This weekend Marvel is again breaking through barriers and setting the expectation for long-form storytelling, with Avengers: Endgame concluding the Infinity Saga after ten years and 20+ movies that have all been interwoven unlike anything before it.
The era of big-budget Hollywood franchises is definitely now, but nobody has been able to crack the code or find the magic like Marvel has. DC, Fast & Furious, The Wizarding World, Middle Earth and so on have all tried and to varying degrees, successfully managed to birth new franchises and characters out of an original idea.
The only difference here is that Marvel has always had an Endgame. Since the very first post-credits stinger in the”Godfather” of the MCU, Iron Man, Marvel and co. have managed to keep growing and expanding their universe to new reaches that now truly feel infinite.
Avengers: Endgame is the marvelous end of the Infinity Saga and what I am about to talk about below is heavy in the spoilers department. So if you haven’t seen the film yet, close out of this window and return at a later date, because I will be discussing various moments from the film and how they relate to the greater story being told.
Part of the journey is the end.
This line was spoken by Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame. It was a widely popular line in earlier trailers and it just might be one of the most moving lines of the entire film and the MCU at large. Everybody loves a conclusion, despite the sacrifices and raised stakes that almost always have to happen to get to this point.
The MCU is about so many stories and so many characters, but at the heart of the universe is Tony Stark. He starts out in Iron Man as a self-centered asshole that might be fun to be around, but never cares much about anything other than himself. As the years progress, Tony continues his struggle with opening up and allowing others in, actually trusting them as if they were family. This is because of his rocky relationship with his father and his on-going resentment of himself as a failure that will never live up to the hype.
Endgame brings Tony full-circle, giving him a wife, a kid and a second-chance on life, only to come crashing together with his past, which is riddled with mistakes and errors that he now has the ability to correct. Watching Stark become such a selfless man in Endgame is almost as rewarding as the entirety of the film’s massive action sequences, because it feels like true progression that has taken over a decade to mature, much like real human beings.
We don’t change overnight, despite what some might say or make you think. Real change takes time. It takes patience and it takes mistakes. To truly learn, one must first identify what is wrong and understand why it is wrong. So that they can move towards a better way of thinking and a better way of life.
I cried like a baby during Endgame‘s final moments, but not because Tony Stark died. Oh no — I cried because Tony Stark finally lived. As Pepper says, ” you can rest now.” The character of Iron Man is no longer needed as he has finally redeemed himself, becoming a loving and caring father that truly understands the idea of sacrifice and knowing what is worth living (and fighting) for. He knew the risks, yet he gladly took them, because he now knows how special real love is.
Robert Downey Jr. has had a hell of a run as everyone’s favorite Avenger, but it’s time to hang up the suit of armor and I respect Marvel and their team for knowing when to end it. Reducing the charismatic energy of RDJ down to a supporting player was never going to work, which is why he had to go.
Nobody can truly replace Iron Man. Not War Machine, not Pepper Pots. Iron Man is and always will be Robert Downey Jr.
While Tony Stark’s fate might be a little too grim or sad for some, it was very refreshing to see how Anthony and Joe Russo handled Captain America’s exit in Endgame. Most knew that actor Chris Evans publicly stated that he was hanging up the shield. This led to many rumors thinking he was going to get killed off, but to our surprise, Steve Rogers got the best deal of them all. Traveling back in time and finally being with Peggy Carter was the only satisfying end to such an iconic career as The First Avenger.
Captain America has been sacrificing himself and his own interests for the entirety of this franchise. Ending his tenure with that promised dance is the sweetest and most fitting conclusion. Yes, the passing of the torch to Falcon instead of the Winter Soldier threw me for a loop, but I’m honestly curious to see what Marvel does next.
Disney+ will be launching a Winter Soldier/Falcon TV show, which means plenty of buddy-buddy moments for those two to shine both individually and together. Although, what happens if Falcon gets his suit and shield taken away? He doesn’t exactly have that super-serum running through his veins.
Did anyone else start out with The Avengers thinking, why the heck do they have Natasha and Clint on their team? Only to realize that Clint stole the show in Age of Ultron, reminding us just why we need a human presence on the team, providing the most emotional progression of any one of them through the big Avengers flicks. Their story too comes full circle with Endgame. Natasha’s ultimate sacrifice and Clint’s ultimate redemption go hand-in-hand, wisely playing out the same exact scene from Infinity War between Thanos and Gamora, but with completely opposite emotions.
In Infinity War, we sobbed because of Gamora’s death and at the fact that maybe Thanos did love something aside from himself. We stomped our feet in anger as Thanos wakes up with yet another stone in his collection, while Endgame we cry at the idea of either one of them dying and we stomp our feet at the fact that it was the only way to acquire the stone. I love how the tears were present both times, but for two different, yet similar reasons.
Another sad realization from this death is the fact that we never really got to see Natasha and Bruce Banner rekindle their old flames. Yes, Professor Hulk seems mostly fine doing the solo thing, but the void will always be there.
The most ambitious concept from Endgame is the introduction of the multi-verse and Marvel’s never-ending “sure thing”. They explain time travel like a tree with multiple branches, ignoring the idea of going back in time and changing your present or future. This means that we can finally have multiple versions of the same character, co-existing across different universes or dimensions. Is anyone else curious to see what happened to 2012 Loki after he re-acquired the cube and vanished? Will Disney+’s Loki show focus on that? I sure hope so.
This also means that Thanos (or virtually any baddie) can make their way back to the frontlines, depending on the timeline that we are following. I love how Marvel introduced this idea and mostly backed it up, aside from the occasional stretch of the imagination (did everyone in Peter Parker’s school get snapped away or are some people just living out those high school years forever?).
What I do know is that Marvel has basically created a way to continue making movies for the rest of existence, because they now have a wealth of characters and alternate realities to explore. This is what the comics have been doing for years and the movies have never even dreamed about.
I look forward to watching Endgame for a third and fourth time theatrically and countless more times at home. It’s very rare that such an expansive batch of films can co-exist and intertwine so conclusively and with such epic scale and continuous care for the overall story and characters.
Endgame might not be the best movie ever or even the best Avengers movie (although it’s currently neck-and-neck with Infinity War for me), but one can’t doubt its impact on cinema and long-form storytelling. Studios will be trying to duplicate this for years, while I hope Marvel continues to grow and change how artists can create stories and how audiences can consume their media over a long period of time. Marvel wowed us all when they brought us The Avengers and have only continued to impress as they’ve introduced more outlandish characters into the mix and proven that there’s no limit to imagination. Why stick to one planet or one galaxy when you can have an entire universe, that’s ever-expanding and growing?
Endgame is the end of one chapter, but a promising clean slate for whatever comes next. I just hope it’s as innovative and as ground-breaking as everything that came before it.