By perfecting the comic book superhero formula and creating the first big-budget shared universe with The Avengers in 2012, Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios came to define this decade of blockbuster filmmaking.
Marvel Studios recognized that by mining other genres through the superhero lens, it could continue to keep comic book films fresh and entertaining to audiences and sidestep the constant predictions of imminent superhero fatigue.
Marvel Studios' goal with The Incredible Hulk was to rehabilitate the Hulk in the minds of moviegoers after a disappointing 2003 film, and also reimagine him as a more heroic character that would fit within the larger universe it was crafting.
In Marvel's comics, narrative closure is always deferred, every ending a new beginning. Iron Man 3, with its now world weary characters and aging actors, draws attention to how live action is different from comics.
Marvel producers are attempting to create a film analog to the Marvel Universe that knits together the publisher's mainline titles. Will moviegoing audiences keep coming back for the next story, and the next?