Avengers Endgame is a phenomenal moment in film history. Not only did it gross $1 billion at the global box office in 5 days, but it acts as a great conclusion to the MCU’s 11-year history and sequel to last year’s Infinity War.
It is undoubtedly a must see for fans of both comics and films and will go down in history as a cultural phenomenon.
For producers, the MCU serves as a definitive case study in the appeal of spherical storytelling – films that cross over into “All-Star Team Ups” and establishing a cinematic universe.
We are long past the era of splitting final films into two-parters. This is not a Deathly Hallows Part II, or Mockingjay Part II. Endgame is its own conclusive film to 11 years of MCU history.
There will be SPOILERS from this point on, so I just thought I’d give you fair warning.
“WE’RE IN THE ENDGAME NOW.” – SPOILER WARNING!
I won’t spoil everything about the film, but just the key character and narrative aspects which will have the greatest impact going forward.
As a film, Endgame was expertly set up. Infinity War left the world reeling after seeing their beloved characters turn to ash. A post credits scene set up the hype for Captain Marvel – as the possible saviour for the MCU characters.
Everything was going strong going into this – and it delivered.
But at a cost – a narrative cost.
We are now 5 years on from Infinity War and instead of restoring a timeline, we have Tony Stark sacrifice himself to snap everybody back into existence.
The death of Iron Man is tragic, satisfying, and deserved. Captain America’s return to the past was well-earned and a fitting end to his character arc, and even the Hulk managed to reconcile with his own personal struggle.
Thor has had a problematic arc, but it made sense to me. Dealing with loss and PTSD resulted in his depression, and he fittingly gives Valkyrie the rule of New Asgard and seeks new purpose travelling with the Guardians of the Galaxy. It worked … but I can see why it was problematic.
As for the world-building … that’s where I think there’s a greater struggle.
This is a world that experienced the snap, with half of the population aged five years.
They don’t reverse time – they bring everyone back.
It’s admittedly pretty ballsy that they did this, but the writing teams have made it difficult on themselves.
With Spider-Man Far from Home out soon to officially end Phase 3, there are so many questions about how they’re going to rebuild society, how the school systems worked, how governments will manage etc.
I really hope Far from Home can answer these questions – but re-world-building is an uphill battle in itself. I mean, half of Peter Parker’s class are now five years older. How do the schools deal with this?
I’d say I’m nit-picking, but this is something that a number of articles have picked up on already.
That’s the double-edged sword but presents interesting new stories in rebuilding the universe.
As an Ending – it felt perfect. The send-offs for Cap. and Iron Man were fittingly done.
As a continuation, Marvel is now in a real state of limbo. They’ve shown that they can pull and 11-year franchise off, so I don’t doubt their talents, and I look forward to the future.
THE END OF ENDGAME – WHAT COMES NEXT?
Now we have Disney+ on the horizon, which will play a big role in the multi-platform development of the universe.
We already have announcements like Wanda Vision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a Loki spin-off, and a possible animated “What if” series.
Not yet announced are: Captain America’s Got Talent, That’s So Ultron, A Thanos Christmas Carol, The X-Men Factor, Aunt May and the Golden Girls, 50 Shades of Jean Grey, and Keeping up with the Asgardians – but who’s to say they’re not in development.
What I’m getting at here is that Disney+ seems to be where they’re putting their emphasis on characters post-Endgame. Although it is possible they may appear in further movies.
There has yet to be an official reveal of upcoming movies post-endgame, but we do have announcements for with a Black Widow movie on the way, a Doctor Strange sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, The Eternals, a bunch of stuff coming up with Captain Marvel as the new icon of the franchise and Shang Chi?
Honestly, I know very little able Shang-Chi in the comics. But Kevin Feige has confirmed him for phase four of the MCU, and I suspect (if I’m putting on my business-producer-hat) this is due to Marvel wanting to include more diversity whilst also appealing to the Chinese film market – the largest film market in the world. Smart move (but I still only vaguely know who he is.)
Things get more interesting with Disney’s acquisition of Fox, we also have X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four potentially on the way as well – but not anytime soon.
Honestly, that’s probably for the best. As cool as these characters are, Endgame proved the potential in building up to a greater threat. With access to the rights for Doctor Doom, I think there’s potential on who the next Thanos could be.
For me, the biggest issue is sadly with Captain Marvel as the new lead. I imagine our new core will be her, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther, and some stuff with Ant-Man and the Wasp … with the occasional cameo from Professor Hulk.
But sadly, Captain Marvel is the weakest link in terms of writing and world-crafting.
Disney even supposedly had different versions of Endgame – depending on the audience response to Captain Marvel. So, it would be interesting to see the alternatives.
The end of Infinity War AND Captain Marvel hinted at a greater role in this story – and she was really just a Deus ex Machina.
I really want to love Captain Marvel. I love her design, her potential, and really want to like Brie Larson. But both her debut movie and this one gave her so little to do it’s mind-boggling.
Ideally, I would have put her on the core time-travel mission, have her also learn about Avengers history as the audience relives them, maybe have her interact with the old cast of characters before she takes the MCU into phase 4.
Or … you have Captain Marvel as the end of phase 3 and start the universe from that point on. After all, she doesn’t have any significant connection with Thanos. She’s just there … with a load of powers and sadly not a lot else to do.
I was hoping she would get properly beaten down by Thanos and have her re-evaluate her own power in the universe. Maybe she has to learn to be less of a solo act and see that she needs a team. That could have potential going forward in phase 4. Maybe? It wouldn’t be much, but it would be something.
I’m only harping on about this because of all the promotion Marvel’s put behind this character – two post credit scenes, a movie between the big two movies, advertising, interviews alongside the main cast, Kevin Feige saying that she will “lead the MCU” … and then she doesn’t have a lot to do.
It’s really odd, and I hope they give her more characterisation and depth in her upcoming outings. But otherwise, we are in danger of Disney marketing misleading the narrative.
AN AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE
It may be a little thing, but I think it’s important – the credits.
For Marvel, they knew how to use their credits. Either it was establishing a universe, teasing an upcoming movie, or something for a bit of comedy, it was all gold.
Avengers Endgame is different – there is no end credits sting. Instead we see all of the main actors from all 22 movies honoured with a montage of their characters.
Then, as the Alan Silvestri score rises, the original six (Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Robert Downey Jr.) have their characters appear on screen with their signatures written over them.
It’s surprisingly emotional for a credits sequence. It was like a final bow after the performance of a lifetime.
Many of them we probably aren’t going to see again – apart from maybe a cameo here or there.
The final sounds are from the first Iron Man movie as Tony Stark forges his first suit.
Now that was an experience! It was a tiny thing that really made it feel more like a once-in-a-lifetime event than a studio pumping out another money-maker.
The actors felt personally involved with their projects, they came together as a family both on, and off screen are were the cores in defining a generation of superheroes.
With social media, Twitter, and being able to directly follow and like whoever, start power has evolved. It is now possible to interact with these people and (quote, unquote) “get to know them”.
These movies can feel more personal than your pre-internet fare – as evidenced by the amount of heavy sobbing I heard in my screening.
We follow actors as well as characters, and that has the potential to truly create immerse oneself in all of these 22 films.
Even with all the nerdy fanboy nitpicks, it’s no surprise that #ThankYouAvengers was being tweeted after the emotional rollercoaster of Endgame.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
As someone who believes the future is in multi-platform storytelling, I think the MCU proves that there is an appetite for investing in a creative and immersive world.
We’ve seen this also with Game of Thrones to some degree – the online discussions, nail-biting moments, and media focus not only proves that geek defines the mainstream.
Fans are more active than ever and engaging with these storyworlds on so many different levels.
But even with such expansive worlds as Marvel and Game of Thrones, they still started off small.
Marvel started off with a simple superhero story – Iron Man in 2008. There were no major hints to any alien races, time travel, or cosmic entities. It was a very human man trying to find his way out of a cave and redeem himself.
Then that Easter Egg of Nick Fury after the end credits set the stage for the grander universe.
Compare this to the DCEU and Dark Universe. Everything was thrown at them – every Easter Egg, reference, alien, monster … everything. It was overwhelming and didn’t stick.
Not only did the MCU start off slow. It did it well.
Later on, we saw TV and Netflix spinoffs, but they never really fed back into the core movies.
I think it’s possible to adapt the spherical storytelling methods of the films on other platforms. After all, the MCU predates our modern world of online streaming.
I can remember buying Iron Man on DVD at the Virgin Megastore! That’s how old it is!
Marvel is often cited as being one of the best (if not the best) modern examples of transmedia storytelling, but for the most part it’s held up by its theatrical releases. I imagine that it will become more integrated with its TV series with the arrival of Disney+ later this year, but only time will tell.
I am optimistic though.
Endgame was the first MCU property to implement a TV-exclusive character to the big screen – Jarvis (Howard Stark’s Butler). He was sidekick to Agent Carter in her two seasons, and nicely bridged the gap from TV to film – a real first for Marvel.
I called this post “The End of an Era”, and I think it is. Not with the death of Iron Man and the retirement of Captain America, but with our interaction with Marvel Studios.
For the MCU there was still a hierarchy in terms of production. It is a film-first franchise with spinoff TV series and Netflix shows. The films fed into the TV series, but never the other way around. But with their spinoffs announced, many with New Avengers characters, I see a greater potential in integrating the MCU across the multi-platform.
As we see film and television increasingly converge – especially with Disney+ – I hope producers realise the potential in using ALL available platform space to create an immersive storyworld.
I think we’re moving away from that with Disney+ as the company looks to invest in content and bridge that gap of authenticity – and what could be more authentic than bringing A-list movie stars to your streaming service?
We may be in shaky territory after Endgame, but I’m optimistic about the future of the MCU and its reinvention in other media formats.
There are so many avenues to invest in storyworlds, and I think that we can expect greater co-ordination between those avenues in years to come.