Measuring Out Life: The story that never ends
My friends and I recently finished watching all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films in order of release date. Actually, some of us still haven’t seen “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” but that one isn’t part of the extended plotline, so it doesn’t count.
We reached the last movie just in time for “Avengers: Endgame” to premiere this weekend. Reaching the three-hour conclusion of the fate of the Avengers will feel like an accomplishment for a month until “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” is released and then again until July, when “Spider-Man: Far from Home” comes out … and so on.
Keeping up with the MCU can feel like a Sisyphean task, but it’s one that millions of people appear committed to. Presumably, Marvel could continue the story for my entire lifetime, and I would never truly “catch up.”
So why do I do it?
I think for me, it’s exciting to follow this story for so many years. Many other stories that I’ve loved, like “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings,” are long over. I will never again get to dress up in wizard robes and wait in line outside the movie theater for hours to see a magical midnight premiere. When I reread those books, I already know what comes next.
But Marvel keeps me guessing. Will Cap and Tony ever make amends? What’s going on with Bruce’s connection to the Hulk? How will the remaining team defeat Thanos?
And just as those questions are answered, new ones will take their place.
Professor Joseph Campbell theorized in 1949 that really, there is just one archetypal hero and one universal hero’s journey. If he’s right, then all stories eventually become somewhat predictable.
I think what keeps me returning to Marvel is that I’m never sure where in the hero’s journey we are. I keep thinking the plot has reached the “rock bottom” stage, but then another movie comes out.
On some level, I like unpredictability. My life is fairly predictable these days, which is good. I have a routine that I’ve never had before. It’s nice not to have a student’s schedule. I pretty much know what I’m going to do every day.
But also, I like my make-believe to have an element of surprise.
It’s lower-risk this way, because I don’t have to relinquish my stability but still get to experience excitement.
I can’t speak for every consumer of Marvel movies, but I know I hope they keep me guessing for as long as the storyline continues.
I also appreciate the universal appeal the story has. It’s rare to find a person, particularly of my generation, who isn’t at least vaguely familiar with Marvel characters.
As someone who hates parties and other large groups of people, let me say that having a ready-made conversation topic makes a huge difference in my life.
So I resent the idea that millenials are killing social interaction. We’re not; we’re just doing it differently. We’re bonding over superheroes instead of disco.
I will watch, rewatch and analyze these stories as long as they continue. At least, if I still have to go to parties.