Avengers: Endgame won't only be the last installment of one of the most successful franchises in movie history. For some fans, it will feel like the death of a close friend.
The new Avengers movie, which premiered at midnight Friday, marks the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the term for the series of 22 films that unfurl the cinematic stories of some of Marvel Comics' most famous superheroes. During that time, comics and movie fans have lost a lot of heroes along the way, like (screw spoiler alerts, you should have watched the movies by now) Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Nick Fury.
"We've lived with these characters, seen them grow and evolve, and, for a certain generation, when Iron Man came out over 10 years ago, they were kids and now they've grown up," says Dallas-Forth Worth's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema's creative director James Wallace. "They've literally grown up with these movies."
The superhero death toll will surely climb with Endgame, and one Dallas movie theater is doing something special to make sure their fictional sacrifice wasn't in vain.
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Lake Highlands will hold a memorial for all of the fallen Avengers from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight, culminating with the premiere of the final MCU film, according to the movie theater's Facebook event page.
The memorial will include a candlelight vigil for MCU's fallen superheroes, a display of urns containing their dusty remains and a live DJ playing mourning music in honor of their memory. Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" could not be more appropriate for such a solemn event.
Wallace even posted a request on social media asking for recommendations for grief counselors who could help mourning fans deal with their inevitable grief by the time the end credits roll.
Wallace says he's seen Avengers: Endgame and knows how emotional it can feel to watch it.
"I did cry," Wallace admits. "I think I cried seven times. I may have lost count."
Avengers: Endgame carries a unique air of emotion because it represents the finish line to a long and epic story, Wallace says.
"I would say it is like nothing you'd expect but at the same time, everything you want and more," Wallace says. "When you go into these movies and have the experience of what happens after watching the other 20-plus movies and the trailers, you think you know what's going to happen. So you have this expectation, but expectations are wild and rampant because it's not just a movie. It's a movie event; I don't think in our history there's even been a movie event."
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Wallace says the emotions this movie will produce for fans won't only be the result of grieving the deaths of their favorite characters, but over the death of a cinematic era.
"It's the ultimate long-form storytelling that literally has 10 years worth of films, TV shows and other things like that," he says. "These aren't necessarily original characters. They are characters who have been around for decades. They're iconic, even mythical in a way. It's such a huge cinematic event that all culminates into this one movie."
The MCU films also represent a major step up for the medium of comics and graphic novels.
"If you think back to a time when comic books were seen as low art and looked down on," Wallace says, "now look at how elevated they are, especially with this movie. To see all these actors together and different directors and the writers they attract, it says a lot about the art form itself and how they are able to exist in film."