Firstly it’s not something I usually comment on but I feel it is a big part of the success of the MCU and how it works so I thought it is important to address it.
One of the things that isn’t talked about is Superhero/Supervillian chemistry in films. “Wait what it’s talked about a lot, what rock have you been living under” yes this is true it is talked about a lot but only through the lens of how these relationships work well in movies but then they compare it to other films with great chemistry that are not superhero films. What I’m actually looking at is there is a unique protagonist relationship of chemistry that only works in superhero movies and only works in this genre. It’s unique.
The reason it’s unique is because you can’t compare it to any other genre that yields strong chemistry mostly in a realistic environment, superhero films live in an unrealistic universe that defies logic but tries to assimilate itself into the realities of “this is normal” there for the chemistry between characters are sharing strong bonds over a fictional unrealistic scenario that connects the two. How on earth or space does an actor/actress draw from experience when there is no relatable experience like what they are going through. Sure there are close substitutes you can take from real life and it’s by that of which most “chemistry” in these films are viewed.
Historically most chemistry in superhero movies failed. This is because it’s hard to draw bonds in a fictional reality. That’s why the MCU has mastered this technic and keeps you engaged and watching these developments. But I can still be critical on it. Even the MCU is flawed in parts but it’s outweighed or manages to fix those relationships much later on.
For example the chemistry between Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr’s – Spider-Man and Iron-Man mentorship. It is a great example of chemistry done right. But Ironman himself is also a victim of failed chemistry to.
Looking back at Ironman 1 – You have the relationship with Obadiah Stain, James Rhodes, Pepper Pots, Yansin, Jarvis and Happy Hogan. Out of all these relationships the only one bit of genuin chemistry was in Robert Downey Jr’s Ironman with Jon Favera’s Happy Hogan. Everyone else was just playing there part in the role they was given. But despite the failed chemistry it also kind of worked. The isolated Tony Stark is only thinking of himself, and thus is the start of his journey as Iron Man. In fact the brief moments of happy hogan relates mostly to friendship more so than Tony Starks friendship with James Rhodes. Not a problem with the actor as I thought he played the role well. Just a shame they didn’t keep the actor.
Over the series of Iron Man films and of course the presence of Ironman in avengers and other marvel films is where the chemistry with other characters like Pepper Pots and of course Spider-Man occurs. So even though the chemistry wasn’t originally there, marvel fixed it.
Now as we know when chemistry doesn’t work the actor gets replace but with the exception of Jim Rhodes who the original actor did get replaced. None of the other characters did. Hogans relationship with stark grew and keeps growing beyond Ironman death. You see this in Spider-Man Far From Home. He has truely become Peter Parkers guardian. Because Tony may have asked him to, maybe because the chemistry with Jon Favera and Robert Downey Jr now includes Tom Holland.
The best way to look at this is via Faveras cooking show where he invites Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr of which they talk about how Holland was cast. However it doesn’t always work out so quickly looking at Pepper Pots and Tony Stark. The entire films revolve around there relationships of getting together and growing respect for each other but they felt further apart than together – this is probably a studio decision to focus more on Ironman adventures rather than his relationships. But with pepper and starks chemistry didn’t come until Avengers Endgame. The scenes of a troubled Tony trying to solve timetravel and pepper seeing Tony and acknowledging Tony for who he is was probably the best moment the two actor/actress shared since the beginning. Again it took a while but they got there. They fixed it. But you look before that. Pepper is very independent. I hope to see more of Pepper Potts because I feel there is more to her story.
Then we get to WandaVision – absolutely love the show but the biggest problem I had with it was “where did there relationship come from” it felt so alien even in the marvel films. You have him created them after that he expresses a strange interest in her. I believe the reason is that between the mind Stone and wanda’s reality alternating powers there was a connection that excited them both. But it’s never fully explored “maybe a season two of WandaVision storyline” and this is my point. The chemistry between Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany is amazing is Wondervision. I was hooked to that show. Because of great chemistry.
So now that we have talked about marvels success let’s talk how it doesn’t work in other movies. I want to split this into two categories – other Marvel non-MCU universes like Fox’s x-men or daredevil then the second categoric is Dc comics/ independent comic book stores made into films like The Mask, Spawn, Dredd etc.
Fox’s x-men gave us our first true look at a superhero team up and I consider it a precursor to how MCU is successful. But the problem with the X-Men films was that it didn’t acknowledge chemistry. And only acknowledge our chemistry with the character on screen.
In the first film there was chemistry between Wolverine and Rogue – she found a protector and he found someone to care for. To fight for a good reason. Where not talking about a love story of lust. But one of two lone wolfs finding a partnership. Like a bromance or an adoptive family much like The A-Team. But fox didn’t explore this so it’s isolated to the first film and barely mentioned in later instalments. In fact they cut a Rogue rescue scene in a future film. Fox cared more about your relationship with the character – this is why the most popular was followed. The x-men franchise had you hooked on the life of Wolverine. Second to that was Charles Xavier and Magnetos relationship which is another chemistry that worked but again lacked to cover. But I’ll come back to that. The x-men franchise failed and got worse because those in power was looking for the next bigger and best story they knew the fans wanted certain things but they was misinformed even in that. So what we got was a disconnected future. Looking at Apocalpyse and Dark Phoenix they failed because in Apocalpyse the story basically says that the original films didn’t really exist because timetravel in the Earlier instalment got rid of it. Then dark Phoenix was supposed to be an apology to the dark phoenix we got in x-men 3. Nobody asked for that.
So it’s lack of chemistry especially in the later years was the downfall of its franchise. It birthed the era of superhero teams. Without them you wouldn’t have the MCU but it’s also a tale of if you fail to miss chemistry it will destroy your franchise.
Moving on to non marvel products. I have already got a post on how DC works better as single films rather than its own MCU. There is also examples of bad chemistry but I don’t want to cover this as I feel I would just be covering old ground. Instead I want to look at The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It was a failure much to how DC failed. See you have a group of historic characters “historic in a fictional sense” like Jeckle and Hyde, Nemo and Dorian grey. The film just didn’t no how to connect any of them, there was no chemistry because the characters are far too different. See someone who is a vampire has no shared experience to someone going through a Jeckle and Hyde moment. Vampires enjoy their transformation it’s more of an addiction where as Hyde was basically the Incredible Hulk the first Incredible Hulk really Jeckle had no control over Hyde and was scared what Hyde would do. Again no connection no relationship no chemistry. It’s because of this film Alan Moore the creator of the comic books didn’t like movie adaptions. In fact when you read the comics there is greater focus on chemistry between them all and all of that was left out of the film. But they did get it right with Watchmen. Watchmen is an example of great chemistry that went nowhere. At a time when they got it right they got it right to a franchise that birthed a solo film. So we never expected to see these characters again. There would be no sequel. In fact the future television show they made felt hollow because it’s not the original cast.
Superhero chemistry is far more complex to achieve as I have shown above. It’s hard to master, requires a lot more elements than just two characters working well together.
But then not only has the MCU done this well not only can they do it they can also fix it. This is a model that other films should adopt. This way we would get a far greater relatable movie than something that gets overhyped and becomes a flop.
There is no Zac Snyder cut of a marvel films and I mean that figuratively as zac Snyder never did a marvel film at least I don’t think he did. But there has not been a much better directors cut. Proof that MCU is doing it right and DC is failing.
My advice to DC abandon your JLA universe and just focus on the one good franchise you have Batman. And maybe Wonderwoman