The end is nigh. After 21 films over 11 years, Phase 3 of the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to a close – crashing cinema websites with pre-sale demand along the way.
According to China’s largest movie ticketing app Maoyan, the concluding chapter has broken box-office records in the country, selling over 1 million pre-sale tickets in the first six hours. In the US, Hypebeast is reporting that the film has sold twice as many pre-sale tickets as Aquaman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Infinity War combined.
Yes, if there were ever a time to apply hyperbole to describe the level of audience anticipation regarding a movie, it would be now. Avengers: Endgame is going to snap its fingers and half the world will disappear – into the cinema for three hours and two minutes of their lives.
At the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, directors Anthony and Joe Russo are feeling the pressure. Even more so than the brothers felt when they made their first foray as little-known filmmakers into the Marvel universe with Captain America: Winter Soldier in 2014.
“I’m feeling it more here with Endgame," said Anthony Russo. “You know, when we made Winter Soldier, that was a chapter in the story but we knew the story would go on from there. We didn’t know how, but we knew it would go on. But this one… There’s a sense of conclusion here. I think it feels like there are more stakes.”
“The pressure’s high. Expectations are high,” agreed Joe Russo. “You can feel it.”
THE TROUBLE WITH FAMILY
The Russos’ anxiety is understandable. Box-office predictions are huge – but so is the film’s reported budget. The Observer estimates Endgame to have a price tag of between US$350 million (S$473 million) to US$400 million, which would make it one of the most expensive films of all time, not accounting for inflation.
In the meantime, the filmmakers and the cast of Endgame are on a world tour. On the Asian leg, the brothers Russo were joined in Seoul by Jeremy “Hawkeye” Renner, Brie “Captain Marvel” Larson and RDJ himself, Robert “Iron Man” Downey Jr.
“They’re like family,” said Joe about his actors-in-stretchy-costumes. “We’re all very, very close. We have a lot of fun.”
And which one of the family is the most trouble on these press tours?
“All of them,” said the brothers, almost in unison.
Larson was a little more specific. “As an outsider, I feel like Ruffalo’s definitely the troublemaker and then Tom’s second, right? ‘Cos they spoil everything,” she said of co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Tom Holland – and their reputations for letting tightly-held secret plot details slip.
“I’d say that’s trouble. That’s trouble.”
FOOD WARS: SINGAPORE VS KOREA
There’s little chance of any secrets being leaked here in Seoul without The Hulk and Spider-Man, unfortunately. Information about Endgame, as with its other Marvel predecessors, is about as hard to acquire as those 11 herbs and spices Colonel Sanders keeps to himself. And the Colonel doesn’t have a small army of handlers.
A sneak preview of unreleased footage for the press only revealed more of a scene that already plays prominently in the film’s trailer, and an attempt to ask Larson a little more about the online ruckus over Captain Marvel’s makeup in said trailer was shut down by a minder.
“Speaking of makeup…” was all we managed during the interview.
“Sorry, we’re going to skip that question, please,” interrupted the minder.
The full question could have been: “Speaking of makeup… Do you think BTS wears too much of it?”
It wasn’t. But it could have been. Maybe.
Shields were up. We decided to switch course and aim for a subject even more sensitive than cosmetics: Food.
Evidence on her Instagram account showed Larson enjoying the local cuisine in Seoul with gusto – the same gusto she exhibited while wolfing down Singaporean food on her Captain Marvel press tour in the Lion City just two months ago.
Singaporeans, we informed the actress, are very competitive when it comes to food. We threw down the gauntlet: She had to decide which cuisine she liked more. Korean or Singaporean? She had to pick a side.
“Oh… No, no no. I’m not getting into that!” replied Larson. “I’m a street food fan. I love it. I love the passion in street food.”
“So any place I go that has it, I want all of it,” she said, laughing.
Drats. Foiled again.
TRIBUTE TO A GIANT
Teasing the impending arrival of a movie as anticipated as Endgame while staying coy is like a dream date telling you how much fun you’re going to have at dinner without so much as flashing you what’s on the menu.
“Even though we’re not showing the movie on this press tour, just beginning the process of bringing the movie to audiences is so exciting for all of us,” said Anthony.
Someone in our direction might have whimpered a little.
While the gang was cagey about what’s to come, they were lovingly forthcoming about a recent loss: Stan Lee.
The Marvel creative powerhouse died in November last year at the age of 95, before he could watch the final piece of the Avengers cinematic puzzle.
Endgame will feature Lee’s last cameo appearance.
“I think it was emotional for him, being on set for his cameo,” said Joe. “But, you know, we’re not sitting here without Stan Lee. The Marvel universe doesn’t exist without him.”
How would Lee have reacted to the film? “I think he’d be proud,” said Joe.
Renner, quite fittingly for a comic book universe where death isn’t always the end of a story, said Lee isn’t actually going to miss out on the premiere of Endgame.
“He’s gonna be watching it, brother. He’s watching it,” said Renner. “He’s in all of us. He’s gonna be watching it.”
Check back with CNA Lifestyle for more reporting from Seoul, including the appearance of Robert Downey Jr. Avengers: Endgame opens in Singapore cinemas on Apr 24.