To Kevin, Joe and Anthony- a love letter. 

It has become increasingly fitting that the name of the final entry in the Marvels Cinematic Universe ”Infinity saga” is the crescendo of a popular culture phenomenon that has made a seismic shift in the craft of film making and made such an impact on audiences across the world. Even head honcho, nucleus and mastermind Kevin Feige could surely not have realised how everything would have transpired since Tony Stark was kidnapped in Afghanistan, but here we are. spanning galaxies, centuries and the very fabric of human emotion, it’s not just about the fate of the universe now. It has all come down to this. The final 182 minutes. The Endgame.
From the ambiguous meeting with Nick Fury to a mysterious hammer being found in a crater in New Mexico, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its hundreds of contributors have constructed, deconstructed and revitalized the superhero movie like never before, bringing a previously niche genre into mainstream consciousness with a delicate balance of heart, soul, humor and spectacle which will be almost impossible to replicate. After being hoodwinked, blindsided and generally had our hearts cut to ribbons and cubes like the odd couple of Mantis and Drax, an overarching narrative with so many layers, ramifications and moving parts should never have worked on the big screen. Breaking down the concept of origin story, expanding an ensemble cast and going beyond a mere ”saga”, nothing has ever been attempted like this in the history of cinema.
Math was never my strong point but, to me, Avengers Endgame has the feeling that it is the third act in the directors trilogy, while simultaneously concluding a grander story about an increasing group of extraordinary individuals and their respective relationships. Endgame could be the Russos difficult third album, after Civil War and Infinity War, but the build up has comprised of years, phases (I still have no clue how that works) and over 20 movies that bring dozens of characters together as well as ripping a few apart, emotionally and physically. At the end of Infinity War, where another one and another one bit (turned to) dust, the film has unrivaled anticipation, expectation, fueled hundreds of theories and reached fever pitch. We’ve had time to grieve, but now in some respects, it might be time to say goodbye.
Hydras mantra of cutting off a head will make two grow in its place seems to reflect the continual evolution and scale of this saga. Have all of the MCU movies been home runs? No. Some, such as Thor The Dark World and the (not as bad as I remember) Avengers Age Of Ultron were nonetheless conservative strike outs and served their purpose to get the bases loaded. But the home run to bring them all back safe? That is now.
The MCU became a beast only a select few could hope to control, while individual directors have ranged from the bold to the culturally important and refreshingly hilarious, the task eventually fell to brothers Joe and Anthony Russo- Like Pacific Rim pilots controlling a jaeger, two minds perfectly synchronized sharing experiences, ideas and workload.
Its also crazy to think that this late in the game, there were still characters to introduce. Captain Marvel to me is a microcosm of the saga as a whole, and ironically mirrors Thanos’ mantra- balance. But there are also concerns, as with the movie as a whole. Too much reliance on a cosmically powerful character could dilute the impact of the previous struggles of the heroes we have already invested in. Too little, and we could question the very justification of their inclusion. But it isn’t just Captain Marvel, or any other character the has been introduced relatively recently, which is why I still cling to the hope that they can pull this off.
Lets not forget that the first interaction between Dr Strange and Stark only happened at the beginning of Infinity War, such is the mastery of the Russo craft that, just like the implementation of Black Panther and Spider-Man in Civil War, I feel as connected within minutes of them appearing on screen as I did when Tony found out the true murderer of his parents, long after the first Iron Man and Captain America movies.
I also think more than many or any other piece of popular culture, the closure of these different characters story arcs runs in parallel with the journey of the actors portraying them. Before, we had Jackman as Wolverine, but in spite of, and even because of personal tribulations, RDJ IS the complicated yet charismatic ego of Tony Stark and Chris Evans made Steve Rogers/ Captain America a likable underdog come talisman. But there have been notable and numerous reasons to think that the character/s could evolve beyond these iterations.
The Internet… What a gloriously toxic and volatile place it can be. As I recall, there were a lot of reservations about the casting of Heath Ledger… Anyway, another testament as to why these films have worked so well is their marketing, especially in this spoiler heavy, leak obsessed digital culture. The hype and expectation is into the statosphere, because as far as I am concerned, not one clip or line of dialogue has given too much, or anything away. No big reveals, no conclusive evidence towards the means or the ends. Yes, there has been toy leaks and speculation galore, but the combination of the passion the teams have in the result combined with the attempts from other studios to replicate what the MCU have done highlights how much care and detail has been put in since day one. Marvel movies will continue to be made. Hell, Spider-Man Far From home comes out in July! with the suspension of disbelief being well and truly from the rafters, nothing will truly be the end, but this movie will come, my be has to come, damn close.
As a result, In terms of the way the movie itself will play out, I have absolutely no idea. It might come down to not being as simple or as binary as winning or losing. The idea of harmony or the Japanese term ”wa” goes some way to understanding Thanos motives and motivation, and it was the highest compliment I could give to Josh Brolin that Thanks is a multi dimensional villain, let alone character with as much emotional baggage as any of the heroes, but also in the idea that however skewed his actions, his reasons were almost noble. Despite Starks humorous ‘he is from space trying to steal a necklace from a wizard’, the themes and emotions of Infinity War and the saga as a whole are very relatable.
I never thought Infinity war would end the way it did. Combining the scale and spectacle of something like Kill Bills House of the Blue leaves with an event so devastating that the film could stand on its own and be a definite, albeit gut wrenching conclusion. the mere thought of potentially having to go through all this again to see the bigger picture using words like sacrifice or redemption is almost unbearable.
Sparing Starks life was never in the MO, to the contrary in fact, but Strange did not play what was in front of him. He had to go deeper, further and identify his role in all of this. For me personally, it was always about Tony and Cap. The role of Howard Stark in both of their lives, their confluence, conflict and subsequent separation has been the beating heart of the saga, whether individually or together. A clash of leaders, generations, ideologies, morals and science. But why is it so important? Because of what’s come before it, and the people involved. Candidly describing the cast as a less dysfunctional family by the directors, whether its Barton, Lang, Stark or Thor, Endgame has the potential to reopen old wounds. Saying a true goodbye to a loved one on their deathbed in Winter Soldier or using the BARF technology in Civil War to excorsise personal demons has only scratched the surface as to the emotional rollercoaster that we could go through come the 26th.
This isn’t merely round two, nor is it just unfinished business. The MCU in its current state and the ”Infinity saga” in particular has been a modern popular culture game changer, like Lord of the Rings over 15 years ago. Whether characters splinter or spin off, this movie truly feels bigger than just ”my Star Wars, ESB, Return of the Jedi”, or any other example you could come up with. its even more of a mix of tone and themes, wrestling characters regimes motives and haunting memories, dealing with the conflict they have within themselves as well as each other. Its about having to move on. Not forgetting the past, nor looking too far forward in to the future. From the evolution of Tony adapting to survive to the revolution of Ragnorok to the revelation of a new type of villain in Thanos, these movies have taken the genre out of its esoteric bubble, made the ”big picture” the biggest in the universe, while dealing with intimate struggles and surpassing the benchmarks of the medium.
Whatever it takes.

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