**Avengers: Endgame Spoilers Ahead**
Eleven years after movie-goers were introduced to Ironman, Avengers: Endgame, the 22nd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the fourth movie to bear the Avengers moniker, has concluded the most ambitious cinematic accomplishment to date. Avengers: Endgame is a staggering achievement – a three-hour extravaganza that wraps up an epic story in which the survival of the known universe is at stake thanks to the simple snap of a finger.
It’s no secret that Infinity War was never intended as a stand-alone story, instead, it was meant to be viewed as part one of an epic adventure that would be concluded in Infinity War Part 2 (later re-titled as Endgame). Needless to say, Avengers: Endgame isn’t a movie in the traditional sense; it’s the final chapter in a two-part saga which itself is part of a bigger story, a story, a decade in the making.
Much like the episodic nature of television, Avengers: Endgame is thus better viewed (and reviewed) as an installment. It relies on audiences having consumed a whopping twenty two films with religious zeal and demands that they put in the time of watching and rewatching these movies in order to fully appreciate the meticulous planning by the corporate wigs and talented filmmakers behind the scenes. And much like a series finale of a television series, Avengers: Endgame is for all intents and purposes, a series of big events that puts various storylines to a close. As to whether or not that multi-part storytelling formula works, is a debate for another time – but as it stands, Avengers: Endgame brings Marvel’s unprecedented master plan full circle, and with it, the MCU will never be quite the same.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Regardless if you’re a fan or not, the sheer scale of the MCU is something to be admired – as is Avengers: Endgame, a balls-to-the-walls superhero extravaganza that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make (and market) and features the biggest star-studded cast ever assembled. If Avengers: Infinity War was a must-see event, then Avengers: Endgame is the ultimate follow-up that no franchise in Hollywood history can rival, if only because of the loss that comes with it.
Avengers: Infinity War did something that not even Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter nor Lord of the Rings could do – it ended with the good guys losing. The stakes had never been raised so high in a Hollywood blockbuster and by the time the credits roll, more than half of our beloved superheroes are wiped out of existence. There was nothing that could prepare us for the deaths of so many iconic characters.
Of course, when all the dust settled, fans could take comfort in knowing a sequel was on its way and chances were, most of those heroes would somehow make a return – and so they did. But Avengers: Endgame, on the other hand, isn’t so kind – the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no mercy and robs us of its greatest warrior.
Avengers: Endgame is a Love Letter to Robert Downey Jr.
It’s safe to say that the most beloved of all the Marvel cinematic superheroes is the one who helped start it all: of course, I am referring to Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. I still remember saying eleven years ago that the casting of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark was one of the greatest casting choices in the history of superhero blockbusters.
I take it back.
Casting Robert Downey Jr. is the greatest casting decision ever made in Hollywood. Sure, his career-resurrecting performance as Tony Stark never won him an Oscar for his portrayal of the billionaire playboy, industrialist, inventor and founding member of the Avengers, but his performance was what made that first movie so special – and without him, Iron Man would be just another superhero movie. Instead, Iron Man was a roaring success, thanks to a combination of superb special effects and the canny casting of Downey in the lead role. There would be no Avengers without Iron Man and there would be no Iron Man as we know him today without Robert Downey Jr.
We Love You 3000
It’s crazy to think that the studio rejected the idea of casting the Oscar-nominated actor several times, especially since Tony Stark seemed to line up perfectly with Downey’s real-life persona. Years of bad publicity and multiple arrests related to substance abuse and excessive partying made him seem like a huge risk for the studio to take, especially considering that they had a ten-year plan from the get-go. They were hesitant to cast him in the role, yet director Jon Favreau saw something special in him that everyone else failed to see. He saw Robert Downey, Jr.’s potential to truly bring the Scotch-swigging, philandering, billionaire arms manufacturer to life as he envisioned it.
He wasn’t wrong.
Robert Downey Jr.’s performance was special in that first movie and ever since Robert Downey’s performance has been nothing short of spectacular. Tony Stark’s struggles in these movies are basically internal and Downey has always brought them to life onscreen in a way that feels truly genuine. He doesn’t behave like most superheroes and while he lacks the psychic weight of Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth, Stark’s transformation from self-indulgent playboy to socially conscious crusader has made him the most interesting character to follow over the years. Of course, we have Jon Favreau to thank since he not only fought to have Robert Downey Jr. hired but he also insisted on letting Downey improvise on set, spouting off lines on the fly –and as we’ve come to see, no one delivers a line with more style than Robert Downey Jr. In rewatching all twenty-two films over the past few weeks, it seems as if the screenplays had been written by Downey’s real-life persona or at least, written with him always in mind.
The Greatest Casting Decision Hollywood has Ever Made
As Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. is at his best, from that first scene of Iron Man, where he’s drinking a Scotch on the rocks while riding in the passenger seat of a military jeep with the sounds of ACDC blasting in the background, to the emotional climax in Avengers: Endgame where he sacrifices his life to save the world. Downey’s journey throughout the MCU has been one for the ages and now eleven years later, the Marvel Universe is the biggest franchise in film history.
If every superhero franchise had a Robert Downey Jr., the genre would be better for it. Iron Man showed the promise of what was yet to come and reinvigorated hope in summer blockbusters and Downey carried
the movie the franchise on his two shoulders. Downey’s characterization has left such a mark that no matter what happens next, I’ll forever miss his irreverent, quirky, self-deprecating, wise-cracking portrayal of Tony Stark. I won’t lie, I cried at the end of Avengers: Endgame. It was truly emotional. With a snap of a finger, he was gone. This was the end of an era. We followed his character arc for eleven years – that’s longer than I’ve known most of the friends in my life.
Avengers: Endgame is the most expansive film yet, but it shifts the focus from over-the-top, special effects and superheroic battles to the more human cost of heroism and at its heart, Avengers: Endgame is about the power of sacrifice. Avengers: Endgame forces Tony Stark to make the hardest decision of his life — in helping the Avengers go back in time and change the outcome of the destruction caused by Thanos, he could very well put the existence of his family in danger. As Justin Chang wrote, “The lessons of Avengers: Endgame are thus as old as time itself, and no less welcome for being reiterated: There is no life without death, no triumph without defeat, no forward progress without a glance in the rear-view mirror.”
There’s one thing you can never take away from me: I am Iron Man.
Avengers: Endgame works for many reasons but mostly because of the interpersonal bonds that have been fleshed out over the years – something the movie spends much of its running time honoring. Here, Iron Man/Tony Stark/Robert Downey Jr. reminds us that great heroes are willings to face the ultimate sacrifice in order for good to triumph over evil. There is much to enjoy about this giant spectacle of emotional goodbyes, but there is nothing to enjoy about watching our favourite Avenger die. The Marvel Cinematic Universe owes everything to Robert Downey Jr. Without him, the MCU just wouldn’t be as good.
R.I.P. Tony Stark.
– Ricky D