warning: minor spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead
Avengers: Endgame is a film that only happens once in a lifetime and it’s something that should never have been possible in the first place.
The culmination of more than a decade of films, the ability for this film to even exist is because of Producer Kevin Feige and his ability to convince Paramount Pictures to distribute Iron Man.
Prior to its release, Iron Man had been passed around various studios since 1990 before Marvel reacquired the rights in 2006 and decided to produce it as a self-financed film. Feige, who co-produced X-Men and was made second in command of Marvel Studios in 2007, had to convince the studio to back a film whose main character was, at the time, not only relatively unknown to people who didn’t read comic books but who was also being portrayed rather unflatteringly during the year-long ”Civil War” storyline that was being released during development.
Usually it’s not the obscure characters who get movies but those known by people who do and don’t read comic books. Characters like Batman, the X-Men, Superman, and Spiderman were successful because nearly everyone knows who they are and studios know movies about them will draw crowds. Further, studios want movies the crowds will want to see in the moment and then remember a couple years down the line when it comes time to talk about sequels.
Iron Man was a risk that paid off because of its story, Jon Favreau’s direction and Robert Downey, Jr., a fan of the comic who was in the middle of a career comeback.
It also pulled an unexpected play by having a post-credits sequence teasing plans for an eventual Avengers film. Had Iron Man not been successful this sequence would have simply been an Easter egg to the fans, acknowledging their dedication to the comics and the groups they’ve come to know and love.
But it was successful, making $585.2 million on a $140 million budget, becoming the first in a cinematic universe where all the films would eventually have sequences teasing what comes next.
After Iron Man came The Incredible Hulk¸ a film with a more well-known character that didn’t do as well as initially hoped, Iron Man 2, which wasn’t as well-received as its predecessor, Thor, featuring another lesser-known character directed by a man known for Shakespearean films, and Captain America: The First Avenger, showcasing one of Marvel’s flagship heroes.
They call came together for The Avengers in 2012. I remember watching this film in theaters and thinking that nothing could top all these characters coming together and teaming up.
I was wrong.
Since then, the individual films continued to entertain and deliver, building off what came before to provide mostly satisfying climaxes throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There were some missteps, but entries following were able to keep the ship upright and the machine going.
The second phase was also notable for bringing audiences Guardians of the Galaxy, characters that even some comic book fans weren’t aware of. I remember thinking around that time how DC was hesitant to make a Wonder Woman film while Marvel was throwing its audiences a raccoon with a machine gun and a talking tree and doing it successfully.
Avengers: Endgame is one of the most anticipated films in history, concluding a story that began in 2008. It’s three hours long and every named hero who has ever shown up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets their moment without the film feeling bloated.
Other studios have attempted to create a universe like the Marvel Cinematic Universe with varying degrees of success. They all want the money these films were able to bring in without taking the time Marvel took to carefully craft a well-made universe, give audiences well-written characters, and tell good stories.
The next film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Spider-Man: Far From Home, which Feige considers to be the epilogue to this era in the franchise. More films are planned and now that Disney owns the 20th Century Fox properties, it’s possible the next generation will see the X-Men or Fantastic Four alongside the Avengers fighting against the likes of Mister Sinister or Galactus.
In 2012, I couldn’t see how the Marvel Cinematic Universe could top itself.
It’s 2019 and I’m excited to see just where it can go from here.