Avengers and Marvel Cinematic Universe

Till 2007, Marvel was not as respected in Hollywood as it is in 2016. Movies based on Marvel Comics like Ghost Rider, Hulk, Punisher & Daredevil were either critical or commercial failure. While Fantastic Four was success, its sequel had less than impressive performance.  Only movies which were based on Marvel comic book that were usually both critical and commercial success were Spiderman series and X-Men series. However Marvel had licensed Spiderman to Sony in 2002 and X Men to 20th Century FOX in 2000 which is why Marvel Entertainment Company (Entertainment Company owned by Marvel) could not have control on both series. Also Marvel itself got little portion of profit in the movies.

In 2005, Marvel Entertainment decided to produce its own movie and distribute them through Paramount Pictures. Till 2007, Marvel Studio (Production house owned by Marvel) was owned by it’s founder Avi Arad. Avi Arad liked Spiderman movies but not other movies based on Marvel Comics. Avi Arad ‘s second-in-chief Kevin Feige devised a master plan.  He said that unlike Spiderman and X-Men , Marvel still held the license of characters of Avengers and could make a movie on them. Thus he thought that Marvel Studio should create an interconnected movie universe named “Marvel Cinematic Universe” in which all superhero movies based on Avengers member like Iron Man would be set and one day they will crossover and collaborate in a movie based on superhero group named “Avengers”. Even though idea sounded brilliant, Avi Arad thought the idea was risky due to which he resigned and Kevin Feige became new Studio chief. Writers and directors like Joss Whedon , Russo Brothers, Kenneth Branagh and Jon Favreau were hired to make “Marvel Cinematic Universe” a reality.

In 2008 Iron man became first movie that belonged to Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie was directed by Jon Favreau who also starred as Happy and the lead role was played by Robert Downey Jr.. The movie was critical and commercial success. The movie ended with Tony Stark meeting with employee of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) named Agent Phil Coulson. Agent Phil Coulson would appear in future movies and TV show set in Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man started the tradition of post-credit scene in Marvel Cinematic Universe by having a post-credit scene where Tony Stark meets with Nick Fury , head of S.H.I.E.L.D. . In this post-credit scene, Nick Fury would give a proposal to Tony Stark in which he ask him to work with S.H.I.E.L.D. and join with other supeheroes of the world in order to form a superhero team called “Avengers”.

In 2008, Marvel Cinematic Universe would release Incredible Hulk. Instead of being sequel to 2003 Hulk, this movie was a reboot and starred Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. The movie was success but due to fallout with Edward Norton , Marvel Studios decided to not hire Edward Norton in future. The Incredible Hulk ended with a guest appearance by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. This move signified that the future Marvel movies would be actually interconnected and interdependent.

In 2009 , Marvel entertainment was acquired by The Walt Disney Company for $4.24 billion.

In 2010, Iron Man 2 would be released in which Nick Fury would try to pursue Tony Stark to work with S.H.I.E.L.D. despite Tony Stark’s hesitance. The movie also introduced Black Widow, a spy that works for S.H.I.E.L.D. , who would be played by Scarlett Johansson. In the post end credit scene, viewers can see Agent Coulson finding Thor‘s hammer. This scene would make everyone sure that Thor would eventually have crossover with Tony Stark in future. Even though the movie itself was not as critically acclaimed as previous movie, Robert Downey Jr. by now was very popular with teens and preteens. Success of Iron Man‘s movies and Robert Downey Jr.’s popularity lead to resurgence of interest in Avengers among people who usually do not read comic books. However success of Iron Man 1 and 2 was not only reason for non-comic book reading people’s interest in Avengers. Progress in internet, video gaming and animation would also lead to more awareness about Marvel superheroes other than Spiderman.

In 2011 , Marvel would release standalone movies based on Thor and Captain America as part of Marvel Cinematic Universe so that audience could know more about both the characters before Avengers was released.

Captain America: First Avenger would be directed by Joe Johnston and star Chris Evans (who also acted as Human Torch in Fantastic Four series before series was cancelled) as a skinny poor youngster named Steve Rogers. The movie would be set in 1940s when USA was fighting Nazis on battlefield. In the movie , Steve Rogers is rejected by US Army due to fact he is underweight. But later in the movie he would join super-soldier program in which he would be injected and turned into a man with superpower. In order to increase morale among citizens to join military, Steve Rogers would be given special costume and be named Captain America. During climax Captain America would face a monster created by Nazi called Red Skull and eventually Captain America would sacrifice himself in the ocean for the country. However later it would be revealed that Captain America‘s body has been found 70 years later and that his body is alive and functioning.

Thor would be directed by director of Shakespearean film such as Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh and star Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Anthony Hopkins as Thor’s dad and Tom Hiddleton as Thor’s evil brother Loki. The movie would be more important movie than Captain America movie as the movie would contain a plotline that would involve rivalry between Thor and Loki and some important magical rock called Tesseract, which would serve as basis of plotline of Avengers. The movie would also introduce Hawkeye played by Jeremy Reiner in one scene. Loki would become fan favorite character. Chris Hemsowrth would be introduced to American audience

By end of 2011 , movie going audience would be introduced to characters like Tony Stark/ Iron Man, Steve Rogers/ Captain America , Thor , Nick Fury , Agent Phil Coulson and Black Widow.

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In 2012 , Marvel Studios would finally release crossover movie named AVENGERS. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemmeswoth , Chris Evans, Scarlett Johanson, Samuel Jackson and Clark Gregg would return to their respective roles : – Tony Stark, Thor , Steve Rogers, Black Widow , Nick Fury and Agent Phil Coulson. Jeremy Reiner as Hawkeye would have more screen time in comparison to his screen time in Thor movie. Bruce Banner would now be played by Mark Ruffalo. The antagonist of film would be Loki, played again by Tom Hiddleton. In the movie, S.H.I.E.L.D would ask all the superheroes to unite together as a group named “Avengers” in order to catch Loki as Loki wants to rule the world with the help of Tesseract . Due to major ego clashes and lack of trust, the superheroes are unable to work together. Worst of the rivalry would be between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark due to ideological difference as Steve Rogers believes that unlike him Tony Stark does not fight out of patriotism but due to selfish reasons. This ego-clash would be good for movie viewers as there would be a fight scene between Thor, Captain America and Iron Man in which thankfully no one dies. In later scenes, Hulk would have fight with Thor and Black Widow when he is unable to control anger. However when Loki escapes from prison, Hulk starts controlling anger and Steve Rogers stop hating Tony Stark and they unite together to defeat bad guy.

The movie was both critical and commercial success. ”. Fans of the movie would quote “We got hulk” and “Take out the suit and what are you?” scene after the movie would be over. It has gone to become 4th highest grossing movie of all time. The movie was released in IMAX, 2D and 3D.  Before the release of the movie, anticipation for movie was high especially among fans of both comic book and movies. Before this movie, I saw this much anticipation with Avatar and Expendables. Even The Dark Knight and 2012 did not have this much anticipation among blockbuster movie lovers. I still remember that before release of Avengers, I was watching the trailer of it and I saw one person in comment section saying “Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck”. Though the comment may seem funny, I was able to relate to his feelings. When Expendables was going to be released in 2010, I had high expectations from it. As someone who was fan of Die Hard, Terminator 2 and Rambo 2 , I thought it would be interesting to see three biggest action heroes of 1980s and 1990s i.e. Sylvester Stallone , Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Wills work together in a Hard-R non-special effects old-school action movie, especially if it is directed by Sylvester Stallone himself. However I was very disappointed by the movie. I thought it was a waste of brilliant cast. So when I got to know that in Avengers movie , Thor , Captain America, Hulk  and  Iron Man would come together , I was excited but at the same time doubtful about the movie . I thought to myself whether Avengers would be Expendables of superhero or not. The fact I had not seen any work by Joss Whedon did not help. However when I finally saw the movie, my doubts were clear. I found the movie to be great. I became a fan of Joss Whedon that day. It was a great movie watching experience for me. I remember that after watching the movie, I was surfing on internet to see if critics agree with my view or not. I remember one of the critic saying “Michael Bay, this is how one makes a blockbuster”. Now let me confess that I am a Michael Bay fan. I saw Tranformers: Dark of Moon in theatre. However it was nice to see that instead of having explosion every 5 minutes like Michael Bay does, Joss Whedon chose to have hand to hand combat, which are sadly less in Transformer movies. Even if there is a hand to hand combat scene between robots in Transformers, due to too much shaky cam, one cannot make out who is punching whom. In Avengers, Joss Whedon decided to have stable camera movement during action scenes, which was a nice change from the shaky cams and lens flare which makes it difficult to view action scenes.

After the success of Avengers, Marvel announced that all the movies made from 2008’s Iron Man to 2012 ‘s Avengers were part of “Marvel Phase One”. All the movies made after Avengers that would be set in Marvel Cinematic Universe would be part of “Marvel Phase Two

Personally I think it was good that Avengers was released. There was a necessity for Avengers to be released in 2012 because 2012 would be the year when the fans of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy would bid farewell to Batman trilogy as Christopher Nolan would announce that The Dark Knight Rises would be last of Batman’s trilogy and Christian Bale would announce he would announce not play Batman anymore. At this point of time, it was relaxing to know that Marvel would make at least one superhero movie every year in Marvel Phase Two. The fact that Avengers itself was brilliant made everything good. Till now, I think Marvel Phase Two has been somehow able to fill the vacuum left by The Dark Knight Rises in a Post-Christopher Nolan Batman world but is not entirely successful. However if there is one thing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been completely successful, it is the fact that it has given the Hollywood producers to do crossover. One of the example is that DC is making Justice League.