The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Avengers: Endgame, is just starting to hit screens, and already, there are reports of viewers ending the movie with a titanic groan of disgust. It’s not because they hated the movie — which is actively designed as a rousing payoff for 10 years of MCU films — but because they stayed all the way through the credits, and got nothing. There’s no friendly visual joke with a giant ant, no rush straight into the next movie, no low-key, wordless sit-down with some shawarma.
Post-credits scenes have been a staple of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies since 2009’s Iron Man ended with Nick Fury inviting Tony Stark to join the Avengers Initiative. Recently, extra mid-credits scenes have also become a regular facet of Marvel movies. They reward viewers who stick around through the often-lengthy credits, and they’ve become a way to pay off little plot moments by adding a final gag and some form of extra payoff, usually designed to raise questions and keep the conversation going.
Avengers: Endgame drops the mid-credits and the end-credits scenes. For once, there’s nothing extra after the credits start. Well-trained MCU fans might find that disappointing. After all, they’re used to holding out for just one more tidbit, to the point where the bonus scenes no longer feel like a reward for the in-crowd, but like an entitlement for the whole audience. After three hours of satisfying fan candy — from massive payoffs and a rousing climactic final battle to endless little gifts for longtime MCU viewers — of course audiences aren’t going to want the fun to end. They’re going to hope for just a little more before they have to trudge back out into the real world and let go of this thing they’ve been building up to for a decade now.
Cutting the credits scenes was the right direction for Endgame. The post-credits sequences have always been problematic for directors who want to tell one complete, tonally coherent story and have to contend with Marvel mandating, effectively, an ad for the next movie on their docket. As The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg put it in a 2018 call for Endgame to drop the post-credits scenes:
As entertaining as the post-credit scenes are, and as savvy as they’ve been at linking the movies, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re essentially advertisements Marvel sticks at the back of every film to make sure fans never walk out of a theater without being sold on their next trip back. Somehow, the studio has managed to get fans to look forward to commercials, instead of finding them annoying. But even when they’re visual gags or Easter eggs, these stingers are still almost always meant to move viewers’ focus on to whatever comes next in the series, not to comment on what they just saw.
Chaim’s piece nails why Endgame was always going to work better without the post-credits scene: this movie is about conclusions and catharsis. It’s about endings. Back in 2018, he couldn’t have anticipated how much of Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo would spend on somber contemplation and anguished grief, or how the film transitions into triumph. But he did suspect it was going to be a film about wrap-ups, and the “always one more gag or reference or thought” mentality doesn’t square with the kind of final mic-drop moment the Russos are going for here. As he put it:
Marvel can only pass the narrative buck forward for so long, and with Endgame, it’s time to pay the check and end the story instead of endlessly escalating and teasing the next thing. Based on the current template of Marvel credit stingers, what could Endgame possibly tack on as a satisfying ending? Another joke that didn’t make the final cut of the film? A promo reminding viewers that the X-Men and Fantastic Four rights are back in Marvel Studios’ hands for future films?
Arguably, though, we do get a traditional Marvel post-credits scene; it’s just integrated into the movie instead of separated from it. The traditional post-credits scene would be a setup for the next MCU film — in this case, Spider-Man: Far From Home, which is coming to theaters in July. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has recently confirmed that Far From Home is the capper to Marvel’s Phase Three film arc, so, presumably, it takes place after Endgame and deals to some degree with what the post-Endgame Marvel world looks like. In that sense, one of the scenes at the end of the film (which we can’t spoil yet) could be considered the traditional teaser for the next steps. The Russos just chose to not isolate that sequence or overstate its importance. They just wanted audiences to sit for a little while with the end of this story before salivating for the next one. As long as viewers know not to expect any credits bonuses, they shouldn’t be too disappointed with the payoffs the movie does offer.