In 2008, Marvel started their cinematic universe with Iron Man. Since then, they’ve put out over a dozen films and TV shows set in the same universe. So will it ever end?
What is the MCU?
Works from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, MCU for short, have grossed $3.9 billion, according to Box Office Mojo. The recent release of Captain America: Civil War will surely bring this number over $4 billion.
The initial success of Iron Man in 2008 led to Disney buying Marvel and rights to many of its characters. Characters that Disney didn’t receive the rights to included Spider-Man, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool. There have been movies produced featuring all of these superheroes, but they’ve been set in their own universe since Disney doesn’t have the character rights.
Marvel and Disney somehow found a way to build a coherent universe where everything really is connected. Much like comic books, these films in the MCU often reference characters and events from its other works. A lot of the earlier movies were tied together through post-credits scenes, which Marvel has become famous for. We saw Tony Stark approached by Nick Fury for the Avengers Initiative in Iron Man and we discovered Thor’s hammer in a desert at the end of Iron Man 2. It’s all of these little things that tie the universe together.
The Avengers was the first time a super-group of superheroes joined forces on the silver screen successfully. It was the culmination of what Marvel called their “Phase One” works, which included Iron Man, Thor and Captain America movies between 2008 and 2012.
ABC’s Agents of Shield was the MCU’s first TV series and it directly followed the events of The Avengers. The TV format allowed Marvel to better flesh out lesser characters in 40-minute episodes while still adding to the overall flow of the MCU. Since then, they’ve added other shows like Agent Carter and Netflix’s Daredevil.
Will it end?
It doesn’t seem like the MCU will end anytime soon. The latest known film to be released is The Avengers: Infinity War Part – 2 in 2019. Marvel’s TV works could go on way past 2019 as long as networks want to keep them on the air. The recent acquisition of rights to Spider-Man will most likely mean we’ll get a sequel to the upcoming 2017 film.
Marvel hasn’t released a flop at the box office since they started the MCU so they won’t take their foot off the gas pedal until they feel the need to. Comic writers have given them access to an endless number of characters. The success of lesser known superheroes like Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy have solidified standalone films for those like Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel.
Just how deep and far into the universe is Marvel willing to go? Will we see references to 2008’s Iron Man in a Marvel film in 15 years? Who knows? There’s, of course, been theories about retiring actors as their respective superheroes and recasting them into the same universe as new heroes taking over the mantle.
There will eventually be a point where casual moviegoers won’t be able to keep up with what’s going on. There might be several minor references to an MCU TV show in an MCU film and that could cause some confusion for those who don’t watch every property. Marvel will eventually have to decide if they want to keep their current universe going or start a new one. This could mean a child who saw the first Iron Man could live to see the same superhero cast two or three times in their lifetime in several cinematic universes.
The thing to remember is that films in the MCU make Marvel money and they’ll keep cranking them out until they don’t anymore. The next question to ask may be: Will people ever get sick of these films?