Warning: The following contains some minor spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame” and other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
It all started with a son.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who would become Iron Man, the leader of the Avengers and subsequent father figure to Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland), was so driven by the ghost of his own father that the elder Stark’s specter cast a shadow over the entire MCU.
Tony Stark, over a series of 22 total films, was joined by others on either side of the dad divide:
- Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), both vying for the affections of their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins)
- Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), who protected his family like a secret identity
- Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), maker of questionable decisions in an effort to spend more time with his daughter
- Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) who shared a contentious/on the cusp of tender relationship with her dad, Henry Pym (Michael Douglas)
- Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), spurred into action by the murder and secrets of his father
- the collective Guardians of the Galaxy, who run the gauntlet on dad-related issues
That isn’t to say that all the fatherhood story-arcs have been negative. There have been several gems of redemption, love and sacrifice throughout the respective films, many of which have led us here, to the endgame.
My boys are 15 and 13. They have grown with the Marvel movies the way I grew with Star Wars — which certainly adds several layers of memory and nostalgia to the mix. But unlike the pop culture of my own childhood, which was only appreciated by my parents from a distance, our entire family has bonded over the Marvel films (and Star Wars, of course). My wife and I, not to mention most other parents we know, are as equally enamored with the MCU as our children. Our shared fandom has blossomed into quality family time, sparking endless hours of conversation, speculation, and in the case of the last two Avengers films, sobbing.
Ours is a generation that grew up holding on to the magic of pop culture and its effects on society, which made it inevitable that our own children wield it with equal passion.
However, I suppose it only natural that the shifting of our seasons, the aging and adulting we all go through, should provide an evolution of perspective with regard to story. Where once I may have been lost in the wow of spandex and superpowers, I am now intrigued by the connections between the characters. That is, I may love the smash and awe of an Avengers battle, but it is the look on a dusty Peter Parker’s face that puts tears on mine.
Fortunately for everyone, Avengers: Endgame has plenty of both. It is layers upon layers of carefully crafted story and relationships coming together, adapting to conflict and challenging the forces of evil. After all, we are trusting it, a decade’s investment, to create even more memories, even more conversations that we can carry forever.
It doesn’t disappoint.
On the drive home, we talked about our favorite parts. My leg was still sore from where my wife clinched it during a particularly empowered battle scene. The boys couldn’t stop talking about “America’s butt,” and my dad bod received an electrifying endorsement. But there were other moments, like how we all cried before the opening credits rolled and then the many times that followed.
We talked about family, fatherhood specifically, and the bookends of it. Fatherhood has been the fuel driving the MCU machine, whether igniting on so many fumes or making us turn this movie around. It’s been a hell of a ride, and in the end it took us exactly where we were going.
It got a great parking spot.
Scene above from “Avengers: Endgame”: Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and daughter Lila (Sophia Russo). Photo: Film Frame/©Marvel Studios 2019