I held this article back for as long as I could to avoid spoilers for those yet to see Avengers: Endgame but now that a week has passed and around 2 billion dollars worth of movie tickets have been sold, I think it is far safer territory to discuss this.

As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Endgame was entirely satisfying for me and frankly, a comprehensive cinematic experience, making one cry, smile, remember, squeal, hoot and scream in theaters across the world. As a fan of the directors, the Russo brothers, since their days on shows like Community, I have always said that they know what the audience wants and expects and work extremely hard to both surprise you while also giving you what you want in the end.

Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.


After the action extravaganza of Infinity Wars, Endgame deliberately brought the cameras closer to the actors to experience the pain of the Avengers after they lost and saw half the population of the planet disappear in front of their eyes as a consequence.

I've read dozens of articles on Easter Eggs and hidden meanings about this movie and yet, haven't seen any of them really mention something that I noticed on my first viewing and I am sure was deliberately hidden in plain view by the directors and screenplay writers.

I am talking of Elisabeth Kubler Ross's famous 5 stages of grief. In her book, 'On Grief and Grieving', she talks about 5 phases that are generally considered the framework of how people learn to live with the loss of a loved one.
They are, in order -

  1. Denial, 
  2. Anger, 
  3. Bargaining, 
  4. Depression, 
  5. Acceptance.

Makes sense, right? Well, now let us review the first act of Avengers: Endgame and specifically where we see our original six Avengers 5 years after Thanos left Earth.

(SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST HALF OF THE MOVIE from here on in. Please exit if you haven't seen the movie. Come back once you're done. I'll be right here.)


Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.

Tony Stark / Iron Man - Denial

Unlike the other family man, Tony did not lose the love of his life when Thanos snapped his fingers. After being rescued, he walks away from the Avengers, even giving away the 'nano-tech-thingy' on his chest to Steve Rogers in a fit of rage.

We meet Tony 5 years later living away from the dark vagaries of the real world, an idyllic life with his wife and kid. Even when first asked to rejoin the team, his answer is an outright no - he does not want to handle the possibility of facing Thanos again or worse, losing what he got. For him, the world before this peaceful one does not now exist because he and his family are safe in the present.

Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.

Hawkeye / Clint Barton - Anger

Clint was not so lucky. He watched his wife and three children die in front of his eyes. It turned him so dark, he went on a crusade as what is really, a mass murderer, hunting down and brutally murdering people across the globe he felt did not deserve to live.


Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.

Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.

Steve Rogers / Captain America & Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow - Bargaining

I've never seen Natasha a.k.a. the Black Widow as vulnerable as she was in this movie. Struggling to handle the loss, teary eyed and in one instance, pleading with Tony to join them, Natasha 'did not move on.' The same goes for Steve Rogers. For 5 years, they did not move on. And when the most ridiculous idea of a 'time machine' came up from Scott Lang / Ant Man - a guy claiming to be lost in a weird realm inside an ugly brown van for half a decade - they both jumped on it in an instant. Even when the best mind they knew rejected it as nonsense, they did not give up and kept at it. They were ready to try anything to undo the losses they had suffered.


Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.

Thor - Depression

The biggest surprise physically was Thor, especially considering that amazing superhero arc he had in Avengers: Infinity Wars. Yes, he provided some of the best laughs in Avengers: Endgame but look beyond the one liners and you see it clear as day.

Thor was suffering from depression. The constant drinking. Isolating himself away from his fellow Asgardians. The rambling. The weight gain (to put it mildly) after giving up. The guilt as he tells his mother how he was too late, implying it was his fault.


Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.

Bruce Banner / Hulk - Acceptance

You would have expected Hulk to usually be in the 'Anger' column but the only one who worked on himself to a positive result in those 5 years was ironically, the one guy with major temper issues in the past. Combining the best of both his personalities, we get the movie version of 'Professor Hulk', a jolly green giant who poses for selfies with children and gives his own tacos to Ant Man. He accepted what happened was irreversible and moved on.

Fun addendum -

David Kessler, who co-authored 'On Grief and Grieving' with Elisabeth Kubler Ross, suggested a sixth stage in his book with a spoiler-filled title 'Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief'. It deals with honoring the ones we lost with our deeds and moving forward. I wonder if that would be the team we saw phoning home to Natasha at the Avengers Mansion - Captain Marvel, Rocket Raccoon, War Machine and Okoye?

I believe I am right in my evaluation. While the directions taken by Hulk, Thor and Iron Man in the beginning came as definite surprises to all of us in the theater, I truly believe that this was very cleverly inserted by the Russo brothers. Endgame was meant to be an emotional movie and they took their time making us feel the grief of loss that our six suffered.
Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.
The gang in happier times. I'm not crying, you are!

I don't think it is a coincidence that the original Avengers went through the 5 phases of grief. That was just good writing, subtly woven in.

Elisbabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with grief perfectly describe the original Avengers in the first act of Avengers Endgame.


What do you think?
More importantly, how did you like the movie?   

9 Comments

  1. Do you think I should see this movie without ever having see. The prequels ?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Denial and depression being the worst. Great observation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. At Bellybytes, no. Not like that. I would ask you to binge watch the previous movies over the course of the next 2 weeks before coming and watching this ON THE BIG SCREEN.

    Most of this movie would not make sense if you haven't seen the previous movies.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Only a doctor could have analyzed a superhero movie like this! This was a good and new angle to the saga. Beautifully done, doc :).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Loved the movie. What a treat! Loved your analysis. Makes absolute sense. Makes me admire the writing of the movie, even more!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I absolutely loved the movie and your analysis is also something I noticed. Though for me anger, depression and acceptance were evident, denial and bargaining were subtle. Great job Doc!!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your analysis is great. I haven't watched this one but soon I will. I am not a big fan but VT is :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow. I have watched this movie more than once, but now that I have read your post, I literally heard a bulb go in my head! That's some clever bit of writing! But nothing that I wouldn't expect from the Russo brothers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great movie and great feelings after watching it i remember because I was a student and that days i need good paper I used these guys privatewriting and after i recommend to use them for all groupmates

    ReplyDelete

So what do you think ?