I went to see Iron Man in the cinema when it first came out only because my friends had wanted to see it. If they hadn't gone, I imagine I would have picked up a copy on DVD at some point, but it wouldn't have been a priority. I can't remember the last thing I'd seen Robert Downey Jr. in before that. Rehab probably. Still I saw it and it was fine, enjoyable, a decent comic book movie. Definitely better than the Nolan Batman dreck I'd sat through a couple of years earlier.
I've no idea when I saw Thor for the first time, or The Incredible Hulk, though I think I came to that one out of order. In fact my memories of the first time I saw any of those first five MCU films are patchy at best.
Then The Avengers came along.
It made something click. For the first time they'd managed to throw more than two comic book characters on film together and have it gel. Have it be, not just coherent, but comic, and fun, and frantic. It worked. And suddenly this collection of films that Marvel had been churning out had become a franchise, like Star Wars or Indiana Jones. These characters' shared space and time would be henceforth intertwined in a way that I hadn't seen before.
From there it started to snowball. Not straight away, I bounced off of Iron Man 3, and then Winter Soldier, but once Guardians of the Galaxy came out I realised that the MCU was going to be my go to popcorn accompaniment. I haven't missed an outing at the cinema since. Neither has my partner. She sat, well reclined, through Infinity War while still recovering from surgery such is her dedication to her fandom.
Among those outings we were taken entirely surprise by how visually inventive Doctor Strange was, gripped by the internal tensions of a powerful nation in Black Panther, and stunned by just how great it was to watch everyone just smack hell out of each other in Civil War.
Now that Endgame has passed and Thanos [spoiler alert] has been defeated, it feels like the franchise is in some sense complete, as though it now boasts its New Hope, Empire and Return of the Jedi, and while (as we're all more than aware) there's still room for expansion, it could all be shut down tomorrow and we'd still be left with one of the most consistent, fun and moreish series of recent times.
Now that it appears like a congruent entity I've found revisiting those movies I'd originally bounced off has been rewarding, filling in those gaps in the characters and exposing those flaws that can't be explored to the same degree in the complexity of the later crossover films.
We've watched them all numerous times now. In release order, in narrative chronology order, and randomly selected on a lazy afternoon. We've even thrown together a site to help us do it at marvel.themonstrouscavalca.de.
I can't wait for the next phase to begin.