I have been a fan of the Marvel Universe ever since I was a child. A love affair that started with comic books eventually seeped into my TV viewing habits with shows such as Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man on Fox Kids. The live action renaissance in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy and the X-Men movies during my teenage years were not missed. Even the much criticised Fantastic Four movies. You could say I was growing up with Marvel and our growth has happened in tandem.
I found myself in Kolkata in 2008 when Iron Man, the first instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), premiered at the New Empire Cinema Hall. Needless to say, buying a ticket for the premiere of Robert Downey Jr.’s debut as Iron Man felt more like a duty rather than a choice to make. The initial versions of live-action superhero movies weren’t as good as they could be. The limitations of technology in production meant none of these iterations could accurately portray the spectacle of the superhero world of our comic books and cartoons in a live action setting. But Iron Man was a unique experience and watching Iron Man for the first time in the flesh (and suit) was especially a treat for me. Even in my wildest imaginations, I could not expect a performance of this level. Not only did Robert Downey Jr. exceed expectations in playing a complex character like Iron Man, but also added his own spin, giving the character new dimensions. He set the standard for the actors portraying the Avengers in the near future.
When I learned that Chris Evans would play Captain America, I wondered how I would receive an actor who already played a Marvel hero before (Human Torch in Fantastic Four) taking one of the biggest roles in the MCU. In an unlikely turn of event, Chris Evans turned out to be my favourite of all the Avengers actors. The MCU continued to build its universe with standalone movies for each Avenger around strong, personable actors and actresses. After the first ensemble superhero movie (and the greatest in my opinion), the main cast of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, and Mark Ruffalo, the cast seemed like close friends after the revealing of all their backstage antics off-camera on social media and such. It was clear to me I would be a life-long fan. Fortunately, I happened to be in Bangkok and caught the premiere during the first week.
If you were to ask me, Phase Two of the MCU started weak, especially with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, but the inclusion of the Russo Brothers in directorial roles with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the incredibly fun nature of Guardians of the Galaxyquickly made them fan favourites. I wasn’t a fan of the grittier, darker tone the MCU attempted with Avengers: Age of Ultron, but comparatively, Ant-Man was very light and the relationship of the two fathers with their daughters caught my attention more than shrinking technology. By the time Phase Three rolled in with Captain America: Civil War, I felt as if I was watching my close friends fight amongst themselves. The rift between them overshadowed the much awaited debuts of Black Panther and Spider-Man.
With the Bangladesh premiere of the final instalment of the MCU looming, I find it difficult to articulate my feelings. For the past decade, these movies have shaped me. Not only me, but has shaped our popular culture, and by association society, as well. What started with a 19-year old boy in a cinema hall in Kolkata is about to end as a 30-year old in Dhaka. Every journey has an end and I am ready for the Endgame.