I still remember the first time I watched “Iron Man.” I was only 9 years old at the time, but I immediately fell in love with the character, the story and the essence of the superhero.
Eleven years later, I am even more enamored by the Marvel Cinematic Universe than the day I was first introduced to it.
During my adolescence, I adored the complex characters and stories I found in Marvel movies, entranced by each one as I anxiously anticipated the next movie. In middle school, I remember my first time seeing “The Avengers,” a mind-blowing crossover of all the characters I came to know and love.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve only appreciated the movies more. Even as I mature and enter adulthood, I cannot help but be ecstatic beyond my mind when I see the iconic opening credits to a Marvel movie.
But last month was the end of that era. On a cold Sunday evening with my best friend, I finally got to see the anxiously anticipated “Avengers: Endgame.”
A three-hour-long cinematic wonder, “Avengers: Endgame” was the cathartic ending to my adolescence in more ways than one. It took every character from every movie I had grown to love — from Black Panther to Black Widow, Spider-Man to Star-Lord — and placed them on the same screen, a sort of blissful ending to everything I had known for 11 years.
But between the movie’s cataclysmic interstellar battles and complex character arcs, it was so much more than just an ending to me. It was a signal that one of the defining constants of my childhood was going to fade away by the end credits, that my adolescence in and of itself was dissipating during the three hours I sat in that theater.
Watching characters like Thor, whose first movie came out when I was still in the sixth grade, and Doctor Strange, whose movie I only saw for the first time in college, on the same screen is almost an ode to the person I’ve grown to be during those years. Today, I am a sophomore college student with multiple jobs and adult responsibilities, but seeing characters like Iron Man again immediately transported me to my younger, elementary school self that was astounded by that first Marvel movie.
Movies like “Guardians of Galaxy,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” are films I’ve seen with lifelong friends, during past relationships and with my family at different points in my life. To see those characters together is truly an incredible experience.
In retrospect, the films are essentially defining characteristics of specific years for me. “Iron Man” was released the year before I entered middle school, and in my sophomore year of college, I finally got to see “Endgame,” the culmination of every one of my favorite movies.
It feels as if the final credits to “Endgame” are the final credits to my youth. It’s a beautiful and terrifying thought that a single movie could signal the conclusion of a whole chapter of my life, but it’s a lesson I’m coming to learn in the days since I’ve watched the movie. It’s an understanding that although I’m saying goodbye to my adolescent years, these movies and characters I fell in love with will always be there as a testament to my adolescent self and the franchise that anchored me during all those years.
Some people might say it’s childish to feel so connected to a bunch of movies about superheroes, infinity stones and a talking raccoon. But I feel like there’s nothing more adult than to accept that.