Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of a 10-year journey through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Having delivered 19 films to date and rarely missing a beat, Marvel Studios is doing everything right. Let’s look at the factors instrumental in its success.

Walking out of Avengers: Infinity War is akin to leaving the MCG after a drawn AFL match – there’s an equal sense of elation and deflation following two-and-a-half hours of exhilarating spectacle that ends on a downer.

There is also an admiration for what Marvel has achieved in the creation of its shared Cinematic Universe over the course of 10 years and 19 films – the word ‘ambitious’ doesn’t really do it justice. The MCU nails what similar blockbuster franchises (that shall remain nameless here) strive for and fail. So what are the secret ingredients in the Marvel success story?

It helps that the foundations had already been laid by Stan Lee’s comic book equivalent – a shared universe committed to continuity and consistency, which has been successfully translated into a cinematic equivalent. Critics who gripe about CGI overload and busy plots often forget these are comic books as movies, and Marvel isn’t afraid to throw in the occasional self-reflexive wink at the silliness of a talking raccoon or a walking plant with one line. 

Astute casting is perhaps the biggest factor in the MCU’s success. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth have made Iron Man, Cap and Thor their very own, and guaranteed audience investment in the characters. And who would have thought we’d ever see the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley, Tilda Swinton and Michael Douglas in a superhero film?

Then there is the savvy recruitment of directors like Joss Whedon, James Gunn and Taika Waititi, who are the reasons why The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok are among the finest entries in the MCU.

And let’s not forget the Russo Brothers, whose dynamic fight scenes and propulsive action sequences rival the likes of John Woo, and who can capably handle crowded and potentially unwieldy behemoths like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

For every good superhero there’s a sinister supervillain, and the MCU has given us some doozies. Take Thanos, whom we’ve only just got to know properly. More than just your standard megalomaniac intent on destroying the universe (well half of it, anyway), he’s a semi-tragic figure facing a moral dilemma, and Josh Brolin almost makes us care about him. And Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, is the epitome of evil and capable of mass slaughter, yet at the same time irresistibly campy and tremendous fun.

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Marvel has demonstrated an ability to effortlessly introduce new characters on the run, like Black Panther and Spider-Man in Civil War, as well as exotic new realms like Wakanda, which heightens expectation for the origin stories to follow. It’s also successfully cross-pollinated the superhero story with other genres: Spider-Man: Homecoming is a high school teen movie, Ant-Man a comedy vehicle for Paul Rudd, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier a cracking espionage thriller.

Of course there have been some missteps – Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron – but the studio’s strike rate is otherwise exemplary. Marvel is doing everything right, delivering quality with quantity, and Avengers: Infinity War represents the culmination of a 10-year journey and the pinnacle of a cinematic universe that currently has no equal.

Moreover, managing to keep audiences in their seats for the entire end credit crawl (often after two-and-a-half bum-numbing hours), instead of stampeding for the exits and toilets, must surely rank as another mighty achievement.

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