Matt Rodgers on the most emotional moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe…
There was a phase in my own cinematic universe when I couldn’t tell you who Tony Stark was, let alone a Groot, Thanos, or Stephen Strange. So it’s testament to the mega-budget jigsaw puzzle which Marvel have created, that not only have I been front and centre at press screenings or opening night showings, but the near-decade long adventures have bled into the conversations I’d have with my own parents. “Have you seen the new metal man?” or “Everyone’s talking about that new Pink Panther movie.” For the MCU to take up part of their seventy year old memory archive is an impressive feat.
With that in mind I’ve sat through the trailers for Avengers: Infinity War, unmoved by the spectacle, and subsequently hit up my timeline to see the numerous “please don’t kill Cap” Tweets, or think pieces on whose skull is going to be crushed by Thanos, before coming to the conclusion that I don’t really care. Do I?
I seemed to think there was no investment in these characters, even offering up my own derisory tweet about how I felt more emotionally attached to Ethan Hunt’s crew having just watched the Mission: Impossible – Fallout trailer.
All of this got me thinking back over eighteen films worth of Marvel, dating back to 2008’s Iron Man, with the oft-levelled criticism that the movies lack any real peril for anyone outside of the lunchbox sticker crew, ringing in my ears like Jarvis.
What follows are my findings. The moments that contradict my MCU mindset, the sequences during which my geese bumped hard, and the eyes misted over as if E.T. had just embraced me. Essentially these are the scenes during which I realised I was wrong. I do care. PLEASE DON’T KILL CAP!
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – “I’m gonna need to take a rain check on that dance”
Possibly the sole reason why Steve Rogers has become everyone’s favourite Top Trump (Heart – 100, Strength – 100, Beard – 100) can be traced back to this cruel twist of fate. Not only is it in-the-moment heartbreaking, but it’s an act that reverberates through subsequent films, and even makes Tommy Lee Jones look emotional, which takes some doing.
“I’d hate to step on your……[static]” is a line which lays the foundations that make the Peggy Carter Winter Soldier scenes so emotionally powerful. By depicting one of the strongest men in this universe as vulnerable, all because of a lost love, was an important character development that rippled through his entire arc, ensuring that the teased Thanos showdown has us very worried indeed.
Doctor Strange (2016) – The Ancient One’s death
Scott Derrickson’s world bending mystical Marvel entry might be worthy of a malpractice suit for the way it wastes Michael Stuhlbarg and Rachel McAdams, but there’s no denying how brilliant Tilda Swinton is as The Ancient One, and it’s her departure from this astral plane that came out of nowhere to floor me with its impact.
Taking the hand of Strange during an out-of-body epiphany, a sign that this all-powerful, all seeing being is scared, Swinton offers up a monologue as beautiful as the stormy backdrop:-
“We don’t get to choose our time. Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered, your time is short. You’d think after all this timeI’d be ready, but look at me, stretching one moment out into a thousand, just so that I can watch the snow”
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – “We Are Groot”
The MCU’s first curve ball featured Andy Dwyer, a wrestler, a woman with the kind of complexion that would make James T. Kirk weak at the knees (bit of franchise cross pollination for you there), a trash panda, and an Ent. It grossed nearly $800 million at the global box office, and that was largely down to the chemistry between the wonderfully written characters. The kind which made this scene of self-sacrifice a lump in the throat watch.
With their ship plummeting towards earth during the final reel set-piece (this a Marvel movie after all – joke), Groot extends his branches around his family of misfits, and with a slight derivation on three words that these films, and Vin Diesel, have managed to elevate to a level so much more than just a punchline, an unbreakable bond is forged, and a major character is killed. That’s right, he dies. James Gunn has confirmed as much in recent interviews. Now go and water some plants with your own salty tears as a mark of respect.
Captain America: Civil War (2016) – Civil War showdown
This choice might lack the emotional wallop of other MCU moments, but what it provides is some worrying foreboding should either Tony Stark or Steve Rogers get fisted by Thanos during Avengers: Infinity War.
Captain America literally breaks Iron Man’s heart during their close-combat Civil War smackdown, which comes shortly after their painful “he’s my friend”, “so was I” exchange. It’s a moment intrinsically linked with loss; Steve with Peggy, and Tony with his parents. Just imagine if they have to deal with the repercussions of this fallout as one of them lays dying. It just doesn’t bear thinking about.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – Yondu’s funeral
We return to the Guardians in order to use up the last of our tissues. In almost every aspect Vol. 2 is such a loud movie, but it’s punctuated by a sequence littered with small moments that have more impact than any amount of explosions or one-liners could ever have.
The use of Cat Steven’s Father & Son might be a tad on the nose, and Starlord’s unique eulogy proffering “I guess David Hasselhoff did end up being my dad after all” is undeniably moving, but it’s not until Yondu’s posthumous redemption amongst fireworks and Sly Stallone salutes that the real wallop arrives, with Rocket Raccoon’s teary eyed release at his friend’s funeral shifting some of the emotional weight which has built up with the film’s revelations about his past. They’re misty brown eyes that’ll mirror your own.
So there you have it. Admittedly there will be moments I’ve missed, such as Age of Utron‘s Hulk sulk, or the straight out of the gates tearjerk of Peter Quill’s mother from Guardians (again), but you can let me know all about that in the comments section. Until then we’ve got mere days to find out who we’ll be in Marvel mourning for. Remember to pack your superhero sized box of tissues.
Matt Rodgers (@mainstreammatt)