If there is any cinematic world that has set the standard for sustaining a successful, interlinked franchise, it is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Debuting back in 2008 with Iron Man, it has since grown to encompass film, short film, television and a whole range of other media spin-offs, with the films alone grossing over $10 billion at the box office by last year. This article will take a closer look at its enduring popularity.
The first phase in the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe got underway in 2008, with the release of Iron Man – which launched not only the series of films starring that superhero character, but also the Avengers spin-off franchise which the character of Iron Man is a member of. These two franchises within the universe have spawned three Iron Man films and two Avengers ones thus far – with further Avengers titles pencilled in for the future. Buoyed by the success of them Marvel has been able to expand its cinematic universe further, with the third phase having started a year ago with the release of Captain America: Civil War – the third instalment in the Captain America franchise. As it currently stands, in addition to those already mentioned above, the Marvel Cinematic Universe comprises The Hulk, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange – and the remarkable thing is that almost all of the titles released have been critical and commercial hits. This is something that main rivals DC are now scrabbling to emulate, despite the latter having the big name superheroes such as Batman and Superman. One of the key reasons for the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the clever plotting strategy, which saw the individual characters like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America introduced first – thus building audience anticipation for the moment when the first Avengers film uniting them all would be released. Another key reason for the success must surely be the recruitment of major talent in front of – and behind the camera – with charismatic stars such as Robin Downey Jr, Samuel L Jackson and Scarlett Johansson in key roles and geek-friendly writer/directors like Joss Whedon creating them. This has led to a consistency of tone throughout the different films, so audiences know what to expect, although this predictable quality has also begun to attract some criticism.
At the moment, despite some critical jibes at the films, the success of Marvel’s universe seems unstoppable and has spilled over into other types of media, including television series’, the games industry, and back to comic books. There are now TV shows that fit within this universe, including Agents of SHIELD and Jessica Jones, as well as casino games inspired by these films and characters. With more films from phase three due later this year, it seems that Marvel will remain on top for the foreseeable future.