Not too long ago, I watched every single one of the MCU films again (one of the few benefits of a lockdown, I suppose) and was visited by an urge to share my thoughts on them.
I must first confess that I am not a fan of Marvel comics. Or any other Western comic for that matter. It’s not for a lack of trying though, but I do get confused with the way characters and storylines are reinvented every few years or so. I prefer consistency and continuity in a story, you see. And that, is exactly why I love the MCU movies. There is one overarching story, with one version of the characters and thus far at least, there have been no rebirths or reboots, making the entire experience an uncomplicated one for a complete novice in matters pertaining to Marvel comics. This may change in the future, but we’ll have to wait and see.
I never thought at the start that I would like Marvel’s cinematic universe as much as I do now. In fact, I only went to watch the Avengers (the first one) because my friends wanted to watch it and I hadn’t watched any of the preceding solo Avenger instalments either. My indifference towards superhero movies aside, I had never ever heard of a superhero team called the Avengers. Here I thought I knew all the ones that mattered; I knew about the Justice League, the X-Men, Teen Titans, Power Rangers and even the Powerpuff Girls, but “Avengers”? Nope, sorry.
So I watched the Avengers without any real interest in what was happening and overall I guess I must have found it entertaining on some level because I did follow up with some of the solo MCU films after that. It was only around Age of Ultron that I started to see the bigger picture. These movies were doing something incredible and unprecedented, and all at once, I was utterly hooked.
It wasn’t merely about bringing characters from different films together. If it was that simple a formula, other films that tried it would have succeeded. No, it was something more fundamental than that – it was telling a good story, one that would matter to the audience. I think what truly impressed me with the MCU was the amount of attention that was actually dedicated to the story as much as the story-telling. These are primarily action movies, layered with explosions, fanfare and attitude but somehow, it was the story that took the centre stage, looming larger than life and transcending all the special effects. It was the story that gripped me, that spawned theories from fans worldwide, that kept people coming back for the next instalment. Each movie was part of a whole – gears clicking into place and spinning in sync to yield a coherent and compelling narrative.
This was achieved primarily through character development, a simple thing that when done well, has substantial results. It added weight to the story and made moments that would have been ordinary in any other superhero film, extraordinary in these ones. The reason Iron Man’s sacrifice meant as much as it did was because we had witnessed his growth from someone immensely selfish to someone immensely selfless. It was brilliantly written. Poignant even.
The span of the story was rather helpful here. Stretching out generously over a decade, and with each year punctuated with at least one MCU release, the audience had plenty of time and opportunity to be acquainted with the motivations and quirks of these characters. We meet most of them at their inception as a “hero” and see them develop through their gains and losses and their adventures and misadventures. It goes without saying that even MCU’s villains were wonderfully fleshed out. For instance, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed watching a villain as much as I did with Loki, and it was so much fun to see him come into his own as a character, especially in the later films. Whoever did the casting for these movies also did a stellar job, because, well, Tom Hiddleston.
Another thing that appealed to me, personally, was that these movies were relatively bright and cheery looking. I’m not a fan of “dark” shows, and by that I am referring literally to the absence of light that seems to strangling a lot of movies out there (and TV shows too). The resulting effect is a dour and dreary one and who needs that in fiction after living through reality? While the “dark” look certainly fits some genre and stories, for the most part, I think it’s overused in films and TV. So I was quite happy that the MCU avoided that pit, maintaining a more positive tone throughout. The films were further brightened by a liberal serving of comedy. The jokes were a good balance for the more sombre and sinister moments in the story, and helped keep the negativity at bay. The comedy was one of the things that I actually looked forward to when I went to watch these films in cinema.
I would have never expected superhero movies to be as fun or funny as the MCU managed to make them. As varied as the films were, they all shared that refreshing energy that I have come to associate with the MCU. Well, less refreshing now, given that they’ve been at it for a dozen years, but I still prefer it to a lot of other things out there. I won’t go as far as to say that all the MCU films were marvellous, but they did hit the mark more often than they missed, and even the movies that felt a little less exciting compared to the others were generally decent films on their own. I don’t know if I’ll continue watching any more MCU films because I really think that the story I was following has wrapped up nicely, but these movies definitely have been one of the highlights of the past decade and I have enjoyed them immensely. The MCU pioneered and perfected this concept of a shared film universe, reshaping movie goers’ expectations and revealing that there’s still some magic left in the movie industry.
You can find more of my reviews at: ennadune.wordpress.com