They decided to open bigger, better, and with a character who was recognizable to the huddled masses lined up outside movie theaters. They made Captain America. And boy did they (so I hear as I have never been able to locate a copy of this turkey) do a crummy job of it. They follow the usual Cap story (WWII, super-soldiers, ice, a skull that is red) but they put it together in such a manner that you'd think your dog just ate a comic and barfed it out its nose, and then ate it again and you're stuck looking at the x-ray. The plot took various creative liberties, such as making Red Skull from Italy as opposed from Germany, and is perhaps infamous for adding rubber ears to Cap's cowl. Financing problems meant that the film went direct-to-video where it obviously didn't break any ceilings in that market, and so Marvel disappeared again for a while.
The New Millennium
For years, I had spent countless hours casting an X-Men movie with my brothers. It was the fun game that every fan could play, you work out who would be the best actor for each part. Finally, such fantasy was cast into reality as a true X-Men movie was being made. There had been many attempts but this was the real deal. This was even directed by Bryan Singer, a man who at that stage was still the guy who did The Usual Suspects, and who doesn't want to be that guy? In the end we only had one pick right, Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier (our other locked in picks, for those who cared, and you'll have to work out which characters we wanted them for, were Sean Connery, Mel Gibson circa Mad Max, Michael Biehn, and Angela Bassett) but the rest of the film was laden with great performances in a multitude of mutant characters. This film then magically turned $75 million into almost $300 million, and thus comics on film were a true forceful hit. The special effects had finally caught up to what artists had been drawing for decades. It was time for everything else to be made.
Iron Man marked a change in the way movies based on Marvel characters were produced. Marvel finally have their own movie production studio and can be in charge of their own characters. It's great to see the right minds control these properties so they can get it done exactly how they like. Previously, Marvel would have a, sometimes token, producing credit, but the story would be in the hands of outside sources. With Iron Man, Marvel had complete creative control, and they finally got to then reap all of the money made from the venture. Iron Man was a success, in so many ways, and now Marvel is looking to a future of tying all of their films together.
By 2012, Marvel will have used Iron Man twice, Cap and Thor once, and all of them in The Avengers, not to mention Nick Fury, and a cast of other characters, yet to be named. They can't use Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, or Blade due to them being owned by other studios. I'm not exactly sure of where the Hulk's film rights lie, and I'm hoping they'll just ignore the Punisher for a decade or two, at least. So who does that leave them with to put in front of the camera?