One of the defining scenes of Avengers Endgame is the Portals Scene. Watch it for yourself if you want to experience the hair-raising moment in history all over again.
“On your left,” Captain America hears through his ear-piece as what seems like hundreds of portals open up behind him. Almost every character that has ever appeared in the MCU walks out to save the day. When that happened, theaters around the globe erupted into cheers. It’s a movie moment for the history books.
Before we even get to the “Avengers, assemble!” moment, the Portals scene was already iconic. But why?
What is it about the Portals scene that resonated so much with people? I promise you the reason is more than just “The Heroes are Back!” What makes this scene so amazing is hardly what happens in it, but what happens moments before. Captain America is what makes it work.
Confused? Let me explain.
Just a Kid From Brooklyn
Captain America’s superpower isn’t his super strength, speed, or anything to do with his shield. His super power is his goodwill. All he wanted to do is beat up some Nazis and stopped at nothing to accomplish that.
Throughout his seven MCU appearances, Cap hasn’t changed at all. That’s not bad writing. It also doesn’t mean there is no character arc with him either. His arc is his choice: adapt to the challenges or remain strong and overcome them.
What makes Captain America such a spectacular and inspiring character is that he never changes. He tries to do what is right, no matter the situation. That’s something everyone aspires to do. And you can really see that come to fruition during the Portals scene.
“Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, you move’.”Sharon Carter, Captain America: Civil WaR
Now in Avengers: Endgame, we find Cap at the end of his journey. His shield is broken. His suit is torn. And he’s beaten up beyond belief. Just on top of the hill in front of him, Thanos gathers an army of millions, only a handful of which could easily kill him.
It’s an impossible battle, but what does Cap do? He stands up. He knows he can’t win, but he prepares to fight anyway. Why? It’s the right thing to do. In this moment of the Portals scene, Captain America sacrifices his life for the greater good. After all he’s been through, all these years, even when facing a ‘god’, he’s still just a kid from Brooklyn trying to do some good.
This scene ultimately is the climax of Cap’s arc. And it’s perfect.
Until the End of the Line
This personal moment with Captain America makes such a great complementto the portals moment.
We know Cap can’t win, but he’s fighting anyway. All we want to do is stand with him and help, but we can’t. Then help arrives.
A portal opens up behind him, and out walks T’Challa with a look of gratitude. Cap saved his life, now it’s time for T’Challa to save his. Many more portals open. Heroes and armies from across the galaxy stand up to fight with Cap.
Audiences around the world gasp and cheer because, yes all of our heroes are in the same scene, but also because hope was finally put into hopeless fight.
So when the heroes line up with Cap, ready to fight Thanos and his army, we feel as if we’re right there with them. Cap is everything that a leader should be–good and selfless. He’s fought for freedom since World War II, so the least we can do is be with him here, at the end of the line.
“Avengers, assemble!”… let’s kick some ass.
Endgame: What Makes Marvel Special
This scene is the perfect example of why Endgame and the MCU as a whole works as well as it does. Endgame‘s portals scene was easy to get right. All they had to do was show all the heroes and then boom! It’s already iconic. But it would’ve been a bit of a shallow scene. Fortunately for fans they went the extra mile.
Marvel has always–er, a lot of the time–been about character over spectacle. The movies that work the most are the ones that interweave character into the spectacle. Captain America: the Winter Soldier, Avengers, Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2, and Endgame, just to name a few.
Tying action to character beats is nothing new, but it’s particularly important in this genre where literal cities fall from the sky. For every explosion, there’s a beat of character progression. Soon, a story as intangible as gathering six magical stones to kill half the universe becomes something we deeply care about.
It’s why a talking raccoon and tree become household names or why Avengers: Endgame made $357 million in its opening weekend. It’s all about the characters. And just like we saw in the Portals scene, the characters are the reason for the portals but it was the heart inside of them why they walked out.