SPOILERS for ENDGAME
In short: a worthy end to an era.
Almost exactly seven years ago I saw The Avengers (2012) and joined a global phenomenon of engaging with a true cinematic universe on a scale never before seen. Over ten years after Iron Man (2008) made us all dare to dream, I sat in a cinema and watched my heroes win one last time. It’s not the end of the Marvel heroes of course, but it is the end of an era.
As I exited the cinema, red in the face from actual tears, I tried to explain this reaction that I’m certain fans around the world are experiencing. One could compare it to saying goodbye to a beloved TV character after ten seasons, but it’s not even close. These characters have inhabited the world that exists in shows and movies they aren’t present in, and the cinematic universe will feel their loss just as we do. Instead of a character exiting a show, it’s characters exiting the (currently) five TV shows and unknown number of future projects. It’s an entirely new way of experiencing media.
Avengers: Endgame makes the frankly ludicrous task of “bringing half the universe back” into very small and specific missions. We need no character introductions. No motivations or explanation of goals. We know what we want, all this movie has to do is show us how. Perhaps more than anything, it makes the film feel very present in every moment. Ironically for a film about time travel. Every moment feels heavy with the history of the franchise, every decision a decision that will effect not only this film, but dozens of films to come.
Why does it feel so heavy? How can this silly franchise where the star-spangled man with a plan teams up with all the other colorful heroes, make us all so emotional? Long books will be written on this topic in the years and decades to come. For me, there is a moment that comes again and again in these films and shows that I love.
These films tell classic hero stories. They tell us things about fathers, freedom, good and evil, responsibility and being true to yourself – to name a few. Everything they say isn’t “good”. I’m not getting into what the MCU says about the military or the source of individual greatness, which is a whole can of intergalactic worms. My favorite message, however, is the “get up and fight” moments. They always feel real and earned.
I’m not only talking about the classic Captain Marvel moment of physically getting up. They come in many forms. For Cpt. Marvel it’s about not proving yourself to anybody but yourself. For Spider-Man it’s about being capable even without the suit. For the Guardians it’s about finding strength in each other.
Sometimes it’s more about deciding to fight, like when Valkyrie accepts her past failure, dons her armor and strolls in slow-motion to meet her foes. When the Avengers assemble for the first time into a team. When Captain America says “I could do this all day” – all of them. I’m probably forgetting dozens of little moments, but you get the picture.
These are moments that make or break our heroes. When I compare them to the DC universe I feel a distinct difference in tone. Be warned, I’m about to say something slightly negative about the Nolan films. When Bruce Wayne is injured and eventually heals himself through the power of a mystical gym membership, it does not give me the same emotion. I’m not happy Batman is back. Batman has simply remembered to be Batman and stopped moping around. For all my love of Superman, he has no real get up and fight moment because he’s Superman. We know that once he’s decided to fight, he knows he’ll win. I do probably prefer Wonder Woman over Cpt. Marvel, but I still feel the latter’s fight moment far greater.
When Captain America stands alone against Thanos’ army (hello new desktop background), he doesn’t know if he’ll win. When every single hero comes through the portals, assembles, and charges as the enemy, they still don’t know if they’ll win. But they decided to fight. They decided to be who they are. Those are the moments I adore. Avengers: Endgame gives us several such moments: Iron Man’s decision to come back to the team, Thor’s decision to retrieve his hammer and be Thor again, and of course Captain America gets up a lot in this film. Moments of healing and determination, or making the right choice even when others tell you there’s no hope. These are the kind of lessons that stories are suppose to teach us, and why comic books really are our modern myths.
I never thought, back in 2008, that I would still feel excited watching comic book characters assemble in 2019. The Russo brothers, and everyone involved in every one of these films (yes, even Thor: The Dark World) have made something worth being excited about. That’s incredible. In 2012 I rolled a 6 for The Avengers because I felt it was an instant favorite. Maybe this one won’t be, because it will be so sad to go back to, but I will never forget it.
Dice roll: 6