Writer’s note: possible spoilers ahead.
Where were you when the first instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man (2008), was released? Or perhaps the better question is…what were you? Me, I was in college with the idea that superhero movies only belonged to those who actually grew up with comics. We used to call them geeks with a hint of ridicule, and now the so-called geeks basically rule.
Eleven years, and 21 superhero movies later, the Marvel Cinematic Universe still manages to recapture the excitement of watching our first Marvel experience, or at least the part when we felt this is going to be a huge part of our pop culture. It’s no surprise that the release of Avengers: Endgame, is an event more than a movie itself. Cinemas everywhere are open beyond the usual operating hours, advance sellouts, and raked in a record-breaking $1.2 billion worldwide on its first weekend. The franchise hardly needed any marketing at all.
But the 22nd movie of the franchise, Avengers: Endgame, is what it is. It marks the end of the MCU’s Infinity saga, which also marks the end for the veteran actors of the MCU’s Avengers. And we take it as a point of pride to be alive today to be able to witness on the big screen when it all happened, OG geek or no.
The Endgame begins where Infinity ends
Much like every Avengers movie, it’s essential to have prior knowledge to everything that’s been going on in the Marvel timeline. You’ll appreciate everything more, trust me. Endgame begins where everything is at an end, or at least feels like it. The earth is in an apocalypse-like setting (because half of the population has vanished. Thanks, Thanos). Specifically twenty-two days after Thanos’ infamous snap. We see our remaining heroes drifting off in space, or drifting off in disbelief on planet Earth.
With the help of a new recruit, Captain Marvel, the Avengers starts the movie strong by achieving something they couldn’t during the entirety of Infinity war: finding Thanos. And on the first half of Endgame, they did not only find him in his retirement, but they managed to cut off his head, too. It’s a bold move, but it has also led to a bigger problem, with the infinity stones reduced to atoms (thanks, Thanos), how can the heroes undo what Thanos has done?
We are then taken to five years later where we get to see the remaining Avengers go through grief – in losing their friends and families while also making sense in carrying the weight of loss on a universal scale. The Avengers have had their failures before, but there was always a plan B, C, to a Z. They are faced with a problem they can’t smash, laser blast, nor throw a vibranium shield to.
The Marvel magic lies in its heroes being human
The first half of the movie is all about these quiet intimate moments. And it’s this kind of humanity that makes Marvel such a hit to its fans – perhaps most especially to non-superhero fans – a reminder that our heroes are real people, well, maybe gods too, but still people. It’s safe to say the entirety of the movie banks on this human aspect. The reflection of failures, the redemption arcs, the reunions – it’s interesting that these superheroes face a problem where their superpowers play the least role, almost irrelevant even.
Because of this, the technical elements of Endgame come second. The cinematography, CGI, musical scores, and production design almost seem invisible beneath the melodramatic tone the characters have well-projected. But they’re all eye-popping nonetheless, the effects unroll in front of us in a Marvel template we’ve all come to know and love. It’s a challenge to top every preceding Marvel film, but the Russo brothers are always up for the challenge. This is why bringing in the time-travel plot of Endgame is a thing we can let filmmakers play around and for us to feast on.
A revisit to MCU’s best bits
Set aside Butterfly Effect, Back to the Future, Interstellar (and well, maybe Die Hard) references on time travel and let Endgame take its course to fully enjoy the Endgame experience. So before you put all logic into play, it’s good to remind ourselves that this is a comic-book movie; and logic is a fool’s errand.
Time Travel, thanks to Ant Man’s quantum realm, paved the way for the possibility of time travel – a chance to undo Thanos’ deed. But it also paved the way to revisit to the best bits of MCU – the first Avengers film, the intro to Guardians of The Galaxy volume 1, Asgard pre-apocalypse, and even through S.H.I.E.L.D on its early years. The time travel lets the movie reflect on itself while piecing itself together, which circles us back to the question, where were you when these instalments were released? Nostalgic does not even begin to describe it. A fair warning that it may require a second viewing to fully see the film without being blocked by tears.
While it is true that the impact of Endgame lies in its quiet moments, the familiarity of photon blasts, spaceships, orange spheres, and the wakandan cheers (yibambe!) coming all together in the big screen makes your skin jump with joy and triumph. Eleven years of Marvel films have all brought us to this moment, and we’re not sure something of that scale is ever going to happen in our lifetime again. At this moment, we are all geeks.
It’s not perfect, but let us allow it to be
There is also a certain subtle comical relief in seeing Bruce Banner come into terms with being The Hulk, of Ant-Man wishing he was as famous as the other Avengers, seeing Pepper Potts read about the science of composting, to Captain America battling his force of habit catchphrases. The Avengers: Endgame is an emotional tribute not just to put a cap on the franchise, but to each of the characters we are to say goodbye to. It’s a celebration for the superheroes (and humans) that many of us have grown a decade with. They are there and have gone to remind us that even heroes battle with reflecting their own feelings and what they stand for – and the impact it has when they’ve come in full circle with themselves.
Walking out of the theater, with eyes all red from crying, we all have questions we need to work through. From “Why did Carol Denver get a haircut?” to “Is Thor part of the Guardians of the Galaxy crew now? (and did he really say Asgardians of the Galaxy?)”. Or we may be busy with poking at loopholes, hurried story arcs, fan service bits but all of it will be to remind our elves that Geek culture may never be the same with Avengers: Endgame – and it is only still beginning.