The University of Baltimore is set to offer a film course examining the intricate, interwoven narratives and canny box office strategy behind Marvel Studios' interconnected cinematic universe.
It seems that the phenomenal success of Guardians of the Galaxy -- so far 2014's top-grossing film, although contrary to what the course's website says, not expected to stay that way -- has driven a new level of interest on the part of academics, who now see that the studio doesn't need to "play it safe" with stylistically similar films and recognizable characters (yes, Iron Man was a gamble at that point but even he had already been the subject of animated TV series before).
The course will be taught by Arnold T. Blumberg, an adjunct faculty member in UB's Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences. Blumberg said this critical look will encourage students to better understand the culture's fixation on superheroes, fictional global threats, and other "widescreen" novelistic tales that have pushed the comic book-to-film ethos into new territory.
"One thing we'll do is dive into the impact of the Guardians of the Galaxy film, which proved two things: Mainstream movie audiences are not remotely tired of superhero movies; and Marvel Studios can now release a sci-fi adventure that actually features talking trees and raccoons. It's not that they're getting away with it—they've created a universe in which fans completely accept these developments, and they're ready for even more," the professor is quoted as saying.
The professor compares the Marvel films to Star Trek and Star Wars, saying that they embrace theorist Joseph Campbell's insight that mythmaking and storytelling are rooted in a fundamental quest for justice, peace, power, family, and love.
"Every generation has a modern media mythology that serves as a framework for entertaining as well as educating about ethics, morality, issues of race, gender, class, and so on," Blumberg said. "For the past several years, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have served in that role for tens of millions. When I was younger, it was the first Star Wars series, which I saw in the theater. For me, that saga—along with many other science fiction stories—provided that essential exploration of the hero journey, the struggle of good vs. evil, in a mainstream pop culture context."
You can find more information on the course at the link above.