Avengers Endgame is a lot to handle. This was Marvel’s finale to a story that has been building for twelve years. Some have called it the “MCU Swan Song.” Whether it was the gigantic finale battle, the head scratching time travel plot, or the tragic loss of our heroes, there is no denying the film’s powerful moments throughout. There is one theme that exists in Endgame: regret. Much like Infinity War’s theme of sacrifice, this lesson is constantly brought up through multiple characters and is something shared on a deeper level with the audience. Since the very first phase of the MCU, three characters have fought to become heroes. This movie shows the price it takes to become one.
Steven Rodgers: The Patriotic Soldier
Captain America’s journey starts as a man who wants to become a war hero. In ‘The First Avenger’ Steve Rodgers tries several times to enlist in the army and serve his country. His driving force is to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves and stand up against evil. Throughout the movies, he becomes that hero. First in WW2, then in the modern day. He fights for his best friend Bucky and the new friends he meets along the way. Even when his country becomes corrupted, he fights for freedom. But as the years go on, he becomes consumed with the battles and realizes that the fighting isn’t the dream he thought it would be.
Five years after Thanos is killed, Steve still cannot move on from Peggy Carter. In order to become the patriotic hero, he had to sacrifice the time he had with the only person he loved. When he travels back in time to a military base in the 1970’s, he is now a stranger among the soldiers around him. At one point he sees Agent Carter. The moment reminds him of the real man he wants to become and it fills him with regret. His story starts with a dream to be a soldier and ends with him as a happy man who chooses to stay out of the fight.
Thor Odinson: The Righteous King
Thor spent his entire life with a goal of becoming a worthy king. He wanted to wield the hammer and be a war hero just like his father. Throughout his journey, Thor learns the hard lesson that being a king means putting your people before yourself and doing whatever must be done. However, the responsibilities of being a ruler is a heavier toll than Thor realized. He makes sacrifices to his body, mentality, and morality all in order to protect his people. After Asgard falls, it was his duty, as the king, to kill Thanos. When he does, the toll becomes too great.
Five years after Thor kills Thanos, he slips into a deep depression. He gains weight, becomes an alcoholic and a buffoon. His friends lose respect for him, and he doubts his own self value. Killing Thanos did not help anyone, it simply fed a momentary void of anger for the thunder god. He carried out the mission his father would have done and it left him empty. When Thor goes back in time and talks to his mother he finds his value again; not in being king, but in being a good man. He even gains the confidence to test Mjolnir again and finds himself worthy. His story starts out with a destiny to become an immortal king and ends with a human realization. He wants to be a man free of fate and journey into the unknown.
Tony Stark: The Heroic Defender
Tony had the saddest story of them all. In some ways, ‘Endgame’ was really the finale for the journey that started the MCU. Iron Man was born from the realization that Stark weapons were used to destroy innocent lives. Tony spends several movies riddled with guilt over the destruction caused by his, and ultimately his father’s, business. Tony also spent most of his time trying to live, literally with the arc-reactor, but also live with the mental anguish from thinking he can fix all the problems in the world. His character arc is a restless one. Tony always needed to be the hero; saving those he felt responsible for.
Five years after Thanos is killed, Tony has a great life. He got what he wanted and has a family with Pepper. More importantly he gets to be the father that he never had. However the guilt creeps back in. He feels guilty about Peter Parker dying and blames himself. After helping with the mission and travelling back in time, he meets his father. Tony finds out that Howard Stark was just a man who tried the best he could to be a good man and a good father. Tony forgives and thanks him, in a way reliving himself of the guilt he feels. His story started with the desire to become a hero and he learned that in order to be one, you have to accept collateral damage. His story ended using the infinity stones as a shield to protect the world instead of a weapon. Tony erased Thanos from coming to the future and finally saves everyone, but it costs him his life.
Thanos: The Selfless Martyr
Even Thanos finds out the disappointing consequences of getting what you wish for. Throughout the Marvel films, the massive villain, bent of destroying the Avengers, has always teased as an evil figure. However when we meet Thanos in ‘Infinity War’, he appears as a man trying to save the universe. He has convinced himself that he is the good guy of the story and that murdering trillions of people is the only way to save all life. And in return for the sacrifices he goes through, the universe will be grateful. However, through a unique story element, he discovers the universe isn’t grateful at all.
Nine years before the Avengers start their journey to save the fallen, Thanos discovers he completed his mission. The Thanos from the past meets the heroes in the future and finds out destroying half of all life did not equal a grateful universe. The illusion of himself being the savior is dropped. He never actually cared about saving people he just wanted to murder and get a happy ending for himself. His story starts with a savior complex justifying atrocities and ends with him realizing that he would actually enjoy killing everyone more than saving anyone. Thanos becomes the villain he never realized he was all along.
The Watchers: A Grateful Audience
For twelve years we have all been growing up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie was a finale to many characters and story arcs. But also it was made for the loyal audience that loves the franchise. Over the course of the twenty-two movies, the internet has buzzed with people’s desires and this film gave them everything. We liked the smart Hulk from ‘Ragnarok’ and got a green genius. We smiled when there was a female team up in ‘Infinity War’ and got a collage of women Avengers. We laughed when Peter found out about his suit’s instant kill mode in ‘Homecoming’ and he finally used it. We all gasped when Captain America moved the hammer in ‘Age of Ultron’, and in return we got a full fight scene with him wielding Mjolnir. Everything in this movie was made because the creators knew someone in the audience would love it.
Unfortunately, not everything people have asked for was positive. For years fans have complained that the Marvel universe doesn’t have stakes; no one ever dies. And even when they do they just come back. Phil Coulson was reborn in a TV show. Groot is resurrected to a cuter version. The only real death was Quicksilver and that was in the movie he was introduced. Even after Infinity War’s ending, the audiences noted that the people killed in the snap would return. Endgame has made for the fan’s and they got what they demanded. Tony Stark, Natasha Romanova, and The Vision are all dead. The audience wished for the universe to have more stakes and people left the theaters in tears. Be careful what you wish for.
Movie watched and film analysis written by: Troy Smith