As the Marvel Cinematic Universe nears its 10-year anniversary, it's time to reflect on a way of making movies that changed pop culture forever. Bringing a shared comic book universe to the big screen is a big risk that paid off for Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige, but it wasn't all A-list movie stars and cash register noises at first. Far from it.
For its overstuffed Avengers holiday issue, Vanity Fair took a retrospective look at the apparatus, which went from a dreary office above a Mercedes-Benz dealership to a $4 billion deal with Disney, $13 billion at the box office, and the envy of all of Tinseltown. SYFY WIRE combed the entire cover story and came away with the following earth-shattering facts about the MCU:
1. The post-credits scenes began as a simple easter egg for mega-fans:
It's hard to imagine a time when you wouldn't sit through the entire end credits of a movie to see if there was a little extra scene or teaser for the next installment. We can thank Feige and the MCU for establishing that trend, and now these scenes are sometimes dissected and talked about more than the actual film itself. However, that wasn't the intention when Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury showed up at the end of the first Iron Man nearly a decade ago.
“People forget Iron Man was an independent movie,” Feige told Vanity Fair, explaining that there was no foresight to the franchise's future. The project, which saved Robert Downey Jr.'s career, was a massive gamble for the studio, which had to use the film rights to major characters as collateral just to make it. As such, the Fury cameo was simply a little bit of fan service that wasn't supposed to go any further than that. Even its placement at the end of the credits wasn't some brilliant ploy. “We put it at the end so it wouldn’t be distracting,” Feige said. Upon seeing the reactions of fans and non-fans alike, he realized the potential for endless crossovers, and the seed of the MCU was planted.
2. James Gunn was nearly forbidden to use a retro soundtrack in Guardians of the Galaxy:
Imagine a cosmos being protected with no Redbone, David Bowie, Jackson 5, Electric Light Orchestra, or Looking Glass playing in the background. The idea almost makes you sick, but James Gunn was almost forced to take them out of the movie that changed everything for the MCU, the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Before the major shake-ups that put Feige directly under Disney Chairman Alan Horn, there was a “creative committee”—a legacy of the studio’s early days—that read every script and gave writers and filmmakers feedback.
According to Gunn, the notes they provided were "haphazard" at best and, at one point, even recommended that he remove the '70s-era hits that would become the movie's trademark in the form of Peter Quill's Awesome Mixes. Vol. 1 not only went platinum in terms of record sales, but the songs became another character in the movie's story, perfectly relevant to the scenes in which they were used.
3. Feige wishes he'd beaten Wonder Woman:
The DCEU might be floundering with the soft reception of Justice League, but it was the talk of the town this past spring with Wonder Woman. A female-centric superhero movie directed by a woman was seen to be a breath of fresh air for the genre, which was long overdue for a team-up like that of Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot. Sure, the MCU has its share of strong females (Pepper Potts, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Gamora), but they usually play second fiddle to the male leads.
All of that will change in 2019 with Brie Larson heading Captain Marvel, but Feige is a bit disappointed that Marvel Studios wasn't the first one to break the mold. “I think it’s always fun to be first with most things,” he told Vanity Fair, while also reportedly getting chills about Diana's standout scene on the European battlefield in Wonder Woman. Coming back to himself, he expressed his genial attitude in defeat by adding, “Everything’s going to work out. Captain Marvel is a very different type of movie.”
4. Avengers 4 will offer something we've never seen in the MCU:
That would be a finale, according to Feige. We've still got Infinity War and the Mad Titan, Thanos, to contend with next spring before we get there, but he assured fans that everything changes after No. 4. Characters may die, others may fall in love, but more importantly, contracts for guys like Downey and Evans are running out, and something tells us they don't want to be playing these characters into old age.
When 2019 rolls around, it'll be time to pass the baton to the younger generation of heroes, like Tom Holland's Peter Parker or Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther. “There will be two distinct periods," said Feige. "Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting.” It almost sounds like audiences will come to discuss these two eras as they do the pre- and post-Crisis periods in the DC universe.
Like we said, earth-shattering.