We’ll dispense with the negativity up front:
Avengers: Endgame is not a perfect movie. It’s got some pacing issues, it gets a bit tongue-in-cheek, it suffers from a couple plot holes (though no where near as bad as Back to the Future Part II), and… well, that’s all I can think of so far, but that’s about as deep as I go in “bashing” this movie. At the end of the day it’s one of the funnest movies to watch now, but it’s also one of the most soulful there’s been in a while, and it all became pretty clear for me in my most recent watch.
The word of the day for me is IMPORTANT. A thing doesn’t have to be great, fantastic, or really anything to be IMPORTANT. For me, this movie is IMPORTANT because it completely rejuvenated the idea of the super hero for me, an adult, in the most significant way since I first learned about power and responsibility as a child.
When you’re a kid, you learn about characters like Spider-Man, Batman, et al., and how they respond to tragedy or unusual circumstances by fighting for the greater good. “With great power comes great responsibility,” “I am vengeance,” and all that hoopla. As a kid, you come to learn the fundamentals of “being a hero” and aspire to those ideals.
For me, it was about making myself stronger and more capable to be able to help others, even in the smallest ways. If going to the gym for five to ten hours a week made me just a little bit stronger and a little bit more reliable to help people carry heavy objects, then I’d say that’s a decent thing. If I can put my ass to work on a daily basis and contribute to society, and just be damn capable and reliable, then that’s pretty decent, too, as far as I’m concerned. I’m no real hero like the first-responders that put their lives on the line for us every day, but we can always take a little pride in being an “Everyman” (as I like to emphasize it) and just be there for the everyday normalcy, but make it a little easier for others.
So that’s basically what super heroes did for me. They taught me to plainly and simply be a better me and do some good along the way.
Endgame breaks the rules… rather, it doesn’t so much break the rules so much as it turns everything you know on its head. Ironically, I find a lot of the negative feedback with this movie is precisely what I find so great about it.
Take Thor as the biggest example:
There’s a lot of people out there who don’t like fat Thor. “They completely trample over several movies of character progression!” Nah, man. They really don’t. The whole point of Endgame is seeing our great and mighty heroes faced with the greatest loss and how they respond to it. If anybody is gonna slack off and let themselves truly go, it’s Thor, and why not? He lost his home, most of his people, and failed to stop Thanos out of sheer pride. I think anybody might fall back a little after that roller coaster, but you know what the big take away from this is? HE’S STILL WORTHY.
We all have our low days. $&i# happens. It’s okay to wallow a bit, to mourn, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn around and rise up higher than ever. It took a little soul searching, as per usual, but Thor gets there. He moves upward and onward, but even more important, he takes a step back. He learns that it’s okay to ease himself of some burdens, and to only take on what he can. He might not be able to lead his people, but he can still fight to the last breath against the Mad Titan.
Then there’s Cap:
Five years ago I would’ve scoffed at the very thought of the movie ending like this. Now though? Complete opposite. I bawl every time, partially because movies just don’t end on such a happy note, let alone an iconic kiss, like they used to. It’s so beautifully old-fashioned it kills me. Furthermore, it just makes so much sense for the type of story the MCU is trying to relate. These aren’t your typical comic book movies any more. This is a comic book universe that ages and evolves, and you know what? Yeah, after several movies and world-ending scenarios, if Cap sees an opportunity to claim some happiness for himself – a once in a lifetime chance? I don’t blame him.
And neither should we blame ourselves. Being a hero in reality isn’t always about being on the grind and not sparing a thought for the simpler things. I’ll be honest, I think about the simpler things all the time, but most of the time when I do just sit back and count my blessings it isn’t long until I start feeling restless. I write this right now nursing seasonal sickness. It’s rough dragging myself to the gym and trying to be the best I can at work and at home, but sometimes you really just have to learn to let off some steam and say, “Hey, the world can wait for one night if I just want to enjoy it a little.” Or in this case, just rest.
I don’t think I’ve earned the stay of rest that Cap does by the end of his MCU career, but it certainly opens my eyes to the idea of a super hero’s retirement in a bold new way.
Which lastly brings us to Tony:
I post this particular image, because this is the one that usually breaks me (if I’m not already broken by this point in the movie). The whole concept of Tony being able to rest in this movie runs so deep and is so moving that it honestly reverberates almost as loudly as power and responsibility has for me since I was a kid.
Tony has everything he could want or need. A wife. A daughter. Family. However there is a haunt that overshadows his life, and in reality the life of his family, that he just can’t shake. Only upon making the ultimate sacrifice does he finally bring back the light and is able to pass on peacefully. Pepper’s reassurance of how they’re going to “be alright” is perhaps the most haunting moment of all.
Why shouldn’t it be haunting?
I often go to bed now wondering if the people in my life – friends, family, particularly my own wife – will “be alright” should an anvil drop on my head tomorrow. Do I go to bed restful? It sways here and there, but the worry doesn’t go away. Much like the haunt of power and responsibility, a lesson to follow in life, there is now a haunt of if those close to me are happy and safe.
It’s a little melodramatic, certainly, but the point pertains. Obviously you can’t control what will occur in the world after you’re gone, but as long as you leave each day on a good note, that’s what really matters.
So to wrap it all up:
Avengers: Endgame is a tour de force that delivers on the devotion of its fan base, but also conveys strong messages through its now sage-like leads that leave the MCU in the hands of its successors. I really only scratched on the surface of it, because just about every key character in this movie bears an important message, but it’s the ones that come from the big three that weigh on me the most.
THOR – Worthiness in the wake of wallowing.
CAP – Knowing when to seize the moment.
IRON MAN – Going to bed peacefully.
Yeah… those aren’t your everyday super hero words of wisdom, but that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that power and responsibility is irrelevant, just that there’s more to consider moving forward in life; various ways to react to impossible situations. It’s not always about dealing with the battle at hand, but furthermore keeping an open mind on the endgame…. Endgame, get it?
TL;DR Score: Avengers: Endgame is for this adult what Amazing Fantasy #15 was for a five year-old.