(Images from Empire Here!)
Marvel may have made a name for itself these past eight years by dominating the action movie market with the reinvention of the superhero film, but with the release of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk this Spring, Marvel will finally have the possibility of making some serious cash for itself. These movies Marvel has made with it's own funding, so the losses or gains will be all Marvel's. If Iron Man makes Spider-man money, Marvel could be the next Disney and Marvel seems very aware of this fact.
Iron Man isn't a throw away like Ghost Rider, DareDevil, Elecktra or The Fantastic Four. The cast is filled with Oscar winners (Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges), and a director (Jon Favreau) driven to breath the kind of real personalities and humor into Tony Stark, Jim Rhodes, Pepper Potts and Obediah Stane that Toby Maguire and Hugh Jackman created in Peter parker and Wolverine.
If that's not enough, how about a new Incredible Hulk movie, written and staring Edward Norton, William Hurt and Tim Roth? I've read a script review that got me pretty excited, for a real Abomination VS. Hulk type of action!
Marvel is connecting these two films to the same universe, Robert Downey Jr. "apparently" has a cameo in the Hulk movie and Samuel L. Jackson is "apparently" playing Nick Fury in both movies. With plans to make Thor (directed by Matthew Vaughn of Stardust and Layer Cake), Captain America (directed by Nick Cassavetes of Alpha Dog)and Antman (Directed by Edgar Wright of Shawn of the Dead) Iron Man director Jon Favreau has let it be known that Marvel has dangled the carrot of helming and Avengers movie in the near future.
So that's Marvel's plan.. build five big films, all with extremely talented actors and directors, then combine them into one giant tent pole film that would have Robert Downey Jr., Edward Norton and whoever the other stars are working in the ultimate superhero team movie, under the command of... Samuel L. Jackson... Man that is the definition of synergy!!
And that doesn't mean that Marvel's past success is over. Hugh Jackman is going forward with a huge cast filled with unused or underused X-Men characters like Deadpool, Gambit, Beak, Sabretooth and Silver Fox among others in creating a prequel: X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I'm kind of iffy on this one, because I wanted to see the Claremont/Miller Wolverine story in Japan first, but you can't deny it will make a lot of money. Wolverine is now an American (Canadian) icon.
Comparably, Warner Bros./DC's management of Smallville, Batman Begins, Superman Returns, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, and Justice League, which are all happening in stand alone universes that require two different actors to play Superman, Batman and The Flash, looks as awkward as Micheal Jackson at the Playboy mansion. Maybe they should take a que from Marvel and build on success, with some kind of plan to integrate. Still, this is the big role of the dice for Marvel and the future is still a surprising opponent. I wish them good luck.