Avengers: Endgame left us with a deep sense of loss but also enough characters to pull through
While Endgame mostly invested in fan service, with focus on the six original Avengers, it did have moments that gave us hints about what's coming next in MCU.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. Don't read further if you haven't seen the film.
Avengers: Endgame has its fair share of inconsistencies because of the intricacies of the time travel trope. But the concept served as a befitting device because the film is a tribute to the past 11 years of Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also has several hints at the course Marvel is going to take in the future.
But let's reel back a bit. Over the past two years, Marvel has been busy with a course correction of their earlier narrative that was criticised for its lack of black, women and LGBTQ representation. With Avengers: Endgame, the focus was more on consolidation than course correction. The Russo Brothers invested more in fan service by giving ample screen space to the six original Avengers — Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawk-Eye (Jeremy Renner) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
There were ample moments that reflected the emotional proximity the OG Avengers share in Endgame. Rather than having them team up for photo-ops in battle sequences, the Russo Brothers focused more on their interpersonal relationships, how they helped each other overcome their Post-Snap Stress Disorder, and how their ideologies affected each other's life-altering decisions.
Endgame was all about the 6 original Avengers
Iron Man and Captain America, who were seen exchanging blows (and shields) three years ago in Captain America: Civil War, were seen fighting Thanos besides each other. Tony Stark chose to resume the fight five years post the Snap, giving up on his new life with daughter Morgan and wife Pepper Potts (Gwayneth Paltrow). He went the Steve Rogers way in the climax of Endgame, sacrificing his life in order to serve the larger purpose of reversing the effects of the Snap.
Similarly, Black Widow and Hawkeye's track was equally reflective of the bond they shared since the first Avengers film. After his entire family turns into dust due to the Snap, Hawk-Eye channeled his grief by turning into a sword-wielding assassin, with a mission to kill those who survived the Snap. When Black Widow traced him down and he dared her to retreat, she held on. She told him that since he did not judge her initially for the deaths she caused as a Russian agent, she would refuse to judge his actions as well. When it came to exchanging a soul for the Soul Stone, Black Widow trumped Hawk-Eye to sacrifice herself for the greater good, also so that he can be with his family again.
A minor and more lighthearted track also involved Thor and Hulk's friendship. Five years after the Snap, Thor turns into an overweight alcoholic. In no mood to fight Thanos again, he spent most of his time drinking beer and playing video games. But Hulk managed to convince him by reminding him that he was in a similar, disillusioned place in Asgard, before Thor reminded him what he eventually learnt in the film: "Don't try to be something you should be. Be something that you are." Thor swore by this mantra even before his mother (Rene Russo) told him the same later in Endgame. It was only a matter of an old pal's friendly reminder.
What's next in MCU?
But now that more than half of the original Avengers have either retired or died, an MCU fan will desperately look beyond the Avengers to what the phase 4 of MCU has in store for us.
Last year, Marvel hit jackpot with Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, a superhero film with a black director and an almost all-black cast. The film not only garnered big bucks at the global box office but also created history when it became the first Marvel film to be nominated in the Best Picture category at the 91st Academy Awards. The fictional country that it was set in, Wakanda, served as the site for the final battle in Avengers: Infinity War. In Endgame, however, while the scope of the Black Panther characters was rather limited, the film ended on a symbolic note, with a white superhero passing the torch to a black one. Captain America decided to retire and gifted his shield to Falcon aka Sam. With a nod of approval from Bucky, Sam took the shield from Rogers. PS: There is a Falcon-Winter Soldier Disney+ series in development.
After the death of Black Widow, one would assume that Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is the only major female superhero left in the MCU, having earned herself Marvel's first female-led superhero film. But a whistle-worthy scene in the Endgame climax proved us wrong when Carol Danvers' path to Ant-Man's van was cleared by a host of female superheroes, including Potts in a custom-made Iron Man suit, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), The Wasp (Evangeline Lily), Shuri (Letitia Wright) and General Okoye (Danai Gurira). This was a monumental moment in Endgame, a more prominent version of a similar spot in Infinity War when Black Widow told Proxima Midnight that Scarlet Witch "is not alone", before fighting her alongside Okoye. While there is a Black Widow standalone film in works, one can also expect another film in the Captain Marvel franchise.
With MCU's first black superhero film and first female superhero film raking in big money at the box office, it serves as an incentive for Marvel to come up with its first gay superhero film. The makers finally introduced MCU's first canonically gay character in Endgame, in the form of a gay man participating in a therapy session. In an interview with director Joe Russo, when this writer asked him if a gay Marvel character is in the near future, he reassured me with a smirk that I am going to "see one very soon". As it turned out in Endgame, Joe Russo played the first gay character of the MCU. Though his scene was criticised for its negligible screen time, it is nonetheless a good start for Marvel entering the LGBTQ discourse.
It is clear diverse representation is how Marvel plans to take its course ahead, but it is also clear that the seeds were planted in Endgame. Avengers: Endgame was steeped in nostalgia and a sense of deep loss, but it also ensured that we have a wide range of superheroes to rescue us from grief in the near future.
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