May 4, 2022 is a landmark day in the history of Marvel Studios as the 10 year anniversary of the release of The Avengers. While the true start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was with 2008’s Iron Man, it wasn’t until the first true crossover that it became fully actualized and proven as a serious force in the movie industry. As the MCU has progressed into new territories since then, let’s stop down and recollect on five ways this film has changed the way major studio films have been made since.
#1: The Rise of the “Cinematic Universe”
The most obvious impact The Avengers has had on the larger film industry is major studios’ insistence on trying to follow suit of Marvel and create their own universes with characters from various connected films. Before, the concept of crossovers within major films were few and far between, and mainly predicated on passing references that’d never be followed up on. A fully interconnected cinematic universe was a concept many were skeptical of before the release of the 2012 summer blockbuster. Doubts were held over whether or not audiences would buy into the concept that a billionaire in an iron suit, a World War II hero, and a god from Norse mythology would fit in together in the same film. However in earning over $1.5 billion in the box office, Marvel Studios proved this idea to be a great success. Following this, general audiences were inundated with various attempts to copy Marvel’s formula to various levels of success. These have ranged between Warner Bros’ modestly successful MonsterVerse and Universal Pictures’ laughably ill-fated attempt with the Dark Universe. However, none have truly matched the level of success found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Avengers.
#2: Relatability in Characters
While the rise in cinematic universe could be considered the most noticeable impact of The Avengers on major studio releases, the largest impact the film had was ushering in a change of the way audiences wanted to perceive their characters. In a vast majority of marquee films before 2012 (especially in relation to superhero films), central protagonists were treated as absolute godly figures. To use the then most recent popular superhero franchise as an example, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy presents Batman as someone with the strongest moral character once he has accepted the responsibilities of his powers and begins fighting crime. He’s not a character with much nuance to him and his struggles are presented to be more based on external threats around him than any meaningful internal pathos. Meanwhile, audiences were leaving The Avengers generally talking more about the moments of character development than the big action set pieces. Viewers made great connections to seeing the protagonists have to struggle with their internal identities to be able to work as a team. Ultimately, The Avengers made us realize we wanted our cinematic pillars to be more human and relatable.
#3: The Anticipation of Post-Credit Scenes
While focusing on essentially a solitary minute of The Avengers 143 minute runtime feels at least partially ridiculous, it can’t be denied that the end of this film changed the way major feature films optimized the coda of their projects. The ominous closing shot of Thanos looking towards the camera set the stage for the long-term destination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And with it, this generated large quantities of fan excitement at the thought of the road ahead and how these future films would connect. This indeed ended up becoming a strategically brilliant decision for Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures both creatively and from a business stand-point at the time. Moving forward, large expectations have been made for essentially every blockbuster-type film to close with some hint of the future or how what audiences just saw connects to a bigger picture. Arguments can certainly be made for if this has now grown into more of a net-negative for the film industry and the creative process, but it’s certainly present and can be traced to Marvel Studios first major crossover project.
Reflecting on the ten years since the release of 2012’s The Avengers paints the picture of how the film not only changed the course of Marvel Studios, but the entirety of the Hollywood film industry. And it will be compelling to look further into how this landmark film maintains its impact in the decade to come and beyond.