The twenty-fourth movie in the Marvel movie universe, Black Widow, comes out this year on May 1 (you can watch the first teaser trailer here). It is the first film of the franchise’s Phase Four, which will include many more films and Disney+ shows. Black Widow is a film that people have been waiting for since the character’s introduction in the second Iron Man movie, released in 2010; some are a bit peeved, though, that we had to wait ten years before this prominent character, who appears in secondary roles in multiple movies, got her own solo film.
With this exciting change on the horizon, it is the perfect time to reflect back on the previous eleven years of Marvel, which yielded twenty-three films and eleven TV shows. The first film of the blockbuster series was Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Junior. It was a hugely unexpected hit that launched an entire universe. It was also the first film in the Infinity Saga, the overarching storyline of the first three Marvel phases. It is called the Infinity Saga because it very much revolves around the Infinity Stones, six stones that control each aspect of the universe (Power, Reality, Mind, Soul, Space, and Time).
Sadly, in the autumn of 2018, one of the creators of the Marvel universe, Stan Lee, passed away. The whole world mourned his death and reminisced about the good man that he was. The king of cameos appeared in every Marvel movie, including the ones produced by other studios, and fans had a lot of fun searching for where he would appear next. In his final cameo, in Avengers: Endgame, he drove past a military base in a car with a bumper sticker which had one of his key phrases, “‘Nuff said,” on it. Stan Lee was not only a major meme, but he was also a good man. Few things demonstrate this better than his “Stan’s Soapbox” entries, where he struck down racism and bigotry and showcased the positive ideals of his superheroes; we included one of his entries here.
Avengers: Endgame is the penultimate movie of Phase Three, and the climax of the Infinity Saga. The excitement that was accumulated for it by the previous twenty-one movies helped it take in $2.797 billion at the box office, making it the highest grossing movie of all time as it edged out Avatar, the previous record holder, which stood at $2.789 billion. Avengers: Endgame, also broke records previously held by Avengers: Infinity War, including fastest film to reach $500 million, fastest film to reach $1 billion, fastest film to reach $1.5 billion, highest opening weekend box office, and the highest 3D opening weekend box office. One thing that is key in Marvel’s recent record-breaking successes is its sale to Disney. While some look at the major media giant as a bad thing, the influx of cash and stricter deadlines made it possible for Marvel Studios to release three well-done movies a year, like they have been doing recently.
Looking forward, we can see films like The Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Blade, and other films that have been teased that will introduce new characters into the universe. Another way to see what the future of this universe will hold would be to look at the upcoming Disney+ shows, like Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, What If…, Hawkeye, and the Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk shows, which will introduce new characters into the world; these will be released at a later date. Ms. Marvel, for instance, is a teenage Pakistani-American superhero fangirl who many young fans can identify with; she is often seen as one of the leading characters of the next generation of the Marvel comic book universe.
The Marvel universe itself has just celebrated its 80th birthday, and with it change came not only to the cinematic universe, but the comic book universe too. With the success of the Marvel movies, Marvel comic books have garnered more attention, and they have in turn changed to accommodate their new demographic. In recent years, they have tended to have long-running comic series and character lineups that come together to create a blockbuster-esque event, like the Secret Invasion, Standoff, Secret Empire, No Surrender (Avengers and Quicksilver), and No Road Home comic lines.
One upcoming film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will star Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen as Doctor Stephen Strange and the Scarlet Witch, all but says what many Marvel fans have always known: there is a Marvel Multiverse, a web of universes that can be bridged together. Some have speculated that it will be precisely in this way that the X-Men will be brought into the franchise. The Multiverse has also been seen in another Marvel film, though it is not part of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). The animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which came out in December 2018, had a plot that revolved around the Multiverse, with most of the main characters coming from universes other than the one that the action took place in.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become so much more than a popular movie about a genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist in a flying suit of armour. It has become a community of people, actors, directors, writers, and fans who can all share the experience of these fictional worlds impacting their lives in such a major way. One photo that represents this sentiment is Marvel Studios’ 10 year anniversary photo, where the studio brought in over eighty actors, writers, and directors from its films. One can get lost looking for their favourite characters in this sea of faces!