Everyone remembers the moment Avengers came out and changed cinema forever. I’m sure it was widely expected that, after the rousing success of the first two Iron Man movies and the decent runs by the first Thor and Captain America, this whole Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment was going to work. A crossover between a bunch of popular movies into one big adventure was always going to be a hit. But just how much of a hit, I’m not sure anyone could have guessed.
I saw it at the midnight premiere (remember those?) and there were maybe fifteen people in the entire theater. Being seventeen, I adored the movie and saw it four times in theaters, including the very next day after school.
Obviously, those feelings have faded as I’ve gotten older and the vast majority of these big Marvel superhero movies end up just being okay at best. In fact, some of the recent ones have been outright kinda bad, and the big gigantic crossovers now feel so overstuffed and fanservice-baiting that they forget to have any stakes or emotional payoffs. But there is something tremendously fun about the whole concept of a cinematic universe, and seeing it come together like in the Avengers is an incredible achievement not to be understated.
For everything the Marvel movies became, the first Avengers movie is still something special, and that’s encapsulated perfectly by the famous orbital shot (or arc shot) during the movie’s climax. Everything fun and energetic and wonderful about the Marvel movies is right here, with a single shot circling around our heroes making cool poses right before they jump into action. No frills, nothing too fancy, just one shot to set the mood before the final battle.
In 2012, this moment was visually striking enough that they included it incessantly in the trailers, and even that didn’t stop it from being an excellent moment in the actual film. In 2020, it’s still an iconic movie moment.