On April 26, 2019 movie history was made with the release of Avengers: Endgame. The culmination of twelve years and 21 films of storytelling, Endgame was not only arguably one of the most ambitious films ever made, but it quickly changed the box office forever. The film isn't just the biggest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date and the top-performer for all of 2019, but it stands as the biggest box office ever, overtaking James Cameron's Avatar as the top-grossing movie all time. It's a feat that prompted all sorts of speculation about how long Endgame would hold that top spot and what films might, eventually, have a chance to overthrow it.
A year later, though, we're living in a post-Endgame world but in a way that no one could have predicted in April 2019. We're not wondering how big 2020's movies are going to be and if any can overtake Endgame. Instead of preparing for the next MCU film, Black Widow, to open in theaters in just a few days, people are at home, sheltering in place as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt life as we know it. Black Widow isn't opening this week. The theaters, they're (almost) all closed. The death toll of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, continues to rise and though there are some glimmers of hope in various places, people aren't out and about. They're at home, quarantined for their own safety and the safety of others where they've been for over a month. Even with people anxious to reopen the country and get back to "normal," there is no normal anymore. The world is deeply changed by everything we've endured in the past few months -- and it's that reality that makes Avengers: Endgame feel almost like a completely different movie than it did one year ago.
The parallels between Endgame and real life are a bit more striking now. Endgame saw humanity coping with a reality in which a threat that was, for most people, invisible, wiped out half of the population. People lost loved ones in a blink of an eye. People lost jobs, homes, friends, all sense of security in a blip, leaving people to struggle to understand how such a threat could have been missed even as they tried to deal with not only the anxiety and grief this shift in reality caused, but the changes that came with it.
It's not unlike what we're dealing with now. Certainly, COVID-19 isn't eliminating half of the population and death doesn't come in a snap, but in many ways the coronavirus pandemic is not one most people saw coming. It's also one that has taken many lives unexpectedly, and the shutdowns that have come in response to the spread of the illness has left many people without work, creating a whole new set of concerns for countless people. We're all, in a sense, dealing with anxiety and grief thanks to a shift in our own reality, not entirely unlike what we saw in Endgame.
There are also some specific moments from Endgame that were fascinating in the film but hit a little too close to home now. One such moment is the scene in the film where Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) tells Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow that he saw whales in the Hudson River. Without the hustle and bustle caused by the population as it was before, nature was recovering. It's an idea that seemed surreal when watching Endgame in theaters, but a year later it's a new reality. In many major cities air quality has dramatically improved. The skies are clearer, animals are running wild in cities while humans remain in their homes. There have even been reports that, in some parts of the world, dolphins and whales are a bit more visible in bodies of water than they were before (though it's worth noting that no, dolphins have not returned to the canals of Venice. That's been debunked.)
There are things from Endgame that feel almost like they are, in a sense, predicting our post-pandemic future, too. Early in Endgame we see Steve running a support group for survivors of the snap. The scene shows people dealing with the PTSD of that catastrophic event and it's likely that, for many, PTSD will be a reality after the coronavirus pandemic, too. A recent report from CNBC suggests that many people will experience COVID-19 related PTSD -- it's something that's been seen after other disease outbreaks in the past. We may also see memorials and tributes pop up to honor the heroes of the pandemic in the future as well, such as healthcare workers, or even tributes to those we've lost. We saw something similar when Scott Lang/Ant Man (Paul Rudd) emerged from the Quantum Realm and discovered his own name on a monument to the fallen.
Of course, it doesn't just feel like a different movie today as opposed to a year ago because of the strange, apocalyptic similarities. Endgame also offered a great deal of hope and showed us that good can still prevail in the end even after great difficulty and heavy loss. While we can't pull off a Time Heist and go back to prevent or undo the pandemic, we can still take away some positive lessons from Endgame. After all, a disparate group of heroes came together, set aside their differences, and worked together to find a way forward together. There's power in that message and while the world today may be quite different than it was when Endgame opened last April, it's a message very worth receiving today.
Avengers: Endgame is now streaming on Disney+