On May 2, 2008, Jon Favreau released a giant gamble of a film. Everything said it shouldn't work.

  • It was Marvel's first movie. An unproven commodity on its own on the big screen.
  • It starred an actor with a troubled past that no one was sure could carry a film with a budget of $140 million.
  • And it was based on a comic character that the general public, at best, had a passing knowledge of.

Yet, here we are nine years later with 15 films having been released with over $11 billion at the box office and six television series to date. There are no signs that the MCU train is going to stop any time soon, but it's beginning to feel like we're entering the next stage of the MCU and it may be a good time to reflect on what we have already seen on both the big and small screen, as well as what is to come.

The Movies

Phase 1

  • 2008 – Iron Man
  • 2008 – Incredible Hulk
  • 2010 – Iron Man 2
  • 2011 – Thor
  • 2011 – Captain America: The First Avenger
  • 2012 – The Avengers

Phase 2

  • 2013 – Iron Man 3
  • 2013 – Thor: The Dark World
  • 2014 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • 2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy
  • 2015 – Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • 2015 – Ant-Man

Phase 3

  • 2016 – Captain America: Civil War
  • 2016 – Doctor Strange
  • 2017 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The red Marvel logo had been popping up in front of films long before Iron Man, but when 2008 rolled around it wasn't the immediate attention grabber it is today. There had already been three films each in the respective X-Men and Spider-Man film franchises, but I wouldn't say the company wasn't a household name quite yet.

Then Iron Man hit, and all those gambles I mentioned paid off in a huge way. Off of that $140 million dollar budget, the film went on to earn $585.17 million globally. Marvel had a hit and it was off to the races.

It introduced us to the post-credits scenes that are now a staple of the MCU. That isn't to say it was the first movie to ever do that, but it was the one that now makes you think every movie quite possibly may have one and you see people in the movie theater torn about whether they should get out of the seats when the film ends.

If you look back over the list of films Marvel has released since 2008, there are several I can remember thinking, "how are they ever going to introduce this character to a broad audience?" As a lifelong reader of comics, even I thought Ant-Man was going to have a hard time carrying a film on its own, but then they announced the human charm factory that is Paul Rudd in the main role and then I simply went to, "is he a big enough name to carry a movie of this size?"

He was.

Then they got to Doctor Strange, and even I have a hard time reading his books. The mystical aspects of the Marvel comic universe have never appealed to me, but it definitely has its fans. Then Marvel essentially adopted the formula of the original Iron Man and it worked. Even as someone who doesn't care for the character I enjoyed the movie.

Marvel has been criticized for forgettable villains, and I don't disagree with that. If you think back on any of the films can you really think of a stand-out bad guy? Sure, you may remember their most basic motivations, but did any of them really feel threatening to you? They have been painted with the broadest of strokes with all of the focus put on the heroes… and, in general, I don't think people have minded. If they did, the overall film franchise wouldn't have grossed over $11 billion to date.

For better or worse, Marvel has struck on a winning formula that people can't seem to get enough of, but how long can they keep it going is the question.

Television

ABC

  • 2013 – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1
  • 2014 – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2
  • 2015 – Agent Carter season 1
  • 2015 – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3
  • 2016 – Agent Carter season 2
  • 2016 – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4

Netflix

  • 2015 – Daredevil season 1
  • 2015 – Jessica Jones season 1
  • 2016 – Daredevil season 2
  • 2016 – Luke Cage season 1
  • 2017 – Iron Fist season 1

Something odd happened on the way to television for Marvel. Namely, it feels like the brand discovered it was difficult to keep up momentum. While there have been some gems on the small screen for Marvel Studios, there have also been some real head scratchers.

For instance, the first season of Agent Carter was downright fun, and was a must watch for me. Season 2, not so much. I can't even point to one thing that made it different, but it wasn't nearly as enjoyable to watch.

I loved the first season of Daredevil so much I watched it to completion twice, something I very rarely do with television fare. Season 2 was okay, but it wasn't nearly as engaging on the second outing for the character. And Iron Fist… oof. While I have binged every Marvel season on Netflix, never taking more than a week to complete it, I still haven't finished the tale of Danny Rand as it is a bloated slog of a story.