‘Avengers: Endgame:’ Will It Break This 90-Year-Old Film Convention?

With Avengers: Endgame less than a month away, box office forecasts and estimated budget posts are running rampant across the internet. However, while ticket sales are an essential indicator of success, they only tell half the story.

Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland, Zoe Saldana, Paul Bettany and Pom Klementieff
Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland, Zoe Saldana, Paul Bettany and Pom Klementieff | Randy Holmes via Getty Images

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has, since the first Iron Man, retained a loyal fan following. It is well understood that this movie will gross upwards of $2 billion; however, while this says a lot about The Avengers’ success as a franchise, what about the film’s success amongst its peers? That is… The Academy.

While several MCU films have opened to rave critical and audience reviews alike, a superhero movie has never once won Best Picture. Black Panther was the first to be nominated in the category this past year. The Academy has been putting on the Oscars since 1929; meaning, in 90 years of film, a superhero-themed movie has never taken home the prestigious award.

From the Superman films starring Christopher Reeve to 1989’s Batman starring Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keeton as Bruce Wayne (currently boasts a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes according to critics), it’s not as if great superhero movies are so far and few between. Think about how many have come out since Iron Man in 2008 alone. So, what’s the issue, and will Avengers: Endgame be the first to break this trend?

Why superhero films rarely win Oscars

There are several theories that have aimed to answer this long-debated question: why don’t superhero movies ever win the big awards? As for one of the main arguments, many believe that, because the Academy loves an underdog story, the voters are not likely to choose a movie that doesn’t need the extra boost.

Avengers: Endgame will succeed whether or not it even gets a nomination, so awarding a superhero film the Oscar takes the selling advantage away from a more niche, but equally brilliant, film that may really benefit from the lift.

While many recent superhero films comment on current society and deliver a message beyond “hey, check out this cool action scene,” it is the Academy’s job to select movies that represent the best in a given area; thus, superhero movies are often nominated for special effects and cinematography, as they blow other movies out of the water in these two areas.

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When it comes to writing, directing, and acting, other films are often viewed as superior. Since much of the Best Picture category encompasses the strength of the narrative and the depth of character put forth, superhero movies rarely get to shine in this area. It’s not that they can’t, as films like The Dark Knight and Black Panther surely did, it’s merely that they are less likely to do so while attending to the conventional format of a successful and contemporary superhero film.

Why ‘Avengers: Endgame’ could be the first superhero film to win Best Picture

It is widely known that the Academy believes actors, writers, and directors should have to “do their time” before winning the big awards. While many felt Jordan Peele deserved the Best Picture Oscar for Get Out, he’s much more likely to win it for Us, as now he’s proved himself twice in the horror space. If he were to win, it would be the first time Best Picture was awarded to a horror movie since The Silence of the Lambs.

If any franchise has done its time, it’s The Avengers. Awarding The Avengers with Best Picture, while taking the spotlight away from a smaller, lesser-known film, would be a much-deserved honor. It would serve as recognition; this would be the academy saying, “here you go. You’ve done enough.”

Avengers: Endgame, responsible for sculpting its most satisfying narrative yet, will also have to outclass its predecessors in terms of story, character, and theme. It’s the last one, so it’s going to have to draw on the heartstrings as much as it pulls on the actors’ muscles.

Avengers: Endgame is likely to be the most heartfelt and emotionally stirring one yet, with a complex narrative stringing all the prior films towards a cohesive finish. So, could it win? Yes. Will it win? It remains to be seen, but 90 years of history says no.