By Eric Bartolotta
“I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.” - Nick Fury
Samuel L. Jackson’s Fury uttered his now famous line to a recently self-outed Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., in a post-credits scene at the end of Iron Man ten years ago this year, that not only made me lose my mind with excitement, but was also the first building block of what would end up being the most successful grouping of characters into a shared cinematic universe.
While Iron Man doesn’t sport the first post-credits scene in cinema, somehow that first Fury and Stark interaction quickly became the most important post-credits scene in film history. Since that post-credits scene, we’ve had over a dozen more, some teasing future movies and story lines, some just to get a laugh out of the audience. Marvel Studios did something that no one had attempted before in a fashion that has had every major studio try to copy the formula since, they created a coherent, adapting universe on film. One that has kept people coming back for a decade with no end in sight, constantly testing the boundaries of genres and what it means to be a franchise, and that’s why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is my favorite piece of pop culture.
To really appreciate how much the MCU has done for the film industry, it's important to look at the superhero movies that came before it. There were some successes such as Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, the X-Men series, and the Toby McGuire led Spider-Man trilogy. The issue that I feel a lot of these comic book movies had though, is that they all were hung up on keeping a tight-knit universe with only one main hero. One where once rules were established they weren’t challenged and the inevitable third movie of the franchise would tie up all of the loose ends with a send-off for the main characters. The X-Men franchise was successful at having a “team movie” from the start, but it did lead to sacrificing meaningful character arcs for most of the members. Burton’s Batman was a great example of a director sewing his own vision into the fabric of the property, but it was very much a love it or hate it style.
Of course, Marvel Studios decided to throw that idea on its head and start building its own universe, one where characters could appear in other’s standalone movies and have Avengers films towards the end of each phase of their release slates that would shape a lot of what was to come forward. They dared themselves to create a shared universe that could keep going, even well after some characters had died or moved on.
I didn’t grow up in a heavily pop-culture focused family, but somehow everything I enjoyed had roots in being geek oriented. There was almost nothing better to me than getting to play my Sega Genesis, where with my copy of The Avengers, I learned about characters such as Iron Man, Vision, and Hawkeye. I loved reading any type of comic I could get my hands on but would mostly resort to keeping them bagged and boarded to where I could only see the front cover. Superheroes always fascinated me and I would daydream about what I could do with powers of different people, and what it would be like to exist in a universe where superheroes were real.
Part 2 coming soon...