iFeature | MARVEL STUDIOS 10 Years… Not Just a Phase (Part 1)
In the beginning, 10 years ago, it would have hardly been imaginable that a cinematic universe was in the making, now Marvel Studios has redefined the “blockbuster” and it all began something invincible, incredible and mighty!
The summer movie landscape was always the playground for Hollywood’s big budget bonanzas! The studios figured it was the most operative and lucrative of opportunities to roll-out the popcorn fair, and it gave them the funds to drop big money into their prestigious Fall Movie releases, which were often star-power draws and dramas ready for awards season. It all started to drastically change when the studios started to see big box office returns from genre-faves like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Bryan Singer’s X-Men.
Warner Bros. always had itself a cash cow with the Batman franchise, but when the studio decided to reboot the franchise and handed it over to visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan Batman Begins jumpstarted a whole new way to envision the superhero film. Marvel was starting to pick up on this as well, and although it saw an interesting swing handing Ang Lee Hulk in 2003, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films were really the path of least resistance for Marvel to take, especially if its plans to control how their properties got adapted to screen was to materialize.
When Kevin Feige the president of Marvel Studios inherited the reigns, Feige imagined something not unlike the popular pulp series books that Marvel Comics introduced and had been publishing for 80 years. He saw a universe of interconnected stories, stand-alone film franchise with characters that inhabited the same linear narrative and would potentially interact with one another, and when the time was right — the people, their stories and worlds would intersect into one — just like the superheroes that Stan Lee brought to life in the Marvel Universe of comics.
Marvel Studios IRON MAN
In 2008 Marvel Studios took its biggest gamble, and it paid off, when it handed the reigns of Iron Man to director Jon Favreau. The largely untested filmmaker had certainly carved a niche for himself in comedies and starred in several of his own features, but Favreau had a very deep understanding of the technological wonder that is the character and was a natural fit to bring The Invincible Iron Man to the big screen. The story goes that Favreau called in several favors, including reaching out to Academy Award Winner Gwyneth Paltrow to appear in the film.
The director’s greatest advantage came from landing Robert Downey, Jr. to star as billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, who after getting kidnapped by terrorists who want him to build them super weapons, instead constructs for himself a life-saving armor. Stark becomes the Iron Man and heralds in a new hit at the box office. Iron Man took in a gross of 585.2 million and inspires a new movement with the post-credit’s “stinger”. At the conclusion of his epic battle with Iron-Monger (Jeff Bridges), Stark is approached by a mysterious secret agent with a proposal.
Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury suggests to Stark that it’s the beginning of a New Age, and that he’s recruiting a team to tackle the threats that will require some “avenging”. This stinger sent a seismic shift through Hollywood introducing the idea of “The Avenges Initiative” — and the Marvel Studio cinematic universe was born! Favreau and Feige had a plan, a bigger picture in mind, a narrative that would run a thread through several big screen franchise, but lead to a larger scale adventure the realm of which audiences couldn’t imagine would ever make it to the big screen.
Marvel Studios THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Perhaps the most unlikeliest follow-up to the success of Iron Man was the release of The Incredible Hulk especially given how recently the big Green Goliath had been adapted for the big screen. Ang Lee took a stab at the monster’s story five-years earlier with his near art house adaptation starring Eric Bana. Credits were not amused and that movies ending left a lot to be desired, but Marvel Studios plowed forward with a “reboot” with Louis Leterrier in the director’s chair and Edward Norton now filling the role of the gamma radiated Dr. Bruce Banner.
The film almost feels like a sequel to its predecessor, although it recasts all the major roles including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross and William Hurt as General Ross, who has made it his mission to hunt down the fugitive Banner who has proven most elusive. Banner has taken to moving all over the world in an endless and tireless quest to contain the beast within him; that proves precarious when Banner gets wind of a possible cure and resurfaces. Ross has also recruited the blood thirsty Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) — who becomes an Abomination!
The film was received with mixed reviews, but still made a dent with a take of 263.4 million in box office; not Iron Man numbers but still proving lucrative by studio expectations. The film in fact did exactly perform as anticipated and served to set the ball rolling. The inclusion of a particularly important moment, at the end of the flick established Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) in this world with an interest in Banner’s extra angry alter ego. This may not have set well with the movie’s star. It had been reported that Edward Norton clashed often with the film’s director and producers.
Norton had his own ideas about how the story should have progressed and was very vocal about his dissatisfaction with the final edit. The actor had been approached about continuing with the role, and it was also rumored that Robert Downey, Jr. was brought in to persuade the actor to stay on with the studio. It appeared that Marvel Studios would have other plans and the next time that the Hulk would appear on screen he would be embodied by a new actor that would make his mark and a smashing addition to the ensemble.
Marvel Studios Iron Man (2008) directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey, Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.
Marvel Studios The Incredible Hulk (2008) directed by Louis Letterrier and starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William hurt is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.