If there’s a single phrase that sums up the guiding principle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – the interdependent series of superhero movies that, with the arrival of this week’s “Avengers: Endgame,” now numbers 22 films – it’s this: Hold that thought. (And with “Endgame’s” running time of three hours, “hold that bladder” would also apply.)

Beginning with “Iron Man,” starring Robert Downey Jr., in 2008, and introducing characters along the way – Thor, Black Widow, Black Panther and many others – it has become increasingly necessary not only to retain details of the labyrinthine plots but to keep a soft spot in your heart for the protagonists, from movie to movie. As the MCU has evolved, growing into an epic that can be, at

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