Students watch “Avengers: Infinity War” in Jerry Richardson Stadium. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Mather.

Easily one of the biggest hits this summer at theaters across the globe, Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” was the obvious choice to headline this year’s Gold Rush Outdoor Movie Night, presented by Campus Activities Board (CAB). For a number of reasons, this jam-packed superhero goliath offered up just the right amount of angst, astonishment and bittersweet anticipation to parallel the dawn of a new semester for Charlotte students. While its premise might stray far from the anxieties and hopes we find here on campus, as it sees the superhero team battling the likes of radical despot Thanos, who yearns to extinguish half the universe, the first week of class has concluded in epic fashion.

By this time, I’m sure, there are only a rare few who have yet to witness the monumental cataclysm that resulted from one of this year’s most devastating films. As it swiftly took over the box office, the nineteenth feature film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe rolled into theaters this April with the intent of reshaping the billion-dollar franchise as we know it. Set with the largest cast of characters in any superhero film ever and a slew of surprising narrative twists along the way, the latest “Avengers” chapter quickly manifested into the epitome of game-changing summer blockbusters. Even after seeing the film two times already, I was certainly eager to experience it once more.

If I recall, the last time I ventured to Jerry Richardson Stadium for a CAB event, the just-as-substantial mammoth of a superhero film in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” was splayed across the massive screen just above the football field. As I sat amongst mostly all strangers, myself a naive freshman at the time, I settled atop the artificial turf and arched my neck as I awaited the “Avengers”-esque hero vs. hero face-off to play out. Leaving just as shell-shocked as I had been the first time I’d seen the film, this time with a surge of sporadic opinions spewing from the surrounding crowd of students and Marvel fans alike, I departed from the stadium that night in an excited silence.

The emotional events of “Civil War” some two years ago, however, were somewhat pale in comparison to the earth-shattering premise of this year’s “Infinity War.” As I entered the stadium once more, intoxicated by anticipation and the hope of relinquishing the anxieties of a budding semester, I found myself drawing an intriguing parallel between the colossal blockbuster and the new year of academia. Traveling this time amongst good friends, classmates who have shared the stresses of a complex major here at Charlotte, I saw the film as something beyond the grand-scale superhero epic it presented. As it pitched a story of desperate survival, unexpected consequences, and a slice of hope on the horizon, the film became a peculiar metaphor for the semester ahead.

While I didn’t come here to review the film, as others have done that for Niner Times already, I uncovered a unique melancholy watching it again on the first week of class. Beginning my junior year, it would seem that I have entered a particularly vital time in my college career, a sort of crossroads where the decisions I make now could shape where I go in the coming future. As my studies become increasingly more complicated and fascinating than before, the anxieties of the school year have been mixed with a subtle hopefulness of what might come next. Be it a job at the highest-regarded firm in Charlotte or some other bold aspiration, I feel that I’ve arrived at the most exciting, and nerve-wracking, time of my college existence.

While I won’t go so far as calling it the endgame, at the risk of sounding almost morbid, the disquieting suspense of the future is what fuels not only the plot of “Avengers: Infinity War,” but my own personal aspirations as well. As the Marvel powerhouse is very much a precursor to 2019’s untitled “Avengers 4,” this emerging semester is in itself a precursor to unexpected things set to come. Even as the film, a fantasy of titans battling adversity amid a swift and shocking turn of events, might very well lay apart from our simple reality, the struggles at its center are not unlike our own. Albeit being far less dramatic than the demise of half the universe, both the anxieties and inherent optimism within “Infinity War” in many ways mirror that of the upcoming semester.

Despite the somewhat-contrived metaphor I sought to lay out from the night, returning to the Jerry Richardson Stadium to watch “Avengers: Infinity War” was an enjoyable experience nonetheless. While my mind still sprawled to the coming semester, the fascinating mix of excitement and dread imbued in the superhero fantasy lent the night even more significance than simply watching a movie in a field. Perhaps it was CAB’s sole concern to let students enjoy a great film in the company of friends, but beyond that, maybe something more.

Photo courtesy of Nikolai Mather.