The Avengers Movies Damaged Marvel's Infinity Saga Plan & The MCU's Future – Screen Rant Leave a comment

Marvel didn’t intend the MCU to be defined by any one franchise – but the Avengers has become the sun around which everything else orbits.
There’s a strange, counterintuitive sense in which Marvel’s Avengers movies and their success actually damaged the studio’s plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Marvel Studios launched their shared universe in 2008, it was generally seen as one of the biggest gambles in the history of Hollywood, but it’s transformed Marvel into a dominant force in the film industry. Rival studios have desperately attempted to mimic Marvel’s formula, building shared universes of their own, but none have accomplished anything remotely comparable.
Even discounting the latest release, Eternals, MCU films have grossed over $23 billion worldwide, making the MCU the biggest film franchise of all time. Movies like Black Panther have become cultural events in their own right, while ensemble Avengers films are now expected to break $1 billion by default – and Avengers: Endgame even became the highest-grossing film in history (until Avatar got a rerelease). The MCU is now expanding on the small screen in a series of Disney+ TV series, and the first three live-action MCU Disney+ TV shows have been essential viewing, boosting subscriber numbers beyond industry expectations.
Related: How Marvel Told Scarlett Johansson She Was In The Avengers
And yet, for all that’s the case, Tara Bennett and Paul Terry’s recent book The Story of Marvel Studios hints there’s a sense in which the studio’s own success has caused problems. In one early chapter, the book reflects on Marvel’s concern to be known as more than just the studio that makes Iron Man films. It’s why they greenlit a range of different movies and different genres of superhero films right from the start. This in itself was a challenge simply because of the popularity of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, but they seem to have pulled it off; 2018’s Black Panther was the first MCU movie without Downey to gross over $1 billion, and the MCU is still flourishing after Iron Man’s death in Avengers: Endgame. But, interestingly, there’s another franchise that Marvel doesn’t seem able to outgrow: the Avengers.
Marvel never made much of a secret of its ambition to make an Avengers movie. When the studio announced its original MCU release slate in the mid-2000s, Kevin Feige famously noted it was “no coincidence” many of the films they were planning were associated with the Avengers. But the prospect of a big-screen Avengers team seemed to become an actual promise in 2008 when Iron Man‘s post-credits scene introduced Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and saw him mention the Avengers Initiative for the first time.
It’s important to remember that, in those early years of the MCU, Marvel was the new kid on the block; a new studio, initially dependent on others to distribute its movies, experimenting in the hopes things would work out. The studio’s decision-makers initially seem to have struggled to figure out exactly what audiences would be interested in. For example, they initially expected The Incredible Hulk to be their biggest hit in 2008, not Iron Man, and were disappointed by The Incredible Hulk‘s performance and reception. The Story of Marvel Studios notes they were similarly shaken by the critical response to 2010’s Iron Man 2, learning a lot of difficult lessons about how to make good sequels. Given Marvel’s lack of experience, it’s not surprising they soon fixed all their resources upon the thing people were really buzzing about, which was the impending team-up movie.
The Avengers was, of course, one of the biggest gambles imaginable; had it failed, the whole MCU could have collapsed like a house of cards. Fortunately, Joss Whedon’s genius lay in the realization the various members of the original Avengers really didn’t sit comfortably alongside one another. Consequently, he made the story an account of how a mismatched group of heroes, including a World War II super-soldier, an arrogant billionaire playboy philanthropist, and a Norse God of Thunder, each with their own individual movies, managed to come together as a team. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Marvel’s increasing focus on the Avengers led to other projects falling by the wayside. The Runaways movie was the first greenlit project to be canceled, with writer Drew Pearce openly admitting this was because of the Avengers. “Basically, The Avengers came along and everything else at Marvel got put on hold for a year,” he reflected in an interview with Slashfilm; it never came back. Still, there can be no doubt Marvel viewed the success of The Avengers – which grossed a stunning $1.5 billion worldwide – as an indication their pivot in this direction was the right approach.
Related: How The Marvels Can Set Up Two Different MCU Avengers Teams
It’s to Marvel’s credit that Phase 2 included Guardians of the Galaxy, a cosmic story with no direct Avengers ties, but it was certainly the exception rather than the norm. And then, in 2014, Marvel announced their original Phase 3 slate. Curiously, with the benefit of hindsight, Marvel’s Kevin Feige appears to think the Phase 3 announcement backfired, simply because it encouraged viewers to look beyond the immediate film and focus on the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (initially intended to serve as a two-parter). This further elevated the Avengers movies, making them Marvel’s definitive films, because viewers rightly recognized that everything Marvel was setting up, even the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, was intended to come together into an ensemble Avengers event.
The Avengers franchise has essentially become the sun at the center of the MCU’s solar system, its gravity holding everything else in place. The first wave of Disney+ TV shows have all spun out of Avengers: Endgame, while it didn’t take long for Marvel to start marketing Shang-Chi as a new Avenger, ensuring viewers would associate the new superhero with the bigger, more well-established brand. Eternals was the first movie Marvel has released since Guardians of the Galaxy that introduced a brand-new team that didn’t have a clear link to the Avengers. Even then Marvel chose to drop trailers that kept reminding audiences they exist in the same universe as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, with one trailer revealing a connection to the Blip, and another seeing the Eternals joke about whether Ikaris could lead the Avengers given Steve Rogers and Iron Man are now gone.
There is some evidence Marvel Studios does intend to try to escape the Avengers’ gravity, however. Back in 2018, then Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed Marvel was planning a new franchise “beyond Avengers, and it’s exciting to note this comment was made well before Marvel regained the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, meaning the possibilities for doing this have increased since his comments. As anyone familiar with the comics will know, the X-Men, in particular, work best when they’re somewhat separated from the rest of the Marvel universe (currently in the comics, they’re living on an island nation of their own) and occasional crossovers with the Avengers are usually versus matches. What’s more, the studio is yet to announce Avengers 5, meaning there will be at least a five-year gap between Avengers: Endgame and the next ensemble (probably more). That will be the longest gap between Avengers movies since 2012, hopefully giving Marvel a chance to build these other franchises so they can break the Avengers’ orbit and become well-established in their own right. Marvel started out not wanting to be defined by Iron Man – and they’d be wise to not want to be defined by the Avengers either.
More: Eternals: Where The Avengers Are During The Emergence
Tom Bacon is one of Screen Rant’s staff writers, as well as a Peer Mentor for new writers and a member of the Care Team, offering support and a listening ear to members of the Comics group. A lifelong fan of major franchises including Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Marvel, Tom is delighted his childhood is back – and this time it’s cool. You can find him on Twitter @TomABacon. A graduate of Edge Hill University, Tom remains strongly connected with his alma mater as a volunteer chaplain. He’s heavily involved with his local church, and anyone who checks him out on Twitter will swiftly learn he’s into British politics too.


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