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To quote Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), “part of the journey is the end.” Ironman has several pithy quotes, but this one sums up the film, which has more “ending scenes” than Return of the King.

Avengers: Endgame is the end, not only to Thanos’ storyline begun in Avengers: Infinity War, but of the Avengers arcs over the last 10 years. As fans guessed, our heroes attempt a time-travel heist to undo Thanos’ “snap,” which wiped out half of life on earth in Infinity War. Honestly, what more could we ask of a blockbuster action film than time travel, heist hijinks, and epic superhero battles?

Endgame takes a nostalgic tone with frequent callbacks to iconic Avengers moments. Viewers unfamiliar or uninvested in previous films might feel lost in the references and emotional gravitas. Unlike the Thor or Ironman movies, Endgame cannot be viewed as a stand-alone film; it is the fan-focused finale to a saga.

Once again, instead of fulfilling her own arc, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), like her hairstyle, dramatically changes to fit the plot’s needs. On the whole, however, the resolution is satisfactory. The glorious Captain America (Chris Evans) moment fans have waited for, perhaps the greatest Marvel scene ever, makes Endgame worth it.
But Stark’s storyline, by far the most developed, clearly shows that the Avengers’ saga is about Ironman. If the “billionaire, playboy philanthropist” isn’t your favorite, Endgame may change your mind.

Robert Downey Jr. balances character consistency and growth. And perhaps Marvel writers and directors simply understand Stark’s character better than that of demigods, super-soldiers, and assassins, because, comparatively, Stark is most like us—ordinary. Stark grapples to do the right thing in a world of perpetually increasing stakes and moral complexity.

In contrast to Thanos’ belief in unalterable destiny, Ironman—distinct from Tony Stark, heir to fame and fortune—is that icon so central to our culture: the self-made man. Themes of destiny vs. choice and human identity vs. heroic alter-ego (Banner vs. Hulk for example) are woven throughout the series. Rather than destiny, Marvel emphasizes a core identity, evidenced by an individual’s choices, like super-soldier serum strengthens a person’s core character, good or bad.

In Endgame, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), struggling again to prove himself worthy, gives up hope. When told, “Everyone fails at who they were supposed to be,” he can only do his best to be who he is. In a moment of grace following his confession, Thor summons Mjölnir, which can only be lifted by a hero who is worthy.

Marvel’s clever humor and textured characters are much celebrated, but perhaps most revolutionary is Endgame’sportrayal of authentic brokenness and failure. The final battle has a sense of eternality as victory slips from our heroes’ fingers again and again. Finally, Captain America alone struggles to his feet against Thanos, illuminated in a wide shot of their twilit silhouette. The simplicity feels iconic and foundational: this is The Endgame, the original story—-the hero rising from his fall to stand against evil.

Tony Stark’s crucial moment comes when he responds to Thanos’ declaration “I am inevitable” with “I am Ironman.” It’s a transcendent moment, almost reminiscent of Ephesians 4:22—“cast off your old self.”

Stark becomes super-human as he chooses to live into his identity, not as egotistical billionaire Tony Stark but as Ironman, sacrificial defender of justice. It’s a truly epic conclusion to a saga that redefined superhero films for a generation. (Marvel Studios)

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