There’s a lot of excitement regarding the upcoming release of Avengers: Infinity War. However, there’s a good reason to worry about the long-term impact of the movie on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios and Marvel as an overall brand for Disney.
In 1986 Transformers: The Movie opened. And a generation of horrified kids watched their heroes they grew up with like Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Prowl and Ironhide get murdered in the first twenty minutes of the film.
While the producers of the film wanted to show the horrors of war, Parents were shocked and disgusted. Kids were crying in the theater as they watched characters that came to be their friends on TV were slaughtered onscreen. At the end of the day, Transformers: The Movie bombed at the box office. And the damage was so extensive to the Transformers Brand Hasbro struggled to move a single Transformer product for nine years.
Marvel Studios has been building up to adapt the Infinity Gauntlet into a film with Avengers: Infinity War. And many comic fans are anticipating Thanos coming to the screen. However, in the twenty-five plus years since The Infinity Gauntlet was published, the perception of guys like Thanos has changed. In the world outside of comics most people probably won’t sees Thanos as the uber badass he was in 1990.
Back in 1990 when The Infinity Gauntlet was published, there was no Julio Gonzales, Eliot Rodger, or Dylan Roof, committing mass murders of people just because they couldn’t get the attention of a woman or the approval of a woman in real life. When today’s casual viewers see Thanos onscreen worshipping Lady Death and killing superheroes to win her approval, they’re going to be reminded of these mass murderers and their psychotic behavior.
In today’s world Thanos isn’t a badass. He’s pathetic. And most viewers who see his story today won’t perceive him in the same way as readers did in 1990. Instead of seeing him as a serious threat they’re going to see him in the same way they see Eliot Rodger, a Psycho SIMP with a god complex. A man so narcissistic he goes out and kills people because he can’t get the attention of a woman and tries to use their deaths as some sort of social currency with her.
That’s not bad like the Iron Monger in Iron Man. That’s not evil like Ultron or the Red Skull. Heck, it’s not even anarchistic like the Joker in The Dark Knight. That’s SICK. And you really don’t want casuals, families and children seeing someone who is SICK in a superhero movie. It just makes them uncomfortable.
I see a lot of parallels between Transformers: The Movie and Avengers Infinity War. A generation of kids have grown up with the version of Marvel Super Heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And for them to see characters they grew up with murdered onscreen could scar them for life the way kids who saw Transformers: The Movie were scarred.
Sure, some kids today grew up with violent video games and reruns of ultraviolent shows like Dragon Ball Z. But most families that aren’t that familiar with comics who go to see Marvel Studios movies could get so alienated they might get turned off Marvel products for years. These aren’t generic baddies being set up to be killed. These are people the audience has grown to have a connection with and come to care about. And I believe Marvel Studios and Hasbro and Disney are underestimating the emotional connection viewers have with these characters the same way Hasbro underestimated it in 1986.
The last thing Marvel Studios and its parent company Disney wants is a bunch of kids crying over the death of Captain America, Spider-Man, or The Hulk icons in the eyes of generations of people.
Marvel Studios really should have studied Transformers: The Movie and the effect of that film on the Transformers brand. The Rodimus effect as I call it, is a real thing and it does long-term to fantasy/Comic related brands. It took nine years for Hasbro to rebuild the Transformers brand in the aftermath of Transformers: The Movie. DC Comics seven years later is still struggling to rebuild its brand from the disastrous New 52 reboot that alienated comic fans. That reboot led into its failed Justice League Cinematic universe that features films so dark they turned off an entire generation of casual viewers to the DC brand. With the comic book industry in the twenty-fifth year of a two going on three decades long slump that seems to have no end, the damage to the Marvel brand and the entire comic book industry could be devastating If Avengers: Infinity War is seen negatively by the casual public after the opening weekend.
I’m hoping that Avengers Infinity War is a hit like Captain America: Civil War. And I’m hoping they modify the story to appeal to families and children they did with Civil War. Because I’d hate to see The Winter Soldier could become Marvel’s Rodimus Prime.