A Look Back on Marvel’s The Avengers 10 Years Later
The world was a very different place ten years ago. President Obama was running for re-election. People were bracing for the Mayan Apocalypse. And on a sunny afternoon in early May, my dad and I went to go see a certain movie on the big screen. That movie was called The Avengers, and it wound up being one of the best films of my life.
Looking back on it, it may seem obvious that The Avengers was going to succeed. If it hadn’t, then the burgeoning MCU would’ve died along with it. Then we never would’ve gotten all the shows, tie-in merchandise, or Tom Holland as Spider-Man. No Tom Holland as Spider-Man also means that that incredible moment where Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield got to play their version of the webhead again never would’ve happened either. So much was riding on The Avengers succeeding or failing because it was this great experiment in cinema. For better or worse, the movie succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and it helped shape the entertainment industry into what it is now.
Here’s the thing, though. It could’ve easily gone the opposite direction.
An Experiment Few Would Ever Attempt
These days, we hear about some big studios wanting to make a shared universe of their IPs. Of course, we shrug our shoulders and think it’s normal. However, we didn’t have that sort of thing in Hollywood before The Avengers came out. Rather, we didn’t have it on the scale that the MCU would end up giving us.
For the longest time, superhero movies were considered to be toxic in the entertainment industry. They were laughed at and mocked, and many people thought that they couldn’t make the big money to justify their existence. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films helped erase some of that stigma, but that wasn’t enough. What’s more, superhero films were always self-contained. Despite being part of a larger universe, the idea of Batman or Spider-Man fighting alongside other heroes didn’t seem feasible. Trying to tie multiple superhero films together into this larger, overarching narrative? It sounded insane. Like it couldn’t be done.
If you grew up in the 90s and early 2000s, then you know that this had already been done on the small screen. DC dominated animation with their shared universe, known as the DCAU. From Batman all the way up to Justice League: Unlimited, it was part of this shared story of heroes and villains, and kids loved it. However, trying the same thing on the big screen, in live-action, no less, sounded like an incredible risk.
The success of The Avengers proved that it was possible to create a shared universe of superheroes. That’s why it was considered such a game-changer. Whether that’s good or bad, though, remains to be seen.
A Better Entertainment Industry?
I knew that The Avengers was a good movie, but when I first saw the mid-credits sequence and the reveal of Thanos, the reality of what I had just seen began to sink in. This wasn’t the climax to a series of movies; it was merely the first act of an even bigger story. And I knew that they were planning on telling the story of the Infinity Gauntlet, so all those hours reading comic books paid off.
Ten years later, the Infinity Saga’s over, and Marvel’s moving on to a new chapter in the MCU. However, there’s still the question of the legacy of The Avengers. Did it change Hollywood for the better or leave it worse off? The answer depends on who you ask.
On the one hand, the rise of the MCU did give us a decade of amazing films. It also kickstarted the careers of countless actors, writers, directors, and other people in the industry. On the other hand, it also inspired other studios to try and copy Marvel’s success…with questionable results. There was Universal Studio’s disastrous attempt to recreate their Monster franchise. It was dead before it even had a chance to get started. Then, we have DC and their attempts to play catch up. As a result of that, we got a Justice League film that made fans demand the Snyder cut to be released. They can’t seem to recreate the success that Marvel got.
Even so, I think that the entertainment industry is better off with the success of The Avengers. It gave us a decade of amazing films, and I can’t imagine what the 2010s would have looked like without the MCU. For better or worse, The Avengers became the gold standard to which superhero films would be compared to.