The Tragic Symmetry of 'Avengers: Endgame'

The 'Avengers 4' trailer harkens back to the origins of Iron Man and Captain America.

It’s finally here. The teaser for Marvel Studios’ Avengers 4, now officially titled Avengers: Endgame. Let that sink in for a moment. If it sounds familiar, it’s because Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) said “we’re in the endgame now” after using the time stone to see every possible future and concluding there was only one way to win during the last act of Avengers: Infinity War. But win, the Avengers did not. Unless there’s a chance Doctor Strange realized that in order to win in the end they would have to lose first. It’s a mystery fans will have to hold out for, as the teaser trailer promises everything but triumph.

The directors behind the film, The Russo Brothers, introduced the teaser on Twitter this morning with the message: “For those who have been here since the beginning. For those who have joined along the way. For the best fans in the Universe. This trailer is for you... With much love and gratitude for your patience, The RB’s.” The teaser doesn’t offer up a ton of new information. Instead, it takes a page out of the Lucasfilm handbook and offers a somber glimpse of a universe made unrecognizable. There’s no introduction of new characters, no sonorous monologue from Thanos, no resurrections and no heroic money shot of all our Avengers coming together to save the day. Instead, Avengers: Endgame is letting us sit, rightfully so, with the ending of Avengers: Infinity War and our questions of loss.

The trailer begins with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) recording a message to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in his battered Iron Man helmet. He’s out of food and water, and with oxygen near depletion it looks like time has run out for Tony Stark. What’s interesting here is that when we left him he was with Nebula (Karen Gillan), but here he seems very much alone and forced to contemplate his actions that led to this point. “Part of the journey is the end,” he says, and while this moment is likely not the end for the hero who started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that line feels prophetic and perhaps hints at his final fate.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is faring better than Stark, but still faced with the ramifications of his failure to stop Thanos in Wakanda. We see Rogers mourning the dead at the Avengers campus, accompanied by Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). The setup of this trailer calls back to beginnings of the MCU. Iron Man began his journey alone and is facing the beginning of the end just as alone, while Captain America has always relied on allies a trait from his WWII days — and is surrounded by support on all sides. While we expect the Avengers to rally together at some point, the visual language used in the trailer does a great service by highlighting these characters' humble beginnings.

Along those lines, the teaser doesn’t show Tony Stark and Steve Rogers together again, something many viewers expected to happen by the end of Infinity War based on the trailers. But those trailers pulled a fake out, and it was Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in the Hulkbuster armor instead of Stark. A similar fake out could be at play within this teaser, but while Avengers: Infinity War promised hardship and eventual triumph, the latter being unachievable, Endgame’s selected moments seem to promise that everything we’re seeing is true in the effort of emotional honesty.

The most devastating moment of the teaser comes when we’re re-introduced to Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner). While Hawkeye was absent during Infinity War, he felt the decimation Thanos created just the same. It’s suggested that Barton lost his entire family, which is the reason behind his new getup as Ronin. Barton was the second to take the name Ronin in the comics, after Echo. While he remained part of the Avengers in the comics, he seems entirely on his own here. The question is, with Thanos worlds away, who exactly is Ronin hunting? Is he exacting blind revenge on any punk he can get his hands on, or is he on a larger mission against a yet-unseen enemy?

As for the big bad himself, we see very little of Thanos (Josh Brolin). We get a Terrence Malick-esque moment of his hand running through plant life on his new homeworld, and we see that he’s made his armor into a scarecrow — an image taken directly from Jim Starlin and Ron Lim’s The Infinity Gauntlet No 6. But we don’t hear him or get a sense of who he is now that he’s accomplished his goal. Rogers, back in his covert getup from Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) clearly has a plan in mind, one that will presumably see Thanos redon his armor. But what will that plan be exactly? It may be hinted at in Rogers' reflection on his loss of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), whose photo he stares at. Maybe his plan isn’t just to resurrect those Thanos wiped out, but also those who have died before. What if the Avengers are trying to gain control over death? Death, the personified cosmic entity who has played a major part in Starlin’s comic book mythos concerning Thanos, was noticeably absent in Infinity War. Perhaps in order to defeat Thanos, the Avengers will open the door to an older and darker presence and we’ll see Death battle against our heroes.

Rumors of a time-travel plot surfaced this summer, but the teaser doesn’t hint at that. But what it does set up, in the teaser’s only moment played for laughs, is that Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) may be the key to saving the day. When last we saw Ant-Man, in the mid-credits scene of Ant-Man and the Wasp, the miniature hero had been trapped in the Quantum Realm. How he managed to get out raises larger questions about his powers and whether the Avengers’ key to overcoming their losses will be found in the Quantum Realm. Surprisingly, the teaser doesn’t use the buzz around the Captain Marvel trailer, released earlier this week, to showcase how Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) will play a role in all of this. If anything, the teaser for Avengers: Endgame gives us just as many questions as we had before. We may have a title, but we’re far from the end of seeing exactly how this final installment of the MCU as we know it will ultimately come together.