This article was originally published April 15, 2019 at Townhall.com.
We are now just days away from the much-hyped Avengers: Endgame. Sold as the gargantuan 3-hour finale to the 22 Marvel films that have dotted the cinema landscape over the past 11 years, the stakes are high as fake scripts, and on the other also leaks of uncertain truth, secrecy, dramatization, public attention, and ticket pre-sales break anything ever seen not only for a Marvel movie but perhaps any movie in history.
It seems strange at first that the film that very well may become one of the, if not the, highest-grossing film in history originates from a comic book series. Not only a comic book series but one that has struggled in popular imagination over the decades compared to the seemingly more prevalent DC universe with classic American stories such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and more.
However the Marvel movies have been successful I believe not by chance or because of just their incredible cinematic production, intricately woven and redesigned stories, and star actors that not only fit their roles but truly live them. After all, if it didn’t seem like it was Tony Stark pretending to play Robert Downey Jr. or Captain America pretending to be Chris Evans then the Marvel movies may not carry the same dramatic weight and feeling of connection as they have.
Indeed studies have shown those feelings of empathy and really bonding with the world that the Marvel movies operate in is a major reason why large audiences have become so entranced by the films and the various television series that are part of it all too.
The Marvel universe and even Avengers: Endgame are extraordinarily complex, with countless plot points worthy of introspection and analysis. However I think a major reason why the Marvel series has been so successful and why Avengers: Endgame looks to be so ground-breaking is because of how the series’ stories provoke very current societal rumblings and thoughts concerning technological development, most especially artificial intelligence, space exploration, robotics, aeronautics, biotechnology, and more.
When the Marvel series was first written the idea of robots, space flight, AI, and advanced biotech were but fairy tales as the state of said technologies was still quite rudimentary throughout much of the mid to late 20thcentury. However that is no longer even remotely the case as every day we see developments from private space rockets launching into orbit to robots now comprising a large portion of world manufacturing. We see AI, even in still often simple but advancing forms, becoming a daily part of not only nearly every business’ function but also every person, as the past year’s social media data science debates have reminded us. The public excites with pleasure as we image a black hole for the first time.
When we see on-screen “Jarvis,” Tony’s AI system, or “Vision,” the android successor to Jarvis, it no longer seems so abstract and absurd but rather technologies we already have a taste of and many seek to strive to.The same is the case when we see now spacecraft flying around in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” or biotechnologies such as Captain America’s “Super Soldier” advancements or robotics such as Ultron or Tony Stark’s armored suits.
While Marvel connecting well with current technological trends pushing forward in society is a reason for Marvel’s success, conversely Marvel is also pushing societal thought, acceptance, and interest in such technologies. This is essential as we see how many people remain either ignorant, or afraid when informed, about the current extraordinarily advanced state of various technologies being tested and implemented in Silicon Valley, in large multinational corporations, and otherwise.
For example, the fatal accident of an AI-driven Uber in Arizona in early 2018 has stoked public fears about the technology significantly, even if the actual facts of the case show the technology itself was not completely at fault and it paled in comparison to the roughly 37,000 vehicle deaths per year in the U.S. or the roughly 1.3 million worldwide annually.
Our country and world are at an exciting place right now in terms of technology on multiple fronts, from biotechnology to robotics to aeronautical to software. These technologies have rapidly changed and benefit all of our lives in just the past few years and almost assuredly will continue to do so.
The success of Marvel and Avengers: Endgame is representative of our society’s grappling with these new technological revolutions. On the other hand, it is also pushing public query into these technologies in a positive way. And so, while “part of the journey is the end” and it may be so for many characters in Avengers: Endgame, the effect the Marvel movies past, present, and future will continue – to significant benefit to society’s technological interest, acceptance, support, and progress.