"Good things come to those who wait” is a popular quote about the value of patience, and it's entirely true. Waiting, however, doesn’t always sitting around passively and assuming something nice will happen. Sometimes patience means working slowly and carefully to ensure your work is done well, waiting until the right moment for the end result. If something is worth doing, in other words, it’s worth taking the time to make sure it’s done right. A perfect example of this, funnily enough, can be found in a field that's often criticized for pandering to instant gratification: film. Join me now as we explore how Marvel's MCU perfectly showcases the value of patience.
Most people can remember that "The Avengers" came out in 2012, and was greeted with wild acclaim. The movie racked up a 92% approval rating on rotten tomatoes, and a more-than-respectable 8.1 rating on IMDB. Most people can also probably remember the release of "Iron Man" in early 2008, which also garnered raucous acclaim. How many, though, can remember that "The Incredible Hulk" also came out in 2008? Or even Marvel’s first foray into having an avenger on the big screen with The Hulk’s 2003 debut? Almost no one, and that’s because both movies flopped. Neither was a box-office cash cow, and neither cracked 70% on rotten tomatoes, an astonishingly low rating for the MCU. What’s even more astonishing, though, is that after their first Hulk movie tanked, Marvel waited 5 years before trying again. In a remarkable display of patience, Marvel let the negative press surrounding their failed movie die down before launching another, a move that allowed Iron Man to act as the high-note launch of the MCU.
Furthermore, it’s often forgotten that Marvel actually released 5 different movies before producing "The Avengers," one for every single character on the squad except Black Widow and two for Iron Man (the second of which featured Black Widow). There was a concentrated effort on the part of the company to ensure that fans had some attachment to ever single character before they even stepped into the theaters. Personalities were established years in advance, so that the first ensemble film was filled with figures we already knew and loved as individuals, and in turn loved all together even more.
To showcase just how remarkable this is, let’s compare with DC. For one, the movie that launched their cinematic universe, Man Of Steel, performed worse than either Hulk movie and far worse than most MCU titles. In response, DC decided to soldier on, and I don’t think it’s any surprise that the rest of the films in this attempt have received similar criticisms. Furthermore, they're ensemble movies are spectacularly rushed affairs. Suicide squad tried to introduce us to every single character in the first 30 minutes, and their marquee group film, Justice League, will be made after only 2 characters, Superman and Wonder Woman, have had their own stand-alones. This is what makes me ultimately nervous about the movie’s fate, and the fate of DC's large-scale endeavor overall: they are rushing films in order to compete with Marvel before having done the requisite groundwork to ensure their success.
In short, Marvel’s attitude toward their films is one that prioritizes patience and character growth above quickly producing profitable content. It’s a view of world-building that feels far more like a novelist’s than a popular movie producer’s, and this pays off for us as well as for them. This approach allows Marvel to deeply explore individual characters in a way that's truly meaningful, as well as bring lesser-known but wildly entertaining characters such as Ant-Man and Deadpool to the screen, which results in a better and more entertaining experience for viewers over the years. Everyone wins, in other words, when a movie studio takes the time necessary to set up a series of films with patience and care. For our sake and their own, I hope more studios start reading from Marvel’s playbook.
With excitement and optimism,