, people thought it would kill cinema, but movies kept getting made. Serialized storytelling across multiple media is just a new twist on established art forms.

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