I have given more than half of my life to the Avengers. I first saw Iron Man (2008) at my local cinema with my dad; I remember enthusiastically climbing the bus stop afterward and demanding I be called ‘iron girl’. I went home and painted toilet roll tubes red and yellow to make gauntlets (which sat nicely alongside my tin foil Wolverine claws). I’m now 21, and the Avengers have been by my side for eleven of the most formative years of my life.
Avengers: Endgame is the long-awaited culmination of those years, a coming together of everyone we have met along the way, and a chance for the team to finally live up to their name and ‘avenge’. As cinema has had so many iterations of beloved comic book heroes, fans held out hope that those we lost during the events of Infinity War would return. But Marvel Studios are smarter than most give them credit for – a sense of finality is essential to keeping high stakes, and Endgame has buckets of both.
Infinity War was never a cliffhanger. That film is Thanos’ story: he wins, the good guys lose. And the stakes have not disappeared in Endgame, as the team is more desperate than ever. “We need to find a purpose again,” Steve Rogers explains in a support group for those looking to move on. The film picks up a little while after the Snap and the world looks like a ghost town – people don’t know what to do or how to be. Thanos wanted “a grateful universe”, but instead he got a lost one. It would be near impossible for me to even vaguely describe anymore plot without ‘spoiling the endgame’. But put it this way: fans will be immensely gratified.
Marvel have never been afraid of the dark, alongside their quick-witted quips they have always used their heroes to explore deeper themes. This final installment, which will be the penultimate addition to Phase Three (Spider-Man: Far From Home will see its end), is like working through stages of grief. We see the remainder of the team grapple with survivors’ guilt, and Tony, a man who could never stop building his vision of “a suit of armour around the world” finally has to deal with failure.
Endgame feels like a victory lap. It is a means of catharsis and a release for fans who have held their breath, awaiting the fate of their favourite heroes. A warning, however – the film gives no mercy to those who have skipped one too many films in the franchise. You may find yourself whispering to your friend to seek clarification on how certain people and things ended up in certain places and situations.
In the history of cinema no franchise has ever achieved what Marvel has with the Avengers; not even Star Wars. Even with the culmination of 21 films, 30+ beloved characters, stories that have stayed in the hearts of fans for years and formed a part of them; nothing could have prepared me for this. The Avengers have given fans hope and belonging for eleven years in the MCU and decades before in the comics. Now, hope is what they need from us, and the Russo brothers make it oh so easy for the audience to hand ourselves over completely in that cinema and just disappear. I didn’t come back down to earth until I was on the bus home.
Endgame is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It takes fans on an exhilarating tour of every moment they’ve shared, but it doesn’t wish those moments back. It doesn’t long for a time of heroes then, instead it’s a fond farewell and the opening of a door to heroes now: heroes who are not alike. They are not all white, male, rich, or gods; they are men and women who have lost everything but still have everything to give. People, like time, only move forward, and we are doing so with the likes of ex-air force pilots, scientists, Pegasus-riding aliens, and friendly neighbourhood spiders – and none of them look the same.
The film is a deserved and touching farewell to a phase of Marvel that has changed the meaning of the word ‘blockbuster’. A decade-long journey like that of the MCU is something that may never be repeated, and boy am I glad to have been here for the whole glorious thing.
Millicent Thomas is a student in Bath and a freelance film writer with words in Little White Lies, Berlin Film Journal, Reel Honey and more. You can find her on twitter @millicentonfilm.