Ricky Church with his top ten moments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe…
10 years ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe made its introduction to audiences with the release of Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr. in the title role that served as a launchpad for several other films. What a launch it was as the MCU has become one of the most popular and successful franchises in film history, turning several B-list superheroes into household names.
With Avengers: Infinity War releasing tomorrow as the culmination of the MCU since the first Avengers film, its time to look back at the past Marvel films with some of the best scenes from the series. At least until Thanos knocks some of them off the list.
10. I Am Iron Man – Iron Man
It’s a trope in the majority of superhero comics and films that the hero always keeps their secret identity a secret from the public and mostly from their loved ones, though inevitably their love interest finds out anyway. That seemed to be the case for Tony Stark as he began building the Iron Man with Pepper Potts finding out by accident and S.H.I.E.L.D. working on a cover story for his whereabouts when he fought Iron Monger.
That all changed though when Tony stated “I am Iron Man” at the very end of the film in a press briefing. Whereas some people point to the post-credits scene with Nick Fury recruiting Tony into the Avengers Initiative as something of a game changer, I actually hold this scene to that status. By subverting expectations and tossing aside the secret identity, Iron Man and Marvel showed audiences that this series, not just the individual Iron Man films but what would become the MCU as a whole, would be different than anything they’d seen before in the superhero genre.
9. Vision lifting Thor’s hammer – Avengers: Age of Ultron
One of the running jokes throughout the MCU has been how no one but Thor is able to lift his hammer Mjolnir. This joke was even addressed in Avengers: Age of Ultron where the team competed to see who was worthy enough to lift Thor’s hammer with Cap being the only one able to actually make it budge, however slightly.
It laid out the groundwork for one of the most surprising developments in the MCU to date: Vision, the newly created being from Iron Man’s trusted AI Jarvis, Ultron’s new body and the power of an Infinity Stone, deftly lifting Mjolnir and handing it to Thor. For a newly minted character, especially one that was created through dubious methods and suspicious materials, this was a great way for Joss Whedon to show audiences Vision was, in fact, a good guy and worthy of inclusion in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
8. The Spider-Man #33 Homage – Spider-Man: Homecoming
The deal between Disney and Sony over the inclusion of Spider-Man into the MCU was greeted with massive amounts of joy from fans. It had been a long time coming, but we’d finally get to see Spidey interact with most of the Marvel universe, first in Captain America: Civil War and then in his solo film, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Spider-Man is, of course, one of Marvel’s most popular characters with a rich history in comics, cartoons and two previous film franchises. One of Spidey’s most famous moments from the comics, specifically Spider-Man #33, was adapted into Homecoming. As Vulture tricked Spidey in a confrontation, the building collapsed on him, forcing Spider-Man to be nearly drowned and crushed to death underneath a pile of rubble before summoning enough strength to lift it off him.
Seeing this moment from Spider-Man #33 adapted on film was great to behold. Tom Holland really sold Peter’s panic as he faced a painful and excruciating death, one that reminded the audience yet again that Spidey was really just a kid. Director Jon Watts was able to even put his own spin on it as Peter finally realized he could be Spider-Man without the high-tech suit Iron Man provided him, proving to himself he was more than just the suit. It was a great inspirational moment that showed audiences that even in a universe with Captain America, Iron Man and the Guardians, Spider-Man was still one of the best and strongest superheroes of the bunch.
7. Vision and Ultron’s Final Conversation – Avengers: Age of Ultron
While I personally have some issues with Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, namely the overabundance of humour in Ultron’s character and during the climax as well as some story beats, I will say he still manages to craft some fairly interesting character arcs and interactions between them. One such moment is the final one between the new Avenger Vision and Ultron himself.
Throughout the film, Ultron’s goal has been to destroy the Avengers and most of humanity as they are a plague on the planet. Vision is the antithesis of Ultron, an artificial being that understands humanity’s flaws yet still accepts them as they are. The final conversation between Vision and Ultron highlight this as they both speak on the likelihood of humanity dooming themselves with Vision saying one of the most powerful lines in not just the film, but the MCU: “A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.” It doesn’t quite touch on the victory the Avengers have as they (mostly) save Sokovia and the world, but offers a deeper retrospective on humanity’s nature and Ultron’s perspective. It’s one of the strongest scenes in the series that Paul Bettany and James Spader knock out of the park.
6. We Are Groot/Star-Lord’s Origin – Guardians of the Galaxy
It is an understatement to say Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise hit for Marvel. After all, this was a film about a group of heroes basically no one in the mainstream had heard of which featured the dumb funny guy from Parks and Recreation, a former WWE wrestler, a talking racoon and a talking tree. The only big actor of the cast (who had a live-action role, at least) was Zoe Saldana as Gamora, but it still became a hit with praise given to all of its cast, comedy and sci-fi adventure. Yet what surprised me the most was just how much heart director James Gunn imbued in the film.
Guardians’ focus remained on the characters throughout the film, even during the big action set pieces and especially in the climactic finale. Gunn explored what made the characters tick and made you root and care for them. Two such moments tie for me by giving meaning to one of the central themes of the film: family. The first is Groot’s sacrifice as he saves the rest of the team, at last being able to say something other than “I am Groot” by expressing how much Rocket and the others mean to him by making a slight yet significant change to his catchphrase: “We are Groot”. It’s a moment that really solidifies the group together and is fairly emotional thanks to Vin Diesel’s delivery, the reaction from the rest of the cast and the music.
The moment that ties this for me, however, comes shortly afterward. Throughout the film Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill wants to be known as Star-Lord, often being made fun of by law enforcement or other characters for such a silly sounding name. He also has avoided his mother’s death and confronting his feelings for the whole story, at least until one of the final scenes in the film that ties his mother and his name together. It a bittersweet moment, Quill finally opens up her final gift to him and reads her letter, revealing the name Star-Lord was her nickname for him as a child. That one reveal encapsulates so much about Peter’s character, showing that even as he refused to deal with his mother’s passing, he was still honouring her with the use of his childhood nickname.
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