As a movie, Avengers Endgame was overly long, slow in places, and incredibly self indulgent; as an experience, Avengers Endgame was the end of a journey through two dozen movies that evoked powerful emotions in me.1 The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been running for over a decade, and Endgame felt like a weaponised piece of nostalgia, evoking the entire history of the MCU, and by extension, the last quarter of my life.
As such, I’m not going to spend much time on the movie. After the cold open, the movie got lost for a long time, but the romp through the MCU catalogue was fun, giving those who have watched the entire catalogue of movies moment after moment to smile at, 2 before the obligatory third act battle that has been the undoing of most of the marvel movies and an epilogue that was far too long. Each character was genuinely given their due, right down into the C list,3 though I’m not going to unpack whether the A-force moment was earned, or merely highlighted how under-served the female MCU heroes were. Of all the cast, I’m still most impressed with Tom Holland as Spiderman, who manages to convey actual dramatic emotion in the midst of CGI spectacle. None of this matters however, compared to what Endgame made me feel.
It made me remember going to see Iron Man with my pregnant wife at Crowfoot in Calgary, half way through my first postdoc in Canada. We were living in a new country, expecting our first baby, and I was optimistic about my first real job. It was a fun time out at the movies, more enjoyable than the Dark Night, but also feeling less substantive. Certainly not the foundation on which an empire would be built.
I laughed when Captain America got in an elevator, and I thought about how I hadn’t caught up with a friend in a while, and how much fun we had discussing winter soldier as we walked out. I smiled as my children squealed at things they remembered from the MCU movies I had taken them to. I felt genuine joy as my wife laughed at Thor.
Most impactful of all however, was the invocation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Out of nowhere I remember my wife and I being exhausted after life had thrown us a few curve balls, the bottom was falling out of my career and we just needed to go out. She took me to it to cheer me up, and Peter Quill dancing at the beginning was the thing I needed. The amazing thing is that I have watched Guardians any number of times since then, and I’ve never had that emotional response, but the framing of it being watched by somebody else put me back there.
The Marvel movies will continue on, but Endgame felt like a real transition for the series.4 I walked out with a sense of melancholy, as the first movie came out when I was starting my dream career, full of hope and optimism, and this comes out as I’ve left, and am still reconciling myself with it. In a strange way, these films framed a chapter of my life. I’ve never thought of the MCU as being particularly important to me, but this made me feel as if they were. While the movies have varied drastically in quality, the universe has become something great, and Endgame embodies that, a weak movie that none the less feels like a satisfying conclusion, not to Infinity War, but to the entire marvel project so far.