The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s twenty-ninth film, Thor: Love and Thunder, is on its way to theaters in just over two months. Meanwhile, the MCU’s seventh and eighth Disney + shows will hit the streaming service before 2022’s dog days of summer reach their end. Marvel Studios has provided fans with almost a decade and a half’s worth of superhero content, and they do not plan on stopping any time soon.
Marvel lovers have seen everything from scream-inducing character cameos to gasp-worthy cliffhangers. Hardly a film goes by without the studio revealed a new trick hidden up its sleeve. While the jaw-dropping finals always leave a memorable impression on the viewer, every Marvel fan knows that some of the best shockers of the MCU come at the beginning of the story.
‘Iron Man’ (2008) – The Original Origin Story
In the opening scene of the MCU’s foundational film, Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Stark is riding through a barren landscape with a military escort. Making jokes with a drink in his hand and ’80s hard rock playing in the background, he seems perfectly at ease in the world. Then the car in front of him explodes. Barrages of bullets take out the soldiers guarding him, and Tony is ironically incapacitated by a weapon of his own making. The scene ends with Tony being held hostage and the Iron Man title jumping onto the screen.
Even almost fifteen years later, few Marvel projects start with the hero losing the day before the film begins. A kidnapped protagonist and the violence of an ambush is a shocking opening scene in any kind of movie, let alone a superhero film. Iron Man‘s opening scene certainly made a statement that set the tone for the rest of the movie and the entirety of the franchise.
‘The Avengers’ (2012) – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
One decade ago, The Avengers made an action-packed debut on cinema screens. At the end of an extensive opening sequence, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes a dramatic and villainous entrance when he comes through a portal to Earth. He brainwashes one of the Avengers, decimates SHIELD forces, and then steals the Tesseract as he escapes. Loki exits the scene prepared to take over the planet, and only the Avengers stand a chance against him.
Seeing a hero switch sides, however unwillingly, to work for the villain comes as quite a shock. That surprise was made even better in this film because it shatters fans’ expectations of an easy, quick team-up. The cherry on top of the jaw-dropping start of the movie is the villain’s early success in the film. The opening scene of The Avengers expertly stuns audiences and sets up the details for the next story.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014): Do You Have Any Tissues?
James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy begins with a young Peter Quill (Wyatt Oleffportrayed as an adult by Chris Pratt) waiting by his mother’s deathbed. In the scene, Peter’s mother gives him a final parting gift before asking him to hold her son’s hand one last time. Peter reaches out for her too late, and his mother dies with her hand outstretched. Grief-stricken, Peter stumbles out of the hospital and falls to the ground. He does not see the massive spaceship until it is on top of him. The scene ends with Peter crying out for his mother as he is beamed up into the ship and stolen from his home.
Such an intimate scene early in a Marvel movie is an unexpected blow to audiences’ unprepared hearts. The swift attachment to Peter and his mother can easily cause tears to spring up in the viewers’ eyes upon the mother’s passing. The final shocking moment of the scene comes from the abrupt entrance of the alien spaceship. Peter is whisked away, and audiences are left stunned as they embark on a new Marvel adventure.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017) – A Hero Reborn
The third installment of Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor films starts with the titular hero trapped in chains. He cheerfully addresses his audience when he says, “Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Oh no! Thor’s in a cage. How did this happen?'” After a quick recap of his adventures and a brief conversation with a fiery adversary, Thor learns he has to rush back home to save Asgard. He narrowly escapes enemy forces, complete with a massive dragon, and the scene ends with the title burned onto the screen.
Thor has a history of being incredibly hard to defeat; it comes as a shock to see him locked in a cage. Though as dire as his situation seems, the real thunderbolt of surprise for viewers comes not from Thor’s imprisonment but from his humor. In his past films, Thor’s comedic abilities have been somewhat limited. In Thor: Ragnarok, however, the God of Thunder is surprisingly and delightfully hilarious. That tone carries on throughout the rest of the movie, making the film all the better for it.
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ (2018) – The Record Breaking Team-Up
The directors of the third Avengers movie promised an explosive beginning, and they did not disappoint. Thanos (Josh Brolin) brings death and destruction to the last Asgardian refugee ship as he searches for the Infinity Stones. The few survivors remaining attempt to fight the Mad Titan but fail. Marvel’s best and most beloved anti-hero, Loki, loses the Infinity Stone and his life. The scene comes to an ominous conclusion as Thanos takes his prize and leaves a grieving Thor behind him.
Starting the film with a massacre and ending with the death of the fan-favorite God of Mischief was designed to make jaws drop. In less than ten minutes, audiences watch some of the strongest heroes of the MCU get defeated, and they are left speechless. There is no moment in the opening scene either Avengers: Infinity War that is not shocking, and the trend continues throughout the remainder of the masterful cinematic work.
‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019) – The End Of An Era
Ten years’ worth of movies led up to Avengers: Endgame. The highly anticipated film opens with the Avenger who had been missing in the last movie, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Clint is making the most of his house arrest by spending time with his family. He is teaching his daughter how to shoot his signature weapon while his sons are playing in the yard and his wife is setting up a picnic. Hawkeye turns away for a moment, and when he looks back up, his daughter is gone. His sons and wife are quick to follow until Clint is the only one left.
Every Marvel fan knows when and where they saw the film. You probably even remember what the weather was like. So no doubt, you remember the pure adrenaline rushing through your veins as the year-long wait for answers to Avengers: Infinity War finally came to a close. You can remember your surprised delight at seeing Hawkeye start the fourth Avengers movie. And you can remember your audible gasp when Clint’s family disappeared around him. Avengers: Endgame set the tone with a shocking scene that promised many more to come
‘WandaVision’ (2021) – The Emergence Of The Scarlet Witch
WandaVision is the first of many Disney + Marvel shows made by the studio. Tackling a new genre, the hit series starts unlike any other Marvel project has before. WandaVision’s focus on sitcoms results in a catchy jingle playing during the opening scene, detailing Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) arrival to a new neighborhood.
The events of the scene itself (the 1950s model of a husband and wife conversing) are not mind-blowing. But everything else about the situation is. The strange scenario of the incredibly powerful Wanda Maximoff living in a sitcom world is enough to puzzle fans. But the real shocker is the reappearance of Vision, who had been killed in Avengers: Infinity War. In the MCU’s deceptively charming debut Disney + television series, secrets lying underneath the surface make this tale told through sitcoms a new, enticing mystery for fans to solve.
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