The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most impressive franchise (more of a universe to be honest) in cinematic history. Over a span of a decade, they’ve been through 10 solo-movie franchises that produced 18 total films. Black Panther, their newest solo franchise, is one of the highest grossing movies of all time. They are still going strong ten years in. Now, the MCU is only hours away from the release of Avengers: Infinity War, otherwise known as “the most ambitious crossover in history”.
How in Odin’s beard (I know, that was bad) did this happen? Today, I want to go into the history of the MCU. How it started, how the universe got to these heights, and where can it go from here.
They Were Patient In The Beginning
Kevin Feige was put in charge of Marvel and was tasked with planning out a connected universe starting with 2008’s Iron Man. His plan was simple. Put out stand-alone films to introduce the audience to our heroes and the world around them.
This was an important aspect of Marvel’s early success. Look at the DCEU for example (you knew this comparison was coming). They just threw random characters and plot points together hoping something would stick. There was no concrete plan that Warner Bros. and DC stuck to and they suffered for that.
After four years of developing their characters, Marvel finally decided to bring them together. The final product was an amazing ensemble movie, Marvel’s The Avengers, that paid off years of hard work. This was the conclusion of phase one and where, in my mind, the MCU truly began.
They Took Risks To Stay Fresh In Phase 2
The MCU put all of their pieces together but they knew that they would have to take risks to stay relevant in this industry. Well, they did just that. Iron Man 3 made a bold decision to drastically change one of the most notorious Iron Man villains in The Mandarin. Captain America: The Winter Soldier turned the bland hero into a bad-ass that won’t break his moral code for anyone, including the government he works for. This movie didn’t have the same tone as earlier Marvel flicks. It was a thriller, spy movie that set itself apart from anything we’ve seen before in the MCU.
However, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3 were just the beginning. Feige and co. decided to make a movie about characters that general audiences never heard of before. The Guardians of the Galaxy. I don’t really even know what to say about this one. This was the make or break title for the MCU.
Audiences could have rejected this immediately but due to brilliant casting and directing choices, a hilarious script that felt fresh, and a fantastic soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy was an instant hit. A movie about five weird criminals (including a talking raccoon and a talking tree) that nobody knew about made over $134 million in its first week.
Finally, we had Ant-Man with famous comedian Paul Rudd as the main lead. Again, risky move. Like previous installments in phase two, Ant-Man was unique. It was a heist film with loads of humor and heartwarming moments. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, the general audience didn’t know much about these characters but Rudd and the rest of the cast (especially Michael Peña’s Luis) made it work. Taking these risks molded phase two into the golden age of the MCU.
Phase 3 Is All About…Fatherhood?
Phase one was about bringing our heroes together. Phase two changed the formula a bit to keep the universe fresh. Phase three has been…different. It is actually extremely hard to analyze this phase. Black Panther is a totally different film than Spider-Man: Homecoming. Same with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange.
The only connection I can make is the theme of fatherhood. Black Panther, Guardians 2, Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, and even Spider-Man: Homecoming to a certain extent (Peter sees Tony Stark as a father figure) is about fathers and the consequences of their actions. Even Infinity War follows this theme with Gamora, Nebula, and Thanos. It’ll be interesting to watch where Marvel takes this going forward.
Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Avengers 4 will close out phase three. The question now becomes where can they go from here?
Will The MCU’s Phase 4 Be Fantastic?
Fox and Disney worked out an agreement that would send Marvel’s old movie properties back home (along with a ton of other titles). This means that the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and even Deadpool are now Disney properties. The possibilities are endless. Wolverine fighting against The Incredible Hulk in a new Avengers movie? Done. Deadpool telling Captain America that he looks like Johnny Storm? That’s a given. Spider-Man teaming up with our favorite Merc with a mouth? Uh…That would be awesome but there is no way that will ever happen.
My point is that the MCU just bought enough ammo to keep this thing going for another decade and at this rate, I don’t see any valid reason why they couldn’t pull it off. Don’t be like James Cameron and say “superhero fatigue” will set in either. Yeah, you’re right Cameron, because the Terminator franchise never got stale. I’m sure the Avatar sequels won’t tire audiences out either.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not just the most impressive movie franchise but it is also the most successful universe in cinematic history. Yes, it’s better than Star Wars, Pixar, James Bond, and even Batman. In a ten year span, they created an empire that could have been destroyed before it ever had a chance to start but they were patient. They took risks and when the time came, they put all of their pieces together to make “the most ambitious crossover in history” called Infinity War.
Avengers: Infinity War is almost here! What are you expecting to see? Do you agree that Marvel is the most successful franchise in movie history? If you don’t, what franchise do you think should be in that spot? Let us know in the comments and be sure to follow us here at The Nerd Stash for all of your nerdy news and needs!
Avid gamer and placeholder of what is now the worst selfie of all time. Mostly an Xbox/PS4 player but I have been known to destroy friendships in Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.