On April 26, 2019 the conclusion of the aptly dubbed “Infinity Saga” will be released onto the masses in the form of Avengers: Endgame, the 22nd entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). With a run of box office hits spanning over ten years, opinions vary on the state of Marvel movies, with opposition stating ‘superhero fatigue” as an issue due to the fact that Marvel Studios has released 21 (22 if you count Avengers: Endgame) films in just 11 years. On the other side of the argument, you have those who flock to these movies yearly, who are more than satisfied with the content being released. Whichever side of the argument you fall on, it simply can not be denied that Marvel has done something never before seen in the history of cinema. They have managed to craft an interconnected, consistently expanding cinematic universe over the course of the last 11 years, with no signs of stopping anytime soon. So without further ado, lets take A Look Back at the Marvel Cinematic Universe by starting from the beginning, one last time…
The year is 2008 and up until this point, while movies like am Raimi’s original two Spider-Man films and the first two X-Men movies were popular and critically acclaimed, they were not near the level of impact that the MCU is at today. In 2005, Christopher Nolan would release his first entry into the Dark Knight Trilogy with Batman Begins reigniting the Batman movie craze, which would then be followed up by the record-breaking sequel which was also released in 2008, The Dark Knight. Batman had always been a household name though, along with Superman and to some extent Spider-Man. However, on May 2, 2008, that all changed.
Prior to the release of Iron Man, Marvel Studios had undergone some changes with studio head Avi Arad stepping down as both Studio Chair and CEO, leading to the appointment of Kevin Feige as President of Production at Marvel Studios in 2007, just as Iron Man began filming. Had anyone guessed that a movie based on a very obscure (to mainstream audiences) superhero, being played by Robert Downey Jr., who just years earlier had a very public fall from grace due to alcohol and drug abuse, would succeed and launch the most financially successful film franchise of all time they would be called crazy. And yet, that is exactly what happened. Jon Favreau came in and delivered one of the most surprising movies to ever be released, launching the Marvel brand to new heights.
Downey Jr.’s casting has become widely regarded as one of the best film castings of all time, as well as one of the major reasons as to why Iron Man works so well. For many, Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, with their lives echoing each other. Characters like Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Jarvis (Paul Bettany), and James Rhodes (Terrence Howard) all still exist in the MCU, with Rhodes now being played by Don Cheadle. While the film’s plot does center around the dated War on Terror, dating it to the 2000’s, it still manages to hold up 11 years later.
This film also introduces what has become a mainstay in not just MCU films, but also many blockbusters since; the post-credits scene. For non-comic book fans, this most likely left many people wondering why Samuel L. Jackson showed up and who he was, but for any hardcore fans who heard the name “Nick Fury” they knew something big was happening. This was not just some throwaway line in the movie used as an Easter egg, rather a tease of what was to come, planting the seeds for the future of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.