Iron Man, released in 2008, kick started the largest and most ambitious undertaking in film history. A Marvel Cinematic Universe filled with outstanding solo films and awe-inspiring team-ups. Audiences were treated to several phases each ending in an Avengers movie. Now we had the final installment of the first overarching story-arc with Avengers: Endgame, the largest movie of all-time, which just fell below $1 million in the box office on its 39th day according to Forbes. It is incredibly hard to wrap-up a story as large as this (see the disappointment rolling across the internet following the final season of Game of Thrones). However, the MCU, under the direction of Kevin Feige, didn’t just deliver, it surpassed expectations. We are going to break-down the end of an age, and what we can come to expect from the next chapter in the MCU, so let’s jump in. [Spoilers ahead]
“And I Am Iron Man”
It all started with the playboy, billionaire, philanthropist, so it is no surprise that Tony Stark, the father of the MCU, was going to play a pivotal role in Endgame. We got to follow along with Stark from the moment that he built his first iron suit in a cave, to bringing a team together in the first Avengers, to feeling the weight of the world’s safety on his shoulders, to him fulfilling his promise to “build a suit of armor around the world”. Stark went from a fully self-serving a-hole to a self-sacrificing hero. From a bachelor to a family man. Early on in the MCU, Iron Man was mostly interested in the fame of being a hero. The more battles that he had under his belt, the more he felt the responsibility to protect humanity, which culminated in one of his largest failures, the creation of Ultron.
Tony Stark had failed to protect the world by creating Ultron, by creating something that would take the responsibility off of his shoulders and trying to hand over the reigns to something greater. Enter Peter Parker. Tony brought the young hero under his wing, and took on a mentor/father role for the young man. This relationship change Stark. He learned how important it was not only to lead, but to impart his legacy onto someone new. It wasn’t about using his impressive brain to save the world, but to leave behind individuals that could shoulder the load that he was not going to be able to do forever. At the end of Infinity War, Tony held Parker as he fell to dust at the hands of the infamous Thanos snap.
This loss left a broken shell, a shell that was filled when Stark started a family with Pepper Potts, with the birth of his child Morgan. When the Avengers sought out Tony, he refused the initial call because he could not imagine losing another child. He had become a family man, and didn’t think that he could step back into the suit and try to save the world again. A character flaw led to a new path. Tony had become a man who couldn’t turn down his friends, who couldn’t allow others to fill the void that his absence had created. He felt that he needed to be the one to lead the Avengers yet again in battle against Thanos.
In the end, with Thanos moments away from cementing his power with the Infinity Stones for a second time, Tony stole away the stones, and knowing that using the power as a mere human would cost more than he could give, Tony pronounced for a last time who he was. “And I am Iron Man”. For one last time, Tony took it upon his own shoulders to save the world, sacrificing himself so that those lost to the snap could have a second chance in their fight against evil. Tony brought back those that would carry-on his legacy. The MCU was about superheroes fighting impossible odds as much as it was about Iron Man creating a legacy and reaching a point that he would hand off the guantlet to those that he had brought together.
“I couldn’t stop him. Neither could I”
Another of the hard hitters in the Avengers line-up was the First Avenger himself, Captain America. Much like Tony Stark, Steve Rogers felt the need to sacrifice his body for the good of the world. Much like Stark, Rogers saw his friends turn to dust as he failed to stop Thanos. This was not the first loss that Cap had, in his first solo film, Captain America: The First Avenger, Cap had sacrificed himself and gave up the chance to have a normal life, a chance at a dance with Peggy Carter. He had become a man out-of-time, who had to live a life that was not meant for him, and using his power to lead the Avengers against the like of villains like Thanos.
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Cap’s story-arc was much like Iron Man’s. Cap knew that he couldn’t do this forever, and he brought on “side-kicks” Falcon and Bucky Barnes. There was much speculation as the MCU progressed as to who was going to take on the mantle and lift the shield. While many were pulling for Bucky to become the next Captain America, that is not what ended up happening. Instead, after Cap time travelled back to have the life that had been lost to him, he handed the shield off to Falcon. This was the right choice. He was the first person that Cap had met in the present to truly understand Cap. Falcon had been in the military himself, he had known the loss of his comrades, and regardless of his human limitations, he was willing to make the sacrifice to fight the good fight. One of the few human members of the Avengers, Falcon was willing to go against the best of what evil had to offer. Much like Cap, Falcon was never willing to back down.
One of the greatest moments of Endgame was after Cap had attempted to use Mjolnir against Thanos, and was beaten down and had his shield shattered. Regardless of the beating he had just taken, there was a moment where Cap got back up and the screen captured one of the greatest visual images in the MCU. That of Cap, a broken and beaten Cap, standing back up and facing down Thanos and his entire army. This showed exactly who Cap was. A man who was never willing to back down from the good fight, a man who was willing to face everything the universe had to throw at him in order to protect the Earth.
“I’m Sorry, Tony”
The sacrifice that Tony Stark made brought back all those that had been lost to the snap. This included bringing back Peter Parker, Spider-Man. The young mentee to Stark. Spidey entered the fray and held his own in the battle, following the lead of his father-figure and fighting the good fight. Peter was obviously very broken up over the loss of Tony Stark, but with his next solo-film coming up, Spider-Man: Far From Home (which you can read our theory on here) we will see a post-Iron Man world where Avengers like Spider-Man are going to be expected to carry on the legacy to protect the world.
Endgame featured the future of the MCU, Spider-Man, Falcon, Captain Marvel among others. The original team is all but gone, with the team losing Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Widow. For the mantle to be carried on, we are going to get to see these young heroes step into some huge shoes. Aside from the surely terrifying villains that are to come, the next chapter of the MCU is going to be about how these heroes learn to carry on without their leaders, without those that had brought them into the fray to begin with. So, we are ready. We are ready to witness the next chapter of the MCU, So in the words of Captain America, “Avengers Assemble”
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