Sitting in a darkened theater, I watched breathlessly with the rest of the audience as, one by one, our favorite heroes dissolved into dust. Steve Rogers’ face mirrored our shock as he knelt by Vision’s broken body. And as the scene changed and the camera pushed in on the victorious villain Thanos watching the sunrise, I felt the panic of an impending conclusion I hadn’t prepared for. It can’t end like this!
Of course, Avengers: Infinity War wasn’t truly the end. Next week Marvel will unveil the real conclusion of the Avengers-versus-Thanos story when Avengers: Endgame hits theaters. Moreover, the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer, a film that supposedly occurs after Endgame in the chronology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as reports of a second Black Panther movie and a third Guardians of the Galaxy film, suggest that Endgame will restore some characters who tragically died at the end of Infinity War.
The frequent character “resurrections” in the MCU have often been the butt of jokes. Despite the apparently permanent deaths of characters such as Pietro Maximoff (Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Yondu (Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2), Marvel is known for resurrecting characters even when the storyline makes their return a stretch. For instance, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) reappeared in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series after being skewered by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the first Avengers movie. Meanwhile, Loki himself has reappeared in MCU films two different times after being presumed dead.
Though some fans may be concerned about the effect that frequent resurrections have on Marvel’s storytelling, it’s hard not to get excited when a favorite character returns to the screen. And after the huge loss at the end of Infinity War, it’s only natural for fans to walk into Endgame hoping for some of the damage to be reversed.
Marvel’s history of resurrection allows us to hope that our favorite characters will return, even after we’ve watched them die. This hope for the MCU echoes humanity’s innate desire for resurrection after death—for ourselves and for those we love. We want desperately to know that death is not the end.
It’s only natural for fans to walk into Endgame hoping for some of the damage to be reversed.
The apostle Paul wrote that all of creation, ourselves included, longs for Christ’s restoration of the universe. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the writer reflects on the finite, changing nature of our activities on earth, but concludes by saying that God “has also set eternity in the human heart.” Despite the temporary nature of the world we currently inhabit, we were designed for the eternal. This is one reason that death, the sharpest reminder of our mortality, brings us so much pain.
Humans may long for resurrection innately, but in Easter, we find the reason for such a hope. By becoming man, Jesus lived out our mortal life and suffered our mortal death. By his sacrifice and resurrection, he became the way for humans to live again as well.
Even with these assurances, hoping for resurrection can sometimes feel like hoping-against-hope, especially when we’re confronted with the reality of death: Thor helplessly watching his brother’s neck snapped or Wanda seeing the Mind Stone pulled from Vision’s head. What hope can there be, truly, after horrors like that?
At the beginning of the book of Revelation, Jesus appears to the apostle John, and John collapses like a dead man. But Jesus tells him, “‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” As the first of God’s children to be raised from the dead, Jesus is essentially saying, “Why fear death? I died—but am I dead? No, I am alive forever and ever! And more than that, I hold the keys of death. Death is subject to me, but I am not subject to it. And because of me, neither are you.”
One of the trailers for Endgame shows the remaining Avengers banding together, rallying themselves, deciding to continue the fight even after Thanos brought death so devastatingly on their team and their world. Black Widow says, “We owe this—to everyone who’s not in this room—to try.” When death and mortality have blindsided us, it can be hard to get up, to hope again. And so we cling to Easter, above all else.
We don’t yet know which characters may return and which characters may depart in Avengers: Endgame. Our hopes for returning characters could be disappointed. Yet our hope for resurrection in Christ will never be. As the book of Revelation declares: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”