Magazine September 9, 2019, Issue

Why I Love Superhero Movies

Chris Evans as Captain America in Avengers: Endgame (Marvel Studios/IMDb)
In the hurly-burly of politics, we usually don’t stop to note our simple, unadorned love of the things that make this country so marvelous. That’s what we’ve asked our contributors to our latest special issue, "What We Love about America," to do.

There is a moment near the end of the gigantic, globe-spanning blockbuster movie Avengers: Endgame that sums up what I love about that most American of creations — the modern superhero movie. One of the principal heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America (of course), lies seemingly defeated at the feet of Thanos, the mightiest villain of them all. His vibranium shield is shattered. The other Avengers are scattered and defeated. The fate of the world hangs by a thread. All hope is gone.

But don’t tell Captain America. He staggers to his feet, tightens the strap on the remains of his shield, and prepares for his last, doomed stand. It’s the Alamo. It’s Wake Island. Or is it? 

Suddenly, he hears a voice in his ear — “Captain, do you read?” Captain America pauses. “On your left.” Portals open all around him, armies pour forth, and long-lost superheroes emerge. In an instant, “Cap” goes from doomed man to leader of a mighty army, and what follows is perhaps the biggest, baddest battle ever splashed on the silver screen.

It’s all there, every element that’s made the superhero movie America’s mightiest cultural export. You have the earnest, courageous hero — who’s not afraid to laugh. He is always fighting against tyranny. There’s the sense that, despite all his power, he’s still the underdog. And then, when the climactic fights finally kick off, they’re so huge and over-the-top that they can come only from a nation that just does everything a little bit extra