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Your Marvel Crash Course Before ‘Avengers: Endgame’

I’ve known where I would be on April 26, 2019 since the same date last year.

As an avid Marvel fan, I’ve been counting down the weeks, and now finally days, until “Avengers: Endgame” (in theaters April 26), the sequel to last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and conclusion to the Infinity Saga, which encompasses the last eleven years of Marvel movies. There’s no denying that this movie will be huge. When tickets dropped on April 2, companies reported record-breaking sales and website crashes.

The hype and history behind “Endgame” can be intimidating if you’re a new fan or someone who only watches casually. Don’t worry, though—I’m here to give a recap and catch you up on the most important things to know. Fair warning though: spoilers ahead. 

What has happened so far?

Tony Stark uttered the now-iconic “I am Iron Man” in 2008, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) hit the ground running. The MCU is divided into three phases, each with one or two Avengers movies that gather the heroes together to face a greater threat.

Phase One established the three leading heroes—Iron Man, Captain America and Thor—and brought them together. With Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, they formed the Avengers and faced their first battle against aliens. Here, Stark recognized the larger threat that alien forces posed to Earth. This loomed larger in Phase Two, which featured three individual sequels and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” There, Stark tried to create a global defense system that ultimately backfired and required the Avengers to disengage. Phase Three began with “Captain America: Civil War,” which featured a conflict and subsequent falling out between Iron Man and Captain America. With the Avengers split up, more heroes rose, such as Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Spider-Man. Everyone joined forces in “Infinity War,” where the alien threat came to fruition. The phase will conclude with “Endgame.”

Why have I been seeing dust memes all over social media?

That would be about “Infinity War.” The plot followed the heroes, namely Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, as they tried to stop Thanos from securing the Infinity Stones—six immensely-powerful gems tied to different aspects of the universe. These would allow Thanos to complete his goal of decimating half the universe’s population.

In the end (spoilers if you have somehow managed to remain unspoiled), Thanos won and turned half the universe to dust, including the fan-favorite Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and Spider-Man (he didn’t want to go!). Personally, I left the theater as close to shell-shocked as a movie-goer can get. I had not been expecting half the characters to die; I’d also lost track of time and hadn’t realized the movie was close to ending. Needless to say, “Endgame” couldn’t come soon enough.

So we’re in the endgame, now. What’s the big deal?

Ever since Doctor Strange said, “we’re in the endgame, now” in “Infinity War,” or even when Stark deemed Thanos the “endgame” back in “Age of Ultron,” fan have known this was what the MCU would come to. After the cliffhanger movie, they wanted it more than ever.

The secrecy surrounding the movie makes it even more intriguing. The movie remained untitled until December 2018, fueling wild speculation and theories; trailers have been released, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo has admitted that much of the footage in them is fake. Even as a dedicated fan, I couldn’t tell you what the plot will be, but common theories surround the original Avengers reuniting and working to reverse what Thanos did. I can tell you, though, that it will be incredible.

Who are the major players?

Going into “Endgame,” the character to watch continue to be the “Big Three:” Iron Man/Tony Stark, Captain America/Steve Rogers and Thor. These are the only characters with completed solo trilogies, and their actors—Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth—have become synonymous with the franchise. The latest trailer shows Iron Man, Captain America and Thor confronting Thanos in a destroyed landscape in what could be their last fight.

A new hero to follow is Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, who is played by Brie Larson. At the end of “Infinity War,” Nick Fury sent a distress call to Captain Marvel; her solo movie was released March 2018. It raked in $455 million on its opening weekend and became the sixth-biggest movie debut ever. While Captain Marvel isn’t rumored to have an overarching role in “Endgame,” Larson is set to become the franchise’s new face, with a seven-film deal secured.

Opposing them is the Infinity Saga’s primary antagonist, Thanos, a power-hungry Titan played by Josh Brolin. Since 2012, he has made appearances in post-credits scenes, but his first feature-length appearance came in “Infinity War.” While he won in that movie, “Endgame” trailers suggest his victory may be short-lived.

I still don’t quite understand why everyone is freaking out?

Everyone wants to see their favorites return!

On a more serious note, though, this is the culmination of eleven years of storytelling that began with “Iron Man” in 2008. Robert Downey Jr. began then as Tony Stark, and “Endgame” sees him at the end of his contract. Other long-term MCU stars, including Chris Evans and Gwyneth Paltrow, will also leave after this move, meaning a new generation of superheroes will be ushered in. With these actors leaving, rumors of major character deaths—particularly surrounding Iron Man and Captain America—have been swirling.

As a storyteller, I love the MCU because it has done something no other movie franchise has done before. Connecting over twenty movies in a shared universe is a feat that requires time, effort and perseverance, but fans are invested. On social media, you’ll see outpourings of support for the characters (such as a campaign for NASA to rescue Tony Stark from space), excitement over trailers and countless fan works. This is the end of an era, but I’m excited to see what comes next.

How can I watch the movies for myself before April 26?

April 26 may be fast approaching, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get caught up in time to catch “Endgame” in theaters. It isn’t necessary to watch all twenty-one movies to understand the overarching plot (although it could be fun). This chart will show you where to start if you just want to watch the basics and where to go from there.

"Thor: Ragnarok", "Black Panther" and "Avengers: Infinity War" are on Netflix; "Iron Man 2" is on Hulu. The remaining movies can be rented or purchased on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube or Google Play.

For me, the best part of Marvels movies has always been the connections it brings between me and my friends or family. Since “Infinity War,” I’ve formed amazing friendships and gotten closer to my brothers, much of that thanks to Marvel. Making a day of watching movies with snacks is never a bad idea if you’re looking to make an event of watching. The biggest takeaway is that there’s no right way to be a fan—this movie can be for you whether you’ve been following Marvel for a decade or if you start watching now.

Morgan Spraker is a sophomore English major at the University of Florida. She loves to write about ordinary people (fictional or real) doing extraordinary things. When she isn't searching for new stories, she's reading, exercising, spending time with friends, or obsessing over Marvel movies. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @morgan_spraker
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