Avengers: Endgame 1 Year Later – We Will Be Together Again

One year ago we were anticipating the conclusion of the Infinity Saga, where Earth’s Mightiest heroes would undo the end of the world. Now the real world is facing a threat that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. A year may seem like so much longer ago now, but Avengers: Endgame seems to be more relevant now than we could have anticipated.

April 26, 2019. This marks the one-year anniversary of the release of Avengers: Endgame. After the jaw-dropping finale of Avengers: Infinity War, fans were left to anticipate what would happen next for over a year. This was probably THE big finale in a year of big finales (Star Wars, Game of Thrones) and it seemed like everyone was on the hype train. Eleven years and twenty films worth of build-up, anticipation was at a fever pitch. People were doing MCU rewatches to celebrate the ride, tickets went on sale and sold out so quickly it caused ticket sites to crash. It was everywhere, you could not escape it. It is hard to believe that it was only a year ago.

Now one year later the world is a much different place. The idea of large groups of people gathering inside a movie theater seems unthinkable. Every major theater chain is shut down, release dates for films have been postponed, and most places around the world are under quarantine. People are not leaving the house, and the idea of going to a crowded theater with a large group of strangers is something many people are reevaluating. What a world a year ago was.

The next Marvel movie, Black Widow, was originally slated to be released next week but now won’t arrive until November 6, 2020, making it the longest gap between MCU installments since the 23 months between The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and Iron Man 2 in 2010. The entire MCU Phase 4 slate, which was set at Comic-Con in 2019, has been altered and moved around. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, was originally slated to open next year on May 7, 2021, but now due to directorial changes and filming delays due to COVID-19 will now arrive in theaters on March 25, 2022 (almost two years from now). They went from having four films ready for 2021 to now three, and 2022 now being all sequels (a first for Marvel since 2013 with the release of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World).

Of course, the release of a Marvel movie is not the biggest concern on anyone’s mind, far from it. Many people are left wondering what is going to happen? How are we going to get through this, and what comes next? Will they be able to afford their homes? To eat? What about work? Are they able to work from home or our they suspended? When businesses do open back up how will we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe? These are all complicated questions with no easy answers that I am certainly not equipped for. I am left only to ponder.

It is hard to believe a year ago we were watching a movie about the end of the world, and now it appears we are living through it. The scene of empty baseball fields or barren streets was the stuff of fiction, now it is our reality. How do we get through it?

This is the interesting thing about fiction; it can serve as a way to entertain us but also enlighten us. It can provide comfort and escapism, or a lens through which we can examine our own existence. Even popcorn entertainment, for all the talk of it being disposable, can serve a healthy purpose if you choose it. If you just want Avengers: Endgame to be a fun movie then that is great, it can be that. But it also can be more. It can be what you want it to be and what it needs to be.

Endgame is a movie all about failure and how one can find meaning afterward. All of the Avengers are left to grapple with the fact that they failed to save the world. They must move on, but how do you live through the end of the world? Black Widow decides to keep working, giving herself a sense of control. Steve Rogers decides to help others, trying to find a positive light through all of it. Tony Stark settles down to start a family, create a new life both literally and symbolically. Banner comes to terms with his inner struggle and merges with the Hulk, to finally find a sense of inner peace and making the best of a terrible situation. Thor drinks his sorrows away and exiles himself in depression. Hawkeye processes his loss through anger and violence. Yet when all of them are given the chance to go back, to undo the damage, they know they can’t take away the scars of what they’ve lived through. Those wounds don’t just go away. But this is a step for recovery. To help others and in doing so help themselves.

Yet unlike the MCU, there is no time travel for us. The people we’ve have lost, sadly cannot just come back with the snap of a finger. We cannot undo the mistakes as much as we would like to. That is a fantastical dream that we are allowed in fiction but in reality we are sadly not afforded. But that doesn’t make the meaning of Endgame any less helpful.

The fantastical elements help manifest real emotional and helpful assistance. Time travel as a piece of fiction is an opportunity to confront one’s own mistakes. How things could have gone. Everyone who has been upset has thought: if only we could go back and change it. Yet Endgame gives the characters the opportunity to see this and not change their past trajectory. Moving forward, they can still do good. Much like we can. The past is something we cannot change. Yet our future and the lives of many can still be saved now if we work together.

Endgame takes place five years after Infinity War, which means it takes place in the not-too-distant future (2023). The original forthcoming film release schedule would’ve meant taking 3 years of Marvel movies for the real-world timeline to catch up with the MCU timeline. Phase 4 would be done in 2021 and we would probably be either done with or halfway through Phase 5 in 2023. Now the release date scheduled has moved so much that Phase 4 will be done before 2023, but it will have recently wrapped up. The world of the MCU and the reality of the viewer will be a lot closer before we know it.

Maybe that is a good thing. Both in the diegetic world of the film and the world of the viewer, people will have lived through an Earth-reshaping event. Tony Stark even says “I hope we get it back and something like a normal version of the planet has been restored, if there ever was such a thing.” The return to normal will be a long one, and one we may never truly go back to as we knew it before. There will be before the snap and after the snap, just like there will be before COVID-19 and after COVID-19. The MCU will seem more like the reality of the viewer than it would have originally (aside from the superheroes, but you never know).

If the Avengers movies have taught us one thing, it is that we are stronger together than apart. One of the underlying themes of the MCU has been about the strength in unity. The films are about creating teams that become surrogate families, that the borders of countries and the borders we put in ourselves (hence why almost none of the MCU heroes have secret identities) can be transcended. We can stand united while also highlighting our differences. And that is the message hopefully at the end of all this. This is a shared experience we are all living through and if we look out for those who have less, help out where we can, and have each other back, we will get through it.

The clip of Captain America picking up Thor’s hammer and the audio of the opening night crowd (I want to say it is the 6 pm opening night showing at the Chinese – which if that is the case, I am in that crowd) started making the rounds on the internet a few weeks ago. People weren’t just nostalgic for the specific moment but for the audience reaction to it, because many of us remember that feeling of connection. In a world that is very isolated, with popular entertainment more niche now than ever, it appears more difficult for a piece of entertainment to be THE thing everyone is watching. Yet for this one moment, it felt like everyone was on the same wavelength. We have all separated again, and just want to share those moments again. Those are the reasons we go to the movies.

I remember the excitement of sitting there with an audience on opening night. The moment of horror that you could fell run over the audience when it said ‘FIVE YEARS LATER,’ the thunderous laughter at ‘America’s Ass’ as if we all knew at that moment a meme was born. The sheer thrill of seeing Cap wield Thor’s hammer and the elation of the portals opening up with Alan Silvestri’s score playing in the background. Everyone got their shining moment. How everyone stopped cheering to hear Captain America utter the words ‘Assemble.” Those big heroic moments spoke to us, and united theaters full of strangers across the globe.

A year ago, my mother came out to visit me to go see Avengers: Endgame opening night. We had seen every Avengers movie together and I wasn’t going to let being in a different state change that. She would be there for the final film. I told her to come to visit that week to see the film, and told her to bring my grandma so I could treat them to a California vacation for a few days. Now, I can’t even go back to my home state to visit them in fear of getting my grandmother sick. My mom is in the process of moving to a new apartment and I’m unable to help her move. It is weird to think a year ago they were out here celebrating a movie with me. How far away a year has been. I’m left to think of that scene in Avengers: Endgame when the portals start opening up.

That pivotal scene in Endgame, when the portals open up and the heroes come out, is viscerally exciting for a number of reasons. It is the big money shot. All the heroes from the past films are finally together united for the first time; it is a sign of their victory that they brought everyone back, it means an exciting action scene is on the way because the cavalry has arrived. But on an emotional level, it registers because audiences have been watching these films for eleven years. They have grown attached to these characters. They feel like they know them, they hold a special place in the hearts of the audience. Surrogate friends and family. That feeling of seeing your friends return after so long when you didn’t think you would. When all hope was lost, you get to see them again. Hold on to that feeling. Remember it.

Kevin Feige, the main architect of the MCU, even acknowledge this in a tweet. In an uncertain time, there are some comforts we can take. One is that we will always have the memory and that can never be taken away. Two is that we will step out of our portals and see one another, even if the portal is just our front door. We will be sharing the experience of being in a movie theater. Excited for the next Marvel movie. Be it Black Widow, The Eternals, Shang-Chi, Spider-Man, Thor, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, or any of the others. This shall pass, and we will all be together again someday.

Stay safe and take care.