Marvel seemingly had enough in the mid-2000 time frame, they kind of decided to throw themselves out there to essentially sink or swim…feast or famine…*insert cliché here*
Marvel Studios was born, it was new, and it was untested. Many expected failure. How could an upstart studio survive, let alone thrive? Well, they knew their properties. Going back to 1939, Marvel isn’t new to these characters. They have seen what has worked and what has failed. They’ve taken chances before, and continue to do so.
As Robert Downey Jr. was announced as Tony Stark, Hollywood had their doubts. His history is well known, so, no need to tell the tales, but…RDJ as the lead in a superhero movie by a new studio that doesn’t have the instant name recognition as Spidey or Batman or Superman? It’s doubtful any studio besides Marvel would have run with that. For those of us who knew the character, Robert Downey Jr IS Tony Stark. Well, at least he was. It came out and it crushed. It changed the game.
The Incredible Hulk followed soon after and gave us an improved Hulk but we still had a ways to go. Soon, an Iron Man sequel arrived, followed by a Thor solo movie. Each film that was brought to the screen dominated the landscape and left us eagerly anticipating the next offering. All the while Marvel Studios had a brilliant plan that, initially, none of us really knew about. These weren’t just movies. While they can be watched independently for the most part, they were all beginning to paint a much larger picture. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began to show as more movies came out. We began seeing that what we thought were just nods to us nerds…the little Easter eggs, in many cases were foreshadowing.
Suddenly we see that all the Marvel Studio films tie into each other…and to Agents of SHIELD on ABC, in their Marvel One Shot shorts, and likely into their Netflix series, which is not an easy feat. You have to have so many pieces in certain positions to accomplish what they have done, and, they do it well. Now, we’ve even left the confines of Earth and have gone cosmic, which opens up even more opportunity and lets Marvel showcase some lesser known characters. Just look at Guardians of the Galaxy, there is no way that should have worked. It was another leap of faith by Marvel and it paid dividends.
On the downside, Marvel Studios doesn’t control all their film characters, the properties leased out long ago to Fox to Columbia/Sony still remain for the most part. The X-Men, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and Spidey still belong to someone else on film. So, while Marvel Studios creates it’s MCU, it’s missing some major players, and we see that it starts to create different continuity. While there are rumors of Spidey coming back to Marvel Studios, there has been no firm evidence of such. The other downside to this is, for all the hard work Marvel Studios is doing, these other studios are riding the success coat tails. The average movie-goer doesn’t understand that Fantastic Four…while Marvel Characters, well; it isn’t being controlled by Marvel Studios.
Hopefully Marvel, with the clout of Disney behind them, will begin to gain these licenses back and can create an almost seamless MCU. Time will tell. Marvel Studios has announced enough films to keep the kingdom happy through this decade, and we have no idea what other surprises they have in store for us.
In the case of Super Hero films, every single studio should take note of Marvel. They are doing it right. I’m not suggesting DC or anyone else tries to copy the formula exactly, but, there are plenty of valuable lessons learned that could benefit everyone. The better the films, the more tickets sold…and that means more crossover appeal to their other mediums and merchandise.
From now through 2019, make mine Marvel! Excelsior!