In 2008, Marvel Studios, which was born from the Marvel Comics franchise, parlayed its superhero universe into a run of films that began with its release of Iron Man. Called Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) it declared Phase I as the “Avengers Assembled” and which lasted until its 2012 release of Marvel’s The Avengers. In May 2013, Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 and will end with the 2017 release of Ant-Man. With Phase Three looking to include at least nine more movies, it’s safe to say that Marvel’s new venture has grown into a true powerhouse.
Just when audiences may have started tiring of superheroes after a long string of movies such as Spiderman, X-Men, Daredevil and the Green Lantern, Marvel Cinematic Universe injected life into the genre. MCU films work for the simple reason that its stories are solid and its characters are easy to relate to. First, these stories resonate because they use issues that are at the core of almost any headline picked out of today’s newspaper. Beyond the fantastical ways our superheroes save the world, they struggle with real issues like freedom, power, treachery and evil. Second, even as a superhero, the audience can identify with these characters. They are flawed yet lovable, and always wanting better for the world. As Nick Fury says in The Avengers, “these people may be isolated, unbalanced even, but I believe with the right push they can be exactly what we need.”
As evidence by is vast array of directors and screenwriters, it’s clear that the MCU isn’t afraid to experiment. Welcoming new voices and a fresh outlook with each new person, it has proven that it can continually widen its scope. It’s also not afraid to grow its own talent. In 2009, the company started a writer’s program similar to Disney’s Writers Program. The venture seemed to have some success; out of the program came Nicole Perlman and her adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy.
The next MCU film, Age of Ultron, is set for release on May 1st of this year. With Joss Whedon again at the helm, the film will reunite the Avengers and for any fan of the series, multiple superheroes are always better than one. The crew will come up against supervillain Ultron, who has appeared in Marvel comic books since 1968. Portrayed by the more than capable James Spader, Ultron, who possesses superhuman strength, speed and the ability to control the minds of his victims, promises to be one of the Avengers most formidable foes to date. While we anxiously await this latest release, below I rank the ten Marvel Cinematic Universe films released thus far.