In Hollywood history there is nothing really to compare to Marvel’s 22 movies over a ten year period leading up to a crescendo finale with the stars of all the previous movies in it. The budgets generally were in the hundreds of millions and the box office would eventually grow to $21 billion. Actors, directors, writers and the best crews in the business collaborated on something called the Marvel Cinematic Universe on a story that originally was told in a comic book.
It could have all gone so wrong… *** WARNING… SPOILERS AHEAD! ***
Marvel knew the only sure way for the business plan to work was to go back to their expansive cast of characters and work with material they exclusively held the rights to. This was no easy task as the company has already licensed Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and others to Columbia, New Line and 20th Century Fox, It was unlikely any of those studios would want their own movie franchises hurt by a competing Marvel Studios.
It would all start in 2008 with Iron Man and the casting of Robert Downey Jr. in what was supported to be the start of a new self-financed series of movies. It might have seemed like a slam dunk at the time but there was nervousness about Downey and of the story itself connecting. There was no real telling if acceptance of the whole franchise would be forthcoming. In the end, Marvel’s decision and the work of some key people and a whole lot of collaboration made the whole thing seem flawless.
To view Avengers Endgame as a stand alone movie would be like turning to a book and reading the last chapter and understanding all that came before. This became the fun in each movie over the last ten years. A thread of storylines, clues and previews were intertwined and some characters would appear in a number of movies whether it be Nick Fury or Black Widow or Hulk himself. To this end all of the characters would unite as the Avengers. This happened over four movies. The best way to think of Endgame is to think of it as part 2 of the previous Infinity Wars. Endgame takes place three weeks after the events of that movie.
Since the movie is entering just shy of a month in theatres, most of the spoilers are now out of the way but for those that have not seen it stop reading now.
The Russo Brothers as directors and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely as writers continue from Infinity Wars into Endgame. The two movies were shot back to back but the snap of Thano’s fingers has cut the universe’s population in half. It also means half the Avengers are gone and we have a defeated and demoralized group of superheroes left. Some of the questions of why some characters were missing from the last movie are answered. Captain Marvel played by Brie Larsen, Ant-Man played by Paul Rudd and Hawkeye played by Jeremy Renner have their absences accounted for. In the case of Hawkeye, choosing to be with his family instead of the Avengers cost Clint Barton his whole family and turned him to a man wracked with grief and anger.
Tony Stark/Iron Man played by Robert Downey’s Jr. is nursing terrible physical and mental wounds while marooned on a ship with Nebula played by Ken Gillan. They are the only ones left after fighting Thanos and losing. Tony is full of regrets over his love with Pepper Potts and of losing teen Spider-Man to the snap that also took Dr. Strange and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Only Captain Marvel’s rescue after three weeks of drifting brings Tony and Nebula back to Earth.
The rump of Avengers and left and Nebula include Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Rocket Racoon, War Machine, Captain America and Iron Man quickly locate Thanos and pursue him only to find he had destroyed the Infinity Stones. Nebula says Thanos would not lie on such a thing and his injuries indicate he was exposed to great energy, presumably when the stones were eliminated. Thor, knowing there is now no way to undo The Snap, kills Thanos in a rage.
Five years jump in the story and back on Earth, the devastation of losing half the population brings an relenting mourning for some. For others like Tony, he still has Pepper with who he retreats with and builds a life away from grief and guilt, particularly of Spider-Man who he was extremely fond of. The opposite side the coin in Clint Barton/Hawkeye who did not take part in the Infinity Wars yet loses his entire family to The Snap. His rage turn him into vigilante killer of all those deemed evil who remain alive.
The arrival of Scott Lang Ant-Man from the time realm changes the course of the Avengers. He too was not present during the Infinity Wars but his safe and successful trip through time shows a possible way to reverse what Thanos has done. This raises a lot of questions as well as resistance from the group. For Tony Stark who has carved out some happiness with Pepper as well as having a child, it could reverse all that. He only agrees with Pepper’s blessing and the promise that restoration will only happen doesn’t erase the past five years.
The last five years have been hard ones for others. Natasha Romanoff has basically been head of Avengers/Shield and doing what she can with Captain America, Rhodes and Rocket along with Captain Marvel. She is exhausted, especially since Hulk, Thor and Iron-Man have taken leave.
Avengers Endgame explore how grief has strained the team to the limits and who has stepped up, almost unexpectedly so. However, Ant-Man’s return brings a new enthusiasm as well as some humour to the prospect that the The Snap can be undone. Funny discussions related to time travel and pop culture were particularly noteworthy.
The explain the plot surrounding the actual time travel and retrieval of the Infinity Stones and the renewed battle with Thanos really defies description. But a Smart Hulk, an overweight and distracted Thor and too smart for his own good Iron Man make for a lot of fun, if confusing, action pieces. The Snap is reversed and Hulk wounded badly but the battle is not over as Thanos travels from the past into the future to stop the plan. This time though he faces a full restored Avengers and allies team that tips the balance. Captain Marvel is a difference maker in the fight but it is Tony Stark as Iron Man who makes the sacrifice for them all.
It is a satisfying ending to ten years of film-making. Even if a character is brought back (does anyone ever really die in comics?) it will probably not be the same actors we have grown to love. But this might not be a bad thing. How many actors have played Spider-Man, Hulk, Rhodes? Audiences have shown a willingness to go on. And so the series will. At the end of the movie was a trailer for the new Spider-Man that picks up right where Avengers leaves off.
Here’s to the next 10 years.
This has been a guest editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations