“I am Iron Man.” said Nick Fury to a startled Tony Stark. “You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet.”
And in that moment, a universe was born.
In the ten years since it began, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has earned over $17.5 billion dollars at the global box office, making it the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. It has brought together A-list casts, directors, and writers to create films that are filled with action, humor, and heart. It has taken characters that once only existed in the pages of comic books and brought them to life as movie icons. And as the name suggests, the MCU has become something that decades before would have only been a nerdy pipe-dream- an entire shared universe of comic book characters and stories that exists all on its own. Despite its basis as a cinematic adaption of preexisting creations, the MCU has grown to become an original work that will only continue to grow in size and originality.
And grow it will. Now that Avengers: Endgame has hit theaters Marvel has begun to prepare for its next chapter. This next chapter- Phase 4- will bring never-before seen characters, new locations, and fresh stories that will be more original to the MCU rather than adapted from comic book events. Fans are ecstatic for this next phase, and why shouldn’t they be? Few movies from the MCU have been disappointments.
Of course, the MCU is not perfect. There have been a few forgettable films (looking at you, Thor: The Dark World) and a few controversies (James Gunn, anyone?). Many have pointed out its penchant for cookie-cutter plots and lack of great diversity (Black Panther excluded). But despite its flaws, the MCU has achieved a level of popularity high enough to ensure its place as a cultural touchstone for a long time to come.
But the MCU is more than just movies. For many, it is an important part of their lives. It is how they met their friends, how they spent family movie night, how they found inspiration, how they made their careers. Fans have become deeply invested in the lives of their favorite characters, spending hours crafting art, stories, and costumes to celebrate them. The MCU has brought audiences together in awe, tears, and more often than not, laughter. In a world filled with chaos and fear, the MCU brings a sense of hope and stability. It shows us heroes who are willing to give their all and work together in defense of a greater ideal, transports us to a place where good always triumphs over evil, and makes us believe -if only for a short while- that we too can be heroes.
So as we prepare to say goodbye to the MCU as we know it, we should also look forward to another decade of creativity and excitement. To paraphrase the great Samuel L. Jackson, we have become part of a bigger universe. Here’s to the Marvelous Decade, and to many more to come.