Blood for money: Sucking the life from cherished stories

Years ago Disney bought Marvel. They also bought Star Wars. They’ve also bought a bunch of other companies. In those acquisitions, Disney managed to purchase the legal rights to a significant portion of my childhood entertainment. A lot was said about what this all meant, and why it was significant. I was a bit worried that Disney was about to ruin things that had nurtured my young geeky self.

So far, it hasn’t gone exactly as I’d predicted. Disney is pumping tons of money into creating content out of the various intellectual properties it has acquired. There are news Star Wars films and TV shows exclusive to Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+. There is an entire magazine racks worth of superhero movies. There are TV shows as well featuring well-known, but less iconic characters. There’s even more (new Predator comics?!), but the point is made. Once these properties were brought under the Disney umbrella, content has been created in a manner that only be described as torrential.

My initial thoughts on all of this were that Disney was basically going to suck the life from these IPs for as much profit as possible, and then discard the lifeless husks of once beloved franchises. This could still happen, but it hasn’t yet. The result is actually a bit different than I’d imagined it.

Rather than merely recreating content, Disney is saturating, over-saturating if we’re being honest, the media landscape with stories derived from these acquisitions. In the days of yesteryear, something like The Mandalorian could have been a series of novels. It would have fit perfectly. I truly did not believe that Disney would make any effort to create new and original stories, and I was wrong. In a way that’s refreshing. I’m happy that there are attempts to keep these franchises new and fun. We’ll see what happens with movies adapted from Marvel’s comics. Now that the Infinity Stones have been dealt with, it’ll be interesting to see what’s next.

Where I do see two problems are with the content that is being created. The first issue is that there’s too much of it. Disney bought Marvel in 2009. Several years later, in 2012, Disney bought up Star Wars, or to be more specific, Lucasfilm. Those companies became a part of Disney 10 and 13 years ago. In that time, and I referred to Wikipedia, there have been 27(!) movies released in the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU). There have also been five Star Wars movies. I haven’t even included TV shows for either Marvel or Star Wars.

That’s 32 movies in 13 years for anyone and counting. Incredibly, there’s more stuff on the way! I consider myself a grade-A geek, but this is too much. A crush of content like that simply drowns the entertainment landscape. This is probably what led to criticism of superhero movies by people like Martin Scorcese. People eventually look away because the flood of content is overwhelming.

Don’t get me wrong, I love decent superhero movies. I grew up on Marvel comics. Seeing these franchises made into movies that don’t suck is a breath of fresh air in the dank basement corner of nerd-dom.

The other part of this criticism comes from the sense that some of the movies and shows end up feeling like they’ve been created using a somewhat rigid formula. Again, refer to criticism like that of Scorcese. I don’t agree that superhero movies aren’t cinema, but like with literature, applying a formula to content creation can be stifling and boring. What’s created is predictable and ultimately, less good.

Time will tell, as with all things, but Disney’s takeover of youth-oriented media is extreme. While the company has done a great job at creating fresh stories, there’s ample argument to be made against the volume of content. It’s suffocating, and maybe not as innovative as it could always be. It makes money though, and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing Disney cares about.