These Avengers trailers need to chill, man. Just like the lead up to Infinity War, they always get me tossing up my hands declaring “they all gonna die!” and preparing myself for weeks of drowning my sorrows in ice cream. Especially if my favorite hero Captain America departs this mortal coil. What? Don’t act like you won’t be sad to see the passing of this torch. Go ahead and mark your calendars. We’ll have a crying party together.
Now, whether you hang on every character death like it’s your pet cat, or if you’re like Reel World Theology contributor JR and laugh at the thought of MCU pretending that any major characters will ever leave their money printing movie machine, you can’t deny that we’ve hit a crucial pivot point for the universe (literally and figuratively). Even the Marvel Studios 10 Years logo dusts away in the Endgame trailer. It’s a turn of the tide, as Gandalf would say.
Where we last left our story, death had won a major victory. (Spoilers, yo!) Half of all life was wiped out with a snap. Those who are left (mainly our original Avengers crew, mind you) have some sobering choices to make. Suffice to say, Avengers: Endgame has an opportunity to thematically explore death on a massive scale. I’m not here to speculate on plot points, hero cameos and the like. But from this first teaser trailer alone, I did observe four ways Avengers: Endgame could talk about death.
It is Appointed Unto Man Once to Die
“Hey, Miss Potts. If you find this recording, don’t feel bad about this… part of the journey is the end.” – Tony Stark
Right from the get-go, we’ve got Tony queuing us up for a good cry. Obviously the Founding Father of the MCU won’t be seen off by slowly suffocating in a space ship alone, but there’s still a real chance he will depart for good along with several other OG Avengers. That Tony’s words of the journey’s end are the first we hear from this movie, it’s indicative that some chapters will be closing. And also that you should probably purchase stock in Kleenex before April.
The most natural place for the movie to go thematically is to explore the inevitability of death. Even if Iron Man managed to skirt death until old age, he’d still face mortality. Super soldiers, godlike beings, large green men – scripture tells us it’s appointed unto us all once to die. The MCU may have Quantum realms and time stones that can prolong this to oblivion (because money!) but death is still a reality we must all face. It sets up a real opportunity for Endgame to say something profound about this in the midst of an enormous CGI spectacle.
Community is Integral to Grieving
“We lost, all of us. We lost friends. We lost family.” – Steve Rogers
Avengers assemble… to mourn together. I mean, imagine half of all life in the universe actually disappearing. Not a single soul would be untouched by that tragedy. It would definitely be trending on Twitter. So just as it is essential to our heroes to band together to fight for the universe, it’s pivotal for them to come together to move forward. Just as Agent Coulson’s death was a spark for our crew to band together, this too must bring them back into one of those cool swirly circles they end up in while facing the bad guys together.
Infinity War focused a great deal on self-sacrifice, ruminating on the idea of “trading lives.” Cap’ wasn’t having none of that mess. He helped bring the group together to fight Thanos, and he’ll likely do it again. This aligns with the natural thematic conclusion of the self-sacrifice discussion, which is to join together in community. It’s what we’re truly meant for, after all. We’re not called to run into the fray alone, but to bear one another’s burdens. It’s one thing I love about these movies. They provide an active picture of a gospel community casting divisions aside to push forward together.
Grief Leads to Anger
“We lost a part of ourselves…” – Steve Rogers
Don’t @ me, Yoda, but it should be obvious that we’ll see some characters heading to the dark(er) side of life in Endgame. Here we see Hawkeye Clint Barton for the first time since Civil War. He’s clearly carrying a storm cloud over his head as well as a gnarly blade that makes for a decidedly more personal way of slaying bad guys than his bow. We also see a brief shot of Bruce Banner distraught, burying his head in his hands. You wouldn’t like him when he’s… grieving. This pathway to anger is an expected one for our characters to be traveling down. Heck, I get angry when I burn my toast. Imagine losing half the universe you were supposed to save.
For the Avengers, conquering their anger could be a major key to besting Thanos. Anger left unchecked leads to mistakes at best, and evil at worst. Sure, the anger may be justified, but even as David said “Be angry and do not sin” in Psalm 4, he knew full well that was pretty dang hard to do. The Avengers saga is one of heroes getting past their failings and working together to fight for good. Endgame presents the strongest hurdle yet, with our team physically split across the universe and mentally fractured by tragedy and loss. With this, the film may explore some of our unhealthy leanings when we act on our anger. And the consequences could have lasting effects to our continuing story.
The End is Only the Beginning
“This is the fight of our lives.” – Steve Rogers
About that money making movie machine. Everyone knows that Endgame is just beginning of the next phase for the MCU. We’ll say goodbye to some heroes and prepare for others to hold the mantle of the new Avengers. Hey, money talks. That’s fine. But I can’t think of a better opportunity for a film to talk about eternity. If situationally death presents a new beginning for our story, thematically the parallel exists to explore life after death in our protagonists. Come on Russo bros, take the bait!
After all, thus far in the MCU we’ve seen the quantum realm, Valhalla itself, and whatever realm souls go to inside the soul stone (Marvel nerds feel free to assist me on that one). We’re halfway there anyway, right? These are scientific slash spiritual correlations to eternity, yet we’ve not had any serious explorations of the idea in these films that I can recall as I write this. I believe these realms exist in our script (via the comic page) because scripture illustrates that we all possess a longing for eternity. With so much death looming in our story, Endgame may at least ponder this idea.
Okay, now. That’s a lot of death. Let’s end with a reminder that no MCU movie is complete without some lighter, humorous moments. Sure we’re probably going to shed some hard earned tears at the conclusion of this one. But just as Scott Lang’s humble mug appearing at the end of this teaser reminds us that there’s some good in all this sorrow, so too will Endgame remind us that there’s a lot more story to tell in the MCU to come. And that’s something to smile about.