Why The 4 Avengers Movies Are So Meta

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Not many people have noticed, but the movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon are usually meta-commentaries about their state within the pop-culture landscape. It is not every movie, but even the Disney+ shows follow this pattern. For example - Wandavision is the first MCU TV show that is confirmed to be canon in unison with the movies, which just so happen to be about Avengers characters realizing they are in a TV show as the main character becomes the living embodiment of the dangers of escapism.

The one that cemented this trend is The Avengers back in 2012. Since then every Avengers movie that came after has a meta-commentary attached to its plot. Right here, right now, we analyze every Avengers movie and find out what they are actually telling us.

  1. The Avengers Is Secretly About Worrying If An Avengers Movie Would Work

    Three years straight before opening night, everyone was asking, “Will The Avengers work?” So, it is appropriate that The Avengers film itself is asking the very same question.

    When the film begins, Nick Fury is pitching to the shadowy studio exec--government council that they need The Avengers to take on an imminent threat. The shadowy government council responds that Nick Fury cannot leave the fate of the human race to a hand full of freaks. What they are really saying is, the premise of an Avengers movie will never work. So, the story of Nick Fury trying to put these remarkable people together is a meta-narrative if the film is going to work. Maybe, it's just an old-fashioned notion.

    The magic trick sleight of hand is that it wants us to be at the side of wanting the crossover to work by making the people that don’t want it to work be evil villains like the council or Loki. Notice how most of Loki's evil plans are about making mocking speeches about the very foundation of the team. Even the Avengers themselves don't think much about themselves as a team. As Bruce Banner put it, "What are we a team? No, we're a chemical mixture that makes chaos. We're a time bomb."

    This is why Agent Coulson is the comic and film geek audience surrogate. Why The Avengers get their conviction to band together in his name.

    When The Avengers finally put their difference aside for the greater good, it rewards the audience’s faith by bringing the party to us with a slam-bang fireworks display of exciting action all rooted in seeing The Avengers be awesome together. Just to hit home that the world will never be the same, we see a montage of fans all around the world, cosplaying their favorite Avenger, adopting their hairstyle, cheering them on, congratulating them for successfully assembling. Wait? Isn't that just the real world?

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  2. Avengers: Age Of Ultron Is Secretly About Worrying When The Avengers Franchise Will Fall

    After proving to the world that The Avengers as a movie property and as a team can work, The Avengers has now become a fact of life, kicking in with an action scene showing the team as a well-oiled machine, bantering like they are hanging out on a Friday. No one knew that multiple solo films converging to a greater whole can make history, but now it is the norm, so now what? Both in the fictional world and our world, how long can The Avengers stay on top before they fall?

    These fears bubble to the surface for Tony Stark when he sees a vision of the Avengers dead in the hands of a vague villain both Tony and the audience know is the ghost of sequels yet to come. The sad part is, Tony might even outlive them all, in a subtle jest that the Iron Man franchise might stay strong long after The Avengers is over. In Tony’s fears that The Avengers will one day be out of style, he created the ultimate internet troll bot in Ultron who says superheroes are stupid and should not be on top.

    Now that the Avengers have convinced the world they are role models, they are now asking–Can they continue who they were that led them here in the first place, or will they inevitably lose touch with the people they are here to serve? A question any artist that achieves a level of fame asks. In the movie world, it means they are afraid of losing touch with the rest of humanity or feel like they are monsters while arguing what the Avengers should be. Hawkeye becomes the ideal for having a family to remind him why he keeps saving the world.

    The movie ends with most of the Avengers getting either an extended vacation or getting retired. Showing that Tony no longer fears having the weight of the franchise on his shoulders, trusting others can carry and continue it even when he is no longer there. As we see Captain America assembling a new member lineup of The Avengers, the franchise continues on, even if it will end, eventually. In the words of Vision, “Thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.” But what does he know, he was born yesterday.

  3. Avengers: Infinity War Is Secretly About Having Too Many Characters in the MCU

    Avenger: Infinity War goes like this - Thanos keeps doing his thing to make sure only half of the MCU gets to exist, killing and beating people to make sure he gets the magic stones that can get him to that goal and keeps winning and winning until he gets there. Throughout the movie, Thanos gives arguments that the MCU needs half of its characters gone because overpopulation means they are all going to spread thinly on resources at some point, and that means the end of the MCU. The scary part is, the movie seems to agree with Thanos.

    The moral rules that govern most of the MCU go like this–The code of winning the day is learning to do the right thing for the right reasons. Spider-Man defeats the Vulture and gets to keep his suit because he learns a lesson of responsibility. Thor learns how to be self-sacrificing, and so becomes worthy of the hammer. The Avengers learn to team up so they get to beat Loki. Captain America tells a lie and Iron Man returns to his self-serving ways, so The Avengers breaks up.

    While what’s scary about Thanos in-universe is that he can break reality rules, what’s scary about Thanos to the audience is that he is violating storytelling rules. Infinity War is a scene after scene of the heroes learning and doing all the right things, making smart decisions, and doing emotionally difficult choices for the moral good, but they still get their butts handed to them anyway.

    In fact, Thanos went through what all the heroes went through in their own movies - Learning the lessons he needs to do and losing the person he loves for a greater cause, unlocking the cheat code of winning by doing the “right” thing. But that means Thanos is the… good guy. Hot take, we know.

  4. Avengers: Endgame Is Secretly A Clip Show of The MCU

    The MCU is not subtle with the subtitle of Endgame - The endgame of the MCU Tony was afraid of since Iron Man 3. Avengers: Endgame starts with the Avengers miserable because the MCU is not the same anymore. In all intents and purposes, the MCU has ended and the heroes are now technically retired with nothing to do, looking back at the past with nostalgia while not being entirely happy with the present… Or so we thought.

    They hatch a plan to travel back in time so that they can get the MCU back to its roots. Their plan consists of thoroughly analyzing almost every MCU movie to pinpoint what timeline is the best year to travel. We can imagine the scene of the heroes brainstorming when to travel to the past also happened in the writer’s room while in pre-production.

    After formulating their plan, they go to… a clip show featuring the previous MCU movies, as both the characters and audience look back at the greatest his movies, and also Thor: The Dark World.

    Heading to the final battle, our favorite villain, Thanos says, “It’s not enough to get rid of half of the characters in our universe. I got to reboot this thing.” Since the heroes don’t like reboots, they fight him on that.

    The final battle begins as hundreds of portals appear with the dead heroes coming out while triumphant music plays in the background. The message of the movie is clear, “The Marvel Cinematic Universe is great as it is, with all its diverse characters, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.”

    The movie ends with Robert Downey Jr. retiring, but assures everyone that he remains Iron Man to the end. The entire cast of the MCU pays their respect for their biggest star. Then, it turns out Chris Evans is retiring as Captain America too, passing the torch to Anthony Mackie.