In the huge wake brought about by the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel has released a recap of Phases 1 & 2 onto YouTube. From clips ranging from the very first Iron Man to Guardians Of The Galaxy, the video is sure to conjure up the warm and fuzzies of nostalgia, reminding us of that quaint world not too long ago wherein we were only allowed one superhero per flick.
This was the time before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those were simpler days: before iPhones and the slew of modern smart phones that followed, before we had instant access to practically every piece of media ever produced, and–if you can believe it–a time when all kids six years and under were barely even a thought on their folks’ mind.
It started in 2008, and many remember the excitement at the end of Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson turned around–one eye obscured with Nick Fury’s trademark eyepatch–pointing out to Stark that he was not the only superhero to hit our beautiful, green Earth. It was a mind-blowing moment for fans, but this was only just a fun nod at the time, for even then, Marvel was not sure creating a shared universe was fully possible. It had never been done, and there was no guarantee that subsequent movies would even be successful enough to warrant a team-up.
Luckily, Marvel pushed forward, and following a string of successful origin stories, they released The Avengers–a film that brought Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye together to fight against a common enemy. The film went on to gain huge critical, box office, and fanboy success, and the landscape of superhero films was forever changed.
In the time since Marvel’s Avengers, fans have come to expect a great deal more from their movies. No longer is question “When does [blank] come out?” but rather, “When do the next three movies” in that universe come out, and “What crossovers can we expect?” Fans now expected shared universes.
Look at Sony, a company that has only Spider-man as their Marvel cash cow, from which they’ve been freely profiting from the past decade plus. With The Amazing Spider-man 1 & 2,they went to great, painful lengths to build their world horizontally, ensuring that the framework would be set for The Sinister Six, a group of super villains in the Spider-man universe. The execution thus far has been shaky–The Amazing Spider-man 2 was the lowest rated film in the franchise’s history–but the point remains: Marvel has set the standard of a shared universe. This is also evident in the DC Universe.
According to the Wall Street Journal, following The Dark Knight Rises, there was immense pressure for Warner Bros. to announce their Justice League lineup, but with flops like The Green Lantern, their plans seemed in constant state of resetting. Finally, with the success of Man Of Steel, Warner Bros. moved forward with their own shared universe, announcing Batman V Superman, as well as Justice League. And with the most recent Batman V Superman footage from San Diego Comic Con, it appears they have fully committed to the new path paved by Marvel.
Entertainment is a fickle industry, and Hollywood stands as the most fickle place of all within it, where properties only speak as loud as the dollars they reel in. In retrospect, it seems like a no-brainer: if Marvel’s [A] makes $X and Marvel’s [B] makes $Y, then of course Marvel’s [AB] would make $XY. But with all the legal red tape, big egos, and Hollywood’s desire to keep it safe, it wasn’t really something that was possible for anyone but Marvel, who had complete control of its properties, and a thorough of its own cast of characters. Only now, with its guarantee of profits, are movie studios willing to wade through said red tape. They know it’ll be worth it.
Love it or hate it, we all have Marvel to thank, for without Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, the idea of a shared universe in any respect may only still be a pipe dream.