Origin Stories in the Marvel Universe, Moving Forward

Since we all seem to be covering a few comic book themed posts this week, I figured I’d jump in with some thoughts on how I think they handled two new characters in Civil War, and what I think that means for the MCU moving forward. I’m going to do my best to keep this vague and try not to spoil anything too much, just in case you haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet.

We know, just from the trailers, that Captain America: Civil War has the honor of introducing two much anticipated characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Black Panther and Spider-Man. The latter of the two has been the most talked about, considering the negotiations that had to take place for Disney to take over the character of Spider-Man from Sony. After trying to start two separate franchises based on Spider-Man and not succeeding, a lot of people, myself included, were excited to see what was going to be done with the character by the MCU. Black Panther is not as well-known by the general public (audiences who go to see the Marvel movies without reading the comics), and so his introduction to the MCU is, in a way, starting from scratch.

Without giving too much away, if Civil War is considered the origin stories for both of these characters moving forward, I will be mostly satisfied. Not being extremely familiar with Black Panther, I would be interested in getting to know more about his start, but in my mind it could be handled as mostly a flashback or intro to his solo movie. I say that mostly because after watching superhero films several times a year since 2008’s Iron Man, I’m getting a little bored of origin stories. Even beyond Iron Man’s kick off of the Avengers franchise, it seems most superhero movies were origin stories. The Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, each time the Batman movies tried to reboot… I’m feeling a bit over-saturated with origin stories.

There is absolute validity in doing origin stories as solo films, of course, especially when they fit so well into the building of a franchise. The first Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America films are perfect examples of that in action. Part of why I’d like to see the Black Panther and Spider-Man movies focus on the heroes after their origins is because to go back to the moment they were created as a superhero would be to go back in time. I think a large majority of the MCU audience would rather see these two heroes being their awesome selves going forward, instead of seeing once again how Spider-Man was bit by a spider and started fighting crime.

As I addressed with Batman vs Superman, at what point have we beat movie audiences over the head with certain origin stories? The only reason to address Spider-Man’s origin story in his upcoming solo movie would be because Marvel is taking it in an entirely different direction – which I find highly unlikely. It is so well-known, there’s not too much purpose in giving it an overhaul. Instead, it would be more interesting to see him further explore his superhero-ness following his role in Civil War (and if the hints dropped in the film are any indication, that is exactly what they will be doing). Civil War makes mention of his origin, but for the most part it assumes a smart audience familiar with the story, which was a breath of fresh air in a superhero movie.

I could see some purpose in doing Black Panther’s movie as an origin story, as a way to introduce the public to his fully flushed out story, since many are unaware of it. I feel like he was set up so beautifully in Civil War though, that to do so would be a step back instead of a step forward to continue the MCU and his role in it. Frankly, I find myself conflicted on this particular story; his character was so amazingly done and so well introduced, yet he is also a relative unknown to most people and his origins are fascinating.

I think for the most part, the speculation is that Marvel may be moving away from focusing on origin stories and instead focusing on the superheroes already in action. Considering they may finally be listening to the clamoring for a Black Widow movie (about time!) it will be interesting to see what they continue to do with the solo movies in their lineup. Black Widow, for sure, would feel like a huge step back to do as an origin story – especially since it was mostly addressed in Age of Ultron. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing more fully formed, veteran superheroes instead of superheroes just starting out, and I hope that is what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to start providing to their vast audience.

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