MCU: The End of an Era

Note: This story does not contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame


Marvel Studios

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, the 23rd installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, also known as the MCU.

On Sunday I had the privilege to watch the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Endgame, where the heroes thrillingly face Thanos, the villain that has caused them indirect and direct harm for four movies spanning seven years. As the credits rolled, I sat back in my seat at B&B Theaters and realized that that moment meant more in terms of ending my childhood than sitting in the DHS gym in less than a month will.

Like many fans around the world, I have been an avid follower of the MCU, having seen 21 of the 22 films leading up to Endgame (sorry, The Incredible Hulk). I can still remember the first time I saw the original Avengers when I was 10 years old. As the camera panned around the six founding members, defiant of the alien invasion overtaking New York City, with Alan Silvestri’s magnificent theme playing in the background, I knew I was witnessing cinematic history.

Of all the colorful characters, my favorite has always been Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man. He’s sharp, funny and has a limitless capacity for invention and technology, which initially manifests itself as an extreme arrogance and self-importance. However, as the totality of the world, or the universe rather, made itself known to him, none of his spectacular talents could shield him from his apparent obsoleteness against it all. He’s anxious, he’s real, he’s me.

Superheroes are our ideals to strive for, and they’re entertaining not because they don’t face normal people problems (or at least metaphors for them), but because they are able to overcome them every time. That gives people hope.

Stark is about half of the reason I’m planning to major in Mechanical Engineering next year, and why, for my capstone engineering project, my partners and I created a mechanized walker for disabled people which functions not so differently from a robotic exoskeleton. The visionary work of this franchise has tangibly helped people, not just to give them the resolve to overcome the obstacles in their own lives, but to inspire inventions that make the world a better place.

When people talk about superhero movies as dull or uninteresting, I believe they do not see this relationship between the struggles in their own life and the struggles of the characters portrayed on screen. A movie, or any story really, is only ever interesting when you have some investment in what happens to the characters in it, and it is understandable that audiences find it difficult to sympathize with a giant green rage monster or a hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder.

In my opinion, this is where some of these movies have had their failings. Though I consider each of them perfectly enjoyable as action movies that merely require one to turn their brain off, the films in the series which ask no more of their audiences ultimately end up harming the reputation of those that do. The MCU’s finest work was done with films that can balance traditional superhero storytelling with heavy subjects such as justice, distrust in institutions, PTSD and even the righteousness of the heroes themselves, as in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Age of Ultron. These installments work not just as superhero movies, but as films worth analyzing in their own right for themes and symbolism.

Overall, for a franchise with such a relatively small original fan base to organically grow and release hit after hit revolving around a diverse range of characters is truly remarkable. And if you don’t think I could keep raving about these characters who have changed and grown as I have, and now conclude their story just as I am moving into the next phase of my life, well, I just have one thing to say to you.

I could do this all day.