I’m sure the filmmakers of this last outing of the “Infinity Saga” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t realize that releasing the film so soon after the celebration of the Easter Triduum would render it even more meaningful for it’s audience members of Christian persuasion. Yet Avengers: Endgame does indeed recall the cycle of Paschal Mystery – suffering, death, and resurrection – that is part and parcel of our human life, made holy by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As the companion film to last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame begins with Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) mourning those of their superhero friends turned to dust and ash by the snap of villain Thanos’s (Josh Brolin) fingers. With Ant Man/Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) return from the Quantum Realm (not a spoiler, he’s in the trailer, after all) he comes up with a harebrained scheme to go back in time to collect the infinity stones before Thanos has a chance to vamoose half of all living things in the universe. All their friends would be back and it would undo the chaos and suffering of everyone who survived. Some really great and humorous references to Marty McFly and Back to the Future give some much-needed levity to act one.
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant Man (Marvel Studios/Disney)
Now it’s five years after the events of Infinity War and Steve and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) go about collecting the gang, some of whom have moved onward into the lives they had always imagined for themselves and others who have gone to seed, wallowing in what was lost.
As the leftover Avengers go off in pairs to retrieve the Infinity Stones, the audience is gifted with the action (including a humongous battle) and stunning effects we’ve come to expect from the MCU. Working off the script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, sibling directors Anthony and Joe Russo, manage to hold in a comfortable tension (that makes the three-hour run time fly by) the many bits and pieces of story lines nurtured over the course of 22 previous films.
What sets Endgame apart from the other films is its emotional core. The Avengers are not superheroes that have it all together. We've seen that before. They are like us in that we suffer and mourn the losses we experience when those we love leave us, either through death, betrayal, or simply growing apart. Robert Downey, Jr. shines as he displays the range of emotion Tony experiences, from his zinging one-liners to letting the tears fall when he tells Natasha that he “lost the kid,” referring to Peter Parker/Spider Man (Tom Holland). Just like each of us experiences grief differently, so does each Avenger.
Chris Evans and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Marvel Studios/Disney)
The cycle of Paschal Mystery does not end in death, however, and resurrection also finds its way into Avengers: Endgame. St. Paul tells us that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, our faith would be in vain. We may not have time travel available to us, to help us deal with the things that cause us suffering and pain, but we do have our faith and the hope that God can and does bring good even out of pain and sorrow.
Here’s the other really neat thing about Endgame: it made me think of priorities in life and what or who is worth sacrificing for, especially loved ones. The Avengers are not heroes only because they have cool powers or suits that enable them to do superhuman things. They are heroes because they have what it takes in their humanness (or 'demigodness' in Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) case) to make sacrifices, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, for the greater good of all people, not just themselves. We see this especially in Tony’s decisions, Hawkeye/Clint Barton’s (Jeremy Renner) dedication, and in Captain America’s action, as well as in the stories of the other Avengers.
Other than the powers and the suits, are we so different?