Avengers Endgame has just launched in cinemas, having been 11 years in the making… And boy, have those years flown by… Because as we all know, time flies when you’re having fun.

In May 2008, we were introduced to our first instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man, and although every nerd was sweaty with excitement over an end credit appearance of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, nobody could have predicted what was to come, and that it would all culminate in what is set to potentially be the biggest piece of cinema to date.

I often wonder if this was always the plan; I’m sure MCU head honcho – Kevin Feige (Our lord & saviour, praise be unto him) would like us to believe that Endgame was always the plan, and maybe it was… But even for somebody as ambitious as Feige, this would have been a mammoth challenge. Though here we are – 11 years later – and that vision is a reality. I like to think that Infinity War & Endgame were always the end goal, but maybe as more of an idea rather than an actual plan – Hell, there are nods and such to what is happening now as far back as 2008’s Iron Man, so there’s proof this stuff was always at the back of their minds. What’s truly impressive though is exactly how Marvel got here, and how they’ve not just kept a ton of good will, but kept every one of us on the edge of our seats time and time again.

I think what Marvel has got right above all else on this giant journey is its characters. Not only have these larger than life heroes been handled perfectly when they interact in the ensemble movies, but they have shined in their own. The majority of the main Avengers characters have had at least one movie dedicated to their individual story before being introduced to the main overarching narrative – What I love is that, although these solo movies fit in perfectly into the Marvel Universe, they all have their own personality and feel to them… With the exception of Captain America: Civil War (Which let’s face it is Avengers 2.5), any of the solo movies can be watched on their own without seeing what has come before, or what is to follow, and the viewer will still have a great experience. The different choice of directors for every film is also something that has been a massive success for Marvel; whether it’s Shane Black’s characteristic style in Iron Man 3, James Gunn’s hilarious style of comedy for Guardians of the Galaxy, or Ryan Coogler’s masterful story telling in Black Panther… Every addition to the MCU has its own distinctive feel while never distancing itself too far from the overall story – And that is mostly down to Kevin Feige and his team overseeing everything, but also letting directors have creative freedom to show of what they can do… Though the overall story and making sure everything fits in together and makes sense will always come first; want proof of this? Look no further than Marvel parting ways with director Edgar Wright during the production of Ant-Man. Basically, they seem to have struck the perfect balance.

When talking about that perfect balance, I can’t help but think of the signature MCU tone that is present in every movie – There always seems to be the exact balance of comedy, action and weight depending on which character the movie is focusing on. Perfectly balanced. As all things should be. This is something that other studios have just never been able to replicate when trying to produce a connected cinematic universe.

…Oh hello DC, it’s time to talk about you!

This is exactly where Warner Bros and DC have failed; they don’t seem to know what they want the tone of their universe to be. When it all started with Man of Steel and the follow-up of Batman vs Superman, it felt like their tone was going to be dark and broody, and that was that. What happened, though, resulted in a lot of film goers complaining, wanting something more upbeat like their beloved MCU. For me personally I wish DC just stuck to their course and didn’t succumb to pressure, but what happened was we got a mishmash of different tones from then on, starting with the disaster that was Suicide Squad. Sure, it’s meant we’ve had some really good Marvel-like outings such as Wonder Woman, but overall the DC cinematic universe has undoubtedly been a failure. I look to Justice League as the prime example of this failure as it managed to cock-up everything that makes the Avengers movies great – Whereas Marvel had focused on characters getting individual movies, DC had only done so with Superman up to that point, and the tone I talked about was all over the place. Sure, that might have been down to it being shot by two separate directors, but where Marvel knew their tone, DC didn’t, and Justice League suffered because of it. I could go on and on, but my point is that DC have shown how hard it is to successfully make a connected cinematic universe which makes Marvel’s seem that much more impressive by comparison.

So with Avengers: Endgame hitting cinemas tonight, we across the world get ready to wave goodbye to what Marvel is calling the Infinity Saga – A 22-film story that has made us all laugh, cry, cheer and get stupidly excited in every way possible. What’s great though is that it’s not only the sweaty nerds of the world that are feeling this way, it’s the friends and families of those nerds too as the MCU has been able to connect on an emotional level with almost every type of movie goer. It’s thanks to the MCU that I am able to have a conversion with family members over the likes of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Vision, Scarlett Witch, Thanos and even bloody Rocket Raccoon!! If you had told me 10 years ago that this would be the case, I don’t think I would have believed you… But here we are.

The future is currently uncertain when talking about Marvel’s Phase 4, but when I look back over the past 11 years, it fills me with the confidence that this hype train will not be stopping any time soon.