I enjoyed Avengers Endgame. In fact, I liked it so much that I’m not going to address the part that made me roll my eyes (that everybody in my twitter feed LOVED). I don’t feel that it’s worth nitpicking this, the first and only culmination of a ten year cinematic arc. To be able to bring that much storytelling to a satisfying conclusion is nothing short of incredible.
My wife and I saw the film within a few days of the theatrical release, so I viewed it in relative ignorance of the final conclusion. As we departed the theater, my wife, knowing my fondness for the MCU films and characters, turned to me to ask if I was going to be ok. Up to that point, I was fine. I had been resigned to losing some of my favorite MCU characters, and was glad that those departures were handled with the deserved weight and respect. But when she asked me that question, I was forced to contemplate if I was, indeed, going to be ok. I took a deep breath, sighed out a pitiful “yeah”, and started crying.
I think we were both a little surprised. I’m not one to be deeply affected by fictional character deaths. In fact, even in this case it wasn’t the loss of Iron Man and Steve Rogers that caused my emotional response. It was the realization that this was, for all intents, the end. The end of this phase of the MCU, yes, but also symbolically the end of this phase of my life.
Iron Man, which is most widely credited as the film that launched the MCU (sorry Incredible Hulk), released in 2008. My oldest son was seven years old and my youngest was about 14 months. We had two other toddlers (3 and 5) in the middle. The MCU launched at the same time that I was starting my family. Within a few short years, we would introduce our kids to these larger-than-life heroes, as the Marvel versions were mostly family friendly. Parents will tell you, it’s sometimes very tough to find appropriate content that the entire family can enjoy. Needless to say, the MCU fit the bill.
Over the years, it became a family tradition to see the newest MCU film in the theater together. Whenever the trailers would start showing up, the kids would turn to me and ask “are we going to see that one?”, their little voices filled with excitement. The answer was always the same: “Yes, as soon as we have time.” We would always make time.
The years passed. The films kept coming. People complained.
“I’m burnt out on superheroes.”
“There are never any stakes in those films”
But we still loved them. For ten years, we always had the next MCU film to look forward to. When one of the films came out on Blu-Ray, I’d buy it and we’d sit down, pop some corn, and watch it all over again. My family grew up alongside the MCU.
But now, my oldest is no longer seven. He’s eighteen and getting ready to move out and go to college. He saw Endgame with his girlfriend. His pending departure marks the end of many things. Of course, I’m excited for him to enter this phase of life, but every beginning is made possible through the end of something else. Previous to seeing the film, I had been struggling through a lot of “lasts”. The last track meet. The last time dropping him off at high school. The last art show. A very large part of my identity over the last eighteen years has centered on being a father, and now it felt like that part of me was slowly slipping away.
When my wife asked me if I was going to be ok, it struck me hard. Another last. The culmination of all of those trips to the theater, all of the anticipation, and all of the post-film conversation.
Somewhat appropriately, we had seen Endgame by ourselves, just me and her. Walking out by ourselves only punctuated the fact that the next phase of our lives was beginning. In a few short years, we would be empty nesters, and all of the lasts with the kids would be over. When Iron Man snapped his fingers, he ended more than his own life. He ended this phase of mine.
So yes, Endgame made me cry. But it was mostly because it represented the end of a lot of things. I may watch future MCU films, but it will be with a different viewpoint. The new films will never be quite the same as when we all used to pile into the minivan and take up an entire row at the local theater waiting for our heroes to leap onto the screen and save the world.