It all started with gamble. When it was announced that the fledgling Marvel Studios had tapped Jon Favreau to direct a live action  Iron Man film starring Robert Downey, Jr. back in 2006, both fans and critics alike were skeptical about the idea. Fast forward to May 2008, and the film became both a critical and box office smash hit.  Just like that, an entire cinematic universe was born. In the then secret post-credits scene attached to the film, Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury opened up a whole new world of possibilities when he first approached Stark about the Avengers Initiative. Fans lost their minds when this scene was discovered, and speculation started running wild as to who would be on the team. Later that summer, the Incredible Hulk opened in theaters, and we realized  that #ItsAllConnected. The connections across the newly formed MCU started when Tony Stark appeared in a mid-credits scene for the film, talking to General Ross about the Avengers. The rest of Phase One continued to build toward the Avengers. Seeing the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assemble on the big screen for the first time was a cinematic experience that I’ll never forget, and still stands to this day as the best time I’ve ever had in a movie theater.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since the release of Iron Man, and the subsequent birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. I can still remember watching the film for the first time all those years ago, and I had absolutely no idea what we would experience in the coming years. Over the course of these last ten years or so, Marvel Studios has continually delivered some of the best super hero movies of all time, and they ‘re showing no signs of slowing down. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently sat down with to talk about how far the studio has come over the years.

“It sort of blows my mind when I think about that,” says Feige. “We’ll have 20 films in ten years. We’re now working on how we mark that occasion. How we celebrate it. I have a very fun memory of the tenth anniversary of ‘Star Wars’ when I as in junior high school. Now ‘Star Wars’ is 40 and I wonder what Marvel Studios will be in another 30 years. I have no idea. But I know we’re very proud of the last ten years and we want to celebrate that somehow. ‘Infinity War’ will, frankly, be that celebration.”

And what a celebration it’s shaping up to be. When the first Avengers film was released, I thought Marvel had reached their absolute peak, and that nothing could top seeing the original team together. I was wrong. Marvel has continued to up the ante, both in scale and in emotional stakes, and Infinity War is by far their most ambitious film project to date. It’s been one of the MCU’s end goals ever since the mid-credits scene in the Avengers, and serves as a clear example of one of Marvel’s main principles: a clear destination for their stories. Marvel Studios has always been focused on end goals, and that vision of seeing what could be and where the stories of the various franchises culminate has been one of the reasons that the MCU has continued to thrive. The Avengers serves as a prime example of this, as every single film in Phase One clearly led up to and culminated in seeing the team assemble. However, there’s a balance. While each film can benefit from being connected to the others in the MCU, the individual franchise films have to be able to stand by themselves in order to be successful. When asked about this balance, Feige was pretty confident in the studio’s handling of the matter:

“It is, I think, a very good combination of both,” Feige explains. “It’s a result of having a goal and having an endgame. It’s about heading towards that and still being willing to make adjustments along the way where it serves whatever film we’re working on. We never want to be so rigid in a structure that we don’t allow ourselves to do fun, new, unexpected things that can happen along the way. I’d say it’s a pretty healthy combination of both… We started out being very excited that we were finally able to be the people creatively responsible for a Marvel film ourselves and do them in the way that our instincts sort of called for us to do them. That has remained unchanged.”

Feige’s leadership has been one of the key factors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success, and his vision continues to be the driving force behind Infinity War. It’s been one heck of a ride over the past ten years, and we can’t wait to see what the next ten have in store.

Avengers: Infinity War opens in theaters on May 4, 2018.