by Pastor David Locklair.
“It’s all been leading to this.” So went some of the marketing for Marvel Studios’ latest blockbuster: Avengers: Endgame. Endgame serves as the culmination of 11 years and 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU will certainly continue on, but Endgame closed out this first saga, which Marvel is now calling “The Infinity Saga,” and brought conclusions to the story arcs of certain main characters.
Avengers: Endgame deals with the aftermath of Avengers: Infinity War. The surviving Avengers from that film reunite and devise a plan to travel back in time and secure the Infinity Stones prior to Thanos gathering them (and using them to wipe out half of the universe). After securing the stones, they would use them to then bring back everyone whose existence was erased in Infinity War. The Avengers travel in teams (Iron Man/Captain America/Ant-Man/Hulk, War Machine/Nebula, Hawkeye/Black Widow, Thor/Rocket) to retrieve the stones from the past and bring them to the present.
As usual for these reviews, spoilers will be discussed. There is simply no way to discuss the spiritual connections for the film without doing so. So, if you haven’t seen Endgame yet, STOP READING. Come back when you have seen it.
The surviving Avengers are able to secure all the stones and bring them to the present day. Hulk then wields the Infinity Gauntlet built by Iron Man and snaps his fingers to bring back those wiped out by Thanos’ snap. Clint Barton’s (Hawkeye) phone rings and it’s his wife calling (she had been erased in the first snap). This is the first of many glorious resurrections we witness. Thanos traveled from the past at this very moment and so began the final battle. After a brief confrontation between Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, Captain America hears a voice on his coms saying “on your left.” That, of course, is a callback to Steve and Sam Wilson’s meeting in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Portals open behind Cap, and his good friend Sam comes flying through along with the others who had been killed. Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Black Panther – everyone they lost is now back and ready to defeat Thanos for good. It’s an incredibly emotional sequence.
In John 11:25, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (ESV). The Christian knows that not only is resurrection from death a joyous thing to see in our works of fiction, it’s reality for us. We will live after death. Christ’s resurrection from death proves that our sins are forgiven and heaven is open to us. When we die, we will enter into heaven. When Christ returns, He will resurrect these very bodies of ours and restore them to life forever. The Christian doesn’t witness the moving resurrections of a superhero movie and wistfully think “wouldn’t that be nice.” The Christian witnesses such things in the full confidence that we will experience resurrection ourselves! Resurrection is not unrealistic fantasy; in Christ Jesus it is reality.
The Value of Life
I mentioned in my review of Infinity War that Marvel has particularly highlighted the value of life in their latest films. Endgame very much continues that theme. Thanos’ original plan was to wipe out half of all human life and he succeeded in that plan in Infinity War. At the start of Endgame, the surviving Avengers track down Thanos and kill him. However, the work was done and he destroyed the Infinity Stones leaving them no way to undo what he had done – outside of time travel. Thanos from the past (2014) learns of the present day plan and travels to the present day to try to stop the Avengers from undoing his (future) work. He then comes to the “realization” that he must wipe out all life and “start over” so that no one can undo his work. He goes from the mindset of killing half the population to killing all the population. In so doing, he illustrates how if one does not value all of human life, one will continue to value life less and less. Throughout both films, the Avengers, in contrast to Thanos, show their commitment to the value of life.
As a real world comparison, it is no wonder that abortion advocates have pushed for more and more expansion to abortion “rights” and some have even called for leaving to die those children who survived abortion. Similar things can be said of the euthanasia movement. If you don’t value all life, you will continue to devalue more and more of life.
Scripture, on the other hand, upholds that all life is precious. The unborn, the infant, the weak, the sick, the elderly, and the healthy are all precious to our God. “For you formed my inward parts: you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). All of our lives were so precious to God, that He gave His Son in sacrifice to save us (John 3:16).
Two of the Avengers sacrifice themselves in order to bring back everyone Thanos killed. When Hawkeye and Black Widow travel to the past to locate the soul stone on Vormir, they learn what Thanos and Gamora learned in Infinity War: to take the soul stone requires you to sacrifice someone you love. Hawkeye and Black Widow share a deep friendship. Natasha is considered to be part of Clint’s family (the children of Clint and his wife refer to Natasha as “aunt”). When these two learn of the only way to get the soul stone (and thus bring back all who died), what follows is the most heart-breaking sequence of the film.
Both begin to speak of the necessity of the sacrifice so that they may save others. Neither will permit the other to give their life. Rushing toward the abyss, both try to incapacitate the other to save the other’s life. There is an intense back and forth struggle, but in the end Natasha is able to incapacitate Clint so that he may live, and return to his family, and she gives her life.
In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (ESV). Though she has yet to have her own MCU movie, Natasha’s story arc beautifully illustrates such love. The Avengers have come to be Natasha’s friends. They are the only family she has. So great is her love for her friend Clint, his family, and the Avengers who were lost to Thanos’ snap, that she not only is willing to lay down her life to save them but she insists.
The other major death in Endgame is that of Tony Stark’s Iron Man. Tony resists the surviving Avengers’ plan at first. He does not want to “mess things up” even more, and he doesn’t want to risk losing his wife (Pepper) or daughter (Morgan). However, Tony and Pepper realize pretty quickly that if there is a chance Tony can save others, he must try.
Before he died in Infinity War, Dr. Strange revealed to Tony that there was only one possible outcome in which Thanos is defeated. At then end of the final battle, Tony and Thanos face off for control of the Infinity Stones. Tony manages to remove the stones from Thanos. Knowing what he is about to do, Tony looks over to Dr. Strange who holds up one finger, indicating to Tony that this is the only way to stop Thanos. Tony wields the stones with his nano-armor, looks at Thanos and declares, “And I… am…. Iron Man,” and snaps his fingers. Thanos and his army is turned to dust. The power of the stones is too much for a mortal man and Tony is killed by the power surge. Both Tony and Natasha gave their lives to save others.
Their deaths are powerful illustrations of selfless love. They are powerful illustrations of selfless service to others. They are even powerful illustrations of using one’s vocation to help others. Therefore, they are illustrations of the Christian life itself.
Although Natasha and Tony are gone, there is a victorious ending for the Avengers. Billions of lives were saved. Thanos was defeated. Certain characters were even given particularly happy endings to their story. The most notably of these is Captain America. Steve lives through the events of the film. He then must return the Infinity Stones to the past. When he does that, however, he does not immediately return. Instead, he remains in the past and marries Peggy Carter and they enjoy a happy life together. This storyline has been critiqued by many. People tend to critique happy endings in works of fiction as being “not realistic.”
However, as Christians we know the happy ending is realistic! During this Easter season, we think of the words of St. Paul in I Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Not only is a happy ending coming for those who trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, a perfect ending is coming. Everything will be good, right, and happy in paradise to come.
Parents should know a little about the film before bringing their children. As with the other MCU films, its PG-13 rating should be taken seriously. I would describe Endgame as the most intense film I have ever seen (though that may be in part to my long time connection to the characters). It is violent, at times brutally so. It contains several heroic but agonizing death scenes (as mentioned above). As a film that includes nearly everyone from the MCU, there is the typical crudeness from certain characters. Also worthy of note is the unfortunate inclusion of references to homosexuality (a first for an MCU movie). In a brief scene near the beginning of the film, Steve Rogers leads a support group in which one of the attendees speaks of his struggles in dating again (presumably after the death of his husband), and it is made clear that the man is speaking of homosexual relationships. Steve encourages the man in these efforts to “move on.” The scene feels entirely forced and agenda based, and it is completely out of character in light of the ethics and morals established for Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers (Steve pretty clearly holds to Christian ethics).
It seems that every Marvel review I have written has referred to the film in question as a “smash hit,” but to call Endgame anything else would be a gross understatement. The film is guaranteed to be at least the second highest grossing movie of all time, and it may very well pass Avatar (2.788 billion dollars) to become the highest of all time. As of May 8th, after a mere 11 days in theaters, Endgame had already grossed over 2.3 billion dollars at the global box office. Overall, the 22 films of the MCU will have grossed well over 21 billion dollars by the time Endgame’s run is completed.
Avengers: Endgame is well worth seeing. In many ways it is a film that highlights love for others, the value of life, the glory of resurrection, and the joy of final victory. As the culmination of 21 previous films, Endgame uses many of the things from the past to highlight these themes. If you haven’t seen the previous Marvel films, you really should watch them to get the full impact of these themes. The films have become less “stand alone” films as time goes on, and that has allowed Marvel to powerfully develop characters and themes along the way.