Disney’s Marvel Studios just delivered the biggest superhero film in Hollywood history at a world premiere event at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where costumed fans camped outside (some since Thursday) and craned their necks to see the plum-colored carpet (made to match the extraterrestrial complexion of Thanos, the alien despot that Josh Brolin portrays with much galactic gravitas) and the 40-foot “A” logo at the center of glittery scene.
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Marvel Studios chief and Avengers: Endgame Producer Kevin Feige said the climatic installment of the Marvel saga is a film with its own shadings and stand-alone persona. “Two distinct experiences,” Feige said of Avengers: Endgame and the previous film, Avengers: Infinity War, which finished last year as the 2018’s top-grossing release (with $2.08 billion in worldwide box office). That previous film ended with a grim situation — one-half of the universe’s living creatures having been erased by grape-faced Thanos — and Feige said he was proud of the emotional resonance of the scenario, which inspired considerable fan angst, countless memes and endless Reddit discourse. He quickly amended the statement with a caveat: “It’s not that I like to see people cry or children cry, necessarily.”
Danai Gurira, who portrays Okoye in the Marvel films, summed up the dire situation that set the stage for the new film. “That was a traumatic mess for everybody at the end of that movie,” the Black Panther co-star said. The tears may come again, according to Mark Ruffalo, who portrays Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Ruffalo arrived on the carpet in celebratory spirits and joked around with Marvel Universe compatriots Anthony Mackie and Chris Hemsworth. Ruffalo’s advice to fans: “Bring some diapers and Kleenex boxes, thats all I have to say.” (The diapers are presumably intended to help fans cope with the film’s robust three-hour running time.)
Spoiler was the watchword on Monday. Karen Gillan, who plays Nebula, said she was ready to shed the burden of secrecy. “Can you imagine if this is where I dropped it? If I got this far and just gave it away,” Gillan said. Scarlett Johansson, who portrays Black Widow, sounded hoarse from the publicity tour and talk-show circuit and said she is desperate for the movie to open so she can escape the stress of secrecy, “I feel scared that at any given moment I’m about to let some secret just fly out of my mouth,” Johansson said. “I just want the movie to come out so I don’t have to hold anything in anymore.”
Executive Producer Louis D’Esposito echoed that sentiment when he answered a question about his favorite moment during the production. “All of it is a spoiler,” the Marvel Studios stalwart said with some resignation, adding that he really couldn’t offer anything without “getting in trouble.” D’Esposito did say that he has watched the new film at least 50 times during the post-production process and that he was emotionally affected each time and choked back tears in several of the screenings.
“It’s quite sad in a way,” D’Esposito said wistfully, referring not to the plot points but to the Marvel Studios off-screen journey, which began with Iron Man in 2008 and spans 21 films to date. Jon Favreau, the director of Iron Man, marveled at the scale and spectacle of the premiere and also was somewhat dazed by the journey of it all. “It wasn’t like this in the beginning,” said Favreau, joking that he was looking for a boat show. Robert Downey Jr., passing by, warmly chimed in that Favreau was “the man who literally started it all” with Iron Man, the 2008 studio-launching film.
While D’Esposito and Favreau were a bit wistful, Executive Producer Victoria Alonzo was feisty and proud, especially when an interviewer asked her about the female empowerment movement in the super hero sector. “Women aren’t just opening films, they are kicking down the doors,” Alonzo said, nodding to Captain Marvel surpassing the $1 billion mark.
New cast member, Hiroyuki Sanada, grew up as a Marvel Comics fan in Tokyo and memorably portrayed the villain in Fox’s The Wolverine, but on Monday he seemed dazzled by the sights and sounds of the premiere. “It’s like a festival or Olympics and I’m so happy to be here,” said Sanada, whose Avengers: Endgame character presents a bit of a mystery to fans. There’s been considerable speculation about his so-far unnamed character. Sanada said that he had hoped at one point that he might meet “his hero,” Stan Lee, the Marvel Comics icon who co-created The Avengers in 1963 with Jack Kirby. Lee died in November but Sanada said he hoped the icon was looking down on the day.
On a carpet crowded with movie stars and Hollywood power figures (including Disney chief Bob Iger), one wide-eyed attendee was a retired teacher from Orange County who has a unique perspective on the Marvel Universe and its creation in the 1960s. It was Neal Kirby, son of the late Jack Kirby, the Marvel Comics icon who co-created Captain America, Thor, the Avengers, Loki, and much of the Marvel universe. “I couldn’t even describe how he would feel,” said Neal Kirby, who watched his father create characters like Thor at his artist’s table in the family basement. The former educator asked that fans set aside a moment during their enjoyment of the film to thank the Lee and Kirby tandem as they watch their creations fill the screen. “I’m sure they will hear you.”