Prerequisites for Movies

Why I can’t go to the movies anymore: It seems as though every frickin’ movie playing is a Marvel universe movie. Part of the reason this is a problem is that, whenever I do watch a superhero movie, it reminds me that I seem to have outgrown superhero movies.

But another big part of the problem is that, at least judging from the reviews, every Marvel universe movie references half a dozen other Marvel movies that you’re expected to have already seen. You can’t just watch one or two Marvel movies; you have to commit to watching all of them.

Even the non-Marvel movies nowadays are all sequels or series or franchises. So, my question: Is there a resource—a website, or some such—that lists the prerequisites for movies? that tells me what I need to have already seen before seeing a particular movie?

It should distinguish between soft (“To fully appreciate this movie, you ought to have seen…”) and hard (“You won’t have a clue what the hell is going on if you haven’t seen…”) prerequisites. It should include non-movie pre-requisites, as when a movie is intended for people who are already familiar with the book or comic book or TV series or video game it’s based on. It should include anti-prerequisites (“Don’t bother watching the movie if you’ve already seen/read…”).

Does anything like this exist?

There’s probably something like that somewhere but I’ve found, as someone who never read any of the Marvel comics or cares to, that the chronological order the movies came out in is a good guide to watching these things.
This guide has the order and brief synopsis of each.
The movies usually always throw in a post credits scene that make fanboys go “whoa!” and everyone else going “Wha?”
Kind of annoying but not enough to ruin the movies for you.

In other words, before I watch one, I have to watch all the others that came out before it. Gotcha. That’s what I thought.

Don’t think I’ll bother.

Yeah, I figured this out a long time ago and completely gave up on them.

I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything.

Generally, for the films that are origin stories you don’t really need to have seen previous movies. While there’ll be callbacks, those are usually stories you can enjoy on their own.

(As to your other point, in 2018 so far I have seen 91 movies that were not superhero films, sequels or remakes. There are *plenty *of movies out there!)

Dude, if you look at the theater listings and all you see are MCU movies, then you are not looking hard enough. There have been plenty of great movies this past year that are stand alone and have nothing to do with the MCU.

A Quiet Place
A Star is Born
The Mule
Leave No Trace
Sisters Brothers
Isle of Dogs

just to name a few

I’m DC comics guy so I don’t normally watch Marvel stuff. Last week my wife wanted to rent Black Panther so we watched it. At the end we asked each other “was THAT what all the fuss was about?” She said it was like we should have watched something else first. I thought it was crapola, totally unrealistic fight/chase scenes. A flying fighter plane scene lifted cleanly from Star Wars. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more overrated piece of crap.

Right. For instance, in Doctor Strange, all that you need to know is “there are superheroes around doing superhero-y stuff, and the general public know about them”. There’s also a callback in that one of the cases he’s considering taking on (back when he’s just a neurosurgeon, before he becomes a sorcerer) is one of the heroes who was injured in Captain America: Civil War, but if you don’t know about that, you really wouldn’t be missing anything.

Guardians of the Galaxy has even less dependence on the others. There’s a scene where they explain the MacGuffins, some of which had already showed up in other Marvel movies, but all you need to know is that they’re powerful MacGuffins (i.e., what the scene itself shows you), and that one of them is in play in that movie.

For most of the other movies, all you really need is the previous movies in the same series. So for example, Captain America: Winter Soldier won’t make much sense without the first Captain America, but if you just saw only those two, you’d be fine.

This starts to break down a little with the later ones: Thor: Ragnarok depends on you at least knowing who the Hulk is, and it’s a plot point in Ant Man and the Wasp that a bunch of superheroes have recently done something involving a lot of property damage that has a lot of people upset. But in most cases, you can still get the necessary background in a few sentences of explanation.

The only movies that really have Required Viewing Lists are the Avengers movies and Captain America: Civil War (which was really Avengers 2.5). Even there, you don’t need to have seen all of the previous movies, but there’s a lot.

I didn’t mean to talk only about Marvel movies; they’re just perhaps the most egregious example and the one that got me started thinking about this. A few other examples:

The Lord of the Rings movies have to be watched in order. Like the books that they were made from, they tell a single, long story, split up into three volumes for practical reasons. Probably Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy also needs to be watched in order, though I don’t think they’d lose quite as much from being watched out of order—maybe because there isn’t as much to lose. And they can certainly be appreciated (to whatever extent they can be appreciated at all) without having seen LotR first.

This summer I watched the latest Mission Impossible movie without having seen the previous movies in the series, and I was quite able to enjoy it. It’s possible that, if I had seen the other movies first, I would have appreciated this one more, but it was perfectly watchable without them.

I watched the first of the J.J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek movies, and it left a bad enough taste in my mouth that I haven’t watched the others. I suspect that these movies might be enjoyed more if you’re not familiar with the (Shatner/Nimoy-era) source material.

Ugh! Don’t even get me started. All the ones mentioned so far are good examples and apparently there’s another Men In Black coming out. Don’t even get me started on Leonard Part 6. Impossible to understand with out seeing the first five.

The MCU is a weird and interesting construct. Basically, if you’re a comics fan you already know most of what’s going on, because you’re familiar with the characters, their powers, their personalities, their alliances, and so forth. But the MCU is different enough from the Marvel Comics Universe that you’ll either need to be clued in by someone or so written thing to a few key differences (like the different origins of some things, or different identities, owing to them having to set things up quickly, or not owning the rights to some characters).

If you’re a Muggle or a Mundane, though, you’ll be pretty lost without knowing quite a nit of backstory. Maybe Marvel will start posting “cheatsheets” online for the benefit of clueless moviegoers. (Maybe they already do this, and it’s just not publicized). In any event, the movies are well-attended, so they clearly don’t have to, yet.
Just for the record, though, 1.) You don’t need to have a series of movies about costumed superheroes in order to lose people. I was amazed at the comments I heard on leaving the first showing I saw of watchmen. People were utterly confused, even though all the information was right there in the movie itself. I think the combination of nonlinear storytelling and the confusion of completely unfamiliar superheroes did them in, along with the weirdness of it all.

2.) It’s not as if there weren’t movie series before that didn’t go to the trouble of explaining what the setup was – they depended upon the popularity of the films to introduce the background and characters, so they wouldn’t have to explain them. So the James Bond films didn’t go out of their way to explain that Bond was a Secret Agent with the British Government whose “00” prefix indicated a “license to Kill”, and M was his boss and Q his armourer, etc. I doubt if later movies in the Thin Man series or Ma and Pa kettle, or the Dead End Kids/East Side Kids/Tough Little Guys/Bowery Boys had to explain who the characters were or what the setup was.
And BobLibDem

I’m guessing you’re a white guy. The film was very significant to black folks because virtually all of the main characters were black, and they were the actors of agency – they didn’t need the white characters in order to proceed or to succeed. Even Everett Ross (Martin Freeman, as the “Tolkein white guy”), the CIA character, isn’t necessary for them – he doesn’t provide critical information or vital help. He really is a Token White Guy. And that is a monumental cultural shift. Previously in films, you’d expect a cast of white guys with one black guy given something visually interesting but non-essential to do. This film reversed that, and made a lot of people uncomfortable to see the shoe on the other foot.

There are a LOT of opinion pieces on the internet about this. Here’s one –

This, despite the fact that Black Panther was invented by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (probably mostly the former, considering how they worked), a coupla white guys.
So, yeah, you might not think the movie itself something significant and impressive from its plot, but the significance is really because of something else. There was a pretty lengthy Dope Board thread about this when it came out –

I don’t get it.

If you watch a series, you watch a series. It doesn’t matter if it’s a series of movies, a TV series or a series or books: either you’re in or you’re not.

I’ve never watched* Breaking Bad.* I was just never really attracted to the subject. Even though I heard it had some terrific episodes, especially towards the last few seasons, I’ve never decide to make the commitment to get into it. But what I’m not going to do, is sit here and complain about how unfair it is that I have to watch the whole series to understand “Ozymandias”. That’s not how it works.

Personally, one reason I love the MCU is that it’s the perfect hybrid between the strong points of movies (big budgets, long production times) and television (long-form storytelling, nuanced character work). And really, it’s what, 7-8 hours a year? Hardly what I’d call a huge investment.

Sure, I get the significance of having a black hero in a movie where all the major figures are black. That part is great. I just wish it could have been a good movie with all the major characters black. It’s sort of like how it would have been if Jackie Robinson batted .124 or if Barack Obama was a childish tweeter. I think the opportunity of having this be a breakthrough movie was wasted on its mediocrity.

Right. But there’s a difference between expecting the audience to go in having some familiarity with the basic concept, maybe through cultural osmosis, and expecting the audience to have seen the previous movies. (And I am not saying that one of these approaches is necessarily more modern than the other.)

I know the things you mentioned about James Bond, even without (as far as I remember) ever sitting through an entire Bond film. But if I did decide to watch a Bond film, I wouldn’t expect to have to start with Dr. No and work my way through the whole series.

No: there are series, and there are series. Whether you’re talking about a series of books or movies or a TV series, there are some that are made up of self-contained episodes that can be enjoyed in any order; there are some that are chapters in a single, long story that have to be experienced in order; and there are some that fall somewhere in between. There’s nothing wrong with any of these approaches. I just want to know, going in, which it is!

The special problem with movies is, people Go To The Movies. They decide they want to go to a movie, so they look at the list of what’s playing and decide which one (if any) they want to go see. And if there are some that they should avoid if they don’t have the prerequisite background experience, they really ought to know that when making their selection. And it’s not always obvious, because of the different kinds of series that exist (as I noted above), and because not all series movies are clearly indicated as such from the title (I’m looking at you, MCU movies).

Of course not. No one’s complaining about that. I’m not complaining; I’m looking for information.

If somebody tried to get me to watch “Ozymandias” without telling me it was an episode in a series that I wouldn’t understand without having seen what came before, then you’re damn right I’d have cause for complaint.

But even then… I mean, Leonard Part 1 (“The Adventure Begins”) has an origin story that’s contradicted by the “Fat Albert” flashback in Leonard Part 4. And you need to find the original VHS version of Leonard Part 2: Electric Boogie Woogie to understand Robert Culp’s character arc.

I get that there are people who “go to the movies”, and don’t just go because there’s something they want to see. But this isn’t the 20th Century, you know. There’s no reason why these people can’t open Rotten Tomatoes or something and read 2 or 3 reviews, which will let them know whether they need any advanced knowledge. That’s just basic due diligence, the bare minimum level of research expected from a consumer. Otherwise, well… caveat emptor.

I’m confused. Who’s trying to get you to watch something? Disney/Marvel is releasing their product to the market. They’re not - other than marketing - trying to get you to watch. You know exactly what the deal is going in. There are, in truth, plenty of non-series movies for you to go see. Checking my local gigaplex I see

Welcome to Marwen
Mortal Engines*
Second Act
Mary Poppins Returns
The Mule
The Grinch
Bohemian Rhapsody

Two of those (*) are part of series but are designed to be standalone. In truth, there’s fewer series than otherwise.

There have been 20 MCU movies over the past 10 years. I’d argue that you can see any of these on their own:
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Captain America: The First Avenger
Guardians of the Galaxy
Doctor Strange
Black Panther

So that leaves just over a movie a year that you can’t see without seeing some other movies first.

If the reviews would always, clearly and up front, indicate that, then great—that’s exactly what I’m asking for.