It's still apparent that we're living in the golden age of superhero movies. Looking at this year's slate from this particular genre, there will be eight movies release, whether they're from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 20th Century Fox's X-Men franchise or the DC Extended Universe. Although superhero movies have existed for decades, the genre really started to hit its stride at the start of the century, but it was 10 years ago that several groundbreaking events occurred that changed the game for this corner of movie-making.
2008 was an interesting year for superhero movies. From Marvel movies like Punisher: War Zone to original stories like Hancock, there was a variety of stories to choose from that involved characters who had mighty abilities and/or fought crime. However, we've selected three specific superhero movies that were not only well-received in 2008, but left behind legacies for the genre that still resonate to this day and changed how we look at these kinds of theatrical offerings. Starting off, let's turn our attention to Tony Stark's first cinematic outing.
Iron Man spent over a decade being developed at three different studios, but by 2005, Marvel reacquired the film rights to the character, and the company decided that it would be its first self-financed movie. That's certainly a big deal, but other than that, Iron Man didn't look like it was going to be too different from past Marvel origin story movies at first glance. And for the most part, that was true, as the movie was firmly focused on showing how Tony Stark went from apathetic weapons dealer to idealistic superhero. But in fact, Iron Man was planting the seeds for something much greater.
Iron Man sprinkled a few subtle clues to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe within its main story, like placing a Captain America shield replica in Tony Stark's workshop and Phil Coulson shortening his agency's name to S.H.I.E.L.D. But it wasn't until Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury appeared in the post-credits scene that it was made perfectly clear that Iron Man wasn't just laying the groundwork for another sequel (which arrived in 2010). Marvel was setting up a shared world the likes of which had never been created before in a movie setting. It may have taken folks unfamiliar with the comics a little longer to realize this, but for longtime Marvel fans, they could finally experience a Marvel universe on the big screen that they'd enjoyed before in comics, animated shows and video games.
It's important not to forget that a month after Iron Man's release, The Incredible Hulk came out, and although it was distributed by Universal rather than Paramount, it still served as the second MCU entry. This was evidenced by showing the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, having Emil Blonsky reference the Super Soldier Serum to foreshadow Captain America: The First Avenger and Tony Stark visiting General Ross in the mid-credits scene. There was even a deleted opening where Bruce Banner tried to kill himself in the Arctic, and at the end of this scene, Captain America's frozen body could be partially seen. However, Iron Man was the first movie to kick off this trend, and combined with its critical lauding (in large part due to Robert Downey Jr's performance), it remains one of Marvel's most popular movies. 10 years and 18 movies later once Black Panther comes out next month, the MCU is the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time, and it's all thanks to the movie about a guy who built a weaponized armored suit in a cave... with a box of scraps! (Even though chronologically, Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain Marvel precede Iron Man.)