The Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s meteoric rise began, in many ways, with Robert Downey Jr.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Downey joined Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. They looked back at the last decade and the 22 films that fit together to create the universe we’ve all become so familiar with. Their journey created a new generation of comic lovers and forever changed the way we look at a movie franchise. Trilogies? A thing of the past. Feige wanted to do the comic books justice by stitching together a shared world—but first, he needed the right centerpiece. The problem? Marvel’s most popular characters, Spider-Man and X-Men, were locked into other studio deals. Iron Man would have to do.
It turns out that many people over at Marvel Studios didn’t have faith in Iron Man. “Internally, at Marvel corporate, Hulk—by far, the better-known property—seemed like the slam-dunk and Iron Man seemed like the risk,” Feige said. Little did they know Iron Man would set the groundwork for a sweeping change to how far a cinematic world can stretch.
In fact, Downey may have had the most faith in Iron Man from the start. “I decided to take it more seriously than I’d ever taken anything,” he said.
It was Feige who ultimately understood what makes a good comic book adaptation. He spoke about molding both Tony Stark and Iron Man into heroes. Feige realized that the man behind the mask was just as important—if not more so—than his superhero identity. He knew that everything was contingent upon finding the right Stark, and the studio took a gamble on Downey, who had just starred in the critically acclaimed but commercial bomb Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Ultimately, it was Marvel Studio’s decision to link all of the separate movies together that changed the landscape. “I didn’t want to merely think of an Iron Man trilogy or a Thor trilogy,” Feige said. “It all came from the comics.” He’s right. Comics are the epitome of crossovers. Many young readers were introduced to characters through a guest appearance in a favorite series. By employing this golden-rule of comics, Feige managed to flawlessly toe the line between Hollywood and Marvel’s well-established geeky base.
All of their hard work will culminate next week with the release of Avengers: Endgame. The film marks the ending of an era, but the beginning of something brand new. With the changes it made to how we look at a cinematic universe, Marvel has set the stage for its own future success. Now it just needs a new hero.
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H/T New York Times