Marvel Cinematic Universe reaches climax after 11 years

Today marks the end of an era for many of our favorite Marvel heroes. “Avengers: Endgame” is finally here. 

Globally, fans have waited eagerly since the heartbreaking “Avengers: Infinity War” was released last April. For the first time, we saw Earth’s mightiest heroes defeated by the mad titan Thanos. With a snap of his purple fingers, we watched the hopes and dreams for the characters we love literally turn to dust. It will be interesting for fans worldwide to see what the directors of the film, Anthony and Joe Russo, have in store for them.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) kicked off over a decade ago with 2008’s “Iron Man,” and 21 movies later, here we are in 2019. The MCU carefully and craftily wove together multiple storylines and characters to become the pop cultural phenomenon it is today. Currently, the MCU is in its third phase of storytelling, which began with “Captain America: Civil War” in 2016. To put things into perspective, phase one (2008-2012) started with “Iron Man” and ended with “The Avengers,” and phase two (2013-2015) began with “Iron Man 3” and ended with “Ant-Man.” 

Joanna Caynon, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, loves picking up on details in the movies from her prior knowledge of Marvel Comics. “I grew up going to and working at conventions, watching Marvel cartoons and reading comics. I love that the MCU has evolved into this huge franchise and it’s great that people can really get to know the characters I grew up with. It can also be weird sometimes since now people argue so much about the stories I’ve known about for years. This has been my whole life,” she said.

Marvel has perfected its genre and created a beloved multibillion dollar film franchise for Disney. In its 11 years, the MCU has set a new standard for superhero films with its star-studded casts, engaging visual effects and amazing dialogue. Fans have also had short yet elaborate post-credits scenes and brilliant cameos by the late comic book artist and storyteller Stan Lee to look forward to in the MCU movies. These qualities culminate in “Avengers: Endgame,” critics said. Early reviews say that the film is everything fans hoped for. In fact, it was an “emotional wipeout," according to Rolling Stone.

The very meaning of a hero has evolved as children and teenagers now have a fresh and diverse range of role models in the MCU to identify with and idealize. Marvel’s on-screen heroes, in comparison to those of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), have been able to connect with fans beyond their superficial and superhuman abilities, on a deeper, more emotional level. 

“The DCEU, with directors and writers like Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, takes itself too seriously, whereas Marvel is willing to go out there and take risks. Most people didn’t know about the Marvel heroes until their movies debuted. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been around since the 1940s. DC’s content is heavy and had to stick closer to what everyone knows from the start, but Marvel was able to come into itself to be playful and grow to become more serious. The characters grew up with the audience,” Caynon said.

Chris Evans’s Captain America may seem like the cookie-cutter leader archetype, but he's complex and nuanced. Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is the woman who has taken the MCU higher, further and faster in the direction of gender diversity. Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther created history last year with powerful dynamism. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man is an underrated and refreshing comic that somehow fits seamlessly into the otherwise serious narrative of the MCU films. Of course, the man who started it all, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man is the genius, billionaire, playboy and philanthropist the world didn’t know it needed. 

There’s no doubt that the MCU movies have touched audiences around the world. Despite their complexity, they’re balanced and easy to understand: light-hearted and colorful in some moments, darker and more intense in others. As fans flock to cinemas to catch “Avengers: Endgame” this weekend, it's important to be mindful and contain our excitement to stop the spread of spoilers for those who haven’t seen the film yet. We’re in the endgame now.

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