One of the most beloved franchises of all time, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), has come a long way since its initiation back in 2008 and has become a growing sensation into today’s world. In the past 12 years, the franchise has become the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, with some impressive feats and awe-inspiring films. Disney, you have officially become a cornerstone of the box office thanks to your purchase of this company in 2009.

The launching of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008 created suspense about how far one could get with the superhero franchise, such as X-Men and Spider-Man films growing further and bigger at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The first film of the MCU was a breath of fresh air, thanks to a charismatic lead by Robert Downey Jr. When the post-credits rolled around, fans of this genre suddenly got their hopes up as it teased the Avengers, a team of superheroes that could challenge any threat given to them. And four years later? The first Avengers film was released, breaking box office records and showing that fans were truly invested in these types of blockbusters moving forward.

The film was packed with our six main Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye. What made the film work was the backstory we got for each of the characters leading up to the first Avengers film. We got to see Downey Jr. explore his character of Iron Man and its sequel in 2010 (with that one introducing Black Widow and her abilities). The Incredible Hulk film showed us the mean, green fighting machine (even though Edward Norton played only in that film, with Mark Ruffalo taking his spot for the remainder of the franchise). The Thor film showed us the demigod and a glimpse of Hawkeye, and the Captain America film had Chris Evans get significant abs for the role.

When it came time for these people to team up, one was invested in them because they got their own origin stories and you understood where they character truly came from. The first Avengers film spotlighted how patience can truly pay off, especially when you see the revolving shot of the Avengers in New York City, ready to tackle the alien armies. If you didn’t have chills rolling down your spines at this glorious shot, you need to go re-watch the film again.

Fast-forward to 2018, and the MCU had released some big films that garnered significant attention (and praise) such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier and more. Every film was able to build off one another due to revolving stories and the creative writing that was developed under Kevin Feige, the president and chief creative officer of the MCU. He has seen that making these films has been a pleasure and has grown alongside the characters, just like the audience has for a decade. And when it was time to release Avengers: Infinity War, fans knew Marvel had just done the impossible and made a blockbuster that will be spoken for years to come.

Avengers: Infinity War was a gargantuan film, containing many of our beloved heroes and their gravest threat, Thanos (played by Josh Brolin). So many plot lines and heroes to thread that not everyone had time to shine, but the film was packed with such catharsis and moments of conviction that you needed to see how it unfolded. In the end, it leaves you with a momentous cliffhanger that had audiences shedding tears and breaking down as the villain had won this time.

Infinity War works because it understands its characters and all the plotlines that have been leading to this inevitable showdown. Is the film perfect? No, as it is overstuffed and your commitment to this film lies on the fact that one watched all the 18 MCU films preceding it in order to fully understand. Then again, this blockbuster was not intended to be judged alone, as the company had been building to this moment for a decade. And it worked to a significant extent, having everyone question what would happen next in Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Infinity War made Disney proud, grossing over two billion dollars and making more box office records.

Now, Avengers: Endgame? That’s another playing field. This three-hour film once again did the impossible, bringing our heroes together once more to do “whatever it takes” to win this time around. And the result was another thrilling gargantuan blockbuster that was satisfying, incredible and deftly emotional. Let’s take it a step further, as Endgame became the highest-grossing film of all time (sorry James Cameron) and broke even more records than Infinity War. Disney rejoiced as their pockets filled up due to both Infinity War and Endgame grossing almost five billion at the box office.

Now that the dust has settled (no pun intended), we must look back at how the MCU was able to thrive and create such success with these defining films. The audience has grown more in love with the superhero genre today because they like to feel the ride going in (hero must learn powers, their weakness and overcome their flaw in the form of a villain). Most superhero films have thrilling action and some potent storytelling that grab audience’s attentions immediately. Add in some other elements such as comedy and romance, and you have the recipe for a multi-million-dollar film.

What makes Infinity War and Endgame work as how we have watched our heroes evolve over all the twenty-three films the MCU has created so far, bringing us more in line with their thoughts and feelings. That alone is what makes us human, what makes us feel connected to them. You see their powers, flaws, relationships and those are carried over into the real world. It is not solely based on all the cool action we see or the make-up designs, it’s the characters. When you watch the credits of Endgame, you get to see (almost) all the actors that have contributed on this journey. And that alone is something to celebrate.

In life, do not always remember the big events that happened here or there. Focus on the little things and cherish them. Infinity War and Endgame will be remembered for their relevance and pop-culture, but the characters are what drove us to the franchise in the first place. When I look upon these films, I like to think that Infinity War is the meaty, enormous-sized dinner and Endgame is the dessert that will take you to heaven. Not the best analogy, but one that is fitting for these superb films.

Where does the MCU go from here? Who knows exactly, but if the MCU can continue to provide strong storytelling and some awesome characters, we will continue to ride with their momentum for every film they make from here on out. Patience is a virtue indeed, as Infinity War and Endgame cemented this sentiment with a once-in-a-lifetime build and an unbelievable payoff for audiences, the company and the entire world.

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