The MCU is far from the first example of a studio crossing over its properties, with Hollywood boasting a history of gimmicky showdowns, from 1940s monster movies like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man to relatively recent clashes like Alien vs. Predator. Nonetheless, Marvel Studios was arguably the first to go beyond the obvious novelty of seeing famous figures sharing the screen to craft an elaborate and fully-formed cinematic universe. And according to producer Kevin Feige, it was with 2012’s The Avengers when the pieces of this world really started to fall into place.
In the new book Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years, the studio head pinpoints the moment when he realized that this MCU experiment was actually going to work.
“I think it was The Avengers,” Feige said. “The success of Iron Man was amazing. That gave us the confidence to do another Iron Man film, a Captain America film, and to introduce Thor. The success of The Avengers taught us that the audience really gets what we’re doing, and really enjoys the crosspollination of all of these different film series. And the audience told us unequivocally they were with us. That allowed us to plot out everything that we’ve done since then, and everything specifically building to Infinity War.”
Though Joss Whedon’s film seems almost modest in scale next to this year’s Avengers: Infinity War, it was seen by many as a gamble at the time, with some doubters worrying that the ensemble flick required viewers to watch too many movies in order to follow the story.
Needless to say, the feature proved to be a huge hit regardless, and in an end credits scene, The Avengers offered an early hint of the more ambitious future to come in its Thanos reveal. In the years since, Feige and his team have continued to play the long game, and this strategic thinking has extended to the studio’s casting decisions.
“We always cast for the movie we’re making, but we also have an eye on the future,” the producer said. “So when we were casting Chris Pratt, we needed the best Star-Lord, but at the same time, we said, ‘We need somebody who one day might go toe to toe with Robert Downey Jr.’ On the very first day of Avengers: Infinity War there was Robert, Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, and it was pretty amazing! There have been a handful of times in our ten years here at Marvel Studios where we have had to just stop for a second and pinch ourselves. That was one of those moments.”
The reason for all these characters getting together was the Mad Titan, who’s come to be the most formidable opponent yet for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. In this same interview, Feige recalled how the groundwork has been continuously laid for the villain’s proper arrival ever since he was first teased in The Avengers. It’s been ten years of buildup that all leads into Avengers 4, and we’ll see what sort of Phase 3 finale Marvel Studios has lined up for us when the film hits theaters on May 3rd, 2019.