In case the moment is, indeed, slipping away from us*, here are nine Marvel Cinematic Universe achievements that Hulk will enjoy for all time, always:
1. THEY REMEMBERED THAT EVERYBODY EATS.
Superheroes are weird because they aren’t like real people. Except, they occasionally want to eat shawarma. In this relatable way, they are like real people. Black Widow eats. Thor eats. Everybody eats.
2. THEY GOT ROBERT REDFORD TO SAY “HAIL HYDRA.”
Robert Redford, the Sundance Kid, basically the Odin figure of American cinema. Turns out to be a deeply-planted evil Hydra dude in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Nick Fury shoots him, and with his dying words, we realize that the threat is all around us. A subtle yet subversive meta-moment from the studio self-tasked with upholding the Hero Myth in our 21st-century pop consciousness.
3. THWIP! SPIDER-MAN’S WEB-SWINGING CHANGES MOVIES FOREVER.
Whether you noticed or not, a photorealistic web-swinging Spider-Man changed the moviegoing experience irreversibly. Web-swinging used to be the one superpower you couldn’t quite do in movies. We had practical and visual effects to simulate Superman flying, laser blasts from the eyes, shapeshifting. But there simply is no safe way for a stuntperson to sustain web-swinging across the Manhattan skyline — only Spider-Man can do that without dying six different ways. Web-swinging required a photorealistic replica, that is to say, a believable fake. Once they got the web-swinging to the point where it would sell on a big screen, it opened the doorway — now there’s nothing that can’t be simulated with CG, and we, the moviegoers, have grown accustomed to films which, for better or worse, rely less on “live-action” and more on feats of amazing animation.
4. THEY HAD DAREDEVIL RESCUE THIS KID.
On the other hand, they do some old-fashioned stage combat pretty good too. (And I know, not technically the Cinematic Universe, but also, come on. It’s Daredevil.) Rewatch Season 3 for its eerie reflections of all the atrocities of the Trump years. In Season 1’s signature scene, the hallway fight is thrillingly executed; but it’s the moment Matt Murdock shows us just before going through the final door, re-centering himself so as to give comfort to a kidnapped kid, that makes one think, yeah, the real world could use a Daredevil.
5. THEY GAVE US WONG: BUTCH, BEEFY, AND BAE.
“Just the one name.” Like Beyonce. A lot was made of the Ancient One casting in Dr. Strange, which unfortunately overshadowed the introduction of the MCU’s first Chinese super-character, Wong, played by an actual Wong. Benedict Wong brings gruff charm to a character who originated in the comics as a stereotypical East Asian manservant. Wong also solved the Infinity War problem in a way that Dr. Strange conveniently forgot, but then of course we wouldn’t have gotten this next bit….
6. THEY MADE 20 MOVIES AND SPENT 100 JILLION DOLLARS TO JUSTIFY A CHARACTER SPEAKING A TWO-WORD LINE.
‘Cause, let’s be honest, in the first few Avengers films, it would’ve felt a bit forced.
7. THE TWILIGHT SCREENWRITER TURNED OUT TO BE A FREAKING GENIUS.
Did we all know that Melissa Rosenberg, showrunner for Netflix/Marvel’s Jessica Jones, also wrote the screenplays for the Twilight film trilogy? If Twilight is your kink, that’s cool, mine is Jessica Jones Seasons 1 & 3. The only truly great dark comedy in the Marvel slate also gut-punches you with its allegorical treatment of sexual abuse survival (S1) and white-woman entitlement (S3). JJ even saved the clunky Defenders series with her spicy wit, e.g., “M.J. deep cut?”
8. THEY CAME REALLY CLOSE TO MAKING CAPTAIN MARVEL INTO A ‘90s KARAOKE MUSICAL.
Let’s not take this toooo seriously, y’all. Boden & Fleck’s photon-fresh flashback to the 1990s reminded us that superheroes are exactly as fun as singing along to Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly” or No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” with your best friend in a bar. A delightful pairing with that other quasi-musical, Thor: Ragnarok.
9. WE ALL SAW THIS AND WENT, “WOW, WAKANDA SEEMS PRETTY NICE.”
Dancing. Music. Great clothes. Ritual. The green veld. Everyone trains to fight but tries not to fight. An Afro-Futuristic better-world-in-progress. A place where European colonialism and the American slave trade never happened. If not to imagine places like Black Panther’s Wakanda, what are movies even for?
Although there’s more work to be done before the MCU is a fully-realized Multi-Cultural Universe, this list would be remiss not to mention the stellar (and race-bending) casting of Afro-Latina actors Rosario Dawson, Zoe Saldana, Tessa Thompson as Claire Temple, Gamora, and Valkyrie, respectively. I’m rooting for Angela del Toro’s White Tiger to show up next.
Post-Endgame, the MCU’s future is as mysterious as it is massive. Black Widow, opening imminently, is a bit of an uncertain quantity. Can the next planned arc of films and TV series bring us to another Endgame-level event, say, an Avengers vs. X-Men, a Secret War? Hulk will wait and see. HULK IS MOST PATIENT FAN THERE IS.
*A puny #openquestion, not a pronouncement.