Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Marvel 616 is an anthology documentary series from the house of mouse that covers a wide array of interesting topics about the Marvel brand. The eight episodes form an informative and well-produced series that features hour-long episodes that feel anything but. No two episodes in Marvel 616 will feel the same, as each episode feels more like an hour-long mini-documentary than part of any cohesive whole. This is Marvel 616's biggest strength but ultimately its downfall.
You are going to learn some interesting facts watching an episode of Marvel 616, that cannot be denied. I can admit that learning about why and how Spider-Man became so popular in Japan and seeing how Marvel comic books are put together each week had my eyes glued to the screen. Though, going through each episode and seeing the wild shifts in tone and structure, there doesn't seem to be an overarching message or point. It is a joy to see directors given the freedom to do what they want with each episode's format and deliver their vision. But in a series, (even an anthology), there must be some type of focus. Unfortunately, focus is what this series lacks entirely - because of this lack of focus, the entire affair comes off as nothing more than an opportunity for Disney to satiate their ego.
People in the Documentary
While this documentary anthology series does well is making each episode about the people who care about Marvel. Whether it's a cosplayer going to New York Comic-Con or a trailblazing artist who works at the company, each episode is about people. Many episodes also focus on how women (episode 2) and people from different cultures (episodes 1 and 3) helped to further the success of the publishing giant. Though, seeing that this documentary comes from the company that owns Marvel it feels like more of an ego stroke than an intimate homage to these trailblazers.
Every episode is just as personal as the first three though varies wildly in the subjects they choose to cover. It's not often cosplayers are the focus of a documentary-like they are in the fifth episode of the series. Every episode of Marvel 616 is dedicated to focusing on interesting subjects. The series also takes the extra effort to include celebrities that one would not usually associate with Marvel or Disney. Looking at you Ron Funchess and Paul Scheer. The celebrities, the subjects, the interviewees, they are all interesting, but the inclusion of these celebrities doesn't serve the documentary. The celebrities sprinkled in throughout the series are only so the audience can recognize them.
Yes, documentaries have a story to tell. Or at least good ones do. With Marvel 616 being an anthology documentary series, it is expected for each episode to be different, to tell a different story. But even though each episode is different Marvel 616 is still a series. This means that the episodes should be related in one way, or tell a particular type of story, or inform the audience in some consistent way.
This is where Marvel 616 fails, there is nothing that connects these episodes outside of a vague association to the Marvel brand. It is interesting watching how different storytellers present their stories. Also, the different stories, and the different formats they are presented to keep things from feeling boring or repetitive. But watching these episodes back to back can feel like channel flipping with how jarring the shifts in tone and subject matter.
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Watching Marvel 616 will be interesting, and you will learn something new each episode. Though what you'll be learning from episode to episode will be completely unrelated and the knowledge will only appeal to hardcore comic book fans. Though, not every episode appeals to these hardcore comic fans. The episode about cosplayers and Spider-Man's popularity in Japan have nothing to offer hardcore fans of the comics because they having nothing to do with comic books. It is a challenge to figure who the Marvel 616 series is for because of how the disjointed structure and randomness of the series.
By themselves, each episode is well constructed and tells an interesting story. Each episode is alone is a quality documentary and with each one, you are almost guaranteed to learn something new. A lot of these episodes also tell particularly important stories about the comic book industry that are rarely told. A great example of one of these stories is the seventh episode of the series entitled "The Marvel Method".
The process of trying to get a comic book out on time in The Marvel Method is something that comic book fans will find interesting. Surprisingly honest, this episode shows the stress and struggle that comes with getting a weekly comic out on time. The episode, in a vacuum, is a quality and interesting documentary, which is something that can be said about every documentary in the Marvel 616 series.
Should I watch it? - Skip, (unless you’re a Marvel fan)
If Disney+ were able to put more time and energy into making one of the episodes of this series into a full documentary it would have been amazing. Unfortunately, when combined into an anthology series they feel disjointed, unfocused, and lack a real direction that viewers can follow.
Also, the series comes off as eight hours of the folks at Disney stroking their egos about how well Marvel has done as a brand. Interesting and at times even fun together it lacks any meaning as a series. Hardcore comic fans will find some of the episodes entertaining. But their interest does not make up for what Marvel 616 is, eight hours of content that can be boiled down to fun facts.
It’s basically Disney giving themselves a pat on their back, feeding their already gargantuan ego. Unless that interests you, skip Marvel 616.
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