WHY IT'S AWESOME: Marvel Cinematic Universe
This weekend, Marvel Studios releases the culmination of its 22 film, 10 year run within the much coveted Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). And, so, it seems apropos to make the Marvel Cinematic Universe the subject of this week's WHY IT'S AWESOME!
Marvel films have been around for a while. While Stan Lee struggled to find a place that would produce a Marvel movie to his satisfaction, but could never find a place that would produce the films so they didn't look cheap. It wasn't until the early 2000s, after Marvel was forced to sell off the film rights to many of its top franchises, that Marvel got its foot in the door with films such as Blade, the X-Men and Fantastic Four over at 20th Century Fox and Spider-Man over at Sony. While popular, the films, which were heavily monitored by studio heads who would needlessly get involved when they didn't have to, didn't always capture the spirit of the comic book source.
Years later, Marvel decided that it wanted to cut out the middle man and produce its own films. So, it had to go through the characters it still owned the film rights to and build from there. Hiring an ambitious producer by the name of Kevin Feige to lead the effort, the new Marvel Studios was on its way with a lesser known hero by the name of Iron Man. For us comic book fans, it sounds weird to think of Iron Man as a little known commodity. But, compared to Spider-Man and the X-Men, he was barely a blip on the radar of the average movie goer.
Feige, it turns out, was an amazing pick for the fledgling studio because he had a vision and a reverence for the comics. He was a fan. At first, the films were just going to be stand alone films. But, as luck would have it, the agent of Samuel L. Jackson called up and said their client would be interested in being in a Marvel movie, especially since the Nick Fury in Marvel's Ultimates Universe was modeled after the actor. Suddenly, Feige saw possibilities. If the Marvel Comics Universe was interconnected, why couldn't they do the same in the movies? When Nick Fury tells Tony Stark at the end of Iron Man, "You've become a part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet," this was the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The first phase was basically bringing together the Avengers. The film would pull together Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America, all of whom had their own films, and bring in Black Widow and Hawkeye. The success of this culmination really would be the test to see if this universe would flourish. And, not only did it flourish, it turned into a super bloom with people flooding to the theaters. Marvel's The Avengers made $1.5 billion worldwide, making it the highest grossing film in 2012 and the 3rd highest grossing film at the time.
The second phase of the MCU brought on an entirely new team that even some comic book fans did not know well - the Guardians of the Galaxy. Would audiences ever grow to love a group of misfits in space that featured both a talking raccoon and a talking tree? It turned out that not only would people embrace them, but they would make Rocket Raccoon and Groot household names. People loved the space opera meets comedy style of the film.
Phase two also saw the Avengers reassemble in the film Avengers: Age of Ultron which made $1.4 billion worldwide. It also introduced the Marvel Universe's pint sized hero Ant-Man which proved that Marvel could make a straight up comedy and people would see it.
The third phase, though, would prove to be the most ambitious, introducing new heroes such as Doctor Strange, the Wasp, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and even Spider-Man, who's film rights are still owned by Sony and was able to appear in the MCU after a historic brokered deal, as well as bringing all these heroes to its final battle over the Infinity Stones. And all these stories have brought us now the most diverse cast of characters the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen, from the Women of Wakanda to the first woman solo superhero film in the MCU.
It's amazing to think the level of trust Marvel Studios built up over the last decade. While Avengers: Endgame might be the closing of the first book in the Marvel Cinematic Universe library and we will inevitably say good-bye to some favorite heroes, there are still many more stories to come. If there is anything that Marvel Studios has proven is that the MCU can be made of serious political dramas to straight up action films to comedy to horror. There is something for everybody here and the future feels as bright as ever. I can't wait to see how this next book turns out!