Why is Avengers Endgame so popular?

Marvel just completed* an epic assortment of films, sweeping through the public consciousness and securing a place for themselves in our decade. Not every film was beloved, some were outstanding, some were forgettable, but collectively they sparked something in our imaginations.

Why did we weep with Tony Stark as Peter Parker turned to dust? Why did we cheer so much when Captain Marvel showed up in headquarters? And why were our hopes so high (with a touch of fear) as we filed into the theater to see Endgame. 

Marvel has tapped into something bigger than the franchise, bigger than superheros, they have found a nugget of The Truth. Think about the biggest stories of our time, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Avengers. Think about some of the popular stories of our generation, Twilight, any Stephen King book, Neil Gaiman’s much anticipated Good Omens. They all have one thing in common. — The world is at stake, there is a great evil approaching, but good still exists and must rise up and fight against overwhelming odds.

The world is at stake. We are in grave danger. The seas are churning, the mountains quake, the trees are dying and we are sleeping. Evil has been busy, building an army, blackening, numbing hearts to feel no remorse. Bodies piling up in remote corners of the world, stinking, bodies of the young, the old, the helpless. While we are slumbering. Chaos reigns amid a plan, a deep dark, evil plan. To destroy all that is good and beautiful.

Good still exists. It’s not wiped out yet. It’s clinging to our hearts, giving us hope… see, there is a spark, there is a glimpse of beauty, see, there is a kind word, a generous soul. ‘Hope is a thing with feathers, that perches in the soul’ (Emily Dickinson) Everywhere that beauty is found, in a perfect dew drop on the tip of a blade of grass, in the reflection of every cloud in motionless water, in the light that bounces off exquisite oil paintings, there hope is too. Yet we feel so small and the darkness so large. But we are not alone, we have a Rescuer, when all seems lost we are found.

We must rise up and fight. We have a part to play in this vast cosmic conflict. This is where the stories get it right the most! Spider man wakes up and realizes he has powers, Frodo finds himself tasked with taking the ring to Mordor, Luke Skywalker finds his destiny; and you too have a purpose, a unique path, a part to play in the battle. The difference is, the battle is for your mind, your heart and your very soul and Jesus has given you everything you need to win that battle.

*** Warning spoilers for Avengers Endgame Next ***  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endgame drags you back into the Marvel Universe with a heartbreaking scene. Forcing you to face the agony of loss that you felt at the end of Infinity War, once more. Just in case you had forgotten. Then they lead you down a path of hope that ends crashingly at Thanos feet. What is the purpose of all this pain and heartache. Couldn’t they have just fast forwarded to the part where they figure out how to save the day? It’s hard to wait, to sit, to feel, much easier to skip ahead to the ‘good’ part. But it’s in the slow parts of our story that the real work is done, the real battle is fought.

I had a conversation after Endgame with someone about what moment was it that really turned the tide and changed the future. The truth is it’s in the little moments, the little choices that were made, even the ‘accidents’ of an exploratory mouse, that changed everything. The same is true in our lives. We always have a choice, to swallow our pride and speak kindly, apologize, find hope and give hope, to speak truth in love, and change everything.

Tony Stark steps back into hope when he says ‘Resentment is corrosive’  He realized that unforgiveness was damaging himself, made of Iron, corroding on the inside. He choose instead to re engage with the battle and to forgive. Forgiveness is powerful. Gamora later does the same for her sister, she sees past the moment and gets a glimpse of a possible future where she and Nebula work as one. She has hope and hope changes things.

The collecting of the Infinity stones leads down memory lane and into past regrets and wishes, where it would be easy to get lost and forget your purpose. Thor having to face his mother with the knowledge that she will be dead by day’s end. Captain America just a window away from his beloved. Without the bigger picture it’d be easy to lose context. We don’t have the luxury of time travel, we have no bigger picture, just the moment, no future self to show up and tell us it’ll all be OK. But we do have someone who holds the bigger picture, someone who holds the future, someone who has stepped into time so that we could have hope.

Hope holds strong as the battle rages, despite terrible loss. But even hope has its limits. At the last moment, when all seems lost, Tony sacrifices himself to stop the darkness. He does what no one else could, and in his death all are reborn. All the dead come back, all those families are restored and the darkness is destroyed. Unlike in Tony’s case, Jesus didn’t stay dead. His sacrifice opened the doors to Heaven itself. His resurrection defeated Death itself. Hope has a name and it’s Jesus.

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

  • Emily Dickinson

 

WHEN by my solitary hearth I sit,

When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,

 And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;

   Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,

   And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.        5

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,

 Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,

Should sad Despondency my musings fright,

 And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,

   Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,        10

   And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,

 Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;

When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,

 Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:        15

   Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,

   And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear

 Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,

O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;        20

 Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:

   Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,

   And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,

 From cruel parents, or relentless fair;        25

O let me think it is not quite in vain

 To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!

   Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,

   And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

  • John Keats, To Hope
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