With its April 24 release in Korea, Avengers: Endgame has stirred up quite the buzz. In fact, it’s already the second highest grossing film of all time as of the publication date of this volume of The KAIST Herald, beating Titanic and barely lagging behind Avatar, which was released in 2009. There is no doubt that Endgame and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as a whole has been one of the biggest cultural phenomena in the last decade. Comic book fans and movie critics alike have praised every installation of the franchise, resulting in the growth of the MCU’s popularity. People from all walks of life have rallied together to celebrate Endgame and its significance as the end to the decade-long story arc of the first-generation Avengers, the Infinity Stones, and their fight against final boss Thanos.
I empirically witnessed its popularity firsthand. The first time I watched it, most of the Herald members went together for the same viewing on opening night. The second viewing had the theater full of people of all ages from kids and teenagers to adults in their 20s and the parents of said kids and teenagers. The kids I teach on the weekend only go to the theater to watch superhero movies and greatly prefer the Marvel ones over their DC counterparts.
It’s surprising to me that something as conceptually simple as a superhero movie could become the one commonality that connects the mutually exclusive components of an ever-divided and jaded society. Whether online or offline, political discourse on several issues have resulted in major social strife and polarization in many countries. People love bashing on those with differing opinions that they perceive to be wrong and waste time leaving social media comments on the posts of strangers that they will never interact with ever again for a quick laugh. The issues we disagree on have no room for compromise and any debate on such topics leave us exasperated as there is literally no conclusion to be made. But we all love a Marvel movie.
There is a monologue by Tony Stark in Endgame that makes sense within its context but leaves me wondering about whether there’s some hidden meaning behind it, some sneaky commentary on the current sociopolitical state of the world. It goes like this: “I’m hoping if you play this back, it’s in celebration. I hope families are reunited, I hope we get it back, and something like a normal version of the planet has been restored. If there ever was such a thing… epic forces of darkness and light... have come into play. And, for better or worse, that’s the reality Morgan’s gonna have to find a way to grow up in.”
Maybe I’m overthinking it and it really is only about restoring half of humanity — but I can’t help but believe that Marvel meant this as something else. Even if they didn’t, I want to believe they meant it in that way. I wish the world would go back to some version of normal and a nicer place to live on by the next time I watch the film. But where do we even begin to mend the wounds and repair our society to one that doesn’t leave us at each other’s throats?
With how popular they are, the Marvel movies are definitely onto something. My first viewing of the film really struck me because I’ve never seen a theater in such unison. No sound, not even the rustling of someone digging into their popcorn, was to be heard during a serious scene. For the most epic scenes, the audience couldn’t hold back their reactions and everyone was freaking out. We were all so invested in the story, the characters, and the reveals. The film was great and all but the viewing experience itself was an unexpected marvel.
We’ve forgotten that behind every opinion we disagree with is most likely another human being also wanting what they think is best for the world. Maybe regarding them as such, as someone similar to us, will help us at least be more civil. Instead of thinking about our differences, maybe we should talk about what we share, even if it’s as simple as something like being a fan of the MCU. After all, we are all invested in the reality “Morgan’s gonna have to find a way to grow up in”.