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2010-2020: Heroes Assemble

Updated: Jan 1, 2020

This has been a decade dedicated to superheroes, and while both Marvel and DC have made their mark on the past decade, Marvel seems to have outdone DC, at least in terms of product output. That’s not to say Marvel is better than DC, as quantity doesn’t equal quality, but there is something to say for the amount of undisputed hits Marvel has put out in comparison to DC. I feel the need to add a disclaimer here, I don’t prefer Marvel to DC; in fact, this is a predominantly DC household. However, this is also a household where we give credit where credit is due, and if anyone deserves credit for making the past decade what it is, it’s Stan Lee and Marvel. While Spiderman, Iron Man, and the Hulk were introduced to us pre-2010, Thor, Captain America, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Dr. Strange and many others made their debuts during the past decade. The Avengers literally assembled this past decade. They first assembled in 2012 and reassembled in 2015, but it’s the timing of Captain American: Civil War in 2016 that couldn’t have been more perfect. Civil War perfectly coincided with the presidential run of 2016, a time when this nation most certainly found itself divided. But guess what, we made it, all of us, and whether or not we agree with each other, that’s something to celebrate, and I firmly believe that influential films and franchises such Marvel’s the Avengers have something to do with that.

The Justice League and the Suicide Squad also assembled in the past decade, though the world didn’t seem nearly as impressed with them as they were with the Avengers. I believe a lot of this has to do with the genius of Stan Lee, the heart and soul of Marvel, the one thing DC will never have. I also believe this has something to do with the indisputably successful Marvel formula described by Liam Burke in The Comic Book Film Adaptation: Exploring Modern Hollywood’s Leading Genre. In his book, Burke explains why and how comic book adaptation became the hot ticket in Hollywood. According to Burke, the rise of “The Golden Age of Comic Book Filmmaking” started in 2000; this can be attributed to reasons in three main categories: “cultural traumas and the celebration of the hero following real-life events, in particular the 9/11 terrorist attacks; technological advancements . . . and contemporary filmmaking paradigms . . . [that cater to] franchise opportunities” (23-24).

Dutch Angle

However, Platinum Comics CEO Scott Mitchell Rosenberg believes that what is truly crucial to the comic book movie boom is the “changing of the guard—a new generation of filmmakers and producers with a greater enthusiasm for comic books” (qtd. in Burke 74). That is, many of today’s filmmakers and producers were diehard comic and comic book adaptation fans in their adolescence and youth, and now they are basically living the dream. The impact of these comic enthusiasts on the Hollywood film industry has been such that the comic aesthetic is now something not just comic book movies strive for, but also similar films that, though characterized by a comic book feel, have no source material. Marvel Comics’ giants Stan Lee’s and John Buscema’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way played a large part in this. The Dutch angle, asymmetrical compositions, extreme depth of field, and use of stereotypes described as “the Marvel Way” are now conventions of not just comic adaptations, but also other genre films.

These are all elements of the Marvel formula that has enthralled us since the early 2000s. But it’s not just the cinematic marvel that these films present (pun intended) that has made them grand; it’s also the fact that they present us with some of the best versions of humanity. Relatively selfless superhumans bent on doing what is moralistically correct for the greater good. Everyone has a Marvel favorite. Everyone, at one point or another, has played the “Which Avenger am I” game either with their friends or with an online quiz. Don’t deny it! Everyone has an assigned Avenger in their close friend group, and, if you don’t, Buzzfeed can help you fix that with this nifty character quiz.

In case you’re wondering, here are the result for the PPC crew:

Joey: Buzzfeed – Thor / personal favorite – Captain America

Kevin: Buzzfeed – Thanos / personal favorite – Hawk-Eye

Lizbette: Buzzfeed – Ant-Man / personal favorite – Hulk

Now that this Marvel heavy decade is coming to a close, I can think of no better way to commemorate it and the great Stan Lee than to list my top five favorite Marvel moments from the past decade.

5. When Captain America, Falcon, and Black Widow make their entrance in Avengers: Infinity War

If there is one thing Marvel has made a point of doing during the past decade, it’s make their superheroes the defenders of all that is good in this world; they are the defenders of humanity. In this particular scene, Vision and the Scarlet Witch are defending the mind stone (which is attached to Vision). Right when it seems all hope is lost, Steve Rodgers enters looking ominous AF. Initially, we see a dark, beefy shadow on the other side of the train tracks which quickly reveals itself to be Captain America. Soon after, Falcon and Black Widow join in the ass-kicking effectively saving Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and, the mind stone. I don’t know about you, but that shit got my heart pumping. Of course, this is not just the work of the actors and their characters; it’s also in large part the work of the composer, Alan Silvestri. Any scene worth its salt in a Marvel film owes a lot of its grandeur to the genius of its musical composer. Silvestri has been at the composing game since 1972 and has scored films such as The Bodyguard, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Lilo and Stitch, Van Helsing, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.

4. Hulk and Thor in Thor: Ragnarok

Thor running into Hulk on Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok is everything. In addition to Thor and Hulk’s epic gladiator-style battle royale, there’s Jeff Goldblum’s acting of the Grandmaster. I honestly still can’t believe how fantastic Goldblum looks as the Grandmaster. But my all-time-favorite moment is when Bruce Banner finally manages to come out after 2 years of the Hulk having complete control. It’s absolutely hilarious how butthurt Banner is that people keep using him to get to the Hulk and vice versa, as the Hulk despises any mention of “puny Banner.”

Despite his seven PhDs, unfortunately, it’s the Hulk that’s a raging, immortal beast. Banner fears that if he releases the Hulk again, his true self (Banner) will be gone forever; regardless, ultimately, Banner has to resort to the Hulk to help Thor save his people. Thor and Banner’s interaction is well written and well delivered. The scenes on Sakaar not only advance the plot, but also provide excellent comic relief; Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth truly impressed me with their comedic chemistry.

3. "My Name is Carol"

Captain Marvel reclaiming her name and humanity is hands down what I consider the most inspirational moment Marvel has provided in the past decade. Yes, maybe I’m biased because I have a vagina, but seeing Carol stand up after being underestimated and knocked down multiple times throughout her life really got to me. The stigma surrounding failure today is driving people to some dark places; if we weren’t so focused on stigmatizing ppl when they fail or make a mistake and instead encouraged them to not be embarrassed and try again I firmly believe depression and anxiety wouldn’t be so rampant. This is what Captain Marvel symbolizes for me in this moment: persistence and strength of character. What makes her great is precisely what everyone thinks makes her weak, her emotions and her humanity. I think it is absolutely perfect that what is arguably one of the most if not THE most powerful superhero in the Marvel cinematic universe is human.

2. The Sokovia Accords Debate in Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War couldn’t have been better timed with its 2016 release coinciding with the presidential election. Both the Avengers and the United States found themselves divided, torn between differing ideologies and values. This was no coincidence, Marvel/Disney knows what it’s doing, and it’s exactly this kind of proven cleverness that has accrued Marvel global renown and respect. The particular scene I want to discuss features the Avengers debating whether or not they should agree with and sign the Sokovia Accords; the Sokovia Accords was approved by 117 countries and would require the Avengers to operate under the supervision of a UN panel. This is meant to prevent excessive and reckless action that causes excessive casualties. For those of you that know the film, Captain America leads the side that is against signing the accord while Iron Man leads the side that believes the Avengers need to be checked. It’s Captain America, Iron Man, and Vision that stand out the most in the argument. It seems to me that each of them focuses on a different rhetorical appeal when stating their case: Captain America – Ethos, Iron Man - Pathos, and Vision - Logos. I personally agree with Iron Man, although I’m not past breaking the accords if need be. Regardless, the way the Avengers set forth and defend their opinions is fantastic; I really enjoyed the writing in this film.

1. "Don't worry . . . She’s got help"

In addition to being one of the most epic ensemble battle scenes Marvel has created, the final battle in Endgame also takes a second to give a much-deserved shout out to the ladies. No one can deny the surge of pride felt when Dr. Strange and his cohorts show up with practically the entire Marvel universe behind them ready to take on Thanos. After the fight begins, the gauntlet is passed from Tchala to Spider Man in an effort to keep it safe and get it to the “time machine” the Avengers created. When Spider-Man is surrounded, Captain Marvel sweeps in and relieves him of the gauntlet. After expressing concern that Captain Marvel might have a hard time getting through enemy lines, the Scarlet Witch drops in and says, “don’t worry” which Okoye follows up with “she’s got help.” This is when I lose my shit. Every single badass female we’ve been introduced to from Marvel’s cinematic universe gathers around Captain Marvel and charges through enemy lines helping clear a path for Captain Marvel. I know there’s a Black Widow film among others already in the works that focus more on female superheroes, but the fact is the male superhero has been dominant during the past decade. Of course, this has a lot to do with the fact that the source material for these films and characters was created mostly with a post-war male audience in mind, but it was still nice to give the powerhouse women of Marvel their own moment together in the final battle this decade.

There is no doubt that the past decade has been one of superheroes. I am personally grateful for Stan Lee, Marvel, Disney, DC, and all the magnificent individuals that helped not only bring superheroes to life, but also continuously remind us that there is always something to fight for, that what makes us special is our humanity; our humanity is our greatest strength. As we welcome the new decade and say goodbye to the past, I hope we remember everything Marvel taught us and made us feel. Here’s to hoping that in 2020 humanity assembles and all the things that have kept us apart disappear.

Stan Lee, thank you and rest in peace.

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