5. SQUAD GOALS
One popular narrative of how Marvel made it's unprecedented cinematic success "happen" is that, while their first wave of films were indeed of varying quality, the payoff of fusing surrogate-family-dynamics with big-scale superhero action in the first Avengers not only electrified the popular culture, but also gave the studio a template to follow for every subsequent film. Team-ups weren't just for semi-annual Avenging - the heroes would get mini-teams of their own supporting casts in their "solo" adventures as well, like Black Widow, Nick Fury and The Falcon in Captain America's first sequel, and the immediate team-up of newbies that was Guardians of The Galaxy.
But the fact is, apart from the decidedly lone-wolf exploits of the first Incredible Hulk movie, Marvel had figured this angle out well before the Avengers came together. Tony Stark may have battled Iron Monger on his own at the climax of the first Iron Man, but the narrative of the film-proper was all about Stark rediscovering how much he needed Pepper, Rhodey, Happy and even "Dummy" in his life. Thor was backed up by Lady Sif, The Warriors Three and Jane, Dr. Selvig and Darcy right off the bat. Perhaps most significantly, Captain America: The First Avenger featured The Howling Commandos as a sort of proto-Avengers to hone the title character's eventual leadership skills.
As the post-Avengers and Age of Ultron phases have played out, this approach has only further solidified into a core aspect of the Marvel Method. Ant-Man's Scott Lang, despite being (in multiple senses) a small part of the big universe, goes into his adventures backed up by a biological family, "work friends" Hank and Hope, and his loyal burglar-crew co-led by Michael Pena's fan-favorite Luis. Doctor Strange has Wong plus a sentient cape and a whole magic-school to call on. Peter Parker doesn't just disappoint Aunt May and a succession of individual out-of-his-league women but his whole Science Club and the supporting cast of the Iron Man movies.
This shift took place so gradually (and in tandem with so many other franchises that went from star-driven to ensemble-based like the Fast & Furious or Mission: Impossible films) that it's easy to miss how markedly different this makes (or, rather, made) the bulk Marvel's first three "phases" from most prior superhero films outside pre-built "team" properties like X-Men and Fantastic Four. Where prior features had braced at even long-lived comic book conventions like sidekicks or support teams, MCU superhero stories landed on "self-selected family" as the preferred setting for most characters.
But, then, where else is one to go but surrogate families when (as laid out above) surrogate mothers, fathers and siblings are already built-in aspects of the equation? Thus emerges one of the "keys" to Marvel's stunningly consistent success and perhaps the most prominent thing that - for good or ill - truly unifies each and every Marvel hero:
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Venom (2018) release date: Oct 05, 2018
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- Silver and Black release date: Feb 08, 2019
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 release date: