Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Marvel Cinematic Universe
Marvel Cinematic Universe logo.png
Marvel Cinematic Universe intertitle from Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014).
Creator Marvel Studios
Original work Iron Man
Print publications
Comics Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in comics
Films and television
Films Marvel Cinematic Universe films
Television series Marvel Cinematic Universe television series
Miscellaneous
Short films Marvel One-Shots

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared fictional universe that is centered on a series of superhero films, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in publications by Marvel Comics. The franchise has expanded to include comic books, short films, and television series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters. Clark Gregg has appeared the most in the franchise, portraying Phil Coulson, an original character to the MCU.

The first film released in the MCU was Iron Man (2008), which began the first phase of films, culminating in Marvel's The Avengers (2012). Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 (2013), and is expected to conclude with Ant-Man (2015). Marvel is also preparing Phase Three, beginning with the release of Captain America: Civil War (2016). The universe began to expand with the release of the first official tie-in comics in 2010, and saw further expansion with the Marvel One-Shots direct-to-video short films in 2011 and the TV series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 2013–14 season. Marvel has multiple films and television projects in various stages of development.

The franchise as a whole ranks as the second highest-grossing film franchise of all time and the highest-grossing film franchise in the United States of all time, and has inspired other film studios with comic book character film rights to attempt to create similar shared universes.

Development

"It is daunting but it's fun. It's never been done before and that's kind of the spirit everybody's taking it in. The other filmmakers aren't used to getting actors from other movies that other filmmakers have cast, certain plot lines that are connected or certain locations that are connected, but I think ... everyone was on board for it and thinks that it's fun. Primarily because we've always remained consistent saying that the movie that we are making comes first. All of the connective tissue, all of that stuff is fun and is going to be very important if you want it to be. If the fans want to look further and find connections, then they're there. There are a few big ones obviously, that hopefully the mainstream audience will able to follow as well. But ... the reason that all the filmmakers are on board is that their movies need to stand on their own. They need to have a fresh vision, a unique tone, and the fact that they can interconnect if you want to follow those breadcrumbs is a bonus."

Kevin Feige, President of Production for Marvel Studios, on constructing a shared film universe.[1]

By 2005, Marvel Studios began planning to independently produce its own films and distribute them through Paramount Pictures.[2] Previously, the studio had co-produced several superhero films with Columbia Pictures, New Line Cinema and others, including a seven-year development deal with 20th Century Fox.[3] Marvel Studios made relatively little profit from its licensing deals with other studios and wanted to get more money out of its films while maintaining artistic control of the projects and distribution.[4] Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige realized that unlike Spider-Man and the X-Men, whose film rights were licensed to Columbia and Fox respectively, Marvel still owned the rights to the core members of The Avengers. Feige, a self-professed fanboy, envisioned creating a shared universe just as creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done with their comic books in the early 1960s.[5] To raise capital, the studio secured funding from a seven-year, $525 million revolving credit facility with Merrill Lynch.[4] Marvel's plan was to release individual films for their main characters and then merge them together in a crossover film.[6] Feige initially referred to the shared narrative continuity of these films as the "Marvel Cinema Universe",[7] but later used the term "Marvel Cinematic Universe".[8]

Kevin Feige was an early visionary for the franchise, realizing a shared media universe could be created with properties Marvel owned.

In November 2013, Feige said that "in an ideal world" releases each year would include one film based on an existing character and one featuring a new character, saying it's "a nice rhythm" in that format. While not always the case, as evident by the 2013 releases of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, he said it is "certainly something to aim for."[9] Feige expanded on this in July 2014, saying, "I don't know that we'll keep to [that model] every year," but we're doing that in 2014 and 2015. "So I think it would be fun to continue that sort of thing. I don't know that we will [do that] all the time, but as a general model, I think that would be fun."[10] In February 2014, Feige stated that Marvel Studios wants to mimic the "rhythm" that the comic books have developed, by having the characters appear in their own films, and then come together, much like "a big event or crossover series,"[11] with Avengers films acting as "big, giant linchpins."[12] After the reveal of multiple release dates for films through 2019 in July 2014,[13] Feige stated, "I think if you look at some of those dates that we've announced, we're going to three in a few of those years. Again, not because there's a number cruncher telling us to go to three, do more than two pictures a year, but because of the very reason just laid out: It is about managing [existing] franchises, film to film, and when we have a team ready to go, why tell them to go away for four years just because we don't have a slot? We'd rather find a way to keep that going."[14] After the titles were revealed in October 2014,[15] Feige said, "the studio’s firing on all cylinders right now... which made us comfortable for the first time... to increase to three films a year [in 2017 and 2018] instead of just two, without changing our methods."[16]

On expanding the characters in the universe and letting individual films breathe and work on their own, as opposed to having Avenger team-ups outside of those films, Feige stated, it’s about "Teaching the general movie going audience about the notion of the characters existing separately, coming together for specific events and going away and existing separately in their own worlds again. Just like comic readers have been doing for decades and decades... People sort of are accepting that there's just a time when they should be together and there’s a time when they’re not."[17] In April 2014, Feige revealed that Edgar Wright's pitch for Ant-Man in 2006 helped shape the early films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe saying, "We changed, frankly, some of the MCU to accommodate this version of Ant-Man. Knowing what we wanted to do with Edgar and with Ant-Man, going years and years back, helped to dictate what we did with the roster for Avengers the first time. It was a bit of both in terms of his idea for the Ant-Man story influencing the birth of the MCU in the early films leading up to Avengers."[18]

In October 2014, Marvel held a press event to announce the titles of their Phase Three films.[15] The event, which drew comparisons to Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference,[19] was done because all the information was ready. As Feige explained, "We wanted to do this at [San Diego] Comic-Con this year. Things were not set... So the plan has been, since a few weeks before Comic-Con when we realized we weren’t going to be able to do everything we wanted to do, is to decide 'let's do either something we haven’t done in a long time, or something we've never done.' Which is a singular event, just to announce what we have when it's ready. I thought that might be early August, or mid-September, it ended up being [at the end of October]."[16]

Business practices

Marvel Studios developed specific business practices to create its shared universe. For example, when the studio hired Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston to direct Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, respectively, it made sure both directors were open to the idea of a shared universe, and that they would have to include Avengers set-up scenes in their films.[5] Joe Russo, one of the directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier added, "That's the exciting component of [incorporating references to the larger universe]. 'What can we set up for the future?' You're constantly pitching out ideas that not only affect your movie, but may have a ripple effect that affects other films... It's a weird sort of tapestry of writers and directors working together to create this universe that's sort of organic."[17] Joe's brother and co-director, Anthony, added, that in order for directors to "fit" in at Marvel, they must "understand how [to] take a larger story and wrangle in [sic] into a moment, yet keep [it] connected."[17] On allowing directors and writers to work within Marvel's shared universe concept, Joe Russo said, "I think the way Kevin [Feige] does it is there are big pieces that he knows he wants to build towards, but the way that you get there is open to interpretation and improv a little bit. That’s defined by who gets involved with the project, the writers and directors involved in the project." For the Russos in The Winter Soldier, they had to deal with the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. being infiltrated by Hydra and thus subsequently falling, with Joe saying, "how we get there is all up to us. And I think why Marvel has been so successful is because it’s been such a clear plan, that everything is interconnected and they’re building emotional capital with each movie that you can then trade off of in the next film."[20]

The studio chose filmmakers that were considered "out-of-left-field", given their previous work. Feige remarked, "You don't have to have directed a big, giant visual-effects movie to do a big, giant visual-effects movie for us. You just have to have done something singularly sort of awesome,"[21] adding "It's worked out well for us when we've taken people [such as Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Branagh and the Russo brothers,] that have done very, very good things. Very rarely are one of those good things a big giant blockbuster superhero movie."[22] Marvel also began contracting their actors for multiple films, including signing actor Samuel L. Jackson to a then "unprecedented" nine-movie contract.[23] In July 2014, Feige said that the studio has all actors sign contracts for multiples films, with the norm being for 3 or more, and the 9 or 12 film deals "more rare".[24] In August 2014, Vincent D'Onofrio, Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, said, "The thing about Marvel is that they’re not–they’re into real acting. They’re looking for artists that are willing to take chances and are willing to create characters, even if that character has been around for years and years in comic books, they still are depending on us to create something and take it somewhere else."[25]

In August 2012, Marvel signed Joss Whedon to an exclusive contract through June 2015 for film and television. With the deal, Whedon would "contribute creatively" on Phase Two of the MCU.[26] In March 2013, Whedon expanded on his consulting responsibilities, saying, "I understand what Kevin [Feige] is going for and where he’s heading, and I read the scripts and watch cuts and talk to the directors and writers and give my opinion. Occasionally there could be some writing. But I’m not trying to get in anybody’s soup, I’m just trying to be helpful. Every time you work on a project it’s a little vacation from the project you’re working on the other 23 hours. That’s the thing – it replenishes you to do something else. And they’re very aware that if I’m too tired or busy to help with anything, that’s fine. But if I can help and not get in the way of the actual filmmakers, that’s what I’m going to do."[27] Whedon later elaborated that "Since the story has already been approved and everybody knows what we're doing with Avengers 2, we can really lay it out. It's not like anyone's saying "well I don't know, what if I need that?" It's like "doing this is troublesome for us, whereas doing this will actually help us." It's a dance, but I had to do it on [The Avengers] too. You want to honor the events of the last movie but you don't want to be beholden to them, because some people will see Avengers[: Age of Ultron] who did not see any of the movies inbetween or even Avengers 1." He also found working in television and script doctoring to be "great training ground[s] for dealing with this ... because you're given a bunch of pieces and told to make them fit - even if they don't."[28]

Distributors

Over time, the distribution rights to Marvel Studios' films changed hands on multiple occasions. In November 2006, it was announced that The Incredible Hulk would be distributed by Universal Pictures, separate from the deal with Paramount in 2005,[29] who were distributing Marvel's other films.[2] In September 2008, after the international success of Iron Man, Paramount signed a deal to have worldwide distribution rights for Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.[30] In late December 2009, The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Both Marvel and Disney stated that Disney would distribute future Marvel projects with their own studios once the current distribution deals with Paramount expire after The Avengers.[31] In October 2010, The Walt Disney Studios bought the distribution rights for Marvel's The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount Pictures[32] with Paramount's logo remaining on the films, as well as for promotional material and merchandise.[33][34] (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is the only studio credited at the end of these films.)[35] In July 2013, Disney purchased the distribution rights to Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger from Paramount.[36] The Incredible Hulk was not part of the deal, due to an agreement between Marvel and Universal, where Marvel owns the film rights and Universal owns the distribution rights, for this and any future Hulk film.[37]

Expansion to other media

Marvel is complicated in that we’re part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and so after [running something by Jeph] Loeb we’ll run it through New York, Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley and those guys. We pitch our stuff to Kevin Feige and his movie group to see if there’s something we can tie into, to see if they’re okay about us using a character, or a weapon or some other cool thing. Everything is interconnected, and that’s really what we have to pay the most attention to. It’s challenging but fun as we try to lace some Easter egg in, something that ties into a movie or, if not, at least the comics so fans can find those little things that nobody else knows about.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell in September 2014, explaining the process of working in with the MCU[38]

In 2010, the first official tie-in comic was released. Marvel Entertainment CCO Joe Quesada outlined his plan to expand the MCU into comic books in November 2010, saying, "[F]or the uninitiated, the MCU [comics] are going to be stories set within movie continuity. [They are] not necessarily direct adaptations of the movies, but maybe something that happened off screen and was mentioned in the movie, and we'll tell that story... [T]he folks that are involved in the movies on the West Coast will be involved in these stories. It won't be like one of our comic book writers saw the movie and has an idea for a story. No, these stories are originating at the very top. Kevin Feige is involved with these and in some cases maybe the writers of the movies would be involved in... generating these ideas and then either just giving them to some of our writers or maybe some of these guys writing them themselves."[39]

In August 2011, Marvel announced a series of direct-to-video short films called Marvel One-Shots. Co-producer Brad Winderbaum said "It's a fun way to experiment with new characters and ideas, but more importantly it's a way for us to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tell stories that live outside the plot of our features."[40] Each short film is designed to be a self-contained story that provides more backstory for characters or events introduced in the films.[41]

By July 2012, Marvel began considering expanding to television after the positive response to Marvel's The Avengers, with the series that eventually became known as Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[42][43] By September 2013, Marvel was once again developing another series due to positive reception from one of their properties, this time due to the Agent Carter One-Shot,[44] eventually becoming the series Marvel's Agent Carter.[45] In November 2013, it was announced that Marvel and Netflix would air the live-action series Marvel's Daredevil,[46] as well as series based on Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, leading to a miniseries based on the Defenders.[47]

Films

Film U.S. release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Producer(s) Status
Phase One: Avengers Assembled[48]
Iron Man May 2, 2008 (2008-05-02) Jon Favreau[49] Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway[49][50] Avi Arad and Kevin Feige Released
The Incredible Hulk June 13, 2008 (2008-06-13) Louis Leterrier[51] Zak Penn[52] Avi Arad, Gale Anne Hurd and Kevin Feige
Iron Man 2 May 7, 2010 (2010-05-07) Jon Favreau[53] Justin Theroux[54] Kevin Feige
Thor May 6, 2011 (2011-05-06) Kenneth Branagh[55] Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne[56]
Captain America: The First Avenger July 22, 2011 (2011-07-22) Joe Johnston[57] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[58]
Marvel's The Avengers May 4, 2012 (2012-05-04) Joss Whedon[59]
Phase Two[48][16]
Iron Man 3 May 3, 2013 (2013-05-03) Shane Black[60] Drew Pearce & Shane Black[60][61] Kevin Feige Released
Thor: The Dark World November 8, 2013 (2013-11-08) Alan Taylor[62] Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[63]
Captain America: The Winter Soldier April 4, 2014 (2014-04-04) Anthony and Joe Russo[64] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[65]
Guardians of the Galaxy August 1, 2014 (2014-08-01) James Gunn[66] James Gunn and Nicole Perlman[67]
Avengers: Age of Ultron May 1, 2015 (2015-05-01)[68] Joss Whedon[69] Kevin Feige Post-production
Ant-Man July 17, 2015[70] Peyton Reed[71] Gabriel Ferrari, Andrew Barrer and Adam McKay[71][72] Filming
Phase Three[16][73]
Captain America: Civil War May 6, 2016[15] Anthony and Joe Russo[74] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[74] Kevin Feige Pre-production
Doctor Strange November 4, 2016[15] Scott Derrickson[75] Jon Spaihts[76]
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 May 5, 2017[15] James Gunn[67] In development
Thor: Ragnarok July 28, 2017[15] TBA Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost[77]
Black Panther November 3, 2017[15] TBA Mark Bailey[78]
Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 May 4, 2018[15] TBA
Captain Marvel July 6, 2018[15] TBA
Inhumans November 2, 2018[15] TBA Joe Robert Cole[79]
Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 May 3, 2019[15] TBA

Television series

Series Season Episodes Originally aired/streamed Showrunner(s)
Season premiere Season finale
ABC series
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1 22 September 24, 2013 (2013-09-24) May 13, 2014 (2014-05-13) Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell[80]
2 22[81] September 23, 2014 (2014-09-23) TBD
Marvel's Agent Carter 1 8[82] January 6, 2015 (2015-01-06)[83] February 24, 2015 (2015-02-24)[83] Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas[84]
Netflix series
Marvel's Daredevil 1 13[85] May 2015[86] Steven S. DeKnight[46]
Jessica Jones 1 13[85] TBD Melissa Rosenberg[87]
Iron Fist 1 13[85] TBD TBD
Luke Cage 1 13[85] TBD TBD
The Defenders 1 4-8[85] TBD TBD

Short films

Main article: Marvel One-Shots
Film U.S. release date Director Screenwriter Producer Home media release
The Consultant September 13, 2011 (2011-09-13) Leythum[40] Eric Pearson[88][89] Kevin Feige Thor
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer October 25, 2011 (2011-10-25) Captain America: The First Avenger
Item 47 September 25, 2012 (2012-09-25) Louis D’Esposito[88][89] Marvel's The Avengers
Agent Carter September 3, 2013 (2013-09-03) (Digital)
September 24, 2013 (2013-09-24) (Physical)
Iron Man 3
All Hail the King February 4, 2014 (2014-02-04) (Digital)
February 25, 2014 (2014-02-25) (Physical)
Drew Pearce[90] Thor: The Dark World

Comic books

Title Issue(s) Publication date(s) Writer(s) Artist(s)
Iron Man 2: Public Identity 3 April – May 2010 Joe Casey and Justin Theroux[91] Barry Kitson and Ron Lim[91]
Iron Man 2: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1 September 2010 Joe Casey[91] Tim Green, Felix Ruiz and Matt Camp[91]
Captain America: First Vengeance 4 May – June 2011 Fred Van Lente[92] Neil Edwards and Luke Ross[93]
The Avengers Prelude: Fury's Big Week February – April 2012 Chris Yost and Eric Pearson[94] Luke Ross[95]
The Avengers Prelude: Black Widow Strikes 3 May – June 2012 Fred Van Lente[96] Neil Edwards[97]
Iron Man 3 Prelude 2 January – February 2013 Christos Gage[98] Steve Kurth[98]
Thor: The Dark World Prelude June – July 2013 Chris Yost and Craig Kyle[99] Scott Eaton[99] and Ron Lim[100]
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Infinite Comic 1 January 2014 Peter David[101] Rock He-Kim[101]
Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic April 2014 Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning[102] Andrea DiVito[102]
Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude 2 April – May 2014 Wellinton Alves[103]
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Chase 1 July 2014 George Kitson[104] Mirko Colak, Neil Edwards, and Mirco Pierfederici[104]
Ant-Man Prelude 2 February 2015 Will Corona Pilgrim[105] Miguel Sepulveda[105]

Recurring cast and characters

Clark Gregg has appeared the most in the franchise, while Samuel L. Jackson has also appeared frequently.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has seen multiple cast members and characters appear across media. Clark Gregg has portrayed Phil Coulson, an original character to the MCU, in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and The Avengers, as well as in The Consultant, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This is the most a character has appeared in the franchise.[106] Samuel L. Jackson has also appeared frequently, playing Nick Fury in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel's The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier,[107][108][109] and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[110] Jackson will reprise the role in Avengers: Age of Ultron.[111] Hayley Atwell, who played Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger,[112] Captain America: The Winter Soldier,[113] the One-Shot Agent Carter,[114] and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,[115] will reprise the role in the forthcoming television series Agent Carter,[116] as well as in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man.[117][118] All three characters have also been featured in at least one official tie-in comic.[119][120]

Additional cast members and characters who have appeared across multiple media include: Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,[121] and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron;[122] Maximiliano Hernández as Jasper Sitwell in Thor, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier,[123] as well as in The Consultant, Item 47 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.;[124][125] and Neal McDonough as Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan in Captain America: The First Avenger,[126] Agent Carter One-Shot[114] and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[127]

Howard Stark is the first character to be portrayed by multiple actors, not due to recasting: John Slattery played the character in Iron Man 2,[128] and will again in Ant-Man;[129] Dominic Cooper played a younger version of the character in Captain America: The First Avenger[130] and the Agent Carter One-Shot,[114] and will be doing so once again in the Agent Carter television series;[131] additionally, Gerard Sanders appeared as an older version of the character in on-screen photos in Iron Man.[132] Paul Bettany was the first actor to portray multiple characters in the universe, voicing Tony Stark's artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man films and The Avengers, and portraying Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron.[133]

Reception

Jim Vorel of Herald & Review called the Marvel Cinematic Universe "complicated" and "impressive" but said, "As more and more heroes get their own film adaptations, the overall universe becomes increasingly confusing."[134] Kofi Outlaw of Screen Rant, stated that while The Avengers was a success, "Marvel Studios still has room to improve their approach to building a shared movie universe".[135] Some reviewers criticized the fact that the desire to create a shared universe led to films that did not hold as well on their own. In his review of Thor: The Dark World, Forbes critic Scott Mendelson likened the MCU to "a glorified television series", with The Dark World being a "‘stand-alone’ episode that contains little long-range mythology."[136] Collider's Matt Goldberg considered that while Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were quality productions, "they have never really been their own movies", feeling that the plot detours to S.H.I.E.L.D. or lead-ups to The Avengers dragged down the films' narratives.[137]

Following the conclusion of season 1 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mary McNamara at the Los Angeles Times praised the connections between that series and the films, stating that "never before has television been literally married to film, charged with filling in the back story and creating the connective tissue of an ongoing film franchise ... [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.] is now not only a very good show in its own right, it's part of Marvel's multiplatform city-state. It faces a future of perpetual re-invention, and that puts it in the exhilarating first car of television's roller-coaster ride toward possible world domination."[138] Terri Schwartz of Zap2it agreed with this sentiment, stating that "the fact that [Captain America: The Winter Soldier] so influenced the show is game-changing in terms of how the mediums of film and television can be interwoven", though it was noted that "the fault there seems to be that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to bide time until The Winter Soldier '​s release", which lead to much criticism.[139]

Impact on other studios

After the release of The Avengers in May 2012, Tom Russo of Boston.com noted that aside from the occasional "novelty" such as Aliens vs. Predator (2004), the idea of a shared universe was virtually unheard of in Hollywood.[5] Since that time, the shared universe model created by Marvel Studios has begun to be replicated by other film studios that held rights to other comic book characters. In April 2014, Tuna Amobi, a media analyst for Standard & Poor’s Equity Research Services, stated that in the last three to five years, Hollywood studios began planning "megafranchises" for years to come, opposed to working one blockbuster at a time. Amobi added, "A lot of these superhero characters were just being left there to gather dust. Disney has proved that this [approach and genre] can be a gold mine."[140] However, with additional studios now "playing the megafranchise game", Doug Creutz, media analyst for Cowen and Company, feels the allure will eventually die for audiences. "If Marvel's going to make two or three films a year," he says, "and Warner Brothers is going to do at least a film every year, and Sony's going to do a film every year, and Fox [is] going to do a film every year, can everyone do well in that scenario? I'm not sure they can."[140]

DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.

In October 2012, following its legal victory over Joe Shuster's estate for the rights to Superman, Warner Bros. announced that it planned to move ahead with its long-awaited Justice League film, uniting such DC Comics superheroes as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Warner Bros. was expected to take the opposite approach of Marvel Studios by releasing individual films for the characters after they have appeared in team-up film.[141] The release of Man of Steel in 2013 was intended to be the start of a new cinematic universe for DC, with that film "laying the groundwork for the future slate of films based on DC Comics."[142] In July 2014, DC CCO Geoff Johns confirmed that the universe present in the publisher's television series, Arrow and The Flash, is separate from the one being built in their films with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.[143] In August 2014, Warner Bros. and DC announced a slate of nine dates for untitled films, similar to Disney and Marvel claiming dates for films years in advance,[144] with the titles revealed in October 2014.[145] In October 2014, Johns explained DC's difference in approach to Marvel, saying "We look at it as the multiverse. We have our TV universe and our film universe, but they all co-exist. For us, creatively, it’s about allowing everyone to make the best possible product, to tell the best story, to do the best world. Everyone has a vision and you really want to let the visions shine through ... It’s just a different approach."[146]

20th Century Fox

In November 2012, 20th Century Fox announced plans to create their own shared universe, consisting of Marvel properties that it holds the rights to including the Fantastic Four and X-Men, with the hiring of Mark Millar as supervising producer. Millar said, "Fox are thinking, 'We're sitting on some really awesome things here. There is another side of the Marvel Universe. Let’s try and get some cohesiveness going.' So they brought me in to oversee that really. To meet with the writers and directors to suggest new ways we could take this stuff and new properties that could spin out of it."[147] X-Men: Days of Future Past, released in 2014, may be Fox's first step towards expanding their stable of Marvel mutant properties.[148] However, in May 2014, Simon Kinberg, screenwriter for The Fantastic Four, stated that the film would not take place in the same universe as the X-Men films. "None of the X-Men movies have acknowledged the notion of a sort of superhero team--the Fantastic Four--and the Fantastic Four acquire powers, so for them to live in a world where mutants are prevalent is kind of complicated, because you’re like, 'Oh, you’re just a mutant. What’s so fantastic about you?' No, they live in discrete universes," said Kinberg.[149]

Sony Pictures

In November 2013, Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal announced that the studio intends to expand their universe created within the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man series, with spin-off adventures for supporting characters in the "Spider-Man" franchise, in an attempt to replicate Marvel and Disney's model. She stated, "We are going to access Marvel's full world of Spider-Man characters."[148] Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Michael Lynton added, "We do very much have the ambition about creating a bigger universe around Spider-Man."[150] Director Marc Webb has stated that the announced fourth film "may not just be a Spider-Man movie," and "there are so many ancillary characters, that have enormous, cinematic potential," echoing Pascal and Lynton's statements for expanding the Spider-Man universe.[151] In December 2013, Sony announced Venom and Sinister Six films, both set in the Amazing Spider-Man universe. With the announcement, IGN stated that the spin-offs are "the latest example of what we can refer to as "the Avengers effect" in Hollywood, as studios work to build interlocking movie universes."[152] Sony is choosing not to replicate the Marvel Studios model of introducing individual characters first before bringing them together in a team–up film, instead making the Spider-Man adversaries the stars of future films.[140]

Cultural impact

In September 2014, the University of Baltimore announced a course beginning in the 2015 spring semester revolving around the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The course, "Media Genres: Media Marvels", examines "how Marvel's series of interconnected films and television shows, plus related media and comic book sources and Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the 'hero's journey', offer important insights into modern culture... [as well as] uncover the unprecedented efforts by Marvel to establish a viable universe of plotlines, characters, and backstories". The course is taught by Arnold T. Blumberg, who says, "Every generation has a modern media mythology that serves as a framework for entertaining as well as educating about ethics, morality, issues of race, gender, class, and so on. For the past several years, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have served in that role for tens of millions... [yet w]e have a generation coming of age with these characters and this completely mapped-out universe. It could be argued that it's never been done better. But no matter what your age, there is always a fantasy/sci-fi/superhero realm that helps you to explore your place in the world, your identity, and your ideals. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is that realm for this generation."[153]

Other

Television specials

Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)

On March 18, 2014, ABC aired a one-hour television special titled Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe, which documented the history of Marvel Studios and the development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and included exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from all of the films, One-Shots and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and sneak peeks of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, unaired episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,[154] and Ant-Man.[155] Brian Lowry of Variety felt the special, "contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel’s plan to release five loosely connected movies from the same hero-filled world, beginning with the cinematically unproven Iron Man and culminating with superhero team The Avengers. As such, this fast-moving hour qualifies as more than just a cut-and-paste job from electronic press kits, although there’s an element of that, certainly."[156] The special was released on September 9, 2014 on the home media for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1.[157]

Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop! (2014)

In September 2014, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell stated that in order to meet production demands and avoid having to air repeat episodes, ABC would likely air a Marvel special in place of a regular installment at some point during the first ten episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. '​s second season.[38] In October, the special was revealed to be Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!, which was hosted by Emily VanCamp, who portrays Agent 13 in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and aired on November 4, 2014.[158] The special features behind the scenes footage from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, as well as footage from the Agent Carter television series previously screened at New York Comic Con.[159] Brian Lowry of Variety felt an hour for the special did not "do the topic justice" adding, "For anyone who has seen more than one Marvel movie but would shrug perplexedly at the mention of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp To Pop! should probably be required viewing. Fun, fast-paced and encompassing many of the company’s highlights along with a few lowlights, it’s a solid primer on Marvel’s history, while weaving in inevitable self-promotion and synergistic plugs."[160] Eric Goldman of IGN also wished the special had been longer, adding, "Understandably, the more you already know about Marvel, the less you'll be surprised by Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!, but it's important to remember who this special is really made for - a mainstream audience who have embraced the Marvel characters, via the hugely successful movies, in a way no one could have imagined."[159]

Live attractions

After the acquisition by Disney in 2009, Marvel films began to be marketed at the Innoventions attraction in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. For Iron Man 3, the exhibit, entitled Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries, features the same armor display that was shown at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, with the Marks I-VII and the new Mark XLII. In addition, there is a simulator game, titled "Become Iron Man," that uses Kinect-like technology to allow the viewer to be encased in an animated Mark XLII armor and take part in a series of "tests,” in which you fire repulsor rays and fly through Tony Stark's workshop. The game is guided by J.A.R.V.I.S., who is voiced again by Paul Bettany. The exhibit also has smaller displays that include helmets and chest pieces from the earlier films and the gauntlet and boot from an action sequence in Iron Man 3.[161] The exhibit for Thor: The Dark World is called Thor: Treasures of Asgard, and features displays of Asgardian relics and transports guests to Odin's throne room, where they are greeted by Thor.[162] Captain America: The Winter Soldier '​s exhibit, Captain America: The Living Legend and Symbol of Courage, features a meet and greet experience.[163]

In May 2014, the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) exhibit opened at the Discovery Times Square center. The exhibit features replica set pieces, as well as actual props from the films, mixed with interactive technology and information, crafted through a partnership with NASA and other scientists. Titus Welliver also provides a "debrief" to visitors, reprising his role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Felix Blake. Created by Victory Hill Exhibits, Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. cost $7.5 million to create, and is expected to run through January 2015.[164][165]

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