Whether or not the events of “The Snap” will be reversed, Avengers: Endgame marks the climax, and culmination, of 11 years of Marvel movies, as the stories of now dozens of superheroes continue to evolve, presumably in some cases towards definitive conclusions. That epic journey prompted a lot of reflection, and speculation, at the recent Los Angeles press day for Endgame, but in the interest of protecting the movie’s surprises, produced few real answers. Nevertheless, a showcase of new costumes from the upcoming film paired nicely with the observations of cast and crew members old and new as they celebrated this benchmark in Marvel’s cinematic history.
“I’m super excited for this to come out – mostly just so that I can talk about it,” said Brie Larson, whose Captain Marvel just crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office. “I want to be able to talk about my experience!” Larson went on to talk about how her ensemble turn in Endgame was so meaningful.
“This film will always be personally dear to me because it was my first time playing Captain Marvel. We shot this first” she explained. “So I had to stumble and try to figure out who this character was with no script for this – and no script for Captain Marvel either – and perform for the first time in front of legends. But as big as it is, it still feels like a bunch of kids – just like what I was doing over summer break, making movies in my garage. There is still this sense of wonder and play and encouragement. And of course this film deals with some heavy subject matter. So you’re bouncing in between things that feel very deep and serious. And then we’re going off and playing boggle. So there is no other word I can describe it as other than surreal.”
Of course, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has been a mainstay of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man 2, and Johansson remembered the curiosity and even trepidation she felt when first taking on the role of a character she knew fans had so many preconceptions and expectations about. “The character really started as a sort of sexy secretary with a skill set on the side – well, posing as,” she said. “I certainly didn’t know how the audience would react to my interpretation of the character. And then the next time that we saw her in Avengers, she was sort of one of the boys, for better or worse, and that made sense then.”
Sitting on stage with Larson, Gillan, and Danai Gurira, Johansson celebrated the shift that took place to make room for strong, sophisticated women characters, and the close-knit family of actors that developed over the course of the MCU’s evolution. “As audiences have really pushed studios and filmmakers to represent the zeitgeist and wanting to see diverse films and casts that represents their own aspirations and how they feel, I feel the character has sort of grown in reaction to that.”
“I remember when [Elizabeth Olsen] signed on, Coby [Smulders] was there, and we were all clinging to each other; it was so nice to see other female cast members,” she recalled. “And then with Brie coming on and Karen and Danai, it’s just grown beyond my wildest dreams. I could never have imagined where this would take us – all of us. It’s been quite a journey.”
Endgame and Infinity War directors Anthony and Joe Russo discussed the process, and challenge, of creating a satisfying and emotionally resonant conclusion to the Avengers saga. Anthony said, “one of our favorite story telling adages is write yourself into a corner – put yourself in a place on a narrative level where you have no idea how you could possibly move forward from here. It forces you to come up with some really creative ways forward. And we’ve tried to do that with the endings of every single Marvel movie we’ve done and never more so of course than Infinity War.”
“We are very committed to the ending of that movie,” he continued. “We think that stories lose their meaning and relevancy and resonance unless there are real stakes. And for us, moving into this new movie into Endgame, the story is very much about, how do these heroes deal with resounding loss. And our road into this story is how is everybody on an individual level dealing with that experience and then how do they collectively deal with it?”
Joe agreed: “With Endgame, we get the opportunity to think to finish off one of the grandest experiments in movie history and bring it to an epic conclusion,” he said. “So what we’re hoping for is that people feel satisfied with the conclusion.”
It’s difficult to remember how different the stakes were for Marvel’s first movie as a studio, Iron Man, and its latest, a three-hour opus that is expected to break box office records on its opening weekend. But especially for Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, Endgame feels like an understandable, even appropriate time for reflection on the studio’s serpentine history, not to mention the interconnected storytelling that has enraptured audiences across the globe.
“The bar for success [on Iron Man] was pretty low; it was comparable to other Marvel films that had been out in that general area, which is what we wanted to compete with,” Feige said. “But as we were making the movie, we realized that this was really going to be special and even perhaps more special than we thought. And there started to be a much bigger sort of wind behind our back. Combined with Sam Jackson’s cameo that we secretly did and then secretly leaked the next day, people picked up that that meant this interconnected universe which everybody knew from the books, but had never been done in the movies.”
“About four or five years ago, we talked about what haven’t we seen in films based on comic characters? And we haven’t seen an ending. A definitive conclusion to an overall saga. So that’s why it’s called Endgame, and why I think it’s very, very special.”