To wrap up Superhero Hype’s 20th Anniversary celebration week, it’s time to finish off our list of the biggest milestones of the last two decades. Some of you may disagree with our choices. But from our perspective, these are the stories and events that changed the entertainment landscape. No one knows what the next two decades have in store. However, we do know that SHH wouldn’t be here if some of these milestones hadn’t happened.
5: Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Fan campaigns are launched all of the time. Regardless, they rarely work. And yet the campaign for Zack Snyder’s Justice League not only succeeded, it went beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Snyder even got the chance to film a few additional scenes thanks to HBO Max. The nearly four-hour cut was a vast improvement on the theatrical cut, and it won praise from critics and fans alike.
There are also a lot of real world subplots that came out of this film. Ray Fisher’s accusations against Justice League reshoots director Joss Whedon may have ended Whedon’s Hollywood career. Gal Gadot also came forward with her own allegations against Whedon. But the cast has had nothing but good things to say about Snyder. There is even a fan-led campaign to “restore the Snyderverse” and continue the story that started here. It’s unlikely to work a second time, and Snyder has largely moved on. But never say never. That’s the big takeaway from this.
4: The Mandalorian Launches Disney+
The Disney era of Star Wars got off to a rocky start with the sequel trilogy, which has been very divisive. And yet almost everyone loves The Mandalorian. The first-ever Star Wars live-action series is in good hands with Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. They understand the franchise like few others, and they’ve delivered some of the best Star Wars stories we’ve ever seen. This was the show that launched Disney+ and almost single-handedly powered its rapid subscriber growth. Just a few years ago, Disney had no streaming service of its own. Now Star Wars and Marvel shows are the prime attractions for Disney+. The jury is still out on whether The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Andor can live up to this series. But if they can, then the future is bright for Star Wars.
3: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man
Twenty years ago, Blade and X-Men proved that comic book movies could be hits. However, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man demonstrated that they could be blockbusters. In 2002, the first Spider-Man film earned $407 million domestically, and suddenly Hollywood had superhero fever. Without Spider-Man leading the way, there wouldn’t be a Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s also doubtful that Warner Bros. would have ventured beyond Superman and Batman movies if this film hadn’t been so successful. Oddly enough, the Spider-Man franchise has the distinction of being rebooted twice in the last two decades. And yet Spider-Man: No Way Home is the most successful Spidey film to date, and a culmination of every Spider-Man movie before it. People love Spider-Man, it’s really that simple.
2: Iron Man and the Rise of the MCU
While Spider-Man was widely known before the first movie, Iron Man wasn’t exactly a sensation with the general public. Tony Stark’s alter ego has been one of Marvel’s top Avengers since the beginning, but it wasn’t until Iron Man hit theaters in 2008 that everyone knew who he was. This was the first-ever MCU film, as well as the first movie under Marvel Studios. Director Jon Favreau deserves a lot of credit for pushing Robert Downey Jr. for the title role, even over Marvel’s objections. Downey turned out to be perfect for Tony Stark, and he was also surrounded by a great supporting cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, and Terrence Howard.
This film set the tone for every MCU project that came after it. And as No Way Home demonstrates, the MCU still has a lot of life to it. No one else has come close to making a live-action shared universe on this scale, not even DC. Yet Marvel makes it look deceptively easy.
1: Disney Buys Marvel
Marvel and Disney have not always gotten along. For example, look back at the disputes over Howard the Duck and legal battles over the rights to Spider-Man: The Animated Series. And yet in 2009, Disney made a deal to purchase Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. At that point, Iron Man was the only MCU film to have hit theaters. If this deal had been made after The Avengers, then that $4 billion price would have gone up dramatically. But there is also the legitimate question of whether Marvel Studios could have reached its heights without financial backing from Disney. And if former Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter was still the only one calling the shots, there wouldn’t be Captain Marvel or Black Panther movies.
For better or worse, Marvel and Disney are joined at the hip. There wouldn’t new Marvel attractions at Disney theme parks around the world without this deal. And there certainly wouldn’t be original Marvel series on Disney+ or the increasingly obscure lineup of Marvel heroes getting their own movies. That’s why this deal is still the biggest milestone in the last twenty years.
However, we are open to other opinions. And that’s why it’s time for you to offer your picks for the biggest milestones from 2001-2021. Feel free to share them in the comment section below!