The story was moving backwards.
On Sunday afternoon, after avoiding the internet spoilers all weekend, we went to watch Avengers: Engame. On Wednesday morning, a handful of miles away from me, my friend died in a car accident.
My fiancee and I traipsed into the theater a year earlier to watch the latest movie in the franchise that we enjoyed, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We left Infinity War shocked, having watched the villain Thanos beat the Avengers and destroy half of all life in the universe. It was an experience I will probably tell my kids about in the way my dad told me about Star Wars jump to hyperspace; though in the opposite way.
Just when we thought the heroes had won, Thanos snapped his fingers and teleported away. One by one, heroes began turning into dust and blowing away on the wind. The movie ended with Thanos looking off into a sunset, smiling at the balance he had brought to the universe. The credits rolled to somber music, and the Avengers theme in piano at the very end spoke not so much of hope but of apology.
That ending stuck with me all throughout the following year, as I graduated college, got married, and found a job. We had hints from another MCU movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp, that there might be a way to go back in time and undo the snap, but we wouldn’t know until Endgame came out if it was the Easter Sunday to Infinity War’s Good Friday.
Early trailers looked promising, showing the remaining Avengers dealing with their grief and vowing to try to bring the dead half of the universe back to life. I got more and more excited as the movie approached. I didn’t care about stakes, or surprise plot twists, or even things making sense. I just wanted to see the Avengers kill Thanos and bring back the dead.
I don’t cry very often, but I did in the theater during Endgame. Most of the movie I enjoyed, laughed, and cheered. But when the Avengers raised the dead, and they began to pour through portals onto the battlefield to face Thanos, I wept almost uncontrollably. The movie screen changed to show Thanos, and I wanted to be the one punching him. Take that, death.
Thanos wasn’t done, though, and the ensuing battle saw me chanting, “kill him,” under my breath as various Avengers tried. Finally, he and his forces crumbled into dust just the way half the universe had in Infinity War.
There had been some losses, but I left the theater with an overwhelming feeling of victory. The Avengers had won, and the dead had been resurrected. Thanos, representing death itself, was finally and truly dead.
Three days later, my friend died a handful of miles north from where I was working. I got a seven word text at work, and it was over.
My reaction to the news mirrored my reaction not to Endgame, but Infinity War. There was no crying, just stoic silence. Time had moved backwards, and I could still see Thanos staring off into the sunset and smiling as the apologetic piano music played. Death wins again.
The ending of Infinity War had been shocking because it was unusual for a superhero movie, not because it was unusual. In real life, death always wins, carrying on his mission with a resigned, somber cheerfulness. Some see him coming, battling to the bitter end. Some, like my friend, just disappear without warning.
So now I’m back to the interval between Infinity War and Endgame. My friend, and countless others, are dead. We already know how this endgame is going to play out. Like with Ant-Man and the Wasp, we have been told before hand. Jesus, in fact, has already risen from the dead. His body, irreversibly destroyed on the cross, came to life again through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I didn’t cry when my friend died, but after watching Endgame I think I might know how I will respond when Jesus Christ returns. When he is revealed from the heavens, one man taking a stand against death. When he raises the bodies of his people from the dust of the earth, and they join him on the battlefield from every place and time on planet Earth. When Moses stands beside Martin Luther, and Perpetua with Sarah and Mary. When David and Jonathan and Rahab John Stott all mingle in the wondering triumph of their resurrections.
I imagine I will weep like crazy, and we will all sing this taunt: “O Thanos, where is your victory? O Thanos, where is your sting? “
Anyway, that’s why Endgame is my new favorite motion picture of all time.