Haasch: How has ‘Avengers: Endgame’ earned the right to be three whole hours long?

“Endgame” has to deliver not only on plot but also satisfy fans’ emotional demands.

Palmer Haasch

Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” is one of the few movies that I’m willing to sit in a movie theater to watch for three straight hours. The film, which premieres this Friday, is arguably the most anticipated mainstream film of 2019. However, “Endgame” outstrips its genre predecessors by being one of the longest and arguably most ambitious superhero films to date. While “Endgame” certainly isn’t the first three-hour movie to draw crowds and generate buzz (think “Titanic” or “The Wolf of Wall Street”), it’s fair to say that few other summer blockbusters could get away with a three-hour run time.

As the 22nd installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Endgame” has a lot to live up to. First, there’s the Herculean task of keeping straight the film’s still massive cast of characters — spoiler alert — half of them got snapped in what’s referred to in-universe as the “Decimation.” (If you haven’t seen “Avengers: Infinity War” by now, that’s your own fault.) Past the basic expectation of a cohesive plot despite such a large cast, fans expect not just entertainment, but also emotional payoff from “Endgame” — especially after investing so much time into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Of course, fans are preparing. “People are ready,” E Oropeza, a University of Minnesota student, longtime Marvel fan and Hawkeye enthusiast told me over text. “But [they’re] not really ready and preparing through memes. … I swear there’s a joke on my timeline every day or two about Steve and/or Tony’s funeral lmao.” 

It’s impossible not to speculate about who will and will not survive “Endgame” or how the Avengers will manage to defeat Thanos. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark seem to be characters likely to retire, especially given that both Chris Evans’ and Robert Downey Jr.’s contracts only run through “Endgame.” There’s also been quite a bit of gravitas lent toward the somewhat outlandish, but now mainstream, “Thanus” theory. This essentially involves, uh, Ant-Man shrinking, climbing into Thanos’ anus and then expanding, therefore killing him. 

All of the buzz — even wild theories — leading up to the premiere are testament to cultural capital and fans’ emotional (and intellectual and financial) investment in “Endgame.” Even getting tickets to the premiere was a hassle. “I waited in the digital ‘line’ [to get tickets] for about five hours,” Oropeza wrote. They eventually were able to get seats for premiere night. “I love the energy around movie premieres,” they said. “I also work the entire weekend after the premiere so I wanna see it before [it] get[s] spoiled [for me] like … ‘Infinity War’ lol.” 

Ultimately, it is the fans’ investment in the narrative, legacy and experience of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that justifies — or perhaps, necessitates — this long of a movie. When people flock to theaters this Thursday for the movie’s earliest screenings, finding time to pee or stretch during the film won’t be their primary concern. Rather, it will be a three-hour battle for “Endgame” to live up to fans’ high expectations. As the closing number of an 11-year era, “Endgame” will hopefully be the payoff that fans desire and deserve.