Iron Man’s success was never expected, and according to Robert Downey Jr Marvel Studios was prepared to write it off if it flopped.
Marvel Studios is currently one of the most powerful players in Hollywood. Every movie release, no matter what reviews it receives or what controversies surround it, is a guaranteed money-spinner and in many ways have helped ensure the survival of many theater chains following the Covid pandemic shut-downs. However, when Iron Man was released in 2008 there were no grand plans in place for multiple movie releases a year, no inkling of an interconnected TV franchise and according to Robert Downey Jr the studio was ready to write the whole thing off if it bombed. During a Q&A with the Director’s Guild of America, which was shared on Twitter by Chris Gardner, Downey Jr said:
“Well, I mean first of all because not too many people were thinking that Iron Man was even going to have an opening weekend or do much of anything, so we were a little bit left alone. I find out more every day about how that thing was financed, it was basically ready to be written off if it tanked. And so anyway it was the perfect thing where there were not a lot of creatively aggressive eyes on us. And by the time they gave it to us, it was like united artists, like the lunatics took over the asylum. And I remember Jeff Bridges too, he was like, ‘man, we’re doing a $200 million independent movie, man.’ And there was just that sense that, of course, it was much more organized.”
Marvel Studios’ Gamble Led To a Huge Underdog Story Behind The MCU’s Success
There is nothing like an underdog story to get the public’s interest. When it comes to the story of how Marvel gambled everything on their initial run of movies in what would become the MCU, and how once they caught the eye of Disney every worry became a thing of the past. However those first few years, with Iron Man being followed by The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger, were a tumultuous time for the studio, but by 2012’s The Avengers, it became clear that there was a future in this interconnected superhero universe that couldn’t be denied.
Almost 15 years later, and Marvel Studios has just revealed plans for its next four year, which in total includes almost as many releases as it put out in total across its first decade. The arching narrative of the Infinity Saga came together over 11 years and 23 movies. By the time Avengers: Secret Wars rolls out in May 2026, the Multiverse Saga will have taken just 5 years to complete through at least 40 installments across theatrical releases and Disney+ exclusive shows.
The more unbelievable aspect of Marvel Studios’ future, is that there really is no way to imaging the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever coming to an end. Even after two huge cinematic events with Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Secret Wars, there will still be some big stories to be pulled from the long history of Marvel Comics that will ensure Marvel’s dominance of the box office for many years to come.