Marvel moments: 22 nostalgic scenes from the 22-film arc

Christopher Borrelli
Chicago Tribune

Did you know that nostalgia was once a medical condition? It suggested a kind of clinical unwillingness to move on, a yearning for a time or place or person that is no longer reasonably within grasp. It was a heartache for, at the very least, your youth. And now, in our accelerated, all-decades-streaming-at-once age, should you sit through “Avengers: Endgame,” after three hours, it is possible to develop a nostalgia for the person you were only three hours earlier. That is, a person who never felt a need to revisit Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments.” Or “Back to the Future,” or the Indiana Jones franchise, the animated “Akira,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” or the perpetually present “Big Lebowski.”

Each get a fond nod in the new film.

But even more so, you contract a premature nostalgia for the past decade of Marvel movies, and the corporate, synergistic, ambitiously constructed 22-film arc that began in 2008 with “Iron Man.” It culminates elegantly with “Endgame,” which, besides telling a rousing adventure, also serves as a sad, tender, even touching summary argument for what Marvel accomplished here. At its finest moments, the film plays like a reminder that some of these characters are now as collectively internalized as any Jimmy Stewart.

Leaving the screening, my editor said what is sure to be echoed in the coming weeks: She doesn’t like superhero movies but she cried during this one. Here then, in an effort to convince her these Marvel productions are better than she thinks, 22 memorable things about the 22-film “Infinity Saga” that concludes with “Avengers: Endgame”:

Watching Chris “Thor” Hemsworth go from handsome, unmemorable wallpaper to reliable comedy gold

The charm and playful spark of Letitia Wright’s Shuri, Black Panther’s Q-ish gadget-creating sister

The inventive, intentional Saturday-matinee artificiality of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” set design

Speaking of design: The intricately realized Afrofuturistic (and Oscar-winning) “Black Panther” costumes

James Spader’s caustically evil spin on Pinocchio in the otherwise tedious “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Manhattan gets twisted in “Doctor Strange.”

Lower Manhattan transformed into a gigantic Escher puzzle of a battlefield in “Doctor Strange”

Robert Downey Jr. introducing the new Spider-Man as “Underoos” in “Captain America: Civil War”

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. Particularly her drunken, stumbling arrival in “Thor: Ragnarok”

Now that I think of it – all of “Thor: Ragnarok,” the smartest and breeziest installment of the 22 films

Paul Bettany’s purring upper-crust vocal sniffiness as Jarvis, the artificial intelligence inside the Iron Man suit

Michael Pena’s hilarious stream-of-consciousness story recaps in the very charming Ant-Man movies

Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, wielding the odd and surprisingly believable superpower of super empathy

Captain America’s phoned-in high school fitness PSA in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (and the caveat by Chicago comedian Hannibal Buress as a gym teacher: “I’m pretty sure this guy is a war criminal now. But whatever, I have to show you these videos, it’s required by the state.”)

Even better: After 10 long minutes of closing credits, Captain America’s short lecture in “Homecoming” about audiences and the virtue of patience (“You wondered why you’ve waited so long for something so disappointing …”)

Michael Keaton’s thoughtfully written, working-class everyman villain in “Homecoming”

Captain Marvel’s Skrull aliens, an elegantly handled metaphor for the plight of displaced communities

The satisfying whir and snap and sigh of every part of every Iron Man suit improbably clicking together perfectly

Michael B. Jordan’s relatable bad-guy-with-a-good-point in “Black Panther”

Scarlett Johansson brisk, two-step take down of Jon Favreau in a boxing ring, the best part of “Iron Man 2”

Captain America fighting off a small army inside of a glass elevator in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Chris Evans (center) stars in 'Captain America: Civil War.'

Chris Evans growing into the role of Captain America, lending intriguing dimensions to a one-note idealism

The Avengers quietly noshing on a post-battle meal of shawarma, the very last scene of the first Avengers film