In May 2018, when Thanos finally arrives in the MCU properly, the franchise built on Kevin Feige's brain and passion will be a full decade old. It will have seen 19 movies, including disappointments, stunning surprises and solid gold releases. It will have grossed more than $6 BILLION dollars and it will have seen some of Hollywood's greatest acting talents take on roles, both large and small.
It might not quite be the biggest cinematic brand ever, but there are only a small number ranked higher in value (and most of them are owned by Disney as well anyway) and there are very few with such a consistent level of quality.
Whether cynics care to admit it or not, the MCU is the current gold standard of comic book movies. There have certainly been better individual movies than the best the franchise has had to offer, but as a single continuous entity, it is as unprecedented as it is stunningly impressive. It is the single greatest shared cinematic universe ever created and while 2018 will see the end of its first era, there's a lot more to come.
Inevitably, the question that most come to when all of the 18 films so far released are laid out is which is best - obviously allowing for the fact that the ranking probably changes every time you watch them. And given the recent release, it's particularly interesting to ask where Black Panther now sits in the full MCU ranking?
21. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
When Kenneth Branagh didn't return for the Thor sequel, Marvel actually seemed to pull off something of a coup in hiring Game Of Thrones director Alan Taylor to replace him. After all, he'd surely be able to capture the same blend of theatricality and epicness that he'd brought to Westeros for the MCU's second trip to Asgard... right?
Wrong. Taylor fudged The Dark World horribly - or at least, he was partly responsible for the film going entirely the wrong way. Amidst talk of studio interference, Taylor's vision became just too dull and too humourless, missing the necessary self-conscious campness that Branagh had channeled so well.
There are redeeming elements - like Loki - but there are also some wildly idiotic ideas that verge on insulting (like the treatment of Selvig) and the end result is a rare miss for the series.