This Just In: Never-Ending Stories

In a world of uncertainty, it’s time we don’t take our storytelling too seriously. There's a lot to learn from fanfiction and the MCU.

This Just In: Never-Ending Stories
Source: Marvel

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is twenty-three movies strong, with another seven on the way. As the pandemic moved us indoors ( more so than usual), Carla and I began a chronological rewatch of the entire series. Thanks to Disney+, Netflix, and a Starz free trial, we re-watched all 23 films over the last five months.

When Marvel released Iron Man in 2008, it was a huge gamble. At the time, comic book movies were less than stellar. With the exception of Batman Begins, most comic book films were campy at best. Marvel sought to change the expectation by hiring top-tier talent to create and star.

It worked.

With the exception of The Incredible Hulk ( which we didn’t watch because it’s basically been scrubbed from existence), each movie in the MCU was a massive success. The films grossed a combined $22.5 billion in global revenue. To put that into context, Disney purchased Marvel in 2009 for $4 billion. Talk about a return on investment.

Marvel’s cinematic success comes not only from well-made films but from the ability to weave together connected storylines spanning multiple films. Granted, this is something Marvel has been doing in comic books for decades, but until the MCU launched, nothing like this had ever been attempted in film.

Planning out two dozen films that stand on their own while interconnecting to tell a much larger story a massive undertaking. Pulling it off is a feat of genius.

Earlier this week, comic book author Gail Simone asked the Twitterverse who would make up their ideal 5-person X-Men roster. Weighing in, I went down a Wikipedia hole exploring my favorite characters’ recent history. It reads like one of the wildest soap operas ever written.

The number of times major Marvel characters died only to come back to life and save the day is staggering. We accept these often absurd retcons because we love the characters and what to see what happens next. So far, the MCU hasn’t experienced a major retcon, but it’s only a matter of time. Wink.

Sometimes we take storytelling too seriously. Sure, there’s a time and place for serious stories but there’s also a place for stories where it’s ok to bring a character back from the dead for the tenth time. This is the power of the MCU, and Marvel in general. It doesn’t take itself too seriously ( at least not all the time) and has fun with characters who are deeply engrained in pop culture.

At the end of the day, we know the heroes will defeat the villains and save the day. What happens along the way is all part of the fun.

Next on the MCU list is Black Widow, which saw its May release pushed due to the pandemic. Will we get a Disney+ premier like Mulan? Time will tell. Regardless, I’m looking forward to what Marvel’s next chapter brings.

For those interested, here is my personal ranking of all 23 films in the current MCU. The number in parentheses is the release order. Disagree with my list? Let me know your favorites.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War (19)
  2. The Avengers (6)
  3. Captain Marvel (21)
  4. Thor: Ragnarok (17)
  5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (9)
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy (10)
  7. Dr. Strange (14)
  8. Black Panther (18)
  9. Iron Man (1)
  10. Avengers: Endgame (22)
  11. Iron Man 3 (7)
  12. Spider-Man: Homecoming (16)
  13. Captain America: Civil War (13)
  14. Spider-Man: Far From Home (23)
  15. Thor (4)
  16. Avengers: Age of Ultron (11)
  17. Ant-Man and the Wasp (20)
  18. Iron Man 2 (3)
  19. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (15)
  20. Ant-Man (12)
  21. Thor: The Dark World (8)
  22. Captain America: The First Avenger (5)
  • Not Watched: The Incredible Hulk (2)
Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!