With the release of Captain America: Civil War to much critical acclaim and box office success, my theory about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has finally been confirmed: Marvel Studios is a black hole that will eventually consume the entirety of Hollywood’s ‘A’ and ‘B’-list actors. The evidence of this cinematic astronomical event is plain when one looks at just how many stars have been pulled into these movies. This is not to suggest that the MCU is a collection of bad movies, that is clearly not the case when one examines both my personal excitement when these films are released, or more empirically the Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes ratings; more thematically speaking, these movies have become intrinsically linked with the cultural zeitgeist surrounding blockbuster movies. Beginning in 2008 with the universe’s inception with Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was the first step in creating this multi-tiered, multi-movie plot arc. This kind of storytelling on this scale is pretty unprecedented and has revitalized and jumpstarted numerous careers. However, my theory is predicated more on this series’ capacity for constantly drawing high-grossing movie stars into this universe. So expansive – and profitable – is the MCU that Marvel Studios is eight years in to its development and is entering into the third ‘phase’ of this blockbuster doomsday device’s rollout.
Captain America: Civil War is the thirteenth film in this series and within those thirteen films there is a staggering amount of award-winning acting talent present both in person, as well as performing voice acting for CGI characters. Included in this list are academy award winners like Tommy Lee Jones, who won for his 1993 role in The Fugitive, and Sir Ben Kingsley who most famously played Ghandi in the eponymously titled biopic. What is amazing in these films however are the amount of ‘A’-list Hollywood stars performing smaller roles, most famously personified by Vin Diesel’s voice acting consisting of four words. More relevant to Civil War, and those possessing acting chops, however is Academy Award-winning actress Marisa Tomei’s extremely limited screen-time as Aunt May. Ultimately this series of movies to date contains within it actors and actresses that have been lavished with awards. Clearly the large budgets of the MCU are a means of these actors financing their more creative endeavours, everyone has to pay the bills somehow. To date the actors in the MCU movies have received twenty-one Golden Globes, twelve BAFTA awards, eleven Oscars, and sixteen Primetime Emmy Awards in their careers. Additionally, they have received three Grammy Awards – thanks for your appearance in Ant-Man T.I.
With this pile of hardware and the seemingly limitless source material from which to draw, Marvel Studios has created a movie franchise system unlike any ever undertaken in Hollywood. One that is able to continue to draw in acting talent from around Hollywood. The MCU has established itself as the unquestioned summer blockbuster; with a schedule of releases going as far forward as May 2019 this series will continue to expand and pull in new fans while other studios will continue to avoid these release dates for fear of being dragged under. This, combined with the inescapability of its marketing and social media presence (see Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool and its ubiquitous presence in media in the run-up to its release) has created something that we cannot escape from and will continue to pull $12 out of the wallets of the movie-going public for the foreseeable future. Sound like something familiar?