Before Endgame: A Marvel Cinematic Universe Retrospective

I don’t remember exactly how this post started – but the initial idea must have just been wanting to write about the Marvel Cinematic Universe before Avengers: Endgame came out and not specifically knowing what to write about it. But this week, on YouTube I’ve seen a series of video essays called “One Marvelous Scene” by channels that I love breaking down some of their favorite scenes in the MCU.

So, likewise, I just wanted to take a few minutes to ramble about my favorite MCU scenes. This post is going to be much less structured than my posts are usually, so just bear with me.

SPOILERS UP TO AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Iron Man

The weakness of Iron Man’s structure has been acknowledged; the movie becomes less interesting after his first few missions as Iron Man, and for all his acting chops Jeff Bridges doesn’t have that much to work with. That being said, the sequences where Tony fights his way out of the cave and when he becomes Iron Man are utterly spectacular. There’s a certain level of movie magic in this film, being the first of so many.

MCU Retro 2

The first Iron Man suit breaking out of the cave and flying really feels like we’re watching a powerful bird taking flight. And, that’s exactly what the franchise was doing.

Captain America: First Avenger

MCU Retro 3

Captain America: First Avenger is a pretty decent origin story and helps build the connections between the movies. At the beginning of the movie we learn about the Tree of Life which ties back into Thor, and we also meet Tony’s father Howard. But Cap’s arc throughout the movie is probably it’s best element, with the best scene coming when he finally feels like a superhero and liberates the Howling Commandos from the Nazi camp. Seeing him walk into the Allies camp with the freed captives is awesome. I’d also be remiss in not mentioning when he jumps on what he thinks is a grenade to save the rest of the people in his unit.

The Avengers

I remember hearing that Iron Man had a post-credit scene making reference to the Avengers, a team of Marvel superheroes – but I figured that would never actually happen. And then, only four years later, it did.

MCU Retro 4

We got to see Thor fight Iron Man and Captain America! We got to see the Hulk slam Loki into the ground! We got to see six of the best known superheroes fight an alien horde! I’m a sucker for moving cinematic shots – and this movie has one of the most memorable shots of the decade.

Iron Man 3

MCU Retro 5

Now that we live in a post Star Wars: the Last Jedi world, I think I just have a thing for movies that divide a fanbase. There was a lot of vitriol around these people who expected to see the Mandarin but instead got the Trevor-Slattery-bait-and-switch; a menacing terrorist turns out just to be a hired actor. It might not have been what hardcore fans were asking for, but that’s what made it so worth watching.

Captain America: Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier’s best scene easily comes from the way it pulls the rug out from under us. Captain America himself brings a sense of security and safety (to Americans, at least), with the way he works with SHIELD or the U.S. Government to protect America. In this scene we learn that SHIELD was infiltrated by its rival organization, Hydra, who has been pulling the strings all this time. It’s a powerful moment that really taps into a primal (if paranoid) fear among Americans; that our government is being controlled by sinister forces from within and without. (Also, it’s based on a kernel of truth – Nazi scientists were recruited after World War II.)

First and foremost, Winter Soldier tries to tell a story of a war hero trying to save his friend. But the secondary story – perhaps just as interesting – is that of the ways that systems the government puts in place to protect us will fail and the ways they will succeed.

Ant-Man

A lot of the moments that almost made this list were going to be “So-and-so had a big superhero moment!” or “the action was great in this scene!” and that’s often the best elements of these movies. But that might not be the case for Ant-Man. In Ant-Man, it’s the humor.

All the Marvel movies are themselves a little funny. They’re all lighthearted and fun, and you’re usually going to get a few good chuckles out of any of them, but Ant-Man has probably the funniest scene with Michael Peña as Scott’s friend, Luis. Watching the scene is funny, but just reading the dialogue is just as fun.

MCU Retro 1.PNG

Captain America: Civil War

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Captain America: Civil War’s best scenes are fight scenes. It starts with pretty fun action sequence which causes the accords. And the final fight scene between Iron Man, Cap, and Bucky is definitely moving. And every part with Black Panther is pretty great – from his first action scene where he’s chasing Bucky to the completion of his character arc where he prevents Zemo from killing himself.

Black Panther

However, most of the best moments in his solo movie go to Killmonger; the moment when he takes off his shirt and we see every mark for every person he’s killed is an astounding reveal. The movie’s emotional core comes from his last lines:

Killmonger: *Looking at Wakanda* “It’s beautiful…” *winces in pain*

T’Challa: “Maybe we can still heal you.”

Killmonger: “Why, so you can lock me up? Just bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”

And even from a technical filmmaking standpoint – the most interesting shot is the upside down one when he enters the Wakanda Throne room.

Avengers: Infinity War

There are obviously some moments worth mentioning in Infinity War. “The Snap” which vaporized half the universe is definitely a moment that proved absolutely astonishing when we first saw it. But I think I preferred Thor’s “BRING ME THANOS!” Moment when he arrives in Wakanda.

Thor: Ragnarok

God, where to even star with Raganarok? This movie is a delight. I thought the Doctor Strange cameo was rather well-placed. The world of an MCU depicted felt more bright, colorful, and cartoonish than the rest – but refreshingly so. It was reminiscent of Guardians, but its own unique thing. Thor is there, and he’s at the top of his game, Loki’s there and he’s pretty good; but the real scene-stealers are director Taika Watiti as Korg and Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster. And honestly, it goes to a bigger statement about just how spot-on all the casting in this series has been. Think of just about any character, and think about just how good the casting was; I can’t think of a single casting that didn’t really work. Maybe I’d say that about Ed Norton as Banner or Terrance Howard as Rhodey, but only because those actors were later replaced by faces that have since become more familiar.

Guardians of the Galaxy and Vol. 2

Hoo boy there are so many great scenes in the two Guardians movies, so I just want to quickly hit the high-points in the two volumes.

Vol. 1: Starlord’s “Come and Get Your Love” intro, the prison breakout, The Nova Corps coming to the help of the Guardians after they get his “dick message,” infiltrating Ronan’s ship, Groot’s “We are groot” sacrifice, Peter’s “Take my hand!” flashback, and the Guardians defeating Ronan.

MCU Retro 6

Vol. 2: The “Mr. Blue Sky” opening, meeting Ego and his planet, Peter playing catch with Ego, Rocket and Yondu escaping, the jarring reveal that Ego killed Peter’s mom and has sinister plans for the universe, and Yondu’s heartwarming funeral. (But perhaps, above all, the amazing character work in this movie.)

 

And listen, we’ve had twenty one (soon to be twenty two) movies. I could keep doing this till the cows come home. But I want to turn the question to you; What’s your favorite MCU moment?

7 thoughts on “Before Endgame: A Marvel Cinematic Universe Retrospective

      1. I saw it. I loved it, the 3 hour runtime didn’t hit me until I came home after the movie.

        A lot of people have some issues with the movie but I don’t. Sure, there are questions but they don’t take anything away from the enjoyment I had

        Liked by 1 person

      2. *Light spoilers for Endgame*
        Yeah I mean maybe I’m not being critical enough but… I don’t know, the use of Captain Marvel was a little odd? Fat Thor went on a little too long?
        But honestly, its highs were so much higher than its lows were low. It was really a tremendous movie.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great list. I’m still digesting Endgame before deciding where it would go in my own list but its up there. Going through your list it’s amazing how there are so many great films in the MCU.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the series; thanks for the recap! There are so many great moments in this series it’s hard to pick one favorite. However, one of mine is the scene in the first Avengers movie where they stand together in New York, when they actually become a team in the middle of the battle.
    We decided to re-watch Infinity Wars this weekend to make sure we didn’t miss anything before going to see Endgame.

    Like

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