Movies are just movies, right? Maybe. I believe that films can act as checkpoints for life events. It’s hard to remember watching a DVD or whatever at home as being a particularly momentous occasion, but cinema trips are rather different. The effort involved in going to them, the excitement of the film itself, the spectacle and atmosphere, they have a certain spark that can lead to them becoming great memories.
Films can be like markers, interludes of escapism that offer respite or heighten the impact of a particular era. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now so expansive in its reach and its heritage that it has transcended a mere film franchise and has become an essential element of pop culture that has genuinely changed the way that the film industry operates.
Take a look at other gigantic franchises that have tried to follow in the MCU’s footsteps for proof. DC tried it. Star Wars has attempted it. Both have had mixed results (the glory of Wonder Woman juxtaposed with the cringe-worthy Justice League, or in the case of Star Wars, the excellence of Rogue One and the divisive results of Solo), but Marvel keeps on adding layers and intricacies and the films keep on getting bigger. One of the strengths of the Marvel juggernaut (no, not that one) has been the ability to let each film do its own thing, but still remain in the same playground.
Films like Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok couldn’t really be stylistically further part than they are, but they are in the same universe and play by a lot of the same rules without stifling the creativity on show. This has resulted in a rich and varied interconnecting cinematic universe that has grown along with the people who have been watching all these years. The journey we have been on with the MCU has changed our lives.
I think back to 2008 and seeing Iron Man for the first time during the early days of seeing my girlfriend. I think to seeing Avengers in 2012, my first cinema trip since becoming a daddy. I think of teaching my son about superheroes while the films fed my heart and mind along the way. This goes all the way up to seeing Infinity War as the dad of two and with a very different career path to the one I had back when Nick Fury showed up at Tony Stark’s place and mentioned the Avengers Initiative.
What happened to you yourself between Iron Man and Infinity War? Did you change jobs, lifestyle, status? Did you fall in love and marry? Did you lose someone? Did you go through light and dark to bring you to the here and now? If you think about that journey, the MCU has been there throughout the last decade, welcoming you with open arms to spend time with heroes that over time you have grown to know and love for all of their faults and quirks just as much as their amazing abilities and genre-defining adventures.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given the characters a journey just as much as it has provided one for the viewers. Characters have genuinely developed and changed and evolved across their films, with ideas and allegiances and circumstances changing just as much as their costumes do. In this sense the MCU has copied its comic book origins perfectly – these stories, these characters, they don’t leave a blank slate or a convenient reset button once the smoke clears and the bad guys have been vanquished – they leave these stories behind as changed people.
For those of us who have been on this journey from the start as viewers and fans, I think it’s safe to say we’ve changed along the way, too. After so many adventures alongside our heroes, we have a pool of characters that we actually care about as well as admire, and that achievement is astounding.
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