Is ‘Avengers: Endgame’ an Oscar Contender?

     May 10, 2019

Avengers: Endgame is undoubtedly a massive success. It received not just great reviews, but it’s the #1 movie of all time at the worldwide box office. It’s toppled the 20-year record of Titanic and the 10-year record of Avatar to solidify its place in box office history. That kind of achievement is incredibly rare, and when you consider that both Titanic and Avatar are multiple-Oscar-winners—and that Marvel Studios is coming off of landing its first Best Picture nomination with Black Panther—one can’t help but wonder if Avengers: Endgame is similarly destined for Oscar glory. So, let’s get into it. Is Avengers: Endgame an Oscar contender?

Looking at this purely from a statistical standpoint, the star-studded sequel has a fair shot at a Best Picture nomination. While the full Top 10 Highest Grossing Films of All-Time list contains only three Best Picture nominees, the last four films that held the title of “highest grossing film of all time” at the worldwide box office were Avatar, Titanic, Jurassic Park, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Three of those films earned Best Picture nominations, and all won at least one Oscar.

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Image via Marvel Studios

Indeed, it’s not just landing on the list that makes these films noteworthy—it’s earning the title of “highest grossing film of all time.” That kind of record is impossible to ignore, and the fact that Endgame just surpassed Titanic’s record #2 slot—which stood for nearly 22 years—is extremely significant. If it passes Avatar, which won three Oscars and had a serious shot to win Best Picture, it feels like Avengers: Endgame’s Best Picture nomination chances will skyrocket. How does the industry just ignore a herculean achievement like that, and for a well-reviewed film no less?

To that point, does Avengers: Endgame deserve Oscar recognition? While we’ve yet to see what the competition looks like, judged on its own merits I’d say it does. As a standalone film, it’s supremely satisfying. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo wisely let the audience sit with the characters in their pain for quite some time, allowing us to really feel the stakes of bringing back those who were dusted by Thanos’ snap. And structurally, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely plotted this three-hour adventure perfectly: the first hour is an emotional grief drama, the second hour is a thrilling time-travel adventure, and the third hour is the big climactic battle that is full of payoff following years of setup.

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Image via Marvel Studios

Indeed, the visual effects work here is stunning, as is the direction by the Russos. Instead of a hodgepodge of fists punching anonymous blobs, we get beat after beat of satisfying character moments. There’s Cap, bloodied and bruised, unwilling to give up; there’s Peter Parker, offering a polite greeting to Captain Marvel while he’s flying through the air because he is the nicest teenager you’ll ever meet; and there’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, doing more with a single look and finger raise than most actors do with an entire monologue.

The performances are top notch, and while Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans are mighty impressive, a Best Actor nomination for Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. He deserves one. Downey built this franchise from the ground-up with 2008’s Iron Man, and while his subtle character work over eight films has laid the foundation for the character, his work as Tony Stark in this Endgame sendoff may be his most impressive yet. Whether it’s Tony considering his privileged position with his family or having an emotional chat with his father about fatherhood (those daddy issues go deep), Downey nails every single beat with the perfect mixture of pathos, charm, and gravitas. Right down to his final line.

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Image via Marvel Studios

And while Avengers: Endgame works incredibly well as a standalone film, it’s impossible to not consider the entirety of the MCU. Indeed, the movie itself is a self-reflexive celebration of what came before, as well as a rumination on the road these characters have traveled. The Oscars don’t happen in a bubble, so the cumulative nature of Avengers: Endgame—the fact that it could be seen as an “ending” to one of the greatest cinematic feats in history, the Marvel Cinematic Universe—could be a major factor in landing recognition. Remember how the Academy waited until Return of the King to show a lot of love towards the Lord of the Rings franchise?

So yes, I’d say Avengers: Endgame deserves Oscar recognition—nominations for Picture, Actor, Editing, and Screenplay at the very least. Will it get it? It’s too early to say for sure, but I’d wager there’s a fair chance it’ll earn some major recognition. Not only did Black Panther earn a Best Picture nomination, it won Oscars for Original Score, Costume Design, and Production Design. The stigma surrounding superhero movies doesn’t appear to exist anymore, as long as they’re high in quality. And not only is Endgame very good, it’s a satisfying conclusion to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a celebration of what Marvel Studios president/producer Kevin Feige has achieved over the past decade. That feels like something a lot of Academy voters will be eager to get onboard with. I mean hey, if freaking Bohemian Rhapsody can win four Oscars, surely Avengers: Endgame is worth at least a Best Picture nomination.

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