Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 1: What Have We Learned About Ourselves?

Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

When people watch movies such as Star Wars & Jurassic Park, they are mainly about watching it for the action, the iconic lines, and the hilarious memes that result from them. However, there are certain people who watch movies for the lessons they can learn from them, and me and my friend Dr. Christine Grimaldi are some of those people. That has been the case when me and Christine Grimaldi started watching (most of) the first six films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie franchise, better known as “Phase One”.

During the course of the genesis for the franchise, Iron Man, we witnessed businessman and playboy Tony Stark change as an individual through learning powerful lessons such as not knowing whether his inventions will be used for good and that you can always fix your mistakes. This was the case when he invented a piece of technology to preserve his life after being fatally wounded by shrapnel and realizing that his missiles were being used to kill people. Stark also learns not to waste his own life when building the Iron Man suit with fellow prisoner Ho Yinsen, who is fatally wounded when they are escaping from their captors.

In Iron Man 2, we continued to learn even more lessons about life. The prominent themes here are revenge and treachery. This is the primary yet petty goal of the main antagonist Ivan Vanko, who makes it his mission to get revenge on Tony Stark and disgrace his legacy; this is because Tony’s dad Howard caused his equally immoral father Anton to get deported back to Russia for selling arc reactor designs on the black market and his life to be reduced to alcoholism and humiliation. However, Anton got the last laugh as Ivan used Anton’s knowledge to develop his own powered suit. Revenge is also the focus of Stark’s arrogant business rival Justin Hammer, who wants to develop his own Iron Man suit drones for the military after Stark humiliates him at a Senate committee meeting, even recruiting Ivan for the job and betraying him later. Family bonds are also a great lesson, as Howard Stark is able to pass on intelligence to help his son save himself from arc reactor poisoning. This shows that people can help teach each other in different ways, whether it be helping them out or just using them for selfish gain.

Over the course of Thor, we learned about family and how it can be destroyed. This is shown when Loki learned the truth about his heritage as one of Asgard’s enemy races, the Frost Giants. This, along with his resentment towards Thor, caused him to come up with a plan to commit genocide and gain his family’s approval after millennia. Another fascinating lesson we learned was about humility. This was Thor’s primary struggle after he was banished and stripped of his power for “leading a coup” against the Frost Giants without thinking. Through meeting humans such as Jane Foster and realizing that as a leader it was his responsibility to protect others, he regained his powers through defiance against the Destroyer armor, even without his powers. Another side lesson was learning that what we think are just conspiracies and myths and stories may just be real all along, as demonstrated by Erik Selvig’s words “It’s not a bad thing finding out that you don’t have all the answers. You start asking the right questions.” This is important because it has allowed scientists to discover the mysteries of the universe and inventors and technology companies to ask what can make their products better for others, as well as people asking how they can improve themselves on a daily basis.

During Captain America: The First Avenger, we learned about the struggle between good and evil and that even the most weakest of people want to do good things. This is prominent between Captain America and his nemesis The Red Skull, whose respective moralities are boosted by a serum. Captain America becomes more powerful enough to fight the Red Skull, who becomes even more evil and ruthless and deluded by mythology and mysticism. This goes to the point where Red Skull becomes insane and wants to overthrow Hitler and take over the world with the help of HYDRA, Hitler’s own science division. This shows that when people are granted with special weapons and privileges, their intentions will decide how they impact their goals and success. The final movie, The Avengers, showed that sometimes people need to work together despite their differences and flaws as well as personal secrets and ambitions. The eponymous team battling Loki reflects on organizations such as NATO and the United Nations who work together to combat bigger threats such as wars sparked by dictators, pandemics, and other major threats. It also shows how some people are willing to sacrifice themselves for their allies, shown when Iron Man nearly dies saving the world from Loki’s invasion, in a callback to Iron Man and Captain America’s feud early on.

Over the course of the first six movies in the MCU, me and Christine have learned many great lessons that reflect on what has happened in the real world and other media. These include sacrifice, learning from mistakes, how hubris can destroy you, and that sometimes the most imaginative of things can be real. Real world issues we have encountered include business corruption, betrayal, and wars. Going into Phase 2 and 3 and beyond, we hope that we can see more lessons and real world issues that humanity and the world continue to face today.

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