Whatever you think about Marvel movies in general, Marvel (and Disney, by extension) pulled off a remarkable cinematic feat in bringing off twenty-two film plots that all landed on the climactic battlefield at the end of Avengers: Endgame (2019). While that was a cool feat to accomplish, it also meant that there was a lot of filler. I mean, A LOT OF FILLER. Some of it was quite entertaining filler, but filler nonetheless. From Iron Man (2008) all the way up to Endgame, there was a certain cycle to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that was fun but predictable. First there were the movies that introduced all the characters like Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). After they each had their stand alone films, they then had the team up flicks in the form of the Avengers movies. Rinse, wash, repeat. Of course, there were expansions along the way, which was made possible by the success of the franchises.
Thus far, you might be feeling like I was generally negative about the MCU. While it is true that I do not care for repetition or predictable stories, I did enjoy the experience of going to see them in the theater. Then again, I like sitting in movie theaters in most cases. What I appreciated most about the MCU was the genuine heroism displayed throughout the series. Not all of the characters were perfect people. Tony Stark was a bit of a playboy and narcissistic, but redeemed himself. Thor was egotistical but found the value of humility. The one that I admired the most, though, was Steve Rogers. In my review of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) I discussed at length the unwavering dedication to doing right that he displays there and later throughout every film he appears in. This might seem like a recipe for boring cinema as there is little growth for the character overall, and that is actually kind of true. Still, there is something to be said about consistency. His finest moment comes in Captain America: Civil War (2016) when superheroes around the world are being told that they must submit to some kind of government oversight in order to operate. Rogers bristled at such meddling because if he sees some injustice happening, and he has the power to do something about it, then he would act without waiting for permission from a committee. Now, the suggestion is not that Captain America disregards governments. But his moral compass is such that he cannot sit idly by when he can help somebody in need.
I love Captain America because he appealed to my philosophical and Catholic sides, particularly my Catholic side. In the society that we live in today, the push is for people to just give in to the relativistic morals that seem to guide us as a whole. It is hard enough to believe in God in this day and age. But our modern culture seems to suggest that codes are pointless, and that it is better to just indulge yourself while you can. After all, you only live once, right? Faith, of course, says otherwise and what we do in this life is a preparation for the life to come. In a sense, this is what Captain America does throughout the MCU. By acting as he does, he demonstrates a hope for a better world. To be fair, all the other Marvel cinematic superheroes have the same hope, but none of them have same unwavering dedication as Captain America.
The films that Captain America was involved with featured huge, world (and sometimes universe) spanning plots where the stakes are quite high. These are usually found in the four Avengers films, and they were fine after the first viewing, though problematic when you truly think about them, particularly the last two. The films that I found most entertaining, though, were the really weird ones where they were not taking themselves as seriously. Take Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017), for example. When the Sovereign attack Ego in order to their revenge on the Guardians, I was laughing hysterically because the scene was accompanied by “Wham Bam Shang-a-Land” by Silver. Such moments throughout the MCU, for this reviewer, are key. Clearly the potential dire consequences involved are quite serious. But the constant threat over the course of so many movies can be exhausting for an audience without some levity. I was quite thankful for the ones where the stories did not involve such mass danger and had a healthy dose of laughs.
As mentioned above, the MCU is full of heroic moments that make them worth watching over a vast majority of the morally bankrupt offerings that Hollywood attempts to cram down our collective throats on a nearly daily basis. Because I do have a cynical, academic side, I can be extremely critical of the films in the MCU as well. Many of them, when you apply just a little thought to them, make very little sense. I get that these are tales of superheroes performing deeds beyond our mere human capabilities. But is it too much to ask for a sensible story? Anyway, they are good for one thing: put them on in the background while you have nothing else going on. With so many staying home right now, they provide plenty of footage to hopefully distract a family starved for entertainment.