The Marvel Cinematic Universe


Nick Filipek, Asst. Opinion Editor

If you read last week’s edition of “Nick’s Flick Picks” you’ll know it was all about Warner Brothers and their attempt to catch up in the “superhero movie” race with their DC Comics characters. Who exactly are they racing though?

Marvel Studios has been pumping out hit after hit since 2008 and has shown the entire movie industry that there is money to be made with this genre.

When Marvel first got into the movie business, they licensed out their character and let other studios do the legwork. New Line Cinema had some success with the “Blade” franchise.

Fox has made three non-successful “Fantastic Four” films and a pair of equally unsuccessful “Ghost Rider” flicks. Fox has had huge success with Marvel’s “X-Men” property though, making a total of 10 films which has made the company a little under five billion dollars. Billion, with a “b”.      

In 2002, Sony optioned “Spider-Man”. This is when the real explosion of superhero flicks started coming out. “Spider- Man” opened to 114 million and rocketed us into the current obsession with these colorful characters.

Once Marvel figured out they can be twice as successful if they produced their own movies, “Marvel Studios” was born. In less than 10 years Marvel Studios has put out 16 movies that have all been financially successful, and quite honestly, all good movies.

Like everything else though, some are better than others, and I of course have my favorites.

“Iron Man” (2008)- You can not build an entire movie universe without a solid foundation, and that’s exactly what “Iron Man” did in 2008.

Directed by Jon Favreau (“Elf”, “Cowboys and Aliens”) and starring Robert Downey Jr. (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “Charlie Bartlett”), Terrence Howard (“Hustle and Flow”, “Red Tails”), Jeff Bridges (“Seabiscuit”, “The Giver”) and Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shallow Hal”, “Contagion”) this movie stands the test of time and is still one of, if not the, strongest Marvel Studios movie of all time.

Some may not know that RDJ wasn’t always the big time actor he is today. For a long time he had a “Hollywood bad boy” record, and has at least two more planned with “Avengers: Infinity War” parts one and two.

“Marvel’s The Avengers” (2012)– When I was a kid “The Avengers” was my favorite book to pick up for two reasons. One, I loved seeing all my heroes in one place; it solidified the fact that all these people inhabit the same world. Two, I was a poor cheap kid who didn’t want to but seven different books to see these characters.

This movie gives me the same chills as when I used to open the book to an amazing double splash page. (In comics that’s when one image takes up both full pages)

Director Joss Whendon (“Serenity”, “Much Ado About Nothing”) does an incredible job balancing out all the characters to make this feel like a true ensemble piece. With so many strong characters running, or flying, around it is hard to share the spotlight evenly. Some characters can end up falling into the background, as other more well established character steal the spotlight and make it “their” movie. This doesn’t happen once during The Avengers and the movie plays like a well written comic book come to life.

Captain America, Chris Evans (“The Perfect Score”, “Before We Go”); Iron Man, Robert Downey Junior (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “Charlie Bartlett”); Black Widow, Scarlett Johanson (“The Prestige”, “Lucy”); Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”, “Arrival”); Thor, Chris Hemsworth (“Rush”, “Red Dawn”); and Dr. Bruce Banner also known as The Incredible Hulk, Mark Ruffalo (“Shutter Island”, “13 Going On 30”), must team up under the orders of Colonel Nick Fury, Samuel L Jackson (“Pulp Fiction”, “Unbreakable”), to stop Loki, Tom Hiddleston (“Kong: Skull Island”, “Crimson Peak”), from bringing an alien invasion to earth.

This movie was the culmination of four years, and five movies, into one epic event that made the studio over a billion dollars. Again, that is a billion, with a “b”, all from one movie. This is the dream slam-dunk that every studio hopes for and now Marvel Studios has the formula.

The Avengers reassembled for a sequel in 2015, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and will reassemble soon to fight Thanos, the mad titan, in the 2018 premiere of “Avengers: Infinity War”. I’m going to go out on a limb now and place my bet that “Infinity War” becomes Marvel Studios highest grossing movie, in the shortest time span, and overall gross more than two billion dollars worldwide.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)- This is the fifth time we have tried to have the “web-head” up on the silver screen, and this movie hits the bull’s-eye. Sony Studios optioned the license for “Spider-Man” and did a great job, for the time, of bringing the character to life in the movies.

From the original, Sony spawned one successful sequel with “Spider-Man 2” in 2004 and the highly unpopular “Spider-Man 3” in 2007. From there they had the original idea to reboot the character to even worse results in “The Amazing Spider-Man” one and two in 2012 and 2014.

After the devastating flop in 2014, Sony tried a different approach and teamed up with Marvel to “allow” the character to appear in “Captain America; Civil War” to huge acclaims.

After the hype of seeing the wall crawler take action with a new actor playing him, Tom Holland (“The Impossible”, “Locke”), Marvel and Sony teamed up again to release “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

Tom Holland absolutely kills the role of Peter Parker. The infatuation with Spider-Man as a character comes from the fact that he is a teen in a costume trying to do his best to protect his neighborhood. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield (the previous Spider-Men) could not pull this off. Maguire was 27, looking 37, trying to play a boy fresh out of high school and still finding his way through his awkward phase. Meanwhile Garfield was even older than Maguire playing the high school lad at the age of 29, and just too pretty to assume he couldn’t land a girl like Emma Stone or have normal teen problems like bullies and acne.

Holland on the other hand embodies the awkward stage of teenage life easily, despite being 21. He makes this character feel real, and like the he could easily be the little boy who lives next door. Peter’s friend Ned, played by Jacob Batalon (“Watch Room”, “North Woods”) is like the icing on the cake, representing everyone else in high school who wasn’t bitten by a radio active spider and granted extraordinary powers growing up.

The best shout out has to go to Michael Keaton (“Batman”, “The Founder”) for his role as Adrian Toomes aka The Vulture. When this movie was first announced and the information regarding the villain choice was released I have to admit I was a bit hesitant. What a strange pull from the Spider-Man rogue gallery, but Keaton is boss. He is downright intimidating in some scenes, while still managing to be charming. You don’t like the villain because he’s breaking the law, but you don’t hate him either because on some level, you can relate.

This version of Spider-Man can be seen coming up in “Avengers: Infinity War” and the untitled sequel to “Spider-Man; Homecoming”

No matter how you slice it, it has to be said that Marvel is currently king of this emerging industry.