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With Avengers: Endgame, can we now declare game over for tedious post-credits scenes?

The movie is over and I want to go home. Why are you holding me hostage through 12 minutes of credits, Marvel?

With Avengers: Endgame, can we now declare game over for tedious post-credits scenes?
From Avengers: Endgame [Photo: courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]

Spoiler alert for anyone who would be crestfallen to know whether Avenger: Endgame has a post-credits scene or not, the answer is… not exactly. For the first time in the 21-movie series, the credits contain a more subtle nod to the future of the series. With any luck, it’s also a nod toward a future MCU that does away with post-credits gambits entirely.

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A quick story: Back in 2008, I went to see The Dark Knight on a first date, and about two minutes into the end credits came the twist that turned it into a top-3 all-time worst date.

It had nothing to do with the movie or any residual melancholy around Heath Ledger’s premature demise, but rather it was because when I stood up to leave, my date remained pointedly seated. According to her, leaving a theater before the final credit scrolls by is like not standing for a Broadway curtain call or horking up one’s meal in front of the chef. After doing some social calculations, I decided that arguing the point could not possibly end well. It was either sit back down or end the date. So I sat down, amid the pounding film score and the rustling noises of an audience in exodus, and I watched that long-ass list of names unfurl, waiting for the moment that I too could leave.

It should have been the last time I ever had to watch the totality of a film’s end credits against my will, but it ended up being far from it. Earlier that summer, Iron Man had kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe with what has become one of the franchise’s signature moves: the post-credits scene. Ever since that moment, I have known no peace.

Post-credits scenes, the stubby after-dinner toothpicks of cinema, go back a long way. The trend is said to have begun with The Muppet Movie in 1979, but the first one I remember seeing followed the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Bueller scene has since proven impressively prescient. It ends with Ferris (a peak-charming Matthew Broderick) chiding the audience for staying with him to this point. “You’re still here?” he asks, justifiably concerned. “It’s over, go home!”

He makes a compelling point. When the movie is over, you go home! Or at least you used to.

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Staying until the bitter end of an MCU movie has always been part of the deal. Each new entrant in the series has not just one, but two or sometimes three mid- and post-credits scenes. The first Marvel credits stinger, following Iron Man, revealed a cycloptic Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the assembler of the Avengers. Although by now the idea of a shared cinematic universe feels rote (Godzilla has one, for God’s sake), in 2008 this tease made a promise that ecstatic fanboys couldn’t wait to see whether Marvel would deliver on. It was a slick move and, amazingly, it worked.

Since then, however, the post-credits sequences have become undeniably hit-or-miss. Sometimes, it’s a mild joke. Other times, it’s another Nick Fury-style tease of who’s coming next. Other times still, it’s an inexplicable cameo from Howard the Duck. There’s no suspense as to whether there will be an end credits scene; no will-they-or-won’t-they. It’s guaranteed. Any mystique has long-ago eroded. Like encores at concerts, the audience indulges in the artifice of clapping when the end credits first begin and then slowly gathering belongings, brushing popcorn dust off their shoes, and not going anywhere. It’s all part of the drill.

Yeah, I know: If I don’t feel like staying for the post-credits scene, I’m free to go. It’s not Marvel’s problem, it’s mine. But since everyone knows to keep seated after a Marvel movie, not just the scattered handfuls of stragglers that a normal post-credits scene might hope to catch, these scenes give viewers the choice of either staying put or stepping over everybody else, as though going to the bathroom in the middle of a flight. And viewers likely do have to go to the bathroom at that point, too, because these movies are getting longer.

The 2.5-hour Avengers: Infinity War last year clocked in with 12 minutes of credits. 12 minutes! That’s a substantial length of time. When I walk onto a subway platform and the display announces a wait of 12 minutes, it feels like a cruel social experiment to push city dwellers to their very limits. The obligatory post-credits scenes are no longer sustainable at this length. The center, much like my bladder, can’t hold.

Are the scenes even worth watching? Sometimes! I can’t pretend the stinger at the end of Infinity War–Nick Fury crumbling into dust, his phone clattering to the gravel while dialing up Captain Marvel–was anything less than awesome. But it would have been just as awesome had I seen it literally any other time instead. If you can wait 12 minutes after watching a whole dang movie to watch an extra scene of becostumed mutants eating shawarma, you can wait half a day or whatever to watch them do that on YouTube.

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And since we can all watch these scenes on YouTube anyway, maybe that’s where Marvel should relegate them in the impending Phase IV. Or maybe cut down from two or three to just one, and maybe don’t put it at the very final frame either, as if to taunt both us viewers and the ushers.

It seems like Marvel is at least considering making a change, though, since the closing moments of Avengers: Endgame include not a scene, but… something else. Hopefully, Marvel truly does away with the format of the first 21 movies. If not, I at least hope that anyone who expends a dozen or so minutes of their life to get to the Endgame post-credits scene and left unquenched remembers that feeling next time, and joins me in strutting proudly toward the exit doors as soon as that first “Directed by” credit hits the screen, no matter how many toes they have to accidentally step on along the way.

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Joe Berkowitz will return to complain about something innocuous that most people like sooner than is advisable.

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