Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige says they were "all-in" on The Avengers even if Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor had failed. Released in 2012, The Avengers was the culmination of the MCU's so-called Phase One. Following in the footsteps of standalone movies featuring Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, The Avengers brought together a whole team of characters for the biggest superhero movie yet. And the public ate it up. The Avengers soared to $1.5 billion at the global box office. In the process, the movie set the stage for not only the MCU, but the whole Hollywood superhero landscape as we now know it.
As huge as the MCU has become, it's easy to forget there was a time when an Avengers movie seemed like something of a gamble. Of course, taking that gamble became a lot easier when Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor became big hits themselves. Prior to that, Iron Man and its sequel made a huge splash at the box office as well. More than just setting up those central characters, these movies proved there was a huge fanbase out there hungry for more Marvel films. The next natural step was to assemble all the Avengers for their own film.
As part of a wide-raging interview with EW, Feige discussed the early stages of the MCU and the thinking going into that first Avengers film. According to Feige, Marvel was never concerned about the potential gamble of an Avengers movie following on the early standalones. No matter what, they were going forward with their plans. Feige said:
The real answer is we were all-in. God forbid those films had [flopped] … I think the marketing probably would have been different [for Avengers] and maybe the way the film was cut together or recut with additional scenes would have been different, but it was all-in on that one.
As things turned out, both Captain America and Thor were solid hits. The first film featuring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers (who can forget the goofy Evans-shrinking CGI) grossed a healthy $370 million worldwide. Thor meanwhile performed even better, grossing $449 million worldwide. Those numbers may actually seem paltry by today's MCU standards, but at the time they were very encouraging. The first two Iron Man movies of course had already established the box office clout of Marvel superheroes, with each of them topping the $500 million mark worldwide. The post-Avengers Iron Man 3 made an even more powerful statement, topping $1 billion worldwide and proving the MCU brand was here to stay.
The only blip on the radar screens for Marvel pre-Avengers was actually 2008's The Incredible Hulk, a reboot that took in only $236 million worldwide. Proving they know how to learn from their mistakes, Marvel has relegated the Hulk to supporting status within the MCU ever since. Meanwhile, the studio has raised former supporting player Black Panther to a star role with staggering results. Next year, Captain Marvel gets a standalone movie too, setting up her own probable arrival in the fourth Avengers movie.
Kevin Feige in his interview gives the impression that Marvel always had a plan that they were going to stick to no matter what. Of course, it's easy to say that after the fact. Who knows what actually would have happened had more of those early MCU movies flopped. Feige does admit some tweaks would've been made to The Avengers in the event that Captain America or Thor had failed. And if those tweaks hadn't worked and The Avengers itself had bombed? We'd be living in a very different world right now. Thankfully for Marvel fans, that bleak alternate timeline never came to pass.
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