It was the tail end of spring 2008, just before summer, that a little movie called Iron Man debuted from a little studio called Marvel. As the first self-financed and produced work from Marvel, who had, until that point, almost exclusively licensed its properties out to other studios, Iron Man was a big step forward even if the movie itself wasn’t opening to too much in the way of fan fair or expectations. But as the summer closed and the box office dust had settled, Iron Man had earned nearly $600 million. That was kind of a lot back then.
Far more importantly, though, Iron Man established a beachhead; it was the first stage in what would become the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a series of movies following the adventures of some of the greatest heroes of our age, and all, as it would turn out, taking place in the same world. What happened in one was reflected in another, our heroes would meet sometimes and even sometimes become integral parts of each other’s stories. Eleven years, 23 movies, and three unofficial “phases” later, Marvel has woven an intricate tapestry, a deep and epic backstory that rewards those of us paying attention while still maintaining the necessary accessibility for each of their individual chapters to stand on their own. Mostly. Continue reading