First of all, a fair word of warning. If you haven't seen Infinity War, expect this article to be littered with spoilers.
10 years, 18 films and a hell of a lot of source material. Never before have we seen a series of films as successful and as meticulous as the ones that take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Laying the Foundation
I recently offended a wonderful keyboard warrior on Twitter when I said that I'd "never been as emotionally messed up from a film as this one did." This badass beast of boredom replied:
Thing is, this person was missing the point. Whilst there are hundreds of other films that can provide an emotional trifle of feels, none of them would have the same impact as Infinity War did.
Let's break this down a tiny bit.
There are years of source material for each of these characters. There are people who have developed a connection with these characters since they first laid eyes on their first panel. Some may have fallen in love with them much later but have still had the chance to understand and appreciate them.
It's what makes these films different to others.
Comics aside, no other series of films have developed their characters to the extent Marvel has. This is where their origin stories have played a massive part in laying the foundation of what Infinity War was.
Establishing the Characters
If you've seen all 18 films that came before IW, it's clear that the introduction of Thanos was predetermined from the start. Whether Marvel Studios ever expected the films to be as big as they are today is another question but you can't engineer the success the films have experienced.
As far back as Thor(2011), we were introduced to the concept of an energy source capable of controlling people's minds and of opening portals to space, which led to the Battle of New York. This energy source was the Space Stone, (shown as the Tesseract at this stage) the Infinity Stone that has the power to control portals into space and other dimensions. Of course, the stone is capable of much more but we've only seen a fraction of this.
In Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), the Tesseract makes another appearance as a weapon of Hydra's, where they're trying to harness its power to create weapons.
This then carries over into 2012's The Avengers where again, the Space Stone plays a fairly large role in the film. It's at this point the entire fate of the MCU is twisted on its axis. Not only does the universe change but we also see a massive shift in the direction of its characters - especially Tony Stark.
Arguably, the main protagonist within the MCU is Tony Stark (with Captain America coming in close second following the events of Age of Ultron (2015)). Not only does his character undergo one of the largest transformations in Avengers since his first appearance in Iron Man (2008) but we get to experience the impact his PTSD is having and it's followed throughout all of the films until and during Infinity War.
It's in IW where his vulnerabilities continue to be exploited by the circumstantial and environmental challenges he faces. He's haunted by the loss of his parents through the fear of losing Peter Parker because of his responsibility to him - almost as a father figure. His actions and choices are constantly questioned since the outcome of Ultron, and Civil War left his trust in people hanging in the balance.
Loss plays a huge part in Stark's continuing transformation and will certainly play a massive part in Avengers 5.
The number of themes explored across all MCU films have grown exponentially over the years and are becoming increasingly nuanced as the films develop.
Loss, transformation, vengeance, resurrection and sacrifice are amongst the MCU's primary themes. It's incredible to think that whilst they may not be cinematographical marvels (pardon the pun), there are several layers within these films that continue to explore the vulnerabilities we as humans experience. Translating that into these god-like fictional characters make them just as relatable as our friends or family.
Whether or not you're a fan of these films, it's difficult to deny the impact these films have had not just on the comic-book film sub-genre but on films in general.
Alright. It's been a while since we published anything on here so I hope this was satisfying enough. More to come!
In the meantime, listen to the podcast.