In its eleven years of existence, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (colloquially known as the MCU) has become a cultural experience of unprecedented magnitude.
To date, the MCU has released 22 movies, earned close to 19 billion dollars, and witnessed a generation of kids grow up alongside the country’s favorite superheros. It is an enormous feat for the late Marvel comics creator Stan Lee, who initially used a pen name to avoid the embarrassment of being known as a comic book author.
Though Marvel comics have been around since 1961, the 2000’s saw the creation of the cinematic side of things. On April 26, 2019, Avengers: Endgame smashed the record for the biggest opening weekend in history, earning 1.2 billion dollars in four days.
The film is the conclusion to the Avengers saga that began in 2008 with Iron Man. Considering that fans have waited eleven years for this movie, it seems only fair to warn readers that this article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
If you do not want to read any spoilers for the film, DO NOT read any further.
The film opens soon after the events of the previous movie, Infinity War. Both Tony Stark, famed “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist,” and alien Nebula are adrift in space with seemingly no hope of return. Just a few minutes in, though, he is rescued by Captain Marvel, protagonist of the second most recent Marvel film. Captain Marvel takes Tony and Nebula back to Earth, where the rest of the Avengers wait.
Reunited, the team hatch a plan to confront villain Thanos and reverse the events of Infinity War. Upon reaching Thanos’s planet, however, they learn that the Infinity Stones (their only chance of success) have been destroyed. Thor, enraged, beheads and kills Thanos. The team returns to Earth.
If this seems like a fast-paced series of events, that’s because it is. In fact, this whole confrontation happens in the first ten minutes of the movie. In all honesty, it feels rushed.
What follows is a three-hour saga of loss, sacrifice, and heartbreak. The movie is complex: it interlaces every movie from the last decade of Marvel. If you haven’t seen every film, it is nearly impossible to follow.
We learn that five years has passed since the Avengers last attempted to fix things, and prospects seem bleak. The team is separated. Tony Stark is nowhere to be found.
The catalyst for the rest of the movie, funnily enough, is a rat. The rodent steps on the abandoned control panel for the Quantum Realm device from Ant-Man and the Wasp, accidentally flipping the switch and bringing back Scott Lang (Ant-Man). Though half a decade has passed in the outside world, it has only been several hours for Lang.
Energized by this development, Lang goes to the Avengers’ Compound and proposes the idea of time travel to the other heroes. For help, they go to Tony Stark, who has apparently gotten married and now has a young daughter. In a series of reunions, arguments, and eventual reconciliation, the team develops a plan to go back in time, retrieve the Stones, and use them to bring everyone back from Infinity War.
Again, it gets confusing.
The rest of the movie is an homage to Marvel’s finest moments. Using green screens and old footage, the Avengers are inserted into older films and encounter past characters. Tony Stark meets his father in 1970. Captain America fights his past self. In the midst of the chaos, Stan Lee appears in his final cameo, filmed just before his death. Fittingly, he is edited to look like his younger self and holds up a peace sign to proclaim, “Make love, not war.”
It is, truly, an epic of unimaginable proportions. It is a love letter to the fans, the actors, and to a decade of achievement on the part of the creators. It is unbelievably well done.
The ending to the movie is indescribable. Nearly every character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is resurrected from being “snapped” by Thanos to face him once more. As more than thirty main characters take their places, minus the now deceased Natasha Romanoff, Captain America utters the most famous phrase in the MCU one last time:“Avengers, assemble.”
“Captain America wields both his iconic shield and Mjolnir, Thor’s famed hammer. Pepper Potts fights alongside Tony Stark in her own suit. Spider-Man meets Captain Marvel. In a particularly emotional moment, the women of the MCU–including Captain Marvel, Pepper Potts, Hope Van Dyne, and Valkyrie–to name just a few, help Scarlet Witch in her fight against Thanos.
Minutes before the end of the battle, Thanos seems to have won, declaring that he is “inevitable.” Tony Stark, alone and facing him, says only three words that began the MCU, the last three words of Iron Man, a line that was originally unscripted but singularly incredible: “I am Iron Man.”“
Tony Stark, alone, faces Thanos, kills both him and his army, and collapses. The force from the fight has left half of his body scarred. Though Tony is unable to speak, Peter Parker tearfully tells him that “we won” before Pepper Potts shows up.
In the theater on opening night, an audience of people is dead silent. It is the quietest theater I have ever been in. Despite the lack of sound, everyone is sobbing as we watch Tony Stark die.
It is a reflection of the Avengers’ impact that no audience member left without shedding a tear. Tony Stark’s funeral scene is beautifully done. The arc reactor, the iconic symbol of Iron Man, is floated on a bed of flowers to the middle of a lake. A panning camera reveals every hero, including minor character Harley Keener, mourning the legend.
In the final scene, Steve Rogers is tasked with returning the Infinity Stones to their proper place in time. He is supposed to return in five seconds. He doesn’t. Nearby, it is revealed that an older man sits alone on a bench. It is Steve Rogers. Given the chance to go back in time, he had returned to his former love Peggy Carter, and lived out the rest of his life with her. The “man out of time,” as Captain America was so fittingly called in his original comic, has finally gotten the ending he wanted. Steve turns the shield over to Sam Wilson, passing the mantle of Captain America.
The film ends with a clip of Steve dancing with Peggy Carter, fulfilling his promise from the first Captain America film.
When I was six years old, watching the first Iron Man in theaters, I had no idea the impact that the Avengers films would have on my life. I have grown up with these movies. To witness the death of the first superhero franchise I ever fell in love with was crushing. Make no mistake, Marvel will continue to make films. The original Avengers saga, however, has reached its ending.
The Avengers films are now being called the Star Wars of this generation. Though the movies are complete and the story is over, it can be revisited. These 22 movies mark the journey of a lifetime, one that was rare and unparalleled. While it is heartbreaking to witness its end, it is extraordinarily wonderful that we experienced the journey.
After all, part of the journey is the end.