Looking Back at the MCU

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Looking Back at the MCU

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Annika Yong, Web and Photos Editor

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The release of Avengers Endgame officially ended a 11-year era of Marvel movies, providing a satisfying end to the 22 movies with a plethora of widely-beloved superheroes. With the ending completely shattering box office records with a 2 billion opening week, it is hard to believe that the formation of the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) all started in a movie that stood against all odds.

Before the first film of the fictional universe, Iron Man, the superhero was relatively obscure to non-comic book enthusiasts, so it was risky to put forth a hundred million dollar budget and start off the cinematic universe based on him. Director Jon Favreau even had to vouch heavily to executives for Robert Downey Jr to be cast, due to his past with recurring drug addiction and incarceration. The movie was also filmed without a set script, so actors and directors often needed to improvise dialogues. Despite these obstacles, Iron Man brought to life the most iconic character of Marvel Studios, and sparked the beginning of one of the greatest movie franchises in history. Marvel Studios managed to plant the “Avengers Initiative” in the very first movie of phase one, teasing the culmination of heroes four years later.

Despite the consistent performances and quality of recent Marvel superhero movies- with Endgame having 97 percent rating on rotten tomatoes- receptions for earlier movies from Marvel Studios were nowhere near that magnitude. Movies such as X-Men, the Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, or even the first Thor and Captain America movies were less connected to a main cinematic world-building and instead served more as individual movies within the franchise. Where some have mixed reviews or lackluster performance, Marvel managed to learn and improve upon mistakes and shortcomings, and begin to touch on integrating the worlds of different heroes in Avengers 1.

With the introduction of directors Joe and Anthony Russo to the MCU in Captain America: the Winter Soldier, world-building, character development and relationship conflicts became more mature and nuanced. The Russo Brothers went beyond creating stunning visual impacts in CGI fight scenes, managing to delve into the persona, motives, and history of each character. This is prominent in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers Infinity War, where they manage to highlight the dichotomy between characters, effectively using fantastical figures to mirror realistic conflicts that could legitimately connect with the audience.

Part of the journey is the end. The first era of Marvel movies has come to a finale in Avengers: Endgame. Throughout all 22 movies, Marvel has been able to both honor the accuracy of the comic portrayal of heroes without strictly adhering to it, sculpting timeless and inspirational hero stories. All at the same time the writing team maintains continuity and adds new information through featuring different character worlds. Marvel excels at creating an unpredictable narrative by taking inspiration from but not religiously following comic book stories, therefore maintaining the element of surprise and heightening audience anticipation.

For many people, this very universe has grown with them through their journey from childhood to adolescence. These Marvel movies become a part of people lives, such that they would start cheering when their favorite heroes make their entrance. Marvel formed climatic scenes through year-long buildups (such as the phrase “Avengers Assemble”) through multiple movies and completed character arcs by showcasing their flaws, their humanity, and their redemptions. To many people, the MCU has become more than a fictional universe- it is the definitive emotional experience.