How Marvel Studios Built the Biggest & Best Movie Franchise of All Time

We breakdown the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

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10 Years. 20 Films. 1 Universe.

10 Years. 20 Films. 1 Universe.

Over the past decade Marvel Studios has produced some of the biggest and best films, all of which take place in the same shared cinematic universe. It's not an unheard of idea, but it's one that President and Producer Kevin Feige has perfected. Feige started off as a lowly production assistant on other Marvel-related projects at Sony and Fox before moving on to help start Marvel Studios. The idea was simply that the folks at Marvel could call the shots, but with many of their major characters on lease at other studios, Feige realized they had some lesser known characters, but that those characters could one day become The Avengers. Thus a franchise was born! How they got there and have stayed on top for so long is what we're going to dive into here.

1. Focus on Individual Movies

1. Focus on Individual Movies

In 2006, Marvel Studios was already actively developing Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Incredible Hulk, but it was announced at San Diego Comic-Con that Captain America, Nick Fury, and Thor were their next film projects. It's no coincidence that these characters make up Marvel Comics' Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Feige wanted these superheroes to come together in a crossover team-up movie event, but not before setting them up in their own individual movies. That exactly what happened, but only because Feige and his team put the focus on one movie at a time. By just trying to make one good film, they were able to create a quality brand and something people could rely on and look forward to.

2. Bold Casting Choices

2. Bold Casting Choices

Casting the right actors in the rights roles has been one of Marvel's greatest strengths. They make bold choices when it comes to putting these superheroes on screen. Basically every actor is playing a character you couldn't imagine anyone else playing. It's because they seek out solid actors who don't only look the part, but have a bit of the characters unique quirks in them already. It's a stroke of genius whenever they announce a new character and the actor who will portray them.

3. Bring the Humor

3. Bring the Humor

Making sure there's levity in these big, epic, action spectacles is a huge part of why these films are so enjoyable. Bringing humor into the mix and not taking themselves too seriously is why audiences respond so well to these films. There's still a place for genuine drama and there always need to be real stakes, but the comedy in these films is what keeps them fresh and light. Usually the more comedic moments are also the ones that stand out as these ridiculous characters can't help but be hilarious. It's a testament to the excellent writers the studio hires to bring these characters and worlds to life and have fun doing it.

4. Have a Heart

4. Have a Heart

Maybe the most important thing to remember when making a movie or building a franchise is to have a heart at the center of everything you're doing.  In 1978 when making the original superhero movie, Superman, Richard Donner had a saying hanging above his door, it read, "Verisimilitude" which is the appearance of truth, honesty, and realism. The grounding of these films in a real world is key to making it believable. The cast and crew clearly take this whole thing seriously or else it wouldn't work. There also has to be an important message or theme or else you have no reason to tell a story.

5. Make the Characters Relatable

5. Make the Characters Relatable

Connecting with the characters in this universe is extremely important. If you don't care about who's up on screen, then you won't get wrapped up in the story they're telling. Marvel has done an incredible job at bringing these characters to life and helping us understand them, their point of view, and what makes them tick. They explore the character's backstories, their loved ones, and any major event that happened in their life. All of this brings us closer to them and makes us care more about their well being and the decisions they make.

6. Support the Director's Vision

6. Support the Director's Vision

Marvel has brought on board some immensely talented filmmakers to work behind the camera and tell these stories. The best Marvel movies are the ones that let the director's vision shine through. This gives each movie a unique tone and feel, keeping the franchise fresh. It's how you can have a Shakespearean-esque space/fantasy Thor film and a World War II-era Captain America action/adventure movie. It's also how the tech-based Iron Man can exist with the science fiction worlds of Guardians of the Galaxy. When each and every director is allowed the freedom to explore the characters and the universe surrounding them is when Marvel is at it's best.

7. Surprise Audiences

7. Surprise Audiences

In order not to get stale you have to keep surprising audiences with your movies. That means evolving the characters and the world around them. The character arcs Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk have had throughout these films is astonishing. The way the world has changed is amazing too, especially with the introduction of Black Panther and his highly advanced nation of Wakanda. It's great that we can go on a journey with a character who makes choices that bring about change in them and also effect us in profound ways.

8. Deliver the Spectacle

8. Deliver the Spectacle

Whenever you go to a Marvel movie you expect some spectacular visuals, so the studio has had to find creative ways to show audiences things they've never seen before. This is a difficult challenge, but with the wealth of diverse characters they have it's been relatively easy up until this point. We've seen high-tech suits of armor, super-soldiers, powerful aliens, green rage monsters, master assassins, masters of the mystic arts, warrior kings, and teenagers with spider-powers. It's been amazing to see these characters use their fantastic abilities in some astounding action sequences and set pieces that blow our minds.

9. Build Towards Crossovers

9. Build Towards Crossovers

Maybe the smartest thing Marvel has done is patiently build up to a major crossover event like The Avengers. Comic book fans were ready for this after seeing the first post-credits scene after Iron Man in 2008, but we waited until 2012 to see the team finally come together. Getting to know each character individually was important, but seeing them come together was a real treat. It was a blast to see all of their personalities clash and finally watch them team-up to take down Loki and his army of aliens. They did this again to great affect in Phase Two after our heroes went their separate ways only to come together again to battle Ultron. As we go along, seeing these characters together more often is going to be important, but they can't forget to make the crossovers a major event. 

10. Keep Introducing New Characters

10. Keep Introducing New Characters

Adding new characters to the ever-growing roster of Avengers is hugely important. They found organic ways to introduce Spider-Man and Black Panther before giving them solo films and bringing them together with the rest of the Avengers which is exactly what they must continue doing. Giving us characters with a new perspective on this universe is what will keep things interesting. A teenager like Spidey is going to have a much different view on things than a King of Wakanda like Black Panther.  These are essential elements that make this franchise feel fresh.

Those are our top ten reason why the MCU is the biggest and best franchise ever. Why do you like the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Tell us in the comments below! Don't forget to share this post on social media! See Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War in theaters now.

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