The Emotional Catharsis of Avengers: Endgame

Like many people in America, I went and saw Avengers: Endgame last Thursday. At the end of it, I was shocked and didn’t know how to process what I had just seen. I wasn’t sure if I was to take the movie as the end or as just the beginning. Now that it has been a few days, I want to process my experience with this franchise. Why, after having stopped being such a fan girl, was I behaving like this at a Marvel movie?

When Phase 1 was coming out, I was decidedly NOT a Marvel fan. They were just dumb movies that my brothers liked. Then, my family made me watch the first Avengers movie and I was hooked. I watched the rest of Phase 1 and launched myself head first into Phase 2. I discussed theories about Thanos and the Infinity Stones with my dad when we were making Christmas cookies. I argued about it with my brothers. I was so excited for Age of Ultron to come out, that I obsessively watched the trailers and freaked out over Phase 3 announcements. After that movie, which every Marvel fan can agree was mediocre after the first Avengers movie, my obsession died down. But whenever a new movie comes out, I dutifully make my way to the theater for the next installment in the franchise.

In the last few months, I’ve seen more critical reviews of Marvel movies online. Their main criticism was that they were formulaic action movies with little substance. Marvel movies were the representation of consumerism at its worst, with Disney spitting out sub-par movie after sub-par movie while making shitloads of money off of it. And, they’re right. These movies are formulaic. Once upon a time, it was rare for a superhero movie to be good. The only recent good movies were the Christopher Nolan Batman films. Now, we live in a world where superhero movies aren’t shit anymore and it's easy making the release of these movies feel like an event. Even if the cinematography is boring, or the script isn’t that great, we as a public will accept mediocrity to see our favorite characters on the big screen.

That is what drew me in the first time I saw Avengers. There was some nice witty banter and an interesting plot about aliens and a weird cube thing, but the original Avengers were these larger than life characters that were easy to care about. Having never seen a Marvel movie before, it was strange seeing how easily I latched onto a genius, billionaire playboy-philanthropist, a soldier suffering from freezer burn, a Russian spy who isn’t a hacker, a guy who takes anger management to the next level, Legolas, and the literal god of thunder. But I did, and I loved them. They were a perfect distraction for me at that time, when I was an angsty, shy middle schooler who felt all alone in the world. These characters distracting me from my everyday life was exactly what I needed then, and I loved seeing these characters grow and change across these movies as I grew and changed.

For me, Endgame was an emotional experience because it did really feel like the end of an era, while still leaving room for a new beginning. For over a decade, across 22 movies, I had been invested in this world and its characters. And even though my Marvel fanaticism had well died down by this point, it's hard to say goodbye to something that I had been a part of for so long. But I was no longer a scared little 12-year-old in need of something to take comfort in. The franchise had grown and could never be the same either. More specifically, it couldn’t afford the original actors anymore. Endgame had firmly closed the book on a chapter of my life that I look back on fondly. Furthermore, it gives those who have given the series their time the catharsis needed.

Who knows what will happen in the Marvel franchise next. Their biggest, ongoing plot line has been completed and the torch has been passed on to the new kids. Maybe this is when the public collectively grows tired of superhero movies and they’ll stop being made. Or maybe something even better can be built out of what the studio has created. But whatever does happen, you’ll always remember THAT moment from THAT scene in Endgame, when all the buildup across all the movies assembled in one single, shining moment. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll do what I, and everyone else in my theater, did: stand up and cheer.