10 Takeaways from Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe

Well, the reviews are starting to come in and Captain America: the Winter Soldier is beginning to look like an awesome, epic experience in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's hard (for those of a certain age) to remember what it was like, just a little over a decade, when Iron Man, Cap and Thor were viewed as B-grade characters. Especially in light of the global brand recognition of superheroes in the form of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman --- if you had asked the average comicbook fan "if a Justice League film would happen before an Avengers film"? the answer would, most certainly, have been a HELL YES! But has there been ANYTHING short of Real Madrid V. Barcelona, UNC V. DUKE that has had the sense of contest and sheer stakes than DC V. MARVEL Cinematic futures? 

While most would argue that DC is better than Marvel and/or vice-versa, there is no question that Marvel's approach to superhero films where the characters all interact with one another is INGENIOUS. And with the new Cap movie; a new Avengers film and a growing TV spin off list from Agents of Shield to a new Netflix only series of shows---Marvel show no signs of slowing up. They've got rumors of a female superhero film and could OWN the Speedster and space hero archetypes (over Flash and Green Lantern) for the next generation of geeks by the time the next Batman and Superman movies come out. These are exciting times! Makes us at Saturday AM wonder if Anime/ Manga concepts will ever get so legitimately loved around the world!

On Tuesday, ABC aired a special (one of the first?) that offered never before revealed details on Marvel's cinematic universe's past and some rare glimpses of its' future. Our very own resident Marvel fan (UGH--- DC RULES says lonely Frederick), Kasey Michael, gives us the rundown on what things we learned from the special.

10. The entire success of the new Marvel Studios sat on the shoulders of Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. While we all know that Iron Man laid the groundwork for the universe and characters to begin the Marvel movie journey---32 WRITERS TURNED DOWN the chance to write the film. No one thought much about the film prior to launch (Marvel head Kevin Feige had to near BEG to get RDJ accepted by the film's backers). Buzz from the media and audiences was actually crucial to the success of future entities. Marvel Studios wanted people to start talking about the importance of Nick Fury and SHIELD within the Marvel universe beyond Iron Man and Tony Stark so future films were anticipated.

9. Marvel Studios seems to acknowledge the failure of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk—but barely. It seems the only element to remember is that Tony Stark appeared at the end to tie the universe together. 

8. Nick Fury is used in most films as a Professor of Marvel History. He pops up in films to teach the audience the importance of each superhero and how they came to be. With his quick wit, Fury is not shy to cut down an individual hero to explain there are larger threats to deal with at all times. Ironically, Coulson is viewed as the glue of the series although Fury is clearly the most intertwined and has allowed SHIELD to become a powerful cultural element.

7. Joss Whedon is, was, and will always be a (creative) GOD! He wrote and directed The Avengers, which culminated Phase 1 to cement Marvel's massive identity as THE superhero brand. Whedon let the handsome genius of Tom Hiddleston shine as Loki, and finally found a brilliant Hulk in Mark Ruffalo.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy a NEW film featuring new characters but known to some fans from decades of stories in comics. Chris Pratt has impressively slimmed down and brought a Han Solo-ish rogue ready with jokes as the always cool-looking but never popular comic character: Peter Quill/ STARLORD. Zoe Saldana joins in as GAMORRA because frankly, I think she is trying to take down Sam Jackson as the highest grossing actor EVER—Star Trek series, Avatar series, and now a Marvel pic. The story seems to lean heavily on humor and features very wacky elements for a Marvel movie--will this departure help Marvel expand? The glimpses in the Special seem to look very GOOD but there is still a danger that this will be too "cheesy" for modern film fans.

5. Agents of SHIELD was created and green-lit from a great and fan-driven idea (that has stumbled to satisfy in Season 1). The series was meant to fill in the cracks between movies and expand the universe. Agent Coulson was to mirror Nick Fury and assemble a dream team to investigate extraordinary occurrences/cases. While a more detailed review is forthcoming, the beacon of light for me, in an otherwise SOFT first season for SHIELD, is that Coulson is alive and the duo of Fitz-Simmons seemingly maintain the Marvel/ Whedon wit comfortably within the larger action narrative. 

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier will strive to capitalize on the popular storyline from the comics with a modern day adaptation and plays a CRUCIAL role in setting up ALL NEW MARVEL MOVIES. We get the debut of Cap's comicbook sidekick, Sam Wilson, who has a more fleshed out back-story. Taking a cue from Marvel's Ultimates line, Sam is part of a military paratrooper unit with the case code name of Falcon. Cap's first partner, Bucky, is now the Winter Soldier and is the main adversary to challenge Steve Rogers in the present day. While Steve struggles to understand the modern world with no personal ties, Marvel is aiming for a political thriller that echoes in our current fears of surveillance and terrorism. The reviews have stated that Winter Soldier is Marvel's BEST new villain after Loki.

3. Did I mention Joss Whedon is amazing!? He is responsible for crafting the end of Phase 1 and Phase 2 with Avengers: Age of Ultron. We are past the origin story to now delve into true character interaction and action. What became clear in the interview is just how much of a comicbook fan Whedon is. While never stated, Whedon's involvement details the most important fact about Marvel -- EXCELLENT CASTING BEHIND AND IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA is what makes them shine!

2. HULK VS. HULKBUSTER?? Joss Whedon claims Avengers: Age of Ultron will be more grownup, more scary, and more funky. He is most excited about Ultron as the villain, which he picked as one of the greatest villains for the Avengers in history. He knew Ultron was the villain for two when agreeing to The Avengers. Scenes from the sequel show HULK and an ULTRON-POWERED (??) suit of Tony's armor throwing down in South Africa.

1. The Avengers team is branching out with VISION, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Concept art has now been released for two of them and the excitement is increasing but 2015 is sooo long to wait. I can’t stand it! The brilliant Elizabeth Olsen and quirkily charming Aaron Taylor-Johnson have teamed up as the brother and sister duo. The chemistry should be there undoubtedly—fresh from their husband/wife turn in Godzilla.

By Kasey Michael--a lover of all things entertainment. Born and bred in North Carolina, she has a degree in Film Studies and can usually be found in front of a screen.