Avengers: Endgame wasn’t the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it was an end. The epic marked the culmination of the 21 films across three phases that had come before it, wrapping up a truly impressive amount of individual storylines. It was a supremely satisfying payoff well worth waiting for - or, to be more accurate, a series of supremely satisfying payoffs.
The folks at Marvel Studios left no stone unturned when it came to selecting story beats from their own past to reference, revisit, or riff on for Avengers: Endgame. Like a good conclusion should, Endgame didn’t just pay homage to the past of the MCU; it retroactively enhanced it. Now, it’s impossible to watch the rest of the franchise and not be hit just a little bit harder by those moments and memories that would come to play an integral role in the grand finale - even if audiences didn’t quite know it at the time.
Tony Says 'I Am Iron Man' For The First TimePhoto: Iron Man/Paramount Pictures
The Marvel Cinematic Universe began with 2008’s Iron Man, but it didn’t really get going in earnest until the film’s conclusion. When Tony Stark stood in front of the assembled press and declared, “I am Iron Man,” it announced the start of the modern age of superheroes to the public - and attracted the attention of Nick Fury and his Avengers Initiative.
But a line that once sounded triumphant is now tinged with sadness in the wake of Avengers: Endgame. After hearing Thanos go back to his tired, old catchphrase, “I am inevitable,” Stark couldn’t help but reply with his own iconic statement as he activated the Infinity Stones and snapped Thanos’s forces out of existence, but at the cost of his own life.
That Tony managed to pair the MCU’s greatest moment of tragedy with the ultimate callback is perfectly in character - and the perfect way to tie a neat bow around the entire franchise, as centered around the man who started it all.Hits harder now?
'You’re Not The Guy To Make The Sacrifice Play' / 'Everything Special About You Came Out Of A Bottle'
Midway through The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes had their first big intra-team spat, spurred on by the Mind Stone hiding in Loki’s scepter. Everyone took verbal shots at one another, but none more so than Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, who let each other know how they really felt.
Steve goes in hard, telling Tony, among other things, he’s “not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.”
Tony mostly responded with witty rejoinders, but also dug in deep with “You're a lab rat, Rogers. Everything special about you came out of a bottle!”
That tete-a-tete was arguably called back to later on in The Avengers when Iron Man nearly sacrificed himself to save Manhattan from a nuke while Captain America rallied the Avengers to victory over the Chitauri. But then, it really paid off in Avengers: Endgame as Rogers proved himself worthy of wielding Mjolnir, showing that everything special about him came from within - and as Stark proved he was willing to sacrifice everything, letting the entire universe crawl over him as he lay on the proverbial wire.Hits harder now?
Tony Admits He Can't Sleep
Iron Man 3 was about a lot of things, but primarily Tony Stark’s struggles with PTSD following his near-death experience in The Avengers. He tried to hide his feelings from himself and those around him by constructing an Iron Legion of suits, but he eventually had no choice but to break down in front of Pepper Potts and lay it all out there:
You experience things and then they're over, and you still can't explain them. Gods, aliens, other dimensions. I'm just a man in a can. The only reason I haven't cracked up is probably because you moved in. Which is great. I love you. I'm lucky. But honey, I can't sleep. You go to bed, I come down here. I do what I know. I tinker. I... Threat is imminent. And I have to protect the one thing that I can't live without. That's you. And my suits, they're, uh... machines. They're part of me.
By that film’s conclusion, Stark had found some measure of peace, but only temporarily. By Avengers: Age of Ultron, he was again obsessed with the idea of putting a “suit of armor around the world,” and he never stopped thinking he hadn’t done enough to protect his planet and the loved ones who occupied it - right up until Thanos arrived and showed him just how correct he was about that.
That’s what made Pepper’s words in Avengers: Endgame, with Tony slowly perishing after making the ultimate sacrifice, so poignant. She told him - in reference to herself, their daughter Morgan, and, really, the whole human race - “We're gonna be okay. You can rest now.”
And soon, Tony Stark got his chance to rest.Hits harder now?
Tony Asks For A CheeseburgerPhoto: Iron Man/Paramount Pictures
Upon returning to the United States after months in captivity in Iron Man, it was suggested that Tony Stark needed to visit a hospital. He retorted, “I don't have to do anything. I've been in captivity for three months. There are two things I want to do. One, I want an American cheeseburger, and the other...”
That second request proved to be the calling of a press conference that established Tony as a whole different sort of person in the wake of his traumatic experience. But that first request helped make him into the sort of relatable superhero that would come to define the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, who wouldn’t be craving a cheeseburger - or perhaps a reasonable plant-based substitute - after going through something like that?
What seemed like a throwaway line would come back in Avengers: Endgame, however, and it packed an emotional punch that no one could have seen coming. Sharing a quiet moment with Morgan Stark at her father’s funeral, Happy Hogan asked if there was anything he could do for her, and she requested a cheeseburger.
Happy wasn’t the only one who teared up at the parallel.Hits harder now?