Why Avengers: Endgame Strikes a Chord (Spoiler Alert)
I watched Avengers: Endgame two nights ago and, despite having a massive migraine in the middle of it, was absolutely BLOWN AWAY. (I’m planning on re-watching it soon to really enjoy it.) I’m neither a comic book junkie nor a Marvel movie fanatic, but I have watched enough Marvel movies to experience the full emotional magnitude of this movie. It was a magnificent theatrical feat, and not just for its thrilling action scenes and CGI effects. I was especially struck by the movie’s message of sacrificial love, humanity wrestling with its innate brokenness, and our need for a supernatural Savior.
And it seems like I am not alone. Endgame is on its way to breaking box office history, and theaters are playing it 24/7 to keep up with the demand.
In this post, I want to explore just WHY Avengers: Endgame, along with the entire notion of superheroes, strike a universal chord with everyone? What does our obsession with superheroes reveal to us about our perception of ourselves and of the world?
SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing some plot elements and revealing the final ending of the movie so READ NO FURTHER if you haven’t seen the movie for yourself. :)
So, what are some reasons for why Avengers: Endgame strikes a chord with so many?
We are aware of our innate brokenness and inability to do the “right” thing.
We see this in Thor’s shame, guilt, and PTSD from not successfully killing Thanos when he had the chance. We see this in Hawkeye’s downward spiral after his family’s deaths and Black Widow’s regrets over her past life. We see this in Iron Man’s depression at the beginning of the movie following Peter Parker’s death. Although they are “super,” they are also flawed and human like the rest of us.
They make mistakes and are haunted by past regrets. The reason we invest so deeply in these characters is that we see ourselves mirrored in them. These characters portray the brokenness we each experience—brokenness from past failures, regrets, losses and hurts. We also realize that we are unable, despite our best efforts, to always do the “right” thing. Although these heroes had the best of intentions, they still were unable to defeat Thanos and make the sacrifices needed to prevent the snap.
We understand that the ultimate act of love is sacrifice (especially self-sacrifice).
I was personally most touched during the scene in which Black Widow and Hawkeye wrestle with one another, each trying to fling themselves off the cliff in order to save the other from dying for the Soul Stone. Ultimately, Black Widow successfully traps Hawkeye into letting her go, leading to her own death and the successful retrieval of the Soul Stone. And in the final act, Tony Stark/Iron Man makes the ultimate sacrifice to finally end the battle against Thanos. He puts on the Infinity Gauntlet and snaps, destroying all of Thanos’s forces but giving up his life in the process (as he is too weak to survive the snap).
Watching these two fictional sacrifices play out on screen touched me deeply, as I’m sure it did for all of the audience members. Our reaction to their sacrifices confirms that we understand that ultimate love requires sacrifice. Sacrificing oneself for others, and in extreme cases dying for another, is the hallmark of love.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15:13)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might . become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
We recognize that our world is in need of a Savior.
I think we are all aware to some level of the brokenness of our world, and Avengers does a good job of portraying this in a fictional reality. The bleak picture of America post-snap is pretty close to what our world feels like now. The reason why superheroes resonate with us so deeply is that, deep down, we know we need a Savior. We are drawn to these characters who (with their powers) are able to save and rescue us.
But, while the Marvel Universe requires an army of thousands of supers to defeat evil, believers can put their hope in Christ who alone can save.
Power, when wielded by an inherently flawed person, is extremely dangerous.
The whole Marvel Universe is exploring a theme of extraordinary, limitless power, and the consequences of it falling into the wrong hands. Each hero in the Marvel Universe is bestowed with incredible abilities, and he or she must grapple with how to best harness their abilities for the greater good. An interesting example of this is Wanda Maximoff, or Scarlet Witch, who has the ability to manipulate magic with her hands. She is the only Avenger with the power to destroy one of the infinity stones. However, as we saw in the second and third Avengers movies, she repeatedly threatens the safety of civilians by choosing to save and protect those she personally cares about. For example, she refuses to remove the stone from Vision in Infinity War until it is too late, although billions of lives are at stake. Avengers shows us that power, no matter who is at the helm, is incredibly dangerous. Even though we can all agree that Thanos is a poor choice for having such power, can we be sure that our favorite Avenger (Captain Marvel, Thor) can be trusted with this power? Interestingly, Thanos destroys the stones after Infinity War, to eliminate the temptation of using the stones. He recognizes how power can easily corrupt.
Avengers is very good at showing us the duality of good and evil in every character. After watching the movie, I actually felt grateful that these powers don’t exist in reality, and that the one who holds ultimate power is sovereign, unchangeably good, and trustworthy.
There is so much more I could comment on from this movie, but these are some of the takeaways that stood out to me. I think it is definitely worth asking yourself the same question: why do I care so much about these fictional characters? Why does watching the battle play out onscreen excite me so much?