A new trailer recently came out for Logan, a very intriguing new film for the X-Men series. According to IMDB, the film will focus on a time five years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. In it, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hideout on the Mexican border. But attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces. I think this film ties to together my theory that the Marvel cinematic universe has been growing up with us all along very nicely. As a brief disclaimer, I do realize that Logan and the other X-Men movies aren't technically part of the Marvel cinematic universe on a licensing level, as they are made by a different studio and team. Nonetheless, I believe that Logan fits in well with the trajectory of the other titles I list here. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, Thor: The Dark World, all the way to Logan the path from childhood to adulthood is clear in the heroes and villains of these films.
We begin with a very young view of the world, which the first few Marvel movies (starting in 2008) strongly present. For example in Iron Man, everything is black and white. We know exactly who the bad guy is and who the good guy is. Tony Stark is 100% the good guy. He realizes his mistake in manufacturing weapons after nearly dying, and immediately works to turn that around. Stark becomes a superhero in order to fix the mistakes he made, standing in contrast to the villain of the movie Obadiah Stane. Stane's only motivation is greed, there is nothing complicated about it. Stane is bad, Stark is good. It is not necessarily a naive view, as our hero has flaws. But not enough that stain his character grey in any way.
Now let's take an example from 2013-2015, minus Guardians of the Galaxy. All of the films here are perfect examples of planting a film directly in the grey area of morality. If Iron Man was our childhood, then this film period was our teenage phase. In Thor: The Dark World, Loki is a villain but he is humanized to the point where we aren't sure anymore, especially when a much darker enemy looms over the rest of the movie. Loki nearly destroyed the Earth in the last Thor movie, yet now we're beginning to speculate about his inherent goodness. If Stark can learn the error of his ways in 2008, surely Loki can too? In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this grey area is even more clear as the Winter Soldier turns into old friend Bucky Barns. Or, in Avengers: Age Ultron and Iron Man 3, Stark himself is briefly vilified before the heroes turn to the true villains of the films.
Speaking of vilified heroes, now comes 2016 to present. I'll be clear, I haven't watched Doctor Strange yet, so I won't use it as an example. Captain America: Civil War, however, is the official beginning of our adult viewpoint. Not only is each side perfectly justified, the heroes are pitted against each other. Whatever side the audience is on, the film allows you to choose if you want to. Furthermore, the film doesn't really resolve the argument. The team is still divided and in the end, Stark and Rodgers realize the point is moot.
Logan, I think, is the pinnacle of this adult theme. Life isn't black and white, nor is it grey, it just is. You do what you can to get by. This new film shows Wolverine forced to be a parent in a way he never has before, and in a point in his life where he's nearly given up. Xavier is old and has almost given up himself, but a new mutant motivates him to coerce Wolverine into one last mission to protect her. Just like old times. The world in this film isn't just dark, it's too real. What better way to convey adulthood than being given a role you don't think you're qualified for and your only source of advice is a philosophical old man. As we all know, adulting isn't about knowing what you're doing, it's the art of pretending you do.
From Iron Man in 2008 to Logan in 2017, the Marvel cinematic universe has been growing up with us all along. The movies matured with our viewpoints as time went on, starting with a young black and white view, to a teenager's realization of the greyscale in the world, and finally an adult's dark cynicism.