WARNING: This contains spoilers for the 2018 movie, Avengers: Infinity War.
LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 07: (front L-R) Danai Gurira, Jeremy Renner, Director Anthony Russo, Chris Evans, Director Joe Russo, Brie Larson and Mark Ruffalo, (back L-R) Karen Gillan, Paul Rudd, Scarlett Johansson, President of Marvel Studios/Producer Kevin Feige, Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle and Chris Hemsworth onstage during Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Endgame” Global Junket Press Conference at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown on April 7, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Alberto E. Rodriguez /
Getty Images for Disney
It’s difficult to know what effect Disney was going for with its star-studded press conference a few weeks back in downtown Los Angeles for Avengers: Endgame, the grand finale of an 11-year journey for Marvel Studios.Was it sadness? Humour? A bit of both?Clearly, the opening of the conference was designed with the assumption that most of the journalists and bloggers on hand had attended or at least read about the surreal star-studded press conference the year before for Avengers: Infinity War. Hosted by Jeff Goldblum, that 2018 afternoon session began with a curtain falling and all of the grinning cast already assembled on stage. They would spend the next 45 minutes saying next-to-nothing about the dramatic events and death-toll of the film they were promoting, which had not been screened for media beforehand.Jon Favreau, who directed the 2008 Iron Man film that kick-started the cross-pollinating Marvel Cinematic Universe, hosted the proceedings this year. Again, there was a dramatic fall of the curtain. But this time, the ranks of the Avengers had been severely diminished compared to last year, reflecting the shocking carnage brought on by a fingersnap by powerful super-villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) at the end of Infinity War. The chairs where Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), and Drax (Dave Bautista), among others, had sat the year before were empty.“Clearly, things look a little different in a post-Infinity War Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Favreau said. “Post-snap, there’s a few empty seats.”It might have been poignant, if most of the audience hadn’t been laughing.Still, for at least some of the cast, talk about this era-ending film — which clocks in at a butt-numbing three-hours-plus — had a slightly melancholic tone to it. Again, the film was not screened for the press and its plot points were kept shrouded in secrecy. But it has been made clear that Endgame will bring this 22-film chapter on the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a dramatic close.“It’s a little bit different press conference than the last time,” said Mark Ruffalo, who returns as Bruce Banner/The Hulk for Endgame. “It has a little bit, a sort of sadness to it. We’re all talking like we’re dead. There is something very bittersweet about this moment.”Infinity War squeezed more than 20 superheroes into the action for a miraculous mash-up of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, the Thor films, the Avengers films, the Captain America films, the Doctor Strange film, the Spider-Man films and the Black Panther film. The plot revolved around Thanos and his thugs touring the universe collecting magical Infinity stones, which made him all-powerful. Despite the best efforts of the universe’s most heroic superheroes, the worst-case scenario is realized at the end of the film when Thanos destroys half the life in the universe, including a good number of our favourite superheroes.Journalists on hand for the Endgame junket earlier this month were shown roughly 10 minutes of footage from the new film, including poignant and funny scenes between odd-couple Nebula (Thanos’ vengeance-seeking daughter played by Scottish actress Karen Gillan) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) battling for survival after being left stranded in outer space in a broken-down ship after the events of Infinity War. There were also some vague strategy sessions shown between newbie Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and surviving Avengers such as Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, who was not at the press conference), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Nebula, Bruce Banner and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) about how to best confront Thanos.These scenes were the only clues on plot points for Endgame. And with the cast, who were joined by directors Joe and Anthony Russo and Marvel Studio president Kevin Feige, unable to reveal much in specific plot points, most of the chatter came down to showing appreciation for the bonds that were formed among the cast over the years or testimony from newcomers to the franchise — including Larson and Paul Rudd as Ant-Man — about what it was like to join the team.“It’s a weird thing to be hired in any job and then to get to, for somebody like me, step into it as it has already picked up speed,” said Rudd, who has played Ant-Man in his own film and sequel but didn’t appear in Infinity War. “It’s like having the Beatles say: ‘Come on, jam with us for a while.’ It’s an unreal sensation.”“Getting to work with all of these actors in this series of films is a one off,” he added. “It will never happen again. Not for me. I keep taking steps back and try to recognize this for what it is.”Larson, who headlined her own blockbuster Captain Marvel earlier this year, said that she came to the franchise at the most “magical time” and her introduction to the rest of cast was when they all posed for a ten-year anniversary photo.“It still feels like a bunch of kids,” Larson said. “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 matters. So you’re bouncing in between things that feel very deep and serious. And then we’re going off and playing Boggle.”The Boggle talents of various cast members took up a surprising amount of time during the press conference. For the record, Larson, Rudd and Cheadle were deemed to be very skilled at the word game, while Ruffalo was apparently a disaster. There was light-hearted talk about whether Evans looked better with or without the beard and some trash-talk from Downey to Evans about the latter skipping Rudd’s 50th birthday party the night before.Downey, of course, has been part of the MCU since it’s big-bang beginnings in 2008, when Favreau directed him as Iron Man for the first time. The actor said it was nice to be part of “coolest relay race in the history of entertainment” and that he felt like an “oddball manny” who helped usher in the Marvel universe family.“There is always two tracks at least in my mind,” he said. “One is the sky is falling and the other is the sky is the limit. And as we had those many discussions in the high desert and shooting the film, I’m reminded now that I was talking a lot of smack saying, ‘Wait until you see where this goes.’ But in the moment, I was just hoping day to day we were making good scenes and getting good stuff in the can. I just wanted to not drop the ball.”The Avengers: Endgame opens April 25.