As someone who’s admittedly obsessed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and spends a considerable amount of my spare time closely following this franchise, I’m disappointed to admit that I only recently discovered something called the #OneMarvelousScene collaboration on YouTube. In the lead-up to the April 2019 release of Avengers: Endgame, this brief but brilliant series involved a large group of video essayists each putting out a video that, you guessed it, analyzed a compelling scene in the MCU. I honestly can’t believe I never knew about this until nearly four months after its inception, but nonetheless, beginning to watch some of these videos made me wonder — what do I consider to be the MCU’s best scene?
While there are certainly several contenders for #OneMarvelousScene in my mind — Vision lifting Thor’s hammer right after meeting the team in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Doctor’s Strange astral plane battle with the zealot in an operating room in Doctor Strange, and Thor attempting to subdue the Hulk with his lullaby in the Sakaar gladiator arena in Thor: Ragnarok all come to mind — I quickly realized the impossibility picking just one, and instead, challenged myself to choose a scene that would benefit from further exploration and analysis. And so, while I am certainly not a video essayist, please enjoy my breakdown of one of the earliest moments in Avengers: Endgame for my response to #OneMarvelousScene.
The scene I will be addressing is from the first five minutes of Endgame, and it carries more weight each time I revisit the film. It’s by no means my favorite scene in the entire franchise, nor is it even really my favorite scene in its respective movie — but it stands out because it manages to combine my love of foreshadowing, film scores, and Tony Stark all in the span of approximately one minute.
In this scene, Tony is seen abandoned in space with Nebula and looking considerably worse for wear thanks to the events from the end of Avengers: Infinity War. The particular moment I have
in mind is when a malnourished Tony is so weak that he lies down right on the floor before Nebula comes to move him into a seat at the front of the spacecraft. Soft, almost ethereal notes can be heard accompanying Tony’s struggles during this moment.
The initial marketing for Endgame leaned heavily into a sense of peril surrounding Tony immediately post-Infinity War — half of the first trailer is just Tony in space, recording a final farewell to Pepper Potts — so it makes sense that this scene has an impact on the big screen. The first time I saw it, I remember getting emotional out of fear of not knowing what the movie had in store for my favorite character — they weren’t really going to kill him in the first act of the movie, were they? The second time I watched it, though, I got emotional at this same moment because I knew far too much. Regardless of whether I had fully accepted it yet or not, by the second viewing, I was well aware that the movie wasn’t going to end well for Tony, and this early scene ended up being a harbinger for what was to come.
However, what really elevates this scene, in addition to what I just mentioned, is composer Alan
Silvestri’s choice of score. Another benefit of watching a movie like Endgame more than once is that you often start pick up on the more subtle instrumental work at play, and this scene is no
exception. The exact same musical cue that we’re first introduced to with Tony nearing death in
space is heard again at the end of the movie, this time during his actual funeral that follows the
final battle. Talk about an emotional gut punch coming full circle.
Endgame itself does a fabulous job of embellishing critical character beats with familiar musical cues — take the moment when Tony gives Steve Rogers back his shield, as an example, or when Captain Marvel flies down from space to help the team during the final battle — but I find this particular instance early in the film to be the most powerful. Thanks to the choice of music, the scene serves as an excellent example of something I’ve decided to call ‘retroactive foreshadowing’. You only realize this music is hinting at Tony’s eventual demise once you’ve already seen the entire movie and know the outcome.
Tony Stark sitting in a spaceship is not a complex or particularly noteworthy scene in a three-hour film that’s positively packed with them. However, thanks to its subtly gorgeous scoring and the value this brief moment contains on rewatch, it earns its rightful place as one of the MCU’s most effective and my #OneMarvelousScene.
I’ve heard directors Joe and Anthony Russo and their screenwriting team, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, explain during the audio commentary for both Infinity War and Endgame that they always aim to create scenes in these movies that ‘do more than one thing’. When you take into account the added emotional weight that exists during Tony Stark’s funeral the second time you see it, knowing that you’ve had almost three hours to subconsciously prepare for it thanks to cues hidden in the movie’s soundtrack, then I think it’s safe to say this initial glimpse of Tony in space accomplishes the creators’ objective.
And the end result? It’s brilliantly devastating, just as it should be. And what could be more marvelous than that?