Look, I am a grown-ass man. I’m 40 *cough* years old. And I am a damn sucker for these movies aimed at teens about people with magic powers. And in 2019, this makes me normal.
It didn’t used to be like this. Superheroes have always been around, but enjoying them into adulthood wasn’t something to be proud of. Now it’s very mainstream. The MCU came along and, piggybacking on the groundwork done by the X-films and the Raimi Spider-trilogy, dragged popular culture into their weird orbit. Iron Man was as ‘grounded’ as they got; now it’s all giant alien skulls and Flerkens.
And the general public laps it up. These things just keep making crazy money. Movie sequels used to be afterthoughts, now setting them up is all part of the plan. But Avengers: Endgame is, apparently, a conclusion of sorts to over a decade of storytelling. With that in mind, what can we look forward to in (and after) it?
1. An ending?
Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has promised “what haven’t we seen in films based on comic characters… an ending”. I guess he didn’t see The Dark Knight Rises or Logan, but putting that aside, what does he actually mean?
After all, there’s already a trailer for the next Spider-man film (presumably Sony twisted Marvel’s arm on this one; aside from this one glaring exception they’ve been very po-faced about the sticking power of ‘the snap’). And there’s a slate of TV shows on the way based on a bunch of now-departed characters, which will apparently be very connected to the MCU. Prequels? Maybe.
After ten-plus years the whole Infinity saga has started to feel a bit exhausting. Marvel must be worried about burnout, and it’s inevitable that complaints will start to creep in about an experiment that’s gone on this long. Feige must sense that audiences need some sense of closure before they bombard us with more super-stories. Really, the writing is on the wall: at least three of our major players won’t be back.
2. An Iron baby?
Infinity War very unsubtly set up Tony Stark’s desire to settle down with Pepper Potts and have a kid (presumably some sort of Stark tech will help his 54-yr old sperm reach their destination). The man got pretty close to carking it at the hands of Thanos, surely Marvel wouldn’t be so cruel as to off him? And look – there’s Pepper in the trailer! They’re going to settle down! It’s all going to be ok!
…or is it?
3. Cap gon die
It’s common wisdom among fans that Captain America will not survive this film. I don’t know how the idea started, but it picked up steam after Chris Evans tweeted about some on-set waterworks during his last day of filming. But I think more than that, it just feels right. Cap is like 100 now. And Evans seems to be as nice a fellow as his onscreen counterpart. He’s earned a break.
4. The funniest Avenger
On the other hand, Thor should live for many more years than the thousands he’s already clocked up. After Taika Waititi’s Ragnarok, it really feels like he’s just getting started. The character always had a sense of humour but Waititi really brought it to the forefront, and it was amazing. The movie is a damn miracle, and I still can’t believe it exists in its current, very goofy form.
[Side note: Marvel get flak for pre-vizing their action scenes, often without input from their directors, but look at these beautifully symmetrical, very comic-booky images and tell me Taika’s style isn’t all over them].
Anyway, it really felt like a new start for the character and I don’t want him to go anywhere. Perhaps one of the two following women could convince him to stay, if they’re not busy…
5. Captain Marvel will have sex with Valkyrie
Ok, this probably won’t happen. But the actresses sure seem to want it to. Thomson has stated Valkyrie is bisexual, and Captain Marvel’s origin film danced around Carol Danvers’ sexuality. The Marvel films have taken some great steps toward diversity (admittedly after putting it off for ten years or so), and a same-sex couple would be a great addition.
Also, let’s take a moment to celebrate Tessa T being in this film at all. I didn’t see much online response after she popped up on one of the Endgame posters. But she rules, so hard.
6. (Almost) everyone is going to come back to life
Sure, there are question marks over Gamora (my money’s on her returning), Vision (less certain about this one), and Loki and Heimdall are done-burgers.
But everyone else? Come on. You know this. Marvel knows you know this. The only question is how?
7. We’re going back to the Quantum realm
One of the joys of serialised storytelling is seeing which ideas stick. The Quantum realm was apparently a late stage addition to Ant-Man by director Peyton Reed and co-writer Adam McKay, and now it seems to be what Endgame is hinging on. Fans seem to think so anyway, and apparently, that’s what those white suits in the trailer are all about. To be quite honest, I’m not looking too deeply into that one because I’m scared of stumbling over the bushel of spoilers that have made their way online.
But one way or another…
8. Thanos is getting his ass handed to him
Interesting how this dude has mostly stayed out of the trailers. Again, it’s a foregone conclusion—we need to see some payback, dammit! But how are we going to get there? Will there be other villains? Will they use time travel to off him as a kid like the famous baby Hitler conundrum? A lot could happen guys. They have three hours to do it.
9. No intermission
Honestly, this is not something I’m looking forward to. Feige has said there will be no time to run out for a bathroom break, the sadistic bastard. Personally I am going to very carefully monitor my intake of fluids, nip to the loo at the last possible moment, and hopefully stave off dehydration/ brain fade for the whopping 3hrs and 1min runtime.
10. The future!
Marvel is going to continue taking over popular culture. There’s the aforementioned TV series, and the huge, landscape-altering Disney/ Fox merger that means the X-Men and The Fantastic Four will almost certainly enter the MCU. You could be forgiven for thinking this sounds overwhelming. Presumably, the studio will build to another ‘event’ team-up with the new Iron Man/Cap/Thor combo of Dr Strange/Black Panther/Captain Marvel. It’s worked pretty well for them so far. But I hope they take time to diversify along the way, in every sense of that word. And signs are promising.
So what else is in the planning?
None other than Angelina Jolie will star in the Eternals, for one thing. And it will be directed by Chloé Zhao, making this the first MCU film to be solely helmed by a woman (Captain Marvel was co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck), and a non-white woman to boot. Zhao makes small, quiet films (please check out her most recent, The Rider, it’s one of 2018’s best), with an emphasis on human drama. And I really hope Feige & co let her style shine through. I hope they loosen the reins even more than they did for Taika. Take some risks! Make a truly arthouse superhero movie.
Black Widow is also getting her long, long-awaited solo outing, helmed by another indie director, Cate Shortland. Again, if you’ve seen Shortland’s prior work, this is a very leftfield choice, but hopefully hints at something more like a gritty spy film. Hey, maybe superpowers won’t even be involved! Imagine that!
Most exciting to me, and currently very under the radar, is Shang-chi. Billed as Marvel’s first kung-fu film, this also feels like a chance to make something smaller-scale. The character has gone through various iterations on the page, but he started as a regular human, albeit one who was trained since birth in the martial arts. Destin Daniel Cretton is directing this one – he’s probably best known for Short Term 12. Crossing my fingers they get a truly great fight choreographer involved.
All these new entries suggest that Feige and Marvel are trying not to repeat themselves. They’re smart enough to know that ten years is a long time, and even when you’re on top of your game, you need to adapt to survive. The MCU has legions of devoted fans, and with Endgame, they will hopefully get some sort of closure after investing so much in these characters. And then, you know, there’ll be the next thing.