Cathy and I have finally seen Avengers: Endgame, wrapping up an 11-year journey of watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe unfold on screens of all sizes.
It all started innocently enough, with our 2008 viewing of Iron Man in New Glasgow. We had no idea that Robert Downey Jr. was about to revive his troubled career by taking a crack at the suit of armour donned by inventor-turned-vigilante Tony Stark in hundreds of Marvel Comics adventures through the previous four decades.
Astoundingly, it turned out to be a funny, heartfelt, smartly-written tale of redemption for Downey-as-Stark, who dumped his playboy ways and stopped funnelling billions into the military-industrial complex upon seeing first-hand the damage done by countries using his company’s weapons – particularly the United States.
And it also turned out to be the first of nine Iron Man cinematic experiences for Downey, as part of a dizzying 22-part series of films released over the following decades.
Or perhaps I should call it a “Disney-ing” film series. Thanks in part to the big bucks pumped into Marvel Entertainment following its acquisition by Disney in 2009 and the full integration of Marvel Studios into the Disney group of film production companies in 2015, the comic-book crime-fighters of my youth are now getting the cinematic exposure many of us could only have imagined in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
At that point, DC dominated the superhero-movie genre, with Christopher Reeve’s four turns as Superman giving way to a quartet of Batman flicks. Marvel was a bit player in the game at that point, until The X-Men and Spider-Man shifted the goal posts in the early 21st century.
Even at that point, we couldn’t possibly have predicted the glut of superhero flicks that have filled the multiplexes and shattered box-office records in the 2010s. Marvel movies are now gleefully awaited with anticipation far transcending the typical comic-book audiences. These are major pop-culture events. Sure, there are half a dozen of them coming out every year, but the public is gobbling them up.
The numbers don’t lie: All four Avengers movies are among the top 10 worldwide movie moneymakers of all time, with Avengers: Endgame slowly closing in on the top position currently held by Avatar. The number 10 position on that list is held by another Marvel buzz-generator, Black Panther, which finally broke a longstanding colour barrier for superhero movies.
Even if we adjust the numbers for inflation, which paints a more accurate picture of the number of actual tickets sold for a given movie, the impact of big-budget superhero movies is unavoidable (or, as villain Thanos would describe himself, “inevitable”). Avengers: Endgame is the highest-ranking comic-book film on this list, clocking in at #24 – just behind Disney’s Fantasia, The Graduate, and Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The four Avengers movies crack the top 100 ticket-sellers of all time, and you’ll find the likes of Spider-Man, Black Panther, and DC’s original Superman and Batman chapters hanging around as well.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I haven’t enjoyed the renaissance of superhero movies – of course I have.
Occasionally they’ll devolve into pointless and gratuitous violence and/or destruction, as we saw in The Avengers, Iron Man 2, and the first outing for Henry Cavill as Superman: Man of Steel. Sometimes they’re just plain silly (Guardians of the Galaxy, Aquaman) or try to cram too much into their run times (Spider-Man 3 and most of the X-Men movies). But for the most part they’ve been expertly crafted, well-cast, incredibly funny, and even surprisingly touching and human.
I just think I may have reached my limit.
Yeah, I didn’t see it coming, either. I’ve loved Spider-Man since I was five years old, but even I’m beginning to feel spoiled by seeing him in 10 movies over two decades (including this summer’s solo outing Far From Home).
I gave up on the TV extension of the Avengers franchise, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., after three seasons (Cathy, to her credit, has stuck with it and is thoroughly enjoying season five so far).
And, honestly, I liked Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman and Les Misérables far more than I ever dug him as Wolverine. (I’m glad he’s finished his nine-move run as that character, because he deserves the chance to make at least nine more musicals before his voice inevitably conks out.)
I’m sure a few more of these movies will have sequels. We’ll probably check them out. I just don’t think I’m ready for another decade-long, strung-out, over-hyped, multiple-chapter, preview-scene-at-the-end-of-the-credits blockbuster series that takes up screens that could be showing movies about regular people doing ordinary things.
With all due respect to the late, great Stan Lee, I may be ready to say “Nuff said” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Well…’nuff for now, anyway.