It’s hard to imagine, but seven years ago Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe was far from a sure bet. Iron Man was a gamble, but hoping that characters connected to the outlandish concepts of Thor or the flag-wearing Captain America was one step further into the unknown. Connecting all these stories in one blockbuster, The Avengers, seemed like a gargantuan and foolhardy task, even with the ensemble-wrangling Joss Whedon at the helm.
Not only did it pull it off in a satisfying way, breaking box office records and emboldening the studio to extend their experiment into a dozen more productions, but it managed to pull off the impossible and give each character a reason to be involved. Part of this comes from the intuitive decision to centre a movie of disparate franchises coming together about disparate people struggling to come together. But not everything survived intact.
By 2019, Steve Rogers has become a contender for fan-favourite character out of all of the MCU, but it was only due to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and (to a lesser extent) Avengers: Age of Ultron that he became well-liked by most moviegoers. Many who turned up to see The Avengers didn’t make the same trip to see Captain America: The First Avenger a year prior, so Whedon’s blockbuster was all they had to go on.
Whedon made his understanding for the character clear in his Avengers sequel three years later, but initially it seemed as if he was the one member of the team not to benefit from the writer-director’s penchant for seamlessly blending exposition and characterisation into punchy dialogue.