Of the four Avengers whose solo films made up the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all have set foot on planets other than Earth, but of them all, Steve Rogers, referred to in his own origin story as The First Avenger, was the last. After boarding the Benatar in the opening act of the Russo Brothers’ 2019 record-breaking Avengers: Endgame with a crew made up of about half-a-dozen survivors of Thanos’ cataclysmic decimation three weeks prior, Captain America left Earth’s atmosphere for the first time in his life.
And in the first moments of making the jump through the Universal Neural Teleportation Network, one shot in particular visually links the Star-Spangled Man With a Plan to the first of his heroic counterparts to venture beyond the stratosphere just six years earlier. If you’ll recall, the camera lingers for three full seconds on an extreme close-up of Rogers’ face as his eyes widen in amazed wonder, the incomprehensible colors of interstellar travel reflecting off his corneas.
The image parallels a nearly identical shot that appeared near the end of Joss Whedon’s 2012 record-breaking Avengers movie. In the finale of that film, weapons-manufacturer-turned-superhero Tony Stark prepared to sacrifice himself on what he believed was a one-way mission: divert a nuclear warhead through an Infinity Stone-powered portal above the Chrysler Building to save New York City from abject destruction during a failed invasion led by Loki Laufeyson.
There, the camera lingers on an extreme close-up of Stark’s face as his eyes widen in shocked dread, the incomprehensible horror of the Chitauri fleet and the previously unimaginable threats that the Earth now faces reflecting off his corneas. It’s tremendously fitting that the imagery of Rogers and Stark’s first forays into space should complement one another so perfectly and from such a distance, as the two characters very much form the core of the Infinity Saga.
Their narratives have woven around each other like the strands of a double helix from Rogers’ relationship with Howard Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger to his confrontation with Howard’s son in The Avengers to their devastating clash in Captain America: Civil War and subsequent estrangement throughout Avengers: Infinity War, to their eventual reconciliation in Avengers: Endgame, which resulted in the conclusion of both characters’ story arcs.