It was a summer in 2011 when I had my friend over my house. We were doing what grade school kids did back in the good old days: played Minecraft before it became popular again. He asked me if I wanted to go see a movie with his family that night, so I asked which one. Captain America: The First Avenger happen to come out that weekend, so they planned on going to that. I remember thinking, "This is probably going to be some stupid and dumb movie about some guy in spandex who has a cliche 'save the world' plot." Now I didn't think that complex at the age of 10, but I remember thinking I was too old for those movies, and that there was no way it would be enjoyable for people who have no interest in reading comic books.
After all that consideration, I decided to go!
We get in the theater with our AMC fake buttered popcorn and oversize ICEE, sat back, and enjoyed the show. At the conclusion of the film, I found myself intrigued and fascinated with the film. I was amazed at the realistic and historical elements incorporated by the directors. This was no generic "hero saves the world move;" it was a story of loyalty and never giving up. It meant much more than a "Star Spangled Man" defeating the Hydra forces. At that time, it easily became my favorite movie of that year.
The part of this movie that intrigued me the most, however, was not the character development of Steve Rogers. It was not the lost romance of Peggy and Cap. It was not even the epic showdown between Red Skull and Cap, who was willing to lay down his life to save the millions in America about to be nuked. He froze under ice for almost 70 years, from 1944 till 2012 present day.
It was the last 3 minutes of the movie.
The year is 2011, and Cap has just been uncovered in ice by S.H.I.E.L.D. Confused and extremely skeptical of his surroundings, Rogers runs into the streets of Time Square to see a completely modernized world. Out of no where, a black S.H.I.E.L.D van pulls up to meet the man out of time. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury walks out and the crowd erupts into applause and screams. Fury has previously been featured in 2008's Iron Man and 2010's Iron Man 2, as well as mentioned in 2011's Thor. The movie ends with an end credit scene of Fury recruiting Rogers to the "Avengers Initiative," after which small clips from the then upcoming Avengers movie play, and the audience gives Marvel a standing ovation. After viewing the end, it made me want to go home and watch the movies I missed out on in prior years.
In the early 2000s, Marvel was going bankrupt and needed to find money before filing for bankruptcy. The way it acquired fast money was selling the film rights of all of their A - list characters, such as Spider-Man, who ended up and still belongs to Sony, and the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Wolverine franchisees to Fox, who are recently now under Marvel Studios control once again. Marvel Studios was left with all B-List, non-household names at the time such as Iron Man, Black Panther and even Captain America. The one asset that remained under complete Marvel control was "The Avengers." Kevin Feigie, president of Marvel Studios, had a vision: to create a cinematic universe where separate movies focus on one or a few individual characters, but share the same world as each-other and occasionally cross over.
He started by taking a risk with making a movie on an old and forgotten character about a billionaire arrogant playboy and philanthropist named Tony Stark. He took an even bigger risk choosing former drug addict actor Robert Downey Jr. to star in 2008's Iron Man. Marvel used what DC Comics did to the Dark Knight movie franchise by turning it into a more serious adult themed genre, as well as implemented comic relief and playful charming humor; the product of this combination was one heck of a start to Feigie's visionary universe. Like Captain America, Iron Man ended with Nick Fury recruiting Stark to the Avengers Initiative, making audience want to see the upcoming movies.
Since then, Disney now owns Marvel Studios and has been able to buy back the Fox owned franchises to incorporate in future MCU films. Sony and Marvel work together to help bring Tom Holland's Spider-Man with the rest of the Avengers. The studio has not shyed away from releasing projects about heroes not commonly heard of, with one of its biggest successes coming from 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, and its 2017 sequel. Marvel has made names such as Ant-Man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel household names that everyone knows just by their popularity in mass media.
The idea of a cinematic universe is not original. Many films in Hollywood make sequels and spin-offs that create a shared universe of movies that are related to each other. Most sequels and cinematic universes, such as the DCEU, Warner Brother's counter to the MCU (if one even can exist), do not fare well and are considered "cash-grabs," and "merchandise sellers." Many feel too forced and not natural. They are often criticized for being unoriginal and are a root cause for market over saturation. Many fail to make more than 3 or 4 movies. Many fail to even continue to a sequel.
Marvel took a huge risk in revolutionizing how a successful cinematic would be structured. The key difference in Marvel's approach to its universe was how the connections between separate films was fluid. While other cinematic sequels require the view of past films to even understand the main point, all 23 of the MCU's movies can be viewed as a work of art in their own way without the need of support from prior films. This is not saying that the track record of Marvel's past successes helps continue its success, because the success of the MCU is in large part of the movies being related. Ever since the first Iron Man, each movie has shared characteristics that have remained consistent throughout its 11 year history. Consistence is key in a shared universe, and Marvel does it to near perfection. From the timeline spanning from 9000 BC all the way to 2023 without major or minor time holes, Marvel has prioritized consistency in its movies.
Consistency depends on the expertise of the directors and Kevin Feigie on keeping facts and events concurrent within separate movies, a great demanding task that is accomplished amazingly. Details as big as Thanos being the over arcing villain from 2012's Avengers all the way to Avengers Endgame in 2019, to small tid-bits such as how Steve kept a locket of Peggy from 1944 all the way to 2023, and how Sam Wilson says "On your left," to Rogers when returning to dust, a call back to 2014's Captain America The Winter Soldier, when Steve says the same line to Wilson in the beginning of their friendship. Or how in Avengers, Steve tells Tony he is, "not the one to make the sacrifice play." Stark responds to Rogers telling him, "You're nothing more than a lab experiment. Everything special about you came out of a bottle." These 2 quotes come full circle in Endgame, when Steve lifts Thors hammer, proving his worthiness did not come from his lab trail. Tony proves Steve wrong when he snaps Thanos and his army away after saying, "I am Iron Man," which is also a callback to Iron Man, where the movie ends on those lines. These small elements is what make the MCU feel like its own living breathing world.
Today, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has closed its first chapter, in completing the "Infinity Saga," which spans from 2008's Iron Man and concluded with 2019's summer hit Spider-Man Far From Home. The popularity of the MCU has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings. It has grossed more money than any other film franchise, with over $22 billion grossed worldwide. Recent blockbusters such as Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Spider-Man Far From Home have eached earned well over $1 billion. Its latest crossover movies, 2018's Avengers Infinity War and 2019's Avengers Endgame each grossed over $2 billion, with Endgame becoming the highest grossing film of all time, with over $2.7 billion, beating Avatar, who has held the record since its 2009 debut year.
After one heck of a film year, Marvel Studios looks forward to the future with their "Phase 4," which will feature returning favorites such as Thor and Spider-Man, but also introduce new names and concepts in their upcoming Disney+ shows based on Hawkeye, Wanda and Vision, and Falcon and the Winter Soldier. People may see Marvel movies as kiddie, generic, and repetitive. I can definitively say I am not one of those people anymore. The MCU has changed the way people like me view cinematography in today's over saturated market. This franchise gives much needed life to the film industry.