If you love art, the story of how you experience it is as autobiographical as naming the milestones in your life. You check in with who you were at various points. So it is with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and me. A few times a year checked in. This is the story of how I saw every film in the MCU in a theater to date, who I was, and where I was.
Iron Man. The Col. Glenn 18 in Little Rock, 8 pm showing the night before release. I guess it’s good for the story I was at ground zero for the universe. In truth I was a diehard IM fan. I wasn’t missing his film debut even if I was severely out of work and deeply depressed. Watching the film gave me a spark of joy that I needed. And I loved hearing a reference to The Avengers in a movie.
The Incredible Hulk. Only a few weeks later so my life was basically as it was. I saw it under interesting circumstances though. I went to a midnight at the Fiesta Square theater in Fayetteville. My dad needed to take a car up. I was his ride home. I told my brother who I was staying with what I was doing. Wires were crossed. My dad thought I was lost. Without a cellphone I was basically. I come home from a great time at the movies to learn the police are looking for me. It does get resolved.
Iron Man 2. I’m employed. I’m living on my own. I’m at the IMAX in Little Rock. This whole night is pure cockiness of being a young man with money. Funny how that’s how the film plays too.
Thor. A year later. The Col. Glenn again. I’m in the dating scene at last. Really stretching my legs. My brother’s bachelor weekend is two weeks out from this day. I’ve got ice cold Mountain Dew Pitch Black in my car. Nice early morning show. Weak 3D though.
Captain America: The First Avenger. A repeat of the earlier experience. Early morning. Col. Glenn. I do remember the hype that now it was game on for The Avengers. There was a poster up. I’m dating a girl named Amanda now. That’s cool. She’s cool.
The Avengers. The big one. I drive to Missouri to meet with my friend Albert at the downtown theater in Springfield. It’s an event. I leave in beautiful weather from my girlfriend Amanda’s home, driving up with a Spongebob audiobook. Everything is perfect. We hang out before the movie. The movie is perfect. All is good.
Iron Man 3. One year later. An oddly cold day. My fiancee Amanda and I are living together. Back at the Col. Glenn 18 we go. After we leave, we’re going to my sister’s wedding. It’s a gray day but life gleams.
Thor: The Dark World. It’s a sunny day and I’m due at work after the movie but the circumstances are so familiar. Col. Glenn 18. Amanda is there. We’re preparing for the wedding right now.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Another sunny day. Amanda and I are married and freshly moved into a new house after trouble with our neighbors. We’re at the Breckenridge Village 12. Things are still good.
Guardians of the Galaxy. Amanda and I have started to discuss a family. In a few weeks I’ll see a doctor in the first step towards it. We go back to the Breckenridge Village 12. A few days later we’ll rave about the film to our friend Lauren. A few weeks later while we mourn Lauren’s sudden death, we go back.
Avengers: Age of Ultron. Nothing epic this time. No big plans. We just go to the Breckenridge Village and enjoy the film. There’s a status quo for once. Though yeah, we moved again.
Ant-Man. The strangest viewing of all of these. I meet my mother, a huge Paul Rudd/Michael Douglas fan at the Col. Glenn 18 for a viewing later in the film’s run than usual. It’s an odd time but nice.
Captain America: Civil War. Back to the Breckenridge Village with Amanda. There’s a third person at our showing. Amanda is pregnant. A month later Lola will be born. It’s nice to enjoy a last moment.
Doctor Strange. Albert is back. We’re at the IMAX in Little Rock. He’s here to see Lola. We go to an almost empty showing the night before the election. I’m paranoid. I don’t want to leave the theater the next night and know Trump was elected. That terrifies me.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The nervous breakdown has begun in earnest. Amanda and I sit in an early morning showing at the Riverdale 10. I’m trying desperately to feel better. For a few hours I do. But I have to face society again.
Spider-Man: Homecoming. Back to the Breckenridge Village and for the first time in years, alone. It’s just me, deep in this nightmare feeling. Once more I hope I find joy. Once more for two hours I get it in Marvel.
Thor: Ragnarok. How fitting is it I start to rise up from my breakdown at about the time I see a film about the norse apocalypse at the McCain Mall theater alone. I truly need the spark this gives me. I’m ready to move forward.
Black Panther. My birthday party. Amanda and I go to the Movie Tavern. It’s a moment of catching our breath. The next day we pack. We move the very next day. Again.
Avengers: Infinity War. Amanda and I return to the Movie Tavern with our friends Zephyr and Nathan. Albert will be along the next day. It’s a big time for certain. It feels big.
Ant-Man and the Wasp. Fairly familiar story. Amanda and I while Lola is away check out a movie. We’re at the Chenal 9. It’s a slight moment but pleasant.
Captain Marvel. Riding solo again. I’m at the Breckenridge Village while Amanda plays a game with friends and Lola is out of town. I’ll be at work after. But I must observe the ritual.
Avengers: Endgame. And then there’s this. I go alone while Amanda and Lola are on vacations. I could wait to see it with Amanda but I need to go before spoilers spread. I go to the Movie Tavern early in the morning. I sit. I turn my phone off. And I let the saga wash over me. One last time into the void.
I started this era in about the same shape I’m in now. I’ve held the same job for most of this period. I’ve lived in six different homes. I’ve met the love of my life. I’ve become a father. I’ve endured a lot. But I’m still here.
The Infinity Saga is over. My story is not.