The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on every aspect of our society, and the movie business is no exception. Since it flat out isn’t safe to go to a theater right now and it will be some time before people safe to go to one in large numbers pretty much every major release has been pushed back for months or even a year. Which means that the next phase of the MCU, which was supposed to start in 2020, won’t really get going until 2021. But in that space lies an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve gotten so far over the last 12 years and 20 plus movies, which is what I’m going to do here for a bit.
Now these films are chock full of cool scenes, as most superhero or action movies are. But I’m pondering those scenes that aren’t just cool, I’m talking scenes that elicit a personal reaction in you that you recall even when you’re not watching them, scenes that you can watch over and over and over and they still feel special to you. Scenes that resonate with you in a personal way beyond just being great to watch.
So here are, in order of which they happened, are my most magical moments from the first three phases of the MCU:
1. First Flight
Gotta start from the very beginning, the first Iron Man film. Twelve years later it’s hard to imagine that the fate of this entire franchise was riding on a second (or third, depending on who you ask) tier comic book character being played by an actor who was very much still considered a risk in Robert Downey, Jr. But Downey delivered, Tony Stark fit him like a glove and the rest is history. And while this movie was excellent from start to finish no moment stood out for me more than when Stark finishes assembling his first suit and takes it out for a test flight.
This scene wasn’t just about building a suit it was about stepping into a whole new world and doing something above and beyond what anyone had done before. And the childlike joy with which Tony punctuates every new barrier broken is what takes it to the next level of awesomeness. It also was the first marker of sorts as far as outlining the character traits of each of the principal Avengers. Stark was human intelligence and ingenuity at it’s peak performance and this scene it was drove that home early on.
What made it extra special for me was when the suit froze and begin to free fall, but then just in the nick of time the ice melts on reentry and the jets kick back in saving Tony from certain death. And instead of just going back home he lets out a yell of excitement and keeps flying. That little thing adds in a sense of excitement and wonder to the obligatory test run scene that a lot of movies have.
2. Avengers Assemb…..err, circle up
The first Avengers film was a triumph all unto itself but the clip when all six originals met together for battle the first time is one of the most replayed 30 seconds in film history. The camera panning around while the Avengers theme hits the high point in the background is as perfect a marriage of action and music as you’ll see outside of Star Wars and John Williams or Hans Zimmer with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies.
The scene itself was like one big ‘We Did It!’ to announce that yes, this thing was a success and the future was gonna be even bigger. And when it hit it was like a declaration that we were in a whole new world of superhero movies and that everything was about to change in the world of cinema. It made me almost jump out of my seat at the theater.
3. Black Panther appears
We saw him in the trailers, but when he showed up in Civil War it was still a revelation. Cap and Bucky on the run when out of nowhere…boom! T’Challa literally drops in and handles Bucky in short order.
Maybe the best introduction of a new character in the whole series, and that’s after a lot it was already shown in the trailer. That’s how well it was executed, that you knew it was coming and they still managed to surprise you with it.
4. Dr. Strange Unleashed
What would a list of magical moments be without some actual magic? We saw a glimpse of what he could do in his self titled film but it wasn’t until Infinity Wars that we saw the full range of his abilities. Up to that point we hadn’t seen just much he’d progressed in his powers but boy did he let it fly here in the fight against Thanos on Titan. In the first Iron Man film Tony Stark showed how far human intelligence could and Strange went past the limits of what we thought was possible on a whole other plane.
And unlike the Black Panther scene this one had not been teased in trailers so it just came out of nowhere and was just like boom! It was a totally unexpected thing and just blew me away. Now I’m not well versed on all things Dr. Strange but even I was amazed at the degree to which he’d leveled up here.
5. Captain Marvel goes to space
Captain Marvel has become one of my favorite movies in the whole MCU, to the point where I can watch it multiple times over a weekend, and the last 20 minutes or so are a truly magical stretch for me. When Carol breaks free of the controls she’s been held down by and reaches her true full capability, then goes back into space and takes out all the bad guys is everything I want in a movie about people with super powers – cool laser stuff, flying around, outer space – and the enthusiasm she lets out is reminiscent of Stark’s when he’s going for his first flight. She finally knows all that she can do and she just lets it fly with reckless abandon.
6. Cap is Worthy
It was teased in Age of Ultron in the classic scene where all of the guys unsuccessfully tried lifting Thor’s hammer but Captain America came close. Now when the hammer was destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok it looked like that was a closed thread but once he got it back through the magic of time travel we had another chance, and were not disappointed.
7. Avengers Assemble
You knew there was gonna be a big moment where everyone got together onscreen. It was just a matter on how it would shake out. The setup was perfect. Tony, Steve, and Thor had fought Thanos to a standstill but were suddenly way outnumbered when the Mad Titan called in all of his troops. But help was on the way in the form of everyone who’d been dusted in the snap plus the other members of the team who were still there. The portals opened and it was game on, punctuated by Cap saying those two magic words, Avengers Assemble, which had been teased in Age of Ultron and had been smartly held off until the biggest moment possible. It was the ultimate payoff across over 20 films and more than 10 years of us watching and them working on it.
Now this is my list, and I imagine yours is different. Maybe it’s longer, maybe it’s shorter, and it undoubtedly has some different choices than mine. But that we’ve gotten so many over this time period is truly a blessing to be thankful for.