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The many films of the Marvel Universe

Marvel is arguably the most iconic comic franchise in the world, and the distributor has dozens of feature-length live action movies, short films and animated films to show for it. While there have been numerous reboots of nearly every Marvel franchise, most fans don't realize that the earliest Marvel film dates back to the 1944 version of “Captain America.” Decades later, “Howard the Duck,” “The Punisher” and a 1990 reboot of “Captain America” spurred on the prolific production of Marvel movies that keep moviegoers happy today.

Since those early front runners, nearly every Marvel film to hit theaters has been a box office success. Marvel films have united some of the most devout comic book readers around the world with live action representations of their favorite characters. After the “Captain America” reboot, Marvel focused on creating multiple series of films for their major franchises. The 1998 version of “Blade” became a cult classic thanks to its production by New Line Cinema. The franchise continued with films in 2002 and 2004. The Marvel movie craze did not truly take off until the 2002 big screen production of “Spider-Man.”

2003 saw three major additions to the Marvel movie collection, including three of Marvel's most iconic franchises. “Daredevil,” “X2” and “Hulk” were produced by 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures, giving audiences an even greater dose of the gritty hero genre “Spider-Man” helped to create. These films were unparalleled at the time in terms of special effects, and all remained true to the classic comic book storylines that made them famous. While the 2000 film “X-Men” received considerable attention, “X2” was the groundbreaking film that gave the franchise its big-screen momentum.

When most moviegoers think of “Marvel Films,” they consider the well-known franchises like “X-Men,” “Spider-Man” and “The Avengers.” In reality, the comic book company also put its name and resources behind lesser-known films. “Elektra” met a small yet devout audience in theaters in 2005, the same year that the relatively obscure “Man-Thing” film came out. The 2007 “Ghost Rider” film paid homage to another one of Marvel's lesser-known antiheroes. The film succeeded in satisfying the cult following that continues to support the ongoing "Ghost Rider" comic franchise.

Until 2008, the Marvel film universe remained largely compartmentalized between its separate franchises. If there is one thing the comic book industry is known for, it is merging spaces and sometimes entire universes by bringing franchises together. It was only a matter of time before the same thing happened on the big screen. “Iron Man” is a 2008 film that can largely be held responsible for Marvel's numerous films centered in the universe of the Avengers, a highly skilled team that combines some of Marvel's most beloved heroes and most hated villains.

“The Incredible Hulk” followed “Iron Man” in 2008, giving audiences the chance to know two major players in the Avengers ensemble. 2010 followed with “Iron Man 2,” while “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” came along in 2011. The 2012 film “Marvel's The Avengers” brought all the Avengers gang together for a spectacular film that shot box office numbers into overdrive and solidified the franchise once and for all. Sequels to “Iron Man,” “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” set the trend of independent films for each major franchise, followed by a united film for the entire Avengers group.

In addition to these major films, fans can also enjoy two Avengers universe animated films released directly to DVD in 2014. “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher” unites two of Marvel's underrated heroes, while “Iron Man & Captain America: Heroes United” provides an animated adaptation of the live action universe heroes. In fact, 11 additional films have been announced and placed in the early stage of development between the years 2015 and 2018, ensuring that Marvel fans will always have something to look forward to in theaters.

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