Pre-Avengers Endgame Thoughts: End of the MCU Era

To me, Avengers: Endgame is not “just a film” in the same way that a painting is never “just a painting” or a book is never “just a book”. In my mind at least, this film is so much more than that – a movement, a celebration and the finale of a cinematic revolution are just a few words that spring to mind. Now to those who don’t follow the series or movies in general, that may seem a little dramatic, but hyperbole aside, I urge you to stick with me.

It’s a fact, whether you like it or not, that Endgame is an unprecedented cinematic achievement eleven years in the making – unlike anything that has come before it. It is the conclusion of an idea and story that, by industry parameters, shouldn’t work – an interweaving narrative that spans 11 years, one shared universe, multiple franchises, hundreds of characters, BILLIONS of dollars – yet it’s one that has shaken the industry and blockbuster cinematic storytelling in ways that once seemed impossible.

As of writing this, we are just over 24 hours away from the film’s release – Marvel Studios’ 22nd release in 11 years – and when I say that I could not be more excited, I truly mean it. These films inspire me, they entertain me, they connect with me – they make me proud to be a fan. These films, and perhaps Endgame more than any of its predecessors, have allowed me to connect with other people just like me on an unprecedented mainstream scale and I could not be more grateful for that. This is why when people talk of the success of these movies (and WOW are they successful), the conversation shouldn’t just be about what they’ve done for the industry – that’s only half of the story.

My point here is that these films, these characters and these stories have, in their unparalleled success, made me feel seen – ironic I know considering at least two of them concern a man who can shrink to the size of an ant. But for someone who doesn’t really know who they are or what they’re doing on the best of days, that’s a pretty big deal.

Throughout the past 11 years, I have grown up with these films alongside me all the way and hope to continue to do so as I work through life post-phase-three – and inevitably, if fan theories are to be believed, without a few of the fictional characters who have helped me get there (Cap, I’m looking at you).

But for those like me who also grew up fascinated by comics, isn’t it great to see that these characters and ‘the superhero’ in general are actually considered cool now?! Now that’s not to say that a mainstream, global success should determine who likes what – quite the opposite. There’s just something brilliantly absurd about seeing massive audiences opening their hearts and minds to these stories, giving new life to the original works of Stan Lee and company in the process – and whether or not you buy into the idea of ‘superhero fatigue’, the idea of the MCU maintaining that legacy is something that will surely never get old.

Perhaps the most obvious on-screen example of this unlikely success in action would be that of the now beloved ragtag-misfits, the Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean seriously – take it back ten years and ask yourself this; if the MCU weren’t around, would you have paid to watch a racoon, a tree, a green alien, Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation and Batista himself bond for two hours? I mean let’s be honest, we all absolutely would have – but the point still stands!

Now bring it back forward to where we are now and ask yourself if you could imagine closing out ‘The Infinity Saga’ without that ragtag team (give or take a few new additions) – the answer, if you’re anything like me, should be absolutely not. All of this is basically just a longwinded way of demonstrating how Marvel can, and does, take risks – the majority of which have provided a new generation with a whole host of new household names that I can only wish were considered cool when I was younger. Now that’s not to say that these films are always perfect (*cough* Thor: The Dark World) and Endgame is inevitably going to leave some fans dissatisfied, but as ‘the MCU generation’ of filmgoers, I think we can all respect the journey and its cultural significance – regardless of how the ending plays out.

Given the sheer diversity of Marvel’s pre-established catalogue of characters and comics alike, I also find it interesting to look at the diversity of filmmaking styles that have served to construct the shared cinematic universe that we all know and love today. Take for example Taika Waititi’s 80s inspired, retro fever-dream of a film Thor: Ragnarok and compare that to Joe Johnston’s earlier offering of Captain America: The First Avenger. Tonally they’re complete opposites, feature completely different characters, vastly different settings and yet there’s an undeniable sense of familiarity shared between these and other MCU instalments, even all of these years later. These films and the MCU, in general, prove to a new generation of filmmakers that adaptation and the carrying out of a unique vision are possible even in mainstream cinema, and that’s pretty cool.

With all of this in mind, it’s fitting to me then, almost poetic even if we’re being dramatic, that Endgame is releasing at a time in my life wherein I’ve never felt so unsure of myself – but as these films have taught me, things come and go and eventually, everything must come to an end. And yes, while Endgame is certainly not the MCU’s final instalment, it’s the end of a pivotal era for a lot of fans (and a few of our favourite characters) – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Regardless of how ‘The Infinity Saga’ wraps up come Endgame’s closing credits, what this cinematic era leaves behind is something that I imagine will be talked about, by fans and industry insiders alike, for years to come – an emotionally resonant narrative arc that has wowed critics, defied expectations and, perhaps most importantly, inspired audiences old and young for over a decade.

So yes, to some Avengers: Endgame might well be “just a film” and that’s absolutely fine. But like most things, to others, including myself, it represents something far different. So, on that note: To my fellow Marvel fans who’ve been following along all these years and to those who are just getting started, I really do hope you enjoy the film and equally, continue to enjoy all of those that came before it for years to come. I’ll see you on the other side.

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