Just want to say before I get started, that this is not a review and there will be no spoilers in this post. If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame you are safe here. This is a post about why I’ve loved these movies so much, what these films have meant in my life and all that’s happened since this series began.
In 2008, I was 16 years old. I had just gotten my driver’s license, had a job that I loved, and my father had just gotten home from Iraq after being deployed for a year. I grew up in a family that always went to the movies: no matter what country we visited (or lived in) whether it be Japan, Singapore, Rome, or Brussels, we always stopped by the movies. I remember seeing Bug’s Life in Singapore, as well as the Lindsey Lohan Parent Trap, when they were first released.
I grew up going to the movies. So much so, that I’ve always used them to mark time: I associate times in my life with different movie releases, because childhood is just as full of milestones as summer blockbusters. (Andy went off to college in Toy Story 3 the exact same summer that I had just graduated high school, which made this movie even more emotional for my mother, who mentioned this just the other day.) My memory is only good when I have a movie to associate with it, like how seeing Captain Marvel was the first time I’ve been late to a movie screening since The Iron Giant in 1999.
I always associated the first Iron Man with the return of my father from deployment. We always saw the latest superhero film, but both of us enjoyed this one in a way that was totally new. Tony Stark had a depth to him, one that I was able to connect with: A deeply selfish person who had to overcome himself and his ego to fight for others (and continues this inner struggle throughout all of his films). I had always been a big Superman fan, but Iron Man gave me something that no other superhero movie had ever given me: an imperfect, human superhero.
Not only that, but it’s just a great movie with loads of fun and charm. It was just plain cool. (It’s just as good today as it was then)
What I didn’t realize (and I’m sure the world didn’t realize), is how big this thing would get. When you are nearing the end of high school, every year is significant, and a new Avengers film was coming out every year after Iron Man’s popularity.
My life for the 11 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been something of a roller coaster between going to college, my parents’ divorce, learning who I was and what I wanted to do, meeting my wife, strengthening my relationship with my sister, getting two nieces, and much much more.
In the beginning of 2012, I had met Anna, my now wife, the same month that I found out that my parents were in a bad place. She couldn’t have come at a better time; there’s a much much darker alternate reality where I undergo the struggle of my family falling apart without her, and I can’t imagine what that would have been like.
One of our first dates was when I dragged her to the midnight release of The Avengers (the first one), a movie that seemed like it could have never have come together. It was the greatest movie experience of my life, and one of my happiest memories during an otherwise, dark time. I thought it was best if we got to the theater at 9pm, because I imagined people camping out to see the most revolutionary superhero movie ever. Turns out, no one showed up until an hour beforehand, so we waited there, alone, for 3 hours and just talked and hung out. She brings this story up every chance she gets. (Especially when I feel like we need to leave for the movies a couple hours early, thank goodness for reserved seating.)
We would then see pretty much every Marvel release on opening night after that, despite getting married, finishing school, working, and moving through different phases of life. I remember eagerly seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron with our friends Sam and Woody in Chattanooga, and last year seeing the 10pm premiere (which might as well be midnight to us now) of Avengers: Infinity War with our good friend, Kelsey. Anna and Kelsey often recount my audible gasp when Tony Stark was stabbed by Thanos, because I felt a piece of my childhood meeting his untimely demise. That also coincided with a decision to leave Chattanooga, a place we had lived for the past 8 years.
Now, I’m 27 years old, and the conclusion to this current iteration of the Avengers saga has ended, and an era of my life with it. Last night, Anna and I went to the first showing of Avengers: Endgame in Greenville, SC, because we moved to Upstate SC this year. I’ve started my business full-time, and Anna is on a new career path herself. We are building a new life and new foundation for ourselves as the possibility of our family growing becomes a closer reality. (Chill out everyone, this isn’t a pregnancy announcement. I said “possibility”).
Avengers: Endgame is an incredible cinematic achievement. Nothing like this has ever been done, and I don’t think this ever gets pulled off a second time. 11 years of patience and organic growth built the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the monstrosity of nerd joy that it is. The movie is so good, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
I’ve always thought of these movies as “mine” because of the ways they have intertwined with my life. After last night, I realize, that they are everyone else’s too, and everyone willing to be there opening night has their own emotional attachments to this world of superheroes as well.
Even Anna, who enjoys these movies a great deal, but I never considered her as big a fan as me, cried during the end of the movie. When I later mentioned that I noticed she teared up, she said, “It wasn’t because of what was happening in the movie. It was because seeing the new Avengers was always what we did ever since we started dating. And now, it’s over, and it won’t ever be quite like this again.”
Even typing this, it’s hard not to tear up. It’s true, things won’t always be the same, but that doesn’t mean that what’s to come isn’t even greater.
It is truly the end of an era.