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Note: there will be spoilers for EVERYTHING.
So, after having some time to decompress and review the MCU as a whole after watching Endgame, I think most of the hype inside me has died down a bit. And even then, I think it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that this is one of the greatest creations in the field of moviemaking in history.
And that's not hype. That's simply fact. Nobody else has EVER successfully created a movie franchise that is this big, this successful, and this cohesive. James Bond comes close, but it's not cohesive - each new Bond actor basically ignores plotlines and developments of previous Bond films. Star Wars... not even close, especially with the awful prequel trilogy. Harry Potter - almost there with 10 films currently, but 1 of them is downright awful. Fast and the Furious? Haha.
The MCU has managed to do what many others have attempted and succeeded where nobody else has. 22 individual stories, one grand unified universe and story.
That's the most exceptional thing about the MCU. It is a singular, consistent universe. It repeatedly gives us quality films - not cinematic masterpieces individually, but good films. Even their worst showings, like The Incredible Hulk or Thor: The Dark World are merely average summer action.
While at some points the films feel formulaic, the forumla is one that has worked far longer than just the film franchise itself. Complaints about the Marvel Formula are effectively complaints about The Hero's Journey, an archetype that has stuck through thousands of years of human mythology and storytelling because it works. Even so, within that framework, Marvel has still managed to find enough variation to keep things fresh and even surprise fans that would obsessively scrutinize details and theorize about details. It's hard to call films "predictable" if you can still surprise nerds who hoard every scrap of information before a film's release.
The most important thing the MCU has done, and the true reason for its success, was make us care and understand each character. Remember, at the start of this, they had already sold off their most lucrative names - X-men to Fox, and Spider-man to Sony. They had no A-list names left. Which may have been a blessing in disguise.
It forced them to use characters that most non-comic-nerds had never heard of, and in doing so, they had to fully flesh out their characters. In doing so, we care about these characters. We understand who they are, why they do what they do.
So when the first team-up movie, Avengers, came out, it felt natural. When the latest team-up films came out, Infinity War and Endgame, it didn't feel messy despite having dozens of characters on screen. We had time to get to know each and every one of them.
The MCU also did teasing correctly. Other studios jumped the gun with the whole "cinematic universe" thing. Often times by having a jarring, pointless scene where the main character of the first film is forced to listen to trailers for all those other films they'll be making! Ugh. The first hint at an interconnected universe for Marvel came after the credits. Other hints at other films were mere throwaway lines that take one second. They are a tease for those who do understand, and take absolutely nothing away from people who don't. It wasn't until well after the second Avengers team-up movie that they became more blatant with crossing over characters.
Lastly, of course, is the fact that the MCU had a plan. Much credit goes to Kevin Feige, who oversaw the entire MCU and ensured its cohesiveness and consistency.
Even if the next era of Marvel isn't nearly as successful, the first era was an amazing ride. I hope they can keep it going.
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