Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an American media franchise and shared universe centered on a series of superhero films, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The franchise includes comic books, short films, television series, and digital series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters.
The first MCU film is Iron Man, which began the films of culminating in the crossover film The Avengers. began with Iron Man 3 and concluded with Ant-Man. began with ' and concluded with '. The first three phases in the franchise are collectively known as "The Infinity Saga". The films of will begin with Black Widow and are set to conclude with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Marvel Television expanded the universe to network television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC in 2013, followed by online streaming with Daredevil on Netflix in 2015 and Runaways on Hulu in 2017, and cable television with Cloak & Dagger on Freeform in 2018. Marvel Television produced the digital series . Marvel Studios expanded to online streaming with Disney+ for tie-in shows, starting with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in 2020 as the first series in Phase Four, along with Helstrom on Hulu, which was inherited from Marvel Television following its closure and folding into Marvel Studios. Soundtrack albums have been released for all the films and many of the television series, as well as compilation albums containing existing music heard in the films. The MCU includes tie-in comics published by Marvel Comics, while Marvel Studios has produced a series of direct-to-video short films, called Marvel One-Shots, and a viral marketing campaign for its films and the universe with the faux news program WHIH Newsfront.
The franchise has been commercially successful and has generally received a positive critical response, though some reviewers have found that some of its films and television series have suffered in service of the wider universe. It has inspired other film and television studios with comic book character adaptation rights to attempt to create similar shared universes. The MCU has been the focus of other media, outside of the shared universe, including attractions at various Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, an attraction at Discovery Times Square, a Queensland Gallery of Modern Art exhibit, two television specials, guidebooks for each film, multiple tie-in video games, and commercials.
FilmsBy 2005, Marvel Entertainment had begun planning to produce its own films independently and distribute them through Paramount Pictures. Previously, Marvel had co-produced several superhero films with Columbia Pictures, New Line Cinema and others, including a seven-year development deal with 20th Century Fox. Marvel made relatively little profit from its licensing deals with other studios and wanted to get more money out of its films while maintaining artistic control of the projects and distribution. Avi Arad, head of Marvel's film division, was pleased with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films at Sony, but was less pleased with others. As a result, Arad decided to form Marvel Studios, Hollywood's first major independent film studio since DreamWorks.
Kevin Feige, Arad's second-in-command, realized that unlike Spider-Man and the X-Men, whose film rights were licensed to Sony and Fox, respectively, Marvel still owned the rights to the core members of the Avengers. Feige, a self-described "fanboy", envisioned creating a shared universe, just as creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done with their comic books in the early 1960s. To raise capital, the studio secured funding from a seven-year, $525 million revolving credit facility with Merrill Lynch. Marvel's plan was to release individual films for their main characters and then merge them in a crossover film. Arad, who doubted the strategy yet insisted that it was his reputation that helped secure the initial financing, resigned the following year.
In 2007, at 33 years old, Feige was named studio chief. In order to preserve its artistic integrity, Marvel Studios formed a creative committee of six people familiar with its comic book lore: Feige, Marvel Studios co-president Louis D'Esposito, Marvel Comics' president of publishing Dan Buckley, Marvel's chief creative officer Joe Quesada, writer Brian Michael Bendis, and Marvel Entertainment president Alan Fine, who oversaw the committee. Feige initially referred to the shared narrative continuity of these films as the "Marvel Cinema Universe", but later used the term "Marvel Cinematic Universe". Since the franchise expanded to other media, this phrase has been used by some to refer to the feature films only. Marvel designated the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Earth-199999 within the continuity of the company's comic multiverse, a collection of fictional alternate universes.
In November 2013, Feige said that "in an ideal world" releases each year would include one film based on an existing character and one featuring a new character, saying it's "a nice rhythm" in that format. While not always the case, as evident by the 2013 releases of Iron Man 3 and ', he said it is "certainly something to aim for". Feige expanded on this in July 2014, saying, "I don't know that we'll keep to every year, but we're doing that in 2014 and 2015, so I think it would be fun to continue that sort of thing". In February 2014, Feige stated that Marvel Studios wants to mimic the "rhythm" that the comic books have developed, by having the characters appear in their own films, and then come together, much like "a big event or crossover series," with Avengers films acting as "big, giant linchpins". After the reveal of multiple release dates for films through 2019 in July 2014, Feige stated, "I think if you look at some of those dates that we've announced, we're going to three in a few of those years. Again, not because there's a number cruncher telling us to go to three, do more than two pictures a year, but because of the very reason just laid out: it is about managing franchises, film to film, and when we have a team ready to go, why tell them to go away for four years just because we don't have a slot? We'd rather find a way to keep that going." After the titles were revealed in October 2014, Feige said, "The studio's firing on all cylinders right now... which made us comfortable for the first time... to increase to three films a year instead of just two, without changing our methods."
On expanding the characters in the universe and letting individual films breathe and work on their own, as opposed to having Avenger team-ups outside of Avengers films, Feige stated, it is about "teaching the general movie-going audience about the notion of the characters existing separately, coming together for specific events and going away and existing separately in their own worlds again. Just like comic readers have been doing for decades and decades... people sort of are accepting that there's just a time when they should be together and there's a time when they're not." In April 2014, Feige revealed that Edgar Wright's pitch for Ant-Man in 2006 helped shape the early films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying, "We changed, frankly, some of the MCU to accommodate this version of Ant-Man. Knowing what we wanted to do with Edgar and with Ant-Man, going years and years back, helped to dictate what we did with the roster for Avengers the first time. It was a bit of both in terms of his idea for the Ant-Man story influencing the birth of the MCU in the early films leading up to Avengers."
In October 2014, Marvel held a press event to announce the titles of their films. The event, which drew comparisons to Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, was done because all the information was ready. As Feige explained, "We wanted to do this at San Diego Comic-Con| Comic-Con this year. Things were not set... So the plan has been, since a few weeks before Comic-Con when we realized we weren't going to be able to do everything we wanted to do, is to decide 'let's do either something we haven't done in a long time, or something we've never done.' Which is a singular event, just to announce what we have when it's ready. I thought that might be early August or mid-September, it ended up being ."
By September 2015, after Marvel Studios was integrated into The Walt Disney Studios with Feige reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn instead of Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter, the studios' creative committee had "nominal" input on the films moving forward, though they continued to consult on Marvel Television productions, which remained under Perlmutter's control. All key film decisions going forward were to be made by Feige, D'Esposito and Victoria Alonso. At the end of the month, on how much story is developed for future films of the universe, Feige said there are "broad strokes" though sometime "super-specific things. But for the most part, in broad strokes that are broad enough and loose enough that, if through the development of four of five movies before we get to the culmination... we still have room to sway and to move and to go and to surprise ourselves in places that we end up. So that all the movies, hopefully when they're finished, will feel like they're all interconnected and meant to be and planned far ahead, but really can live and breathe enough as individual movies to be satisfying each and of themselves." The studio also has various contingency plans for the direction of all of their films, in the event they are unable to secure a certain actor to reprise a role, or re-acquire the film rights to a character, such as was done in February 2015 with Spider-Man.
In April 2016, on moving the universe to and reflecting on the first three, Feige said, "I think there will be a finality to moments of Phase Three, as well as new beginnings that will mark a different, a different, a distinctively different chapter in what will someday be a complete first saga made up of three phases." Joe Russo added, "You build things up and people enjoy the experiences you've built up. But then you kind of reach an apex or you reach a climax, a moment where you go, 'This structure is really going to start to be repetitious if we do this again, so what do we do now?' So now, you deconstruct it. We're in the deconstruction phase with Captain America: Civil War| Civil War and leading into Avengers: Infinity War| Infinity War, which are the culmination films." A year later, Feige felt after the conclusion of Phase Three, Marvel might abandon grouping the films by phases, saying, "it might be a new thing". Feige mentioned that ' would provide "a definitive end" to the films and storylines preceding it, with the franchise having "two distinct periods. Everything before and everything after".
On the potential for "superhero fatigue", Feige stated, "This year , we've got Civil War and we've got Doctor Strange in November, two completely different movies. To me, and to all of Marvel Studios, that's what keeps it going. As long as we're surprising people, as long as we're not falling into things becoming too similar... next year, , , . Those are three totally different movies... as long as the only shared thing is they come from the same source material and they've got our Marvel logo in front of the movies. Other than that they can be very distinct. What other studios do, what other properties, nothing we can do about it."
In December 2017, The Walt Disney Company agreed to acquire assets from 21st Century Fox, including 20th Century Fox, for $52.4 billion. The following June, after a counter offer from Comcast worth $65 billion, Disney increased its offer to $71.3 billion. The transaction officially closed on March 19, 2019. The acquisition saw the return of the film rights to Deadpool, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters to Marvel Studios, which would "create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories". In July 2019, Feige announced the Phase Four slate at San Diego Comic-Con, consisting of films and television event series on Disney+. Additional Disney+ series for Phase Four were announced at D23 the following month.
DistributorsOver time, the distribution rights to Marvel Studios' films changed hands on multiple occasions. In November 2006, Universal Pictures announced that it would distribute The Incredible Hulk, in an arrangement separate from Marvel's 2005 deal with Paramount, which was distributing Marvel's other films. In September 2008, after the international success of Iron Man, Paramount signed a deal to have worldwide distribution rights for Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor, , and The Avengers.
In late December 2009, The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Additionally, in October 2010, Walt Disney Studios bought the distribution rights for The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount Pictures, with Paramount's logo remaining on the films, as well as for promotional material and merchandise, although Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is the only studio credited at the end of these films. Disney has distributed all subsequent Marvel Studios films. In July 2013, Disney purchased the distribution rights to Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger from Paramount. The Incredible Hulk was not part of the deal, due to an agreement between Marvel and Universal, where Marvel owns the film rights and Universal owns the distribution rights, for this film as well as the right of first refusal to distribute future Hulk films. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a potential reason why Marvel has not bought the film distribution rights to the Hulk as they did with Paramount for the Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America films is because Universal holds the theme park rights to several Marvel characters that Disney wants for its own theme parks.
In February 2015, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced a licensing deal that would allow Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the character first appearing in Captain America: Civil War. Marvel Studios explored opportunities to integrate other characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into future Spider-Man films financed, distributed, and controlled by Sony Pictures, with Robert Downey Jr. the first confirmed to reprise his role as Tony Stark / Iron Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming. In June 2015, Feige clarified that the initial Sony deal does not apply to the MCU television series, as it was "very specific... with a certain amount of back and forth allowed". Both studios have the ability to terminate the agreement at any point, and no money was exchanged with the deal. However, a small adjustment was made to a 2011 deal formed between the two studios, with Marvel getting to reduce their $35 million payment to Sony if Spider-Man: Homecoming grossed more than $750 million. Marvel Studios still received 5% of first dollar gross for the film. Sony also paid Marvel Studios an undisclosed producer fee for Homecoming.
In August 2019, it was reported that Disney and Sony could not reach a new agreement regarding Spider-Man films, with Marvel Studios and Feige said to no longer have any involvement in future films. Deadline Hollywood noted that Disney had hoped future films would be a "50/50 co-financing arrangement between the studios", with the possibility to extend the deal to other Spider-Man-related films, an offer Sony rejected and did not counter. Instead, Sony hoped to keep the terms of the previous agreement, with Disney refusing. The Hollywood Reporter added that the lack of a new agreement would see the end of Holland's Spider-Man in the MCU. Variety cited unnamed sources claiming negotiations had "hit an impasse" and that a new deal could still be reached. On September 27, 2019, it was announced that Disney and Sony had reached a new agreement allowing for Spider-Man to appear in a third standalone film and a future Marvel Studios film. Disney was reported to be co-financing 25% of the film in exchange for 25% of the film's profits in the new agreement, while retaining the merchandising rights to the character. Feige noted that as Sony continued to separately build their own shared universe, it was possible this version of Spider-Man could appear in that universe. This interaction was said to be "a 'call and answer' between the two franchises as they acknowledge details between the two in what would loosely be described as a shared detailed universe".
Marvel TelevisionIn June 2010, Marvel Television was launched with Jeph Loeb as head. In October 2019, further corporate restructuring saw Feige named Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment, with Marvel Television becoming part of Marvel Studios and executives of Marvel Television reporting to Feige. However, in December 2019, Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios, with Marvel Studios taking over production of the current series at the time; no further series from Marvel Television were being considered for development.
BroadcastBy July 2012, Marvel Television had entered into discussions with ABC to create a show set in the MCU, and in August, ABC ordered a pilot for a show called S.H.I.E.L.D., with The Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon involved; it was later renamed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In January 2014, the series Agent Carter was announced, joining Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at ABC, while a put pilot order for the half-hour live-action comedy series, Damage Control, was revealed in October 2015. While talking about Marvel potentially making comedy series, Loeb said in January 2016 that Marvel always feels humor should be a part of anything they produce, despite possibly fitting more within a darker genre, as Daredevil and Jessica Jones do, while staying "grounded and real". He added, "There are moments of levity that are in life that you need to bring to the table, or else it just becomes overwhelmingly oppressive... If you're going to , it's always a good idea to make sure that the audience is aware that, yeah, it's funny ."
In May 2016, after ABC had canceled Agent Carter and passed on Marvel's Most Wanted, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said that Marvel and ABC were working together, looking "at series that would be beneficial to both brands" moving forward. In November 2016, Marvel and IMAX Corporation announced Inhumans, based on the species of the same name, after a planned film based on the characters had been removed from Marvel Studios' slate. The first two episodes of the series were set to premiere in IMAX theaters in September 2017 for two weeks, before airing on ABC with the remainder of the series. Ben Sherwood, president of Disney–ABC Television Group, said, "We've worked very carefully with our friends at Marvel Studios—and this is a critical point—to make sure that calendar-wise and content-wise we are only enhancing" the MCU; the theatrical debut of the series was timed to not interfere with the release of any Marvel Studios films—the theatrical run of the series will take place between the releases of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. The deal was initially suggested to Marvel by IMAX after they had held a successful IMAX event with Game of Thrones in 2015. Sherwood described it as "a quadruple win—a win for IMAX, a win for Marvel, a win for ABC Studios and a win for ABC to launch a show in an innovative way and get attention" in an increasingly crowded market. Sherwood hoped that this would be the first of "several innovative ways to launch programming". In July 2019, it was announced that the seventh season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be its last.
NetflixBy October 2013, Marvel was preparing four drama series and a miniseries, totaling 60 episodes, to present to video on demand services and cable providers, with Netflix, Amazon, and WGN America expressing interest. In November 2013, Disney was set to provide Netflix with live-action series based on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, leading up to a miniseries based on the Defenders. Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that Netflix was chosen to air the shows, "when Disney realized it could use the streaming service as a way to grow the popularity of the characters". He added that, if the characters prove popular, they could become feature films. Loeb later stated that Marvel was not "interested in making four pilots and then hoping someday that they could all get together. Netflix really understood what it is we wanted to do. They're very open to directors that might not have that same opportunity in broadcast television. The notion of having all 13 episodes at one time, particularly in serialized storytelling, is very appealing." Loeb added that the four characters chosen "all had a previous existing relationship and all grew up on the same kind of stoop in New York . So it lent itself to a world. Does that mean these shows are going to be the same? No. They can't be. The characters have different issues, different problems, different feelings about them... the example that I continually give is that I cannot think of two films that are more different in tone than and Guardians of the Galaxy. And yet, if you watch them back to back, they feel very Marvel. They feel very much like, 'Oh, it is still the same universe that I'm in.'"
Quesada confirmed in April 2014 that the Netflix series would be set within the MCU. Loeb explained that "Within the Marvel universe there are thousands of heroes of all shapes and sizes, but the Avengers are here to save the universe and Daredevil is here to save the neighborhood... It does take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's all connected. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we would look up in the sky and see . It's just a different part of New York that we have not yet seen in the Marvel movies." In January 2015, Netflix COO Ted Sarandos said Netflix planned to release a Marvel series approximately a year apart from each other after Daredevils April 2015 release. A year later, Sarandos noted that the release schedules of the Marvel Netflix series are dependent on the "long production times and long post times. In some cases, when we have characters crossover, it makes it more difficult to manage production. It's not the goal to put out more than one or two year... The complex one is really The Defenders. The Defenders production schedule will determine a lot of the season 2 and 3 output of those shows." He noted on potential spin-offs that "all the characters in the universe could also spin out" into their own series at some point, with Netflix ordering The Punisher, a spin-off from Daredevil, that April. Sarandos later stated that Netflix was trying to close the gap between releases of Marvel seasons, but would always prioritize the quality of the series over higher numbers of releases per year. He said that Netflix was open to exploring the MCU beyond the Defenders series, including potential crossovers with ABC's Marvel series. In July 2016, Marvel and Netflix committed to complete production on 135 episodes by the end of 2017, making the deal the largest television production commitment in New York State. Production for the different series had engaged 500 local vendors and small businesses for various stages of development and had required over 14,000 production-related hires.
In October 2018, Netflix canceled Iron Fist after two seasons, with Deadline Hollywood reporting that Disney was considering reviving the series on its streaming service Disney+. Sarandos confirmed that the series were Netflix's to renew or cancel if they wished, and the company was "super happy with performance so far". Despite this, Luke Cage was canceled by the streamer a week after Iron Fist was. Deadline Hollywood reported there were no plans to revive the series on Disney+ as with Iron Fist. Shortly after, at the end of November 2018, Netflix canceled Daredevil after three seasons, with Deadline Hollywood again reporting there was the potential for the series to be revived on Disney+. Conversely, The Hollywood Reporter felt it was unlikely the series would be revived on Disney+ and noted the two other remaining series at the time would remain on Netflix "until they run their course". Variety added that, per the original deal between Marvel and Netflix for the series, the characters cannot appear in any non-Netflix series or films for at least two years following their cancellation. Kevin A. Mayer, chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, noted that, while it had not yet been discussed, it was a possibility that Disney+ could revive the canceled Netflix series. Netflix canceled both Jessica Jones and The Punisher in February 2019, after three seasons and two seasons, respectively.
HuluIn August 2016, Marvel announced that Runaways had received a pilot order from Hulu, eventually receiving a 10 episode order the following May. That July, Loeb confirmed the series would take place in the MCU saying, "It all lives in the same world, how it's connected and where it's connected and what it's going to be connected to remains to be seen." He added that the characters would not be concerned with the actions of others in the universe, instead focusing on their own issues. This allowed showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage to deal with concepts such as superheroics and fantasy without explaining them to the audience, since they are already well established in the MCU, while still focusing on their own characters, which they described as "liberating". In May 2019, Marvel announced that Ghost Rider and Helstrom had been greenlit for the service, and that the former was to focus on the "same character with new story that lives unto its own." In September 2019, it was announced that Ghost Rider would not be going forward, due to creative differences, while Runaways was canceled that November ahead of its third season. When Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios in December, the studio said that production on Helstrom would be completed but no further series would be developed.
CableIn April 2016, the ABC-owned cable network Freeform announced Cloak & Dagger, based on the characters of the same name, with a straight-to-series order for 2018. The network confirmed that the series would be "its first venture into the Marvel Cinematic Universe", and described the show as a "superhero love story", a premise that Variety called "a seamless fit for Freeform" given the network's target audience of "Becomers". This younger-skewing content was continued with the comedy series New Warriors ordered in April 2017, with Freeform executive Karey Burke saying, Marvel "started to see our strength with young adults and together we could create a pipeline for content that was specific to our audience that felt younger than what they're doing at the other channels... It was important to both of us to find the right characters that felt like they would speak directly to Freeform's audience. The Avengers wouldn't work here but the about-to-be-Avengers works here." Loeb noted that it was "exciting" to Marvel "to be able to explore the world of the hero and how it affects someone who is trying to figure out who they are as opposed to already knows who they are and now their whole life has to take a left. That's the journey we're going on with these kinds of characters" in Cloak & Dagger, New Warriors and Hulu's Runaways. By November 2017, New Warriors was no longer set to air on Freeform and was being shopped to other networks, and was reported to be canceled in September 2019 after it failed to find a new broadcaster, while Cloak and Dagger was canceled the following month.
Crossovers to feature filmsAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell revealed at the show's 2014 PaleyFest panel that the producers and writers are able to read the screenplays for upcoming MCU films to know where the universe is heading. He noted that since the films have to be "big" and move "quickly through a lot of huge pieces", it is beneficial for the films to have the television series fill in any "gaps" for them. His fellow executive producer Jed Whedon explained that each Marvel project is intended to stand alone first before there is any interweaving, and noted that the series has to be aware of the film division's plans so as not to interfere when introducing someone or something to the universe. Bell said this was preferable so that people who do not watch the films can still follow the series, and vice versa. Joss Whedon noted that this process "unfortunately just means the TV show gets, you know, leftovers". He stated that, for example, the series' creative team initially wanted to use Loki's scepter from The Avengers but were unable due to his plans for it in '.
In April 2014, Quesada stated that, beyond connecting to themselves, the Netflix series would connect with the films and other television series. In October 2014, Feige said the opportunity "certainly" existed for characters in the Netflix series to appear in Avengers: Infinity War. In March 2015, Loeb spoke on the ability for the Netflix series to crossover with the films and the ABC series, saying, "As it is now, in the same way that our films started out as self-contained and then by the time we got to The Avengers, it became more practical for Captain America to do a little crossover into ' and for Bruce Banner to appear at the end of Iron Man 3. We have to earn that. The audience needs to understand who all of these characters are and what the world is before you then start co-mingling". In September 2015, Feige elaborated on the films referencing the television series, saying "I think that's inevitable at some point... The schedules do not always quite match up to make that possible. It's easier for . They're more nimble and faster and produce things quicker than we do, which is one of the main reasons you see the repercussions of Winter Soldier or in the show... by the time we start doing a movie, they'd be mid-way through a season. By the time our movie comes out, they'd be . So finding the timing on that is not always easy."
Loeb talked further on the subject in July 2016, reiterating the issue of scheduling by saying "if I'm shooting a television series and that's going to go on over a six-month or eight-month period, how am I going to get to be able to go be in a movie?" He noted that this would not be as much of an issue if characters were making very minor cameo appearances, but explained that Marvel was not interested in cameos and easter eggs just for the sake of fan service, which could detract from the story being told; "As I often get reported by you folks for saying #ItsAllConnected, our feeling is that the connection isn't just whether or not somebody is walking into a movie or walking out of a television show. It's connected in the way that the shows come from the same place, that they are real, that they are grounded." Eric Carroll, producer on Spider-Man: Homecoming, felt with the introduction of Queens-based Spider-Man to the MCU it "would be really fun" to make mention of the Defenders based in Manhattan, adding, "it's definitely a card I would love to see played, if not sooner rather than later."
In January 2017, Vincent D'Onofrio, who portrays Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, said he "would love to switch over to the movies, but I think it's pretty much been said it's not going to happen. Or at least not for a very, very long time." D'Onofrio cited Feige's previous reasoning as well as the fact that the films already had difficulty "bringing big characters in that they have to service in the writing" and adding characters from the television series would be "just too many characters" since the films were "trying to figure out already how to individualize more and at the same time keep The Avengers going". In March 2017, Anthony Mackie, who portrays Sam Wilson / Falcon in the films, felt a crossover between the films and television series "wouldn't work at all" given they are "different universes, different worlds, different companies, different designs" and that "Kevin Feige is very specific about how he wants the Marvel Universe to be seen in the film world." That May, Feige noted that a character appearing in a television series would not necessarily exclude them from appearing in a film, adding that "at some point, there's going to be a crossover. Crossover, repetition, or something." Regarding the potential for the Avengers to learn in the films that Phil Coulson is alive, Loeb stated, "It's certainly something that will get resolved, and it may get resolved in a very surprising way."
Loeb said in July 2017 that Marvel Television had no plans for series to crossover across networks. Specifically for the similarly themed Cloak & Dagger, New Warriors, and Runaways, which all deal with young heroes, Loeb noted, "You'll see things that comment on each other; we try to touch base wherever we can... things that are happening in L.A. are not exactly going to be affecting what's happening in New Orleans ... It's being aware of it and trying to find a way for it to be able to discuss in a way that makes sense." He added in October that scheduling of each series factors into why crossovers between them are more difficult to pull off, and that network "feelings" need to be considered. He also spoke on why the television series do not show Avengers Tower as it appears in the films when they depict New York City, and stated that Marvel Television wanted to be "less specific" about the television characters' relationships to the tower because that "helps the audience understand that this could be on any street corner" and that the characters could be in an area of the city where you would not be able to see the tower, even though it exists.
In June 2018, speaking to how the MCU television series would be affected by the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Loeb noted that "For the most part our stories will take place before Thanos clicked his fingers. A lot of that has to do with production and when we are telling our stories versus when the movies come out." In September 2018, with the report of Marvel Studios developing limited series for Disney's streaming service Disney+, it was expected that the actors that portrayed the characters in the films would portray them again for the limited series. In March 2019, Feige said the series would take characters from the films, change them, and see those changes reflected in future films; new characters introduced in the series will crossover to the films.
In April 2019, actor James D'Arcy appeared in Avengers: Endgame, reprising his role of Edwin Jarvis from the television series Agent Carter. This marked the first time a character introduced in an MCU television series appears in an MCU film. Speaking to how the Marvel Television series fit within the larger MCU timeline, Loeb noted, "We don't want to ever do something in our show which contradicts what's happening in the movies. The movies are the lead dog. They're setting the timeline for the MCU and what's going on. Our job is to navigate within that world."
Disney+By November 2017, Disney was looking to develop a new Marvel television series for their streaming service Disney+. In July 2018, Feige noted discussions had begun with Disney regarding any potential involvement Marvel Studios could have with the streaming service, since Feige felt the service was "an important thing for the company". In September 2018, it was reported that Marvel Studios was developing several limited series centered on "second-tier" characters from the MCU films who had not and were unlikely to star in their own films. Each series was expected to be six to eight episodes, and would be produced by Marvel Studios rather than Marvel Television, with Feige taking a "hands-on role" in each series' development. Feige noted the series being developed for the streaming service would "tell stories... that we wouldn't be able to tell in a theatrical experience – a longer-form narrative". In July 2019, Feige announced the event series of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, the animated What If...?, and Hawkeye, as part of the Phase Four slate at San Diego Comic-Con. Three additional Disney+ series for the phase, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk, were announced at D23 the following month. The series budgets are reportedly $100–150 million each.
Other mediaIn 2008, the first tie-in comic was released. Quesada outlined his plan to expand the MCU into comic books, saying, "The MCU are going to be stories set within movie continuity. not necessarily direct adaptations of the movies, but maybe something that happened off screen and was mentioned in the movie... Kevin Feige is involved with these and in some cases maybe the writers of the movies would be involved " Marvel Comics worked with Brad Winderbaum, Jeremy Latcham, and Will Corona Pilgrim at Marvel Studios to decide which concepts should be carried over from the Marvel Comics Universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what to show in the tie-in comics, and what to leave for the films. Marvel has clarified which of the tie-in comics are considered canonical MCU stories, with the rest merely inspired by the MCU, "where we get to show off all the characters from the film in costume and in comic form".
In August 2011, Marvel announced a series of direct-to-video short films called Marvel One-Shots, the name derived from the label used by Marvel Comics for their one-shot comics. Co-producer Brad Winderbaum said, "It's a fun way to experiment with new characters and ideas, but more importantly it's a way for us to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tell stories that live outside the plot of our features." Each short film is designed to be a self-contained story that provides more backstory for characters or events introduced in the films. In July 2012, D'Esposito stated that Marvel was considering the idea of introducing established characters who may not yet be ready to carry their own feature films in future One-Shots, stating, "There's always a potential to introduce a character. We have 8,000 of them, and they can't all be at the same level. So maybe there are some that are not so popular, and we introduce them – and they take off. I could see that happening."
In March 2015, Marvel's Vice President of Animation Development and Production, Cort Lane, stated that animated tie-ins to the MCU were "in the works". That July, Marvel Studios partnered with Google to produce the faux news program WHIH Newsfront with Christine Everhart, a series of in-universe YouTube videos serving as the center of a viral marketing campaign to promote the films and universe. In December 2016, a six-part web series, , was revealed, which debuted on ABC.com on December 13, 2016. It follows Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez on a secret mission, shortly before the start of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.s fourth season, with Natalia Cordova-Buckley reprising her role. In September 2019, Sony created a real version of the fictional TheDailyBugle.net website as part of a viral marketing campaign to promote the home media release of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Inspired by real-world "conspiracy-pushing" websites such as that of Alex Jones, the website features J. K. Simmons reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson in a video where he speaks out against Spider-Man before adding "Thanks for watching. Don't forget to like and subscribe!"
Business practicesMarvel Studios developed specific business practices to create its shared universe, including choosing filmmakers that were considered "out-of-left-field", given their previous work. Feige remarked, "You don't have to have directed a big, giant visual-effects movie to do a big, giant visual-effects movie for us. You just have to have done something singularly sort of awesome," adding "It's worked out well for us when we've taken people that have done very, very good things. Very rarely are one of those good things a big giant blockbuster superhero movie." The studio looks for filmmakers to hire who are able to guide a film. When hiring directors, the studio usually has "a kernel of an idea of what we want", which is presented to potential directors over the course of several meetings to discuss and further expand. "And if over the course of three or four or five meetings they make it way better than what we initially were spewing to them, they usually get the job", according to Feige. Later expanding on this process, Feige explained that before talking to any directors on a film, Marvel Studios often puts together a "lookbook" of influences from the comics and art by Marvel's visual development department, to create a visual template for the film. These are put together at company retreats, which the studio holds every "18 months or so" to plan out and develop the phases of the MCU. These lookbooks are not always shown to directors, though, with Marvel sometimes preferring to let the director offer their own ideas first.
Scott Derrickson did not see a lookbook for Doctor Strange, instead putting together his own presentation, with concept art and storyboards by himself and professionals he hired, to sell himself and his vision of the film to Marvel. In contrast, Marvel shared several different ideas for what Thor: Ragnarok could be with prospective filmmakers, who then went away and developed what they thought the film should be from that. Taika Waititi created a sizzle reel using clips from other films to present his vision based on Marvel's ideas, a practice that Marvel discourages as they "oftentimes can be really terrible". However, Marvel thought Waititi's was "amazing". Derrickson and Waititi were both eventually hired for the films. For Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Joe and Anthony Russo met with the studio four times over two months before they were hired, during which they "kept getting more and more specific about what our vision was", putting together "reference videos, storyboards, script pages, you name it. We did like a 30-page book that had everything that we'd do with the character, from the theme of the movie to the tone of the film to the fighting style to what we liked about the character and what we didn't like". This meant that by the time they were hired they had already "figured the movie out".
When the studio hired Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston to direct Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, respectively, it made sure both directors were open to the idea of a shared universe and including Avengers set-up scenes in their films. Joe Russo stated, "That's the exciting component of . 'What can we set up for the future?' You're constantly pitching out ideas that not only affect your movie, but may have a ripple effect that affects other films... It's a weird sort of tapestry of writers and directors working together to create this universe that's sort of organic." Anthony added, "The great thing about the Marvel , just like the publishing , it's a very vast, inter-connected universe, where characters will have their rise and fall, so to speak, and hand off to other characters. As the cinematic universe moves forward, you may start to see the cinematic universe adopt that same pattern, as the publishing has, where there's closure with some characters and new beginnings with other characters." He added that, for directors to "fit" in at Marvel, they must understand how to "take a larger story and wrangle it into a moment", yet keep it connected.
On allowing directors and writers to work within Marvel's shared universe concept, Joe Russo said that Feige has "big pieces that he knows he wants to build towards, but the way that you get there is open to interpretation and improv a little bit". For the Russos in The Winter Soldier, they had to deal with the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. being infiltrated by Hydra, with Joe saying, "how we get there is all up to us. And I think why Marvel has been so successful is because it's been such a clear plan, that everything is interconnected and they're building emotional capital with each movie that you can then trade off of in the next film." Joe later elaborated that once each film's creative team "come up with conceptually what we want to do" for a film, then we will ask questions about whether this would interfere with a storyline in another movie. Or, what's going on in that film, can we pull some of that into this film? That's where you start looking for the interconnectedness, but it's very important early on that the concept be created in a bubble because you have to protect the idea, it has to be driven by storytelling. Kevin's... always in the mindset of "let's just make this movie now and worry about the next movie when it comes."
Loeb explained that Marvel Television sees "ourselves as producers who are working to support the vision of our showrunner. But we're involved in every aspect of the production—whether it's being in the writers' room, editing on set, casting—every step of the production goes through the Marvel team to tell the best story that we can." He added that the studio is able to work on so many series across different networks and platforms because "it just requires that we make sure that there's always someone from Marvel there to help guide the process."
Marvel Studios also began contracting their actors for multiple films, including signing actor Samuel L. Jackson to a then "unprecedented" nine-movie contract. In July 2014, Feige said that the studio has all actors sign contracts for multiples films, with the norm being for 3 or more, and the 9 or 12 film deals "more rare". Actor's contracts also feature clauses that allows Marvel to use up to three minutes of an actor's performance from one film for another, which Marvel describes as "bridging material". At Marvel Television, actors such as Charlie Cox and Adrianne Palicki are contractually obliged to appear in a Marvel film if asked. In May 2015, after starring as Claire Temple in the first season of Daredevil, Rosario Dawson signed with Marvel to return for the second season of the series as part of an "exclusive TV deal" that also allows her to appear in any other Marvel Netflix series. Dawson's character has been featured as well in all the other Netflix shows, except The Punisher, linking them together similarly to Jackson's Nick Fury in the films. Dawson explained that she signs on with Marvel for a year at a time, for a certain number of episodes, and finds out which series the episodes are for closer to the time of filming.
In August 2012, Marvel signed Joss Whedon to an exclusive contract through June 2015 for film and television. With the deal, Whedon would "contribute creatively" on Phase Two of the MCU and develop the first television series set in the universe. In March 2013, Whedon expanded on his consulting responsibilities, saying, "I understand what Kevin is going for and where he's heading, and I read the scripts and watch cuts and talk to the directors and writers and give my opinion. Occasionally there could be some writing. But I'm not trying to get in anybody's soup, I'm just trying to be helpful." Whedon later elaborated that "Since the story has already been approved and everybody knows what we're doing with Avengers 2, we can really lay it out. It's not like anyone's saying "well I don't know, what if I need that?" It's like "doing this is troublesome for us, whereas doing this will actually help us."... You want to honor the events of the last movie but you don't want to be beholden to them, because some people will see Avengers who did not see any of the movies in between or even Avengers 1." He also found working in television and script doctoring to be "great training ground for dealing with this... because you're given a bunch of pieces and told to make them fit—even if they don't."
For the Russo brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely working on Avengers: Infinity War and Phase Three, they saw "a through line from Winter Soldier, through Civil War, right to Infinity War", with films like Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok laying groundwork for the "culmination" in Infinity War. Subsequently, they talked "to the directors and writers of the other Phase 3 movies on an almost weekly basis, to make sure everything lines up right". Peyton Reed, director of Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, felt the relationship and collaboration between the Phase Three directors was "probably the closest thing that this generation will have to a '30s- or '40s-era studio system where you are all on the lot and you are all working on different things." Similarly, when developing the crossover miniseries The Defenders, showrunner Marco Ramirez consulted with the creators of all the individual Marvel Netflix series, having them read each of the scripts for The Defenders and provide insight into the individual character's world.
In April 2017, along with his announcement that he was returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, James Gunn revealed he would be working with Marvel "to help design where these stories go, and make sure the future of the Marvel Cosmic Universe is as special and authentic and magical as what we have created so far". However, in July 2018, Disney and Marvel severed ties with Gunn following controversy surrounding several old jokes Gunn had made. In March 2019, Disney and Marvel Studios reversed course and rehired Gunn as director of the film.
The Infinity SagaThe first three phases are collectively known as "The Infinity Saga".
Marvel Television series
Marvel Studios series
Recurring cast and characters
Additionally, Paul Bettany was the first actor to portray two main characters within the universe, voicing Tony Stark's artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man and Avengers films, and portraying Vision in Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War. Prior to his death in 2018, Stan Lee, creator or co-creator of many of the characters seen in the MCU, made cameo appearances in all of the feature films and television series except Inhumans. In Iron Fist, it is revealed his on-set photograph cameo in the Marvel Netflix series is as NYPD Captain Irving Forbush. His cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sees Lee appearing as an informant to the Watchers, discussing previous adventures that include Lee's cameos in other MCU films; he specifically mentions his time as a FedEx delivery man, referring to Lee's cameo in Captain America: Civil War. This acknowledged the fan theory that Lee may be portraying the same character in all his cameos, with writer and director James Gunn noting that "people thought Stan Lee is
ReceptionJim Vorel of Herald & Review called the Marvel Cinematic Universe "complicated" and "impressive", but said, "As more and more heroes get their own film adaptations, the overall universe becomes increasingly confusing." Kofi Outlaw of Screen Rant stated that while The Avengers was a success, "Marvel Studios still has room to improve their approach to building a shared movie universe". Some reviewers criticized the fact that the desire to create a shared universe led to films that did not hold as well on their own. In his review of Thor: The Dark World, Forbes critic Scott Mendelson likened the MCU to "a glorified television series", with The Dark World being a "'stand-alone' episode that contains little long-range mythology". Collider's Matt Goldberg considered that while Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were quality productions, "they have never really been their own movies", feeling that the plot detours to S.H.I.E.L.D. or lead-ups to The Avengers dragged down the films' narratives.
The metaphor of the MCU as "the world's biggest TV show" was discussed again, after the release of Captain America: Civil War, by Emily VanDerWerff of Vox, who felt that film in particular highlighted Marvel's success with the model, saying, "Viewed in complete isolation, the plot of Captain America: Civil War makes little to no sense... when you think about where has been in earlier Marvel films... his leeriness about being subject to oversight makes a lot more sense." VanDerWerff continued that when thinking about the MCU as a television series, many "common criticisms people tend to level at it take on a new context" such as complaints that the films are formulaic, lack "visual spark", or "shoehorn in story elements" that "are necessary to set up future films", all characteristics that "are fairly typical on television, where a director's influence is much lower than that of the showrunner", in this case, Feige. Comparing the films to the series Game of Thrones specifically, VanDerWerff noted that each solo film checks "in on various characters and their individual side stories, before bringing everyone together in the finale ", with Guardians of the Galaxy being equivalent to the character Daenerys Targaryen—"both separated by long distances from everybody else". She noted that this format was an extension of early "TV-like" film franchises such as Star Wars, as well as the format of the comics upon which the films are based. "I say all of this not to suggest that film franchises resembling TV series is necessarily a good trend", VanDerWerff concluded, "For as much as I generally enjoy the Marvel movies, I'm disheartened by the possibility that their particular form might take over the film industry... But I also don't think it's the end of the world if Marvel continues on... there's a reason TV has stolen so much of the cultural conversation over the past few decades. There's something legitimately exciting about the way the medium tells stories when it's good, and if nothing else, Marvel's success shows the film world could learn from that."
Following the conclusion of season one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mary McNamara at the Los Angeles Times praised the connections between that series and the films, stating that "never before has television been literally married to film, charged with filling in the back story and creating the connective tissue of an ongoing film franchise... is now not only a very good show in its own right, it's part of Marvel's multiplatform city-state. It faces a future of perpetual re-invention, and that puts it in the exhilarating first car of television's roller-coaster ride toward possible world domination." Terri Schwartz of Zap2it agreed with this sentiment, stating that "the fact that so influenced the show is game-changing in terms of how the mediums of film and television can be interwoven", though "the fault there seems to be that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to bide time until The Winter Soldiers release", which led to much criticism.
In January 2015, Michael Doran of Newsarama and Graeme McMillian of The Hollywood Reporter had a "point-counterpoint" debate in response to the first Ant-Man trailer. Doran stated, "Marvel has raised the bar high that as opposed to just allowing another film to finish under the bar, we're all overly and perhaps even eager to overreact to the first thing that doesn't clear it". McMillian responded, "at this point, Marvel's brand is such that I'm not sure it can offer up something like it seeming like a crushing disappointment... part of Marvel's brand is that it offer the kind of run-of-the-mill superhero movie that you're talking about, that it's... at least different enough to tweak and play with the genre somehow... The fact that there's such upset about this trailer being... well, okay... suggests to me that the audience expecting something to knock their socks off." Doran concluded, "That does seem to be the point here—the expectations fans now have for everything Marvel Studios... Marvel going to eventually falter."
After seeing the portrayal of Yellowjacket in Ant-Man, the antagonist of the film, McMillian noted,
Following the release of Jessica Jones, David Priest at CNET wrote about how the series rescues "Marvel from itself... Jessica Jones takes big steps forward in terms of theme, craft and diversity. It's a good story first, and a superhero show second. And for the first time, the MCU seems like it matters. Our culture needs stories like this. Here's hoping Marvel keeps them coming." For Paul Tassi and Erik Kain of Forbes, watching the series made them question the MCU, with Kain feeling that the "morally complex, violent, dark world of Jessica Jones has no place in the MCU... right now, the MCU is holding back shows like Jessica Jones and Daredevil, while those shows are contributing absolutely nothing to the MCU." Tassi went so far as to wonder what "the point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe" is, lamenting the lack of major crossovers in the franchise since the Winter Soldier reveal on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and saying that Jessica Jones is "so far removed from the world of The Avengers, it might as well not be in the same universe at all... really don't understand the point of if they're going to keep everything within it separated off in these little boxes". Conversely, Eric Francisco of Inverse called Jessica Joness lack of overt connections to the MCU "the show's chief advantage. Besides demonstrating how physically wide open the MCU's scope really is, Jessica Jones also proves the MCU's thematic durability."
In April 2016, Marvel Studios revealed that Alfre Woodard would appear in Captain America: Civil War, having already been cast as Mariah Dillard in Luke Cage the previous year. This "raised hopes that Marvel could be uniting its film and Netflix universes", with "one of the first and strongest connections" between the two. However, Civil War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely revealed that Woodard would instead be portraying Miriam Sharpe in the film, explaining that she had been cast on the suggestion of Robert Downey, Jr., and they had not learned of her casting in Luke Cage until afterwards. This was not the first instance of actors being cast in multiple roles in the MCU, but this casting was called more "significant", and seen by many as a "disappointing" indication of "the growing divide" and "lack of more satisfying cooperation" between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television following the September 2015 corporate reshuffling of Marvel Entertainment.
Speaking to the 1990s setting of Captain Marvel, "the MCU's first full period piece since 's Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011", Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter felt the return of younger versions of some characters introduced and killed in earlier films "open up the MCU in a whole new way and broaden the franchise's mantra of 'it's all connected. Speaking specifically to Clark Gregg's appearance as Agent Phil Coulson in the film, Newby noted the appearance "doesn't exactly mend fences between Marvel's film and TV divisions, it does strengthen the connective tissue and the sense that these characters still matter in the grand scheme of Marvel's film plans". He also hoped that continuity from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be maintained in Captain Marvel, especially since Coulson has dealt with the Kree in the series. Newby also added that shifting to different time periods would help Marvel Studios "sustain this cinematic universe for the next 10 years" by allowing them to repeat some of the genres previously used, as they could then feel "fresh" and have "different rules and different restraints," as well as allow them to build upon material established in the television series such as Agent Carter. He concluded,
Likewise, in his review of Avengers: Endgame, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal acknowledged the unique achievement that the Marvel Cinematic Universe had accomplished:
In October 2019, filmmaker Martin Scorsese criticized Marvel films in an interview and during a David Lean lecture in London, later expanded in an op-ed in The New York Times, saying that these films are not cinema, but are the equivalent of theme park rides that lack "mystery, revelation or genuine emotional danger". He also said that such films are corporation products that have been "market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they're ready for consumption", and that the invasion of such "theme park" films in theaters crowded out films by other directors. His comments drew negative reactions from directors of Marvel films such as Joss Whedon and James Gunn, but were supported by Francis Ford Coppola, who called Marvel films "despicable". Conversely, filmmaker George Miller noted:
Other studiosAfter the release of The Avengers in May 2012, Tom Russo of Boston.com noted that aside from the occasional "novelty" such as Alien vs. Predator, the idea of a shared universe was virtually unheard of in Hollywood. Since that time, the shared universe model created by Marvel Studios has begun to be replicated by other film studios that held rights to other comic book characters. In April 2014, Tuna Amobi, a media analyst for Standard & Poor's Equity Research Services, stated that in the previous three to five years, Hollywood studios began planning "megafranchises" for years to come, opposed to working one blockbuster at a time. Amobi added, "A lot of these superhero characters were just being left there to gather dust. Disney has proved that this can be a gold mine." However, with additional studios now "playing the megafranchise game", Doug Creutz, media analyst for Cowen and Company, feels the allure will eventually die for audiences: "If Marvel's going to make two or three films a year, and Warner Brothers is going to do at least a film every year, and Sony's going to do a film every year, and Fox going to do a film every year, can everyone do well in that scenario? I'm not sure they can."
In March 2018, Patrick Shanley of The Hollywood Reporter opined that "the key differences between a regular franchise, such as The Fast and the Furious or Pitch Perfect films, and a shared universe is the amount of planning and interweaving that goes into each individual film. Its all too easy to make a film that exists solely for the purpose of setting up future installments and expanding a world, rather than a film that stands on its own merits while deftly hinting or winking at its place in the larger mythos. In that, the MCU has flourished." He felt that Iron Man "itself was aimed at being an enjoyable stand-alone experience, not as an overall advertisement for 17 subsequent movies. That mentality has persisted through most of the MCU films over the past decade, which is all the more impressive as its roster of heroes now exceeds the two-dozen mark."
DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. PicturesIn October 2012, following its legal victory over Joe Shuster's estate for the rights to Superman, Warner Bros. Pictures announced that it planned to move ahead with its long-awaited Justice League film, uniting such DC Comics superheroes as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The company was expected to take the opposite approach to Marvel, releasing individual films for the characters after they have appeared in a team-up film. The release of Man of Steel in 2013 was intended to be the start of a new shared universe for DC, "laying the groundwork for the future slate of films based on DC Comics". In 2014, Warner Bros. announced that slate of films, similarly to Disney and Marvel claiming dates for films years in advance. That year, DC CCO Geoff Johns stated that the television series Arrow and The Flash were set in a separate universe from the new film one, later clarifying that "We look at it as the multiverse. We have our TV universe and our film universe, but they all co-exist. For us, creatively, it's about allowing everyone to make the best possible product, to tell the best story, to do the best world. Everyone has a vision and you really want to let the visions shine through... It's just a different approach ."
Discussing the apparent failure of the cinematic universe's first team-up film, , to establish a successful equivalent to the MCU, Emily VanDerWerff noted that where the MCU has a television-like "showrunner" in Feige, "the visionary behind Marvel's entire slate", the DCEU has director Zack Snyder, whose DC films "seemingly start from the assumption that people have come not to see an individual story but a long series of teases for other ones. It's like he knows what he needs to do but can't focus on the task at hand. TV certainly isn't immune to that problem, but shows that get caught up in high-concept premises and big-picture thinking before doing the necessary legwork to establish characters and their relationships tend to be canceled." Subsequently, in May 2016, Warner Bros. gave oversight of the DCEU to Johns and executive Jon Berg in an attempt to "unify the disparate elements of the DC movies" and emulate Marvel's success. The two were made producers on the Justice League films, on top of Johns' involvement in several "solo" films, such as the post-production process of Suicide Squad or the writing process of a standalone Batman film. After the successful release of Wonder Woman in June 2017, DC decided to begin deemphasizing the shared nature of their films, with DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson stating, "Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn't make sense, but there's no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe... Moving forward, you'll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who's creating them." Additionally, DC began focusing on films "completely separate from everything else, set entirely outside the" DCEU as part of a new label, with the first film centered on the Joker.
20th Century FoxIn November 2012, 20th Century Fox announced plans to create their own shared universe, consisting of Marvel properties that it holds the rights to including the Fantastic Four and X-Men, with the hiring of Mark Millar as supervising producer. Millar said, "Fox are thinking, 'We're sitting on some really awesome things here. There is another side of the Marvel Universe. Let's try and get some cohesiveness going.' So they brought me in to oversee that really. To meet with the writers and directors to suggest new ways we could take this stuff and new properties that could spin out of it." ', released in 2014, was Fox's first step towards expanding their stable of Marvel properties and creating this universe, ahead of the release of a Fantastic Four reboot film the next year. However, in May 2014, Days of Future Past and Fantastic Four screenwriter Simon Kinberg stated that the latter film would not take place in the same universe as the X-Men films, explaining that "none of the X-Men movies have acknowledged the notion of a sort of superhero team—the Fantastic Four. And the Fantastic Four acquire powers, so for them to live in a world where mutants are prevalent is kind of complicated, because you're like, 'Oh, you're just a mutant.' Like, 'What's so fantastic about you?'... they live in discrete universes." In July 2015, X-Men director Bryan Singer said that there was still potential for a crossover between the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, if reaction to Fantastic Four and ' warranted it.
Feeling that Singer's efforts in Apocalypse to establish a larger world, similar to the MCU, did not meet the standards established by Marvel, VanDerWerff noted that unlike Feige's ability to serve as "pseudo-showrunner", Singer is instead "steeped in film and the way movie stories have always been told", so "when it comes time to have Apocalypse dovetail with story threads from the earlier , both Singer's direction and Simon Kinberg's script rely on hackneyed devices and clumsy storytelling", indicating a lack of "the kind of big-picture thinking this sort of mega franchise requires". In his review of Dark Phoenix, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal characterized the entire X-Men film series as being a "notoriously erratic franchise."
Sony PicturesIn November 2013, Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal announced that the studio intended to expand their universe created within the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man series, with spin-off adventures for supporting characters, in an attempt to replicate Marvel and Disney's model. The next month, Sony announced Venom and Sinister Six films, both set in the Amazing Spider-Man universe. With this announcement, IGN stated that the spin-offs are "the latest example of what we can refer to as "the Avengers effect" in Hollywood, as studios work to build interlocking movie universes." Sony chose not to replicate the Marvel Studios model of introducing individual characters first before bringing them together in a team-up film, instead making the Spider-Man adversaries the stars of future films. However, in February 2015, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios announced that the Spider-Man franchise would be retooled, with a new film co-produced by Feige and Pascal being released in July 2017, and the character being integrated into the MCU. Sony Pictures would continue to finance, distribute, own, and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films. With this announcement, sequels to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were canceled, and by November 2015 the Venom and Sinister Six films, as well as spin-offs based on female characters in the Spider-Man universe, were no longer moving forward. By March 2016, the Venom film had itself been retooled, to start its own franchise unrelated to the MCU Spider-Man. A year later, Sony officially announced the Venom film to be in development, for an October 5, 2018 release, along with a film centered on the characters Silver Sable and Black Cat known as Silver & Black. Both projects were not intended to be a part of the MCU nor spin-offs to Spider-Man: Homecoming, but rather part of an intended separate shared universe known as the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters.
After Sony canceled their shared universe plans and started sharing the Spider-Man character with Marvel Studios, multiple critics discussed their failure at replicating the MCU. Scott Meslow of The Week noted the perceived flaws of the first Amazing Spider-Man film, outside of its lead performances, and how the sequel "doubles down on all the missteps of the original while adding a few of its own. …We now have a textbook example of how not to reboot a superhero franchise, and if Sony and Marvel are wise, they'll take virtually all those lessons to heart as they chart Spider-Man's next course." Scott Mendelson noted that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 "was sold as less a sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man than a backdoor pilot for Spider-Man vs. the Sinister Six. …Had Sony stuck with the original plan of a scaled-down superhero franchise, one that really was rooted in romantic drama, they would have at least stuck out in a crowded field of superhero franchises. When every superhero film is now going bigger, Amazing Spider-Man could have distinguished itself by going small and intimate." This would have saved Sony "a boatload of money", and potentially reversed the film's relative financial failure.
AcademiaIn September 2014, the University of Baltimore announced a course beginning in the 2015 spring semester revolving around the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be taught by Arnold T. Blumberg. "Media Genres: Media Marvels" examines "how Marvel's series of interconnected films and television shows, plus related media and comic book sources and Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the 'hero's journey', offer important insights into modern culture" as well as Marvel's efforts "to establish a viable universe of plotlines, characters, and backstories."
Avengers CampusAfter the acquisition by Disney in 2009, Marvel films began to be marketed at the Innoventions attraction in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. For Iron Man 3, the exhibit, entitled "Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries", features the same armor display that was shown at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, with the Marks I-VII and the new Mark XLII. In addition, there is a simulator game, titled "Become Iron Man", that uses Kinect-like technology to allow the viewer to be encased in an animated Mark XLII armor and take part in a series of "tests," in which you fire repulsor rays and fly through Tony Stark's workshop. The game is guided by J.A.R.V.I.S., who is voiced again by Paul Bettany. The exhibit also has smaller displays that include helmets and chest pieces from the earlier films and the gauntlet and boot from an action sequence in Iron Man 3. The exhibit for Thor: The Dark World is called "Thor: Treasures of Asgard", and features displays of Asgardian relics and transports guests to Odin's throne room, where they are greeted by Thor. Captain America: The Winter Soldiers exhibit, "Captain America: The Living Legend and Symbol of Courage", features a meet and greet experience.
From May to September 2017, Disneyland Resort featured the "Summer of Heroes", which sees members of the Guardians and Avengers making appearances throughout the Disneyland Resort. Additionally, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off event was featured, which involved Peter Quill / Star-Lord blasting music from his boombox, along with the Avengers Training Initiative, a limited experience where Black Widow and Hawkeye "assemble a group of young recruits to see if they have what it takes to be an Avenger." Marvel related food and merchandise was also available throughout Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure during the "Summer of Heroes".
In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced three new Marvel-themed areas inspired by the MCU to Disney California Adventure, Walt Disney Studios Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. The developments will be designed by Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with Marvel Studios and Marvel Themed Entertainment.
Hong Kong DisneylandIn October 2013, the Iron Man Experience attraction was announced for Hong Kong Disneyland. It is set in the Tomorrowland section of the park, with the area built to look like a new Stark Expo created by Tony Stark after the 2010 one, as seen in Iron Man 2, with various exhibit halls that include the Mark III armor from the films. The area also has Iron Man and Marvel-themed merchandise items and memorabilia, plus an interactive game where guests can have the chance to try on Iron Man's armor. Iron Man Experience sees guests assist Iron Man in defeating Hydra throughout Hong Kong, and opened on January 11, 2017.
In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU to Hong Kong Disneyland and a new attraction where guests team up with Ant-Man and the Wasp, to join Iron Man Experience. Inspired by Ant-Man and the Wasp, is an enclosed interactive dark ride that sees guests use laser powered weapons to team up with Ant-Man and the Wasp to defeat Arnim Zola and his army of Hydra swarm bots. Ant Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! replaces the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride, and opened on March 31, 2019.
Disney California AdventureBy San Diego Comic-Con 2016, the Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure was set to be replaced by a new attraction,. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Benicio del Toro all filmed exclusive footage for the attraction, reprising their roles as Peter Quill / Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax and Taneleer Tivan / The Collector, respectively. James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel, directed footage for the attraction and consulted on all aspects of it. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! sees visitors assisting Rocket to rescue the other Guardians from the Collector's fortress, while the attraction features randomized events during the experience and music inspired by the soundtrack. The attraction opened on May 27, 2017. Despite having multiple references to the MCU, the attraction is not part of the MCU, rather the start of its own theme park universe that is inspired by the MCU.
In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU to Disney California Adventure, anchored by Mission: Breakout!, that will see characters from the MCU such as Iron Man and Spider-Man join the Guardians of the Galaxy in a "completely immersive superhero universe." The area will replace the "A Bug's Land" area, which closed in mid-2018 to start construction on the Marvel area.
Walt Disney Studios ParkIn March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU to Disneyland Paris' Walt Disney Studios Park. The area will include a reimagined attraction where riders will team up with Iron Man and other Avengers on a "hyper-kinetic adventure" in 2020. The park also hosted the "Summer of Super Heroes" live-action stage show from June–September 2018.
Other live attractions
''Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.''In May 2014, the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. exhibit opened at the Discovery Times Square center. The exhibit features replica set pieces, as well as actual props from the films, mixed with interactive technology and information, crafted through a partnership with NASA and other scientists. Titus Welliver also provides a "debrief" to visitors, reprising his role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Felix Blake. Created by Victory Hill Exhibits, Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. cost $7.5 million to create, and ran through early September 2015.
The exhibit also opened in South Korea at the War Memorial of Korea in April 2015, in Paris, France, at Esplanade de La Défense a year later, and in Las Vegas at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in June 2016. The Las Vegas version of the exhibit featured updated character details and corresponding science to incorporate the Marvel films that have released since the original exhibit in New York. Additionally, the Las Vegas version features Cobie Smulders reprising her role as Maria Hill to "debrief" visitors, replacing Welliver.
GOMA exhibitAn art exhibit, titled Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe, was displayed exclusively at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art from May to September 2017. The exhibit, which included "300 plus objects, films, costumes, drawings and other ephemera", featured content "from the collection of Marvel Studios and Marvel Entertainment and private collections" with "significant focus to the creative artists who translate the drawn narrative to the screen through production design and storyboarding, costume and prop design, and special effects and post-production". Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe was also extended to GOMA's Australian Cinémathèque with a retrospective of the MCU films.
''Avengers: Damage Control''In October 2019, Marvel Studios and ILMxLAB announced the virtual reality experience Avengers: Damage Control. The experience would be available for a limited time starting in mid-October 2019 at select Void VR locations. Avengers: Damage Control sees players taking control of one of Shuri's Emergency Response Suits–which combine Wakandan and Stark Industries technologies–to defeat a threat alongside Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. Letitia Wright, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, and Evangeline Lilly all reprise their MCU roles. The experience was extended to the end of 2019.
Live-action television specials
''Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe'' (2014)On March 18, 2014, ABC aired a one-hour television special titled Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe, which documented the history of Marvel Studios and the development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and included exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from all of the films, One-Shots and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and sneak peeks of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, unaired episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Ant-Man. Brian Lowry of Variety felt the special, "contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel's plan to release five loosely connected movies from the same hero-filled world, beginning with the cinematically unproven Iron Man and culminating with superhero team The Avengers. As such, this fast-moving hour qualifies as more than just a cut-and-paste job from electronic press kits, although there's an element of that, certainly." The special was released on September 9, 2014 on the home media for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1.
''Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!'' (2014)In September 2014, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell stated that in order to meet production demands and avoid having to air repeat episodes, ABC would likely air a Marvel special in place of a regular installment at some point during the first ten episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.s second season. In October, the special was revealed to be Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!, which was hosted by Emily VanCamp, who portrays Agent 13 in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and aired on November 4, 2014. The special features behind the scenes footage from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, as well as footage from the Agent Carter television series previously screened at New York Comic-Con. Brian Lowry of Variety felt an hour for the special did not "do the topic justice" adding, "For anyone who has seen more than one Marvel movie but would shrug perplexedly at the mention of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp To Pop! should probably be required viewing. Fun, fast-paced and encompassing many of the company's highlights along with a few lowlights, it's a solid primer on Marvel's history, while weaving in inevitable self-promotion and synergistic plugs." Eric Goldman of IGN also wished the special had been longer, adding, "Understandably, the more you already know about Marvel, the less you'll be surprised by Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!, but it's important to remember who this special is really made for – a mainstream audience who have embraced the Marvel characters, via the hugely successful movies, in a way no one could have imagined."
''Marvel Studios: Expanding the Universe'' (2019)In November 2019, Disney+ announced that the streaming platform would include Expanding the Universe, a special that features a look at the original MCU TV series for Disney+, with interviews and concept arts.
BooksIn September 2015, Marvel announced the Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, named as a nod to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Each guidebook is compiled by Mike O'Sullivan and the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe team, with cover art from Mike del Mundo and Pascal Campion, and features facts about the MCU films, film-to-comic comparisons, and production stills. Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Iron Man, Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Incredible Hulk / Marvel's Iron Man 2, Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Thor, and Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger released each month from October 2015 to January 2016, respectively.
In November 2018, Marvel and Titan Publishing Group released Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years to celebrate the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which featured cast interviews, in-depth sections on each film, and an Easter egg guide. In October 2021, a two-volume book, also titled Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years, will be released, written by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry. This collection will feature a look at the evolution of Marvel Studios, personal stories from all 22 films released at the time, and interviews with cast and crew members.
Video game tie-ins
''A Mini Marvel''In February 2016, a commercial for Coca-Cola mini cans aired during Super Bowl 50. A Mini Marvel was created by Wieden+Kennedy for Coca-Cola through a partnership with Marvel, and was directed by the Russo brothers. In the ad, Ant-Man and the Hulk first fight, and then bond, over a Coke mini can. Luma Pictures provided visual effects for the spot, having worked previously with the two characters in MCU films. For the Hulk, Luma redefined its previous muscular system and simulation process to create and render the character, while Ant-Man received new motion capture. The Super Bowl campaign extended to "limited-edition Coke mini cans that are emblazoned with images of Marvel characters, including Hulk, Ant-Man, Black Widow, and Captain America." Consumers had the opportunity to purchase the cans by finding hidden clues in the commercial, though "if the program goes well, Coke will consider making the cans available in stores." The ad had the third most social media activity of all the film-related trailers that aired during the game, and was nominated for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial at the 15th Visual Effects Society Awards.
''Team Thor''Team Thor is a series of three mockumentary short films directed by Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi and produced by Marvel Studios as comedic side projects to the main MCU. The series consists of Team Thor, , and Team Darryl and are included as special features in the MCU films' Blu-ray and digital distribution releases. The first two films follow Thor as he moves in with a new roommate, Darryl Jacobson, and what he and Bruce Banner were doing during the events of Captain America: Civil War. Team Thor was screened at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con, and was released online in August 2016, and with the digital download of Civil War the following month.
Team Thor: Part 2 was released on the home media of Doctor Strange in February 2017, with Pearson reprising his role. Thor: Ragnarok was released on digital download by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on February 20, 2018, and on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and on-demand on March 6. The digital and Blu-ray releases included Team Darryl, a continuation of Team Thor and Team Thor: Part 2, in which the Grandmaster moves in with Darryl after Thor leaves.