We’re in the endgame now, and the long-awaited arrival of Avengers: Endgame in theaters today has had us at io9 looking back on over a decade of Marvel Studios movies. We’ve already discussed our favorite moments from the films—but the MCU has become about so much more than the movies. It’s about the experience itself!
So to celebrate Endgame’s release, these are the favorite memories our staff has of watching this whole cinematic universe come together—some that are not in the films directly, but the experience and friendships (and in some cases, brushes with the stars) of watching 11 years of Marvel movie-making evolve...before we all get ready to see its latest chapter change the game all over again.
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One of my favorite things about the MCU has been watching all the weirdness and joy of comics—that, when I was a kid reading the pages of Spider-Man, Avengers, and Captain America was just geeky stuff I had no one to talk to about—become just part of the pop culture landscape. Who would’ve thought a decade ago characters like Rocket Raccoon and Groot were just like...things people know? My mom knows who Steve Rogers is. That’s weird to me.
But it’s that evolution that brings me back to the memory I hold the most dearly when it comes to the Marvel movies—watching the original Avengers in theaters with my best friends from school. We were all nerds, but I was the only one who was really the “comic book” nerd of us, so when the credit roll paused to fade in on the majestic, sinister grimace of a certain purple-toned villain, it was only me among my friends who uttered a perhaps slightly-too-audible “Holy shit, Thanos!” in the movie theater.
The lights came up and I was still freaking out...and they just had no idea why I’d become this gibbering wreck in my seat. And so, for the first time for them, I got to over-excitedly share why what had just happened was so cool—tell them about the infinity stones, the gauntlet, Thanos’ whole history with Death, the snap heard around the world. I got to finally share part of something weird and joyful, stories that I’d been reading about for years, with them. Now, we don’t just accept the idea of some weird, big-chinned purple space alien running around murdering people to collect jewelry. We embrace it as moviegoers—and that’s wonderful to me.
People are going to hate me for this one but, whatever, it’s a good story.
Doing this job I’ve been fortunate to interview Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige on a number of occasions. I think the first time was for Avengers, back in 2012 when he called me out for not giving the film a stellar Twitter review. Since then we’ve talked at least a dozen times, both at press junkets and even on sets during production, of which I’ve been even more fortunate to visit several. All of which I say to give context to what follows because, otherwise, it sounds fake.
So, I’m at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California in 2016 visiting their Lego store with my then fiancée, now wife Jayne. We’re in line to buy something and I get a tap on the shoulder. I turn around and it’s Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. “Oh, hello Kevin Feige,” I said, using his full name out of sheer shock. “Hey Germain, how’s it going?” he asks. Fine, I told him, just buying some Legos. Great, he said, hope you have a wonderful day. You too, I said, and he walked out of the store. I turned around completely stunned and Jayne said, “Who was that?” “Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel,” I said. “Wait, and he said hi to YOU?”
Yes, he did. And the second he walked out of the store, my mind immediately filled up with hard-hitting Marvel questions I should have asked him (this was around the time Captain America: Civil War came out). I paid for the Lego, rushed out of the store and began looking for him. I saw his signature hat in the distance, walking towards the Disneyland Hotel. Feige was with his family, just walking around Disney and having a nice day. I decided to let him be.
This is a silly one, but...
Thor: The Dark World is no one’s favorite MCU movie. But there’s at least one fairly gratuitous scene where Chris Hemsworth, who still had his Fabio hair at the time, is randomly shirtless while hanging out on Asgard. My friend who went with me to the movie let out a mighty shriek (and she wasn’t the only one in the audience to do so) as if we were suddenly front row at the making of Magic Mike, and I laughed my ass off. In fact, I still laugh about it whenever I think about Thor: The Dark World, a movie whose plot I can’t really remember otherwise.
Let’s talk about Michael Douglas in Ant-Man for a second. I distinctly remember the entire theater going dead silent when we saw young Hank Pym for the first time in Ant-Man, and then breaking out into waves of murmuring when he began speaking, because whatever Hank was saying in that moment wasn’t anywhere nearly as astonishing as how uncannily good Disney had become with its de-aging CGI. I think that on some level, everyone implicitly understood that going forward, Marvel was definitely going to de-age more and more of its actors for flashback scenes and what kind of narrative opportunities that would open up for future films, which we’ve definitely seen come to fruition.
Music has a way of reaching me in movies. It’s why I’m such a fan of musicals. Naturally, the soundtracks for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2 are...effective, to say the least. One of the musical moments actually made me cry, and think back on it for a long time. It wasn’t Star-Lord discovering the second tape, though that was beautiful. Nor was it Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” although that whole scene was gorgeous. It was when Ego showed Star-Lord “Brandy,” by Looking Glass.
This was a song I’d grown up with, and it had always bothered me. It’s from the point-of-view of a sailor who’s pulled back to his life at sea, but we don’t really get a sense of how his choices affect Brandy. The woman left behind. Ego explains the song to Star-Lord, how he sees himself as that sailor, drawn to something bigger and greater. But Star-Lord...he’s Brandy. He’s the one left behind. It’s in that moment that we truly understand how Star-Lord was changed by his father’s actions. In that moment, he regressed into that child who was abandoned, now stuck listening to his father brag about the choices that ruined his own life. It was sadness, hidden under a shiny bubbly pop song. Still chokes me up to this day.
October 28, 2014 was a memorable day. It’s when the MCU got taken to the next level, in my humble opinion. I was working at The Mary Sue at the time and Marvel had announced it was going to do a huge Phase Three event in Hollywood to announce its upcoming slate. We had some idea of what to expect but you can never know for sure with these things. We were buzzing.
Not that Marvel films hadn’t been interesting until then, but it was far past time they told stories from other perspectives. And this is the slate they announced that day (with the original release dates):
- Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016.
- Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017
- Thor: Ragnarok – July 28, 2017
- Black Panther – November 3, 2017
- Captain Marvel – July 6, 2018
- Inhumans – November 2, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019
Yes, this is the day we found out Black Panther and Captain Marvel were finally getting their own films. We may have had to wait a bit longer than initially planned for each but oh, they were worth it. Some fans were finally able to see characters on screen they fully resonated with and while Marvel still has a long way to go as far as representation, it was an important step and an exciting day.
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