Howard Moskowitz once said that there was no perfect pasta sauce, only perfect pasta sauces. This is something that superhero films need to learn as I feel that the need to make everything like the MCU could eventually hurt the art-form as a whole.
Possible Fantastic Four spoilers bellow
I haven’t kept it a secret that I felt both Age of Ultron and Ant-Man were disappointing and part of it (especially Ant-Man) was that it felt too much like what had already been done. What had made the MCU so fresh and exciting years ago, now feel to me kind of samey.
I’m not saying that the MCU should be axed or films like Ant-Man should be gotten rid of. In fact, I hope the MCU lasts for years. But I feel there should be other things to counter it on the big screen. I’ve said before that I would love to see the DC universe take a more high science fantasy style in their DCCU. I would love to see more animated superhero films get more mainstream attention and I was hoping that the new Fantastic Four would try to be something different.
But to quote myself:
I was wanting this film to be good and to move away from the standard MCU formula which honestly after watching Ant-Man and Age of Ultron, is beginning to feel tiring to me. To use an old analogy, I don’t want one perfect pasta sauce, I want perfect pasta sauces.
I wanted this to be a heavy sci-fi film like the early promos promised, something more like Wrath of Kahn or Moon. I wanted to see more variety in superheroes instead of the same action movie which I’m not saying is bad, but shouldn’t be every superhero film. I want to have horror and a psychological thriller like Sandman, hard sci-fi with the Machine Man or mythological and high fantasy with the New Gods.
I hope that Batman V Superman can give me my craving for something different with its darker and more noir like tone. But I want to see the Spirited Away of Superhero films. I want standalones that deal with lesser known heroes that don’t need sequels. I want to see a Superhero musical and the Superhero version of M.
We nearly got something like this to. Remember a few years back, when DC announced that were doing smaller films for about $15-45 million like Booster Gold, Deathstroke & Suicide Squad. That would have been the perfect place to experiment because with the smaller budgets, it means more creative freedom and less pressure to be successful. But sadly, this got scrapped and SS turned into a big budget film.
Going back to pasta sauces again, Moskowitz discovered that people don’t know if they like something unless they’ve been able to try it like in that case chunky pasta sauce, a type that nobody was serving at the time. Think about it. Do you think anyone in a video game test group back in 1982 when asked what would they like to see in a video game said, “I want to see a small plumber get high and use fire to kill turtles”? Or say, “I want to see Starlord dancing in a cave!” before the release of GOTG?
We need people willing to experiment on the films and to do that, the studios need to be more willing to take more risks which sadly, Marvel isn’t with its films (less so with its shows except for their current animation).
This goes down to even how the films are structured at a basic level. The Marvel films heavily rely on the Hollywood three act structure to the point that it was shocking to some in the industry that the first Avengers delayed the 4th plot point by a whole 2 minutes!
However, despite how people (usually who aren’t writers) and Syd Field likes to say so, the three act structure is not needed to make a good story or film. In fact, it can hurt your work incredibly due to its limitations, especially with biographical and novel adaptations. Hell, we’ve seen how its forced use has hurt some Superhero films like Daredevil and Age of Ultron.
After all, Malcom X had nine acts, the Lord of the Rings and most of the Harry Potter films ignored it, most anime films use a different type of structure, Shakespeare used a five act structure and Jaws, what many consider the first blockbuster used a two act structure (though some mistakenly believe it uses a three act). Believe when I say that there are a lot of writers out there who would be happier if they weren’t mandated by studios to follow it.
Again, I’m not saying I want to see MCU gotten rid or changed radically. What I want is something new to counter it and people to be more willing to experiment.