Now that enough time has distanced us from the release of the theatrically historic Endgame, I feel like I have more liberty to discuss spoilers without offending the general public who would hate to not experience the movie as it stands, untainted or biased by reports.
Around the same time Endgame came out though, so did another grand finale of a franchise: Toy Story 4. My family saw both in close proximity and with the other on my mind, I could not help but draw parallel lines between the two.
This post is not a review of either, but merely a compiled list of the interesting parallels I found between them.
If you have not seen either, understand that there are huge spoilers ahead and I would strongly suggest you to not proceed. Even with caution.
Parallel #1. They Both Juggle a Huge Cast
Both films ending an ongoing storyline that spanned many movies of a major franchise, Toy Story 4 and Endgame. They rely on the fact that the audience is already invested in the characters. However they do it at different levels of intensity.
Endgame has a ton of characters and it tries to show how each and everyone is affected by the situation they find themselves in. To appreciate the places the characters are found, viewers must already be familiar with how they got there in order to compare the contrast of emotions and struggles.
They have to be familiar with the significance of the relationship between Black Widow and Hawk Eye to feel the power of Black Widow’s sacrifice. They have to understand Tony Stark’s life with Pepper before he had a child, to understand what he is giving up to fight against the past. They have to understand the decade long clash of standards and philosophies between Cap and Iron Man to realize the significance of the two coming finally together and try to work it through. They have to have gone through the story arch of Gamora and Starlord to see how much was lost in how that arc turned out.
Or what about the story line for all the infinity stones throughout the entire franchise?
Or the moment Captain America picks up Thor’s hammer in the fight?
My brother recently showed me a video recorded in theater opening night of Endgame. It the moment the audience watched Captain America pick up the hammer. Out burst screams and cheers, whoops, hollers, and the loud HAHAHA-I KNEW-IT
^^ summary of every person’s expression in that theater ^^
Every Marvel fan has experienced trying to communicate how much Marvel has been in their life, what it symbolizes for them, and why the release of Endgame was an almost a sacred moment.
The fact is, Endgame fully embraces the burden of a huge cast and does not even attempt to make the story work as a standalone film. Instead it is written to serve directly to a very specific audience. An audience that has grown on the franchise. One that has invested literal hours, waited years, and nursed it’s loyalty.
Toy Story 4 on the other hand, uses previous movies as a crutch to keep them from having to lay much foundation behind characters like Mr. Potato Head, Slinky, Bullseye, etc.
They end up getting pushed to the side to take up little screen time and each of their personal involvement, which doesn’t shift the balances of fate by a whole lot, is only appreciated and understood by those who have watched the previous ones. For others they are simply grouped together to serve the plot.
As one of my brothers summarized it: “Toy Story 4 is an actual sequel.”
Kuddos to him for concisely capturing the core of this comparison.
Parallel #2. They Both Link Heavily To The Past
Not only do both Toy Story 4 and Endgame lean upon previous movies to stimulate emotions and sale to an audience and because, let’s be honest, the Marvel Franchise is one overarching story, both movies end up awakening old story threads.
Toy Story 4 brings back the question of Bo Peep’s whereabouts that were brushed off as long gone and Endgame plays off of Redskull’s disappearance instead of death (yes brother you were right about him not dying and I was less right that night I watched it for the first time so long ago).
Not to mention the scenes of heavy nostalgia where the Avengers return to their past selves for a fight, or how Iron Man talks to his father, etc. All the past squabbles exemplified and all the past questions revisited
which only brings up more questions thanks time-travelling.
Both movies play with history.
For Endgame literally as well as figuratively.
Parallel #3. For Both The Plot Is Not About What Was Expected
I went into Endgame expecting 1.) more who-is-bigger, who-can-punch-hardest, missing-the-mark-by-a-hair, slightest-accidents-throwing-the-chances-into-the-Avenger’s-lap sort of jazz and that 2.) there would be continued development of Thano’s character as was shown in Infinity War.
However everything changed ten minutes into the movie. There Thanos is killed and then the screen goes black.
This one of the beats of Endgame that I highly respect and applaud the writers for. It changes the story from being about who is the stronger super being (let’s be honest we’ve seen variations of that movie a thousand times mixed with each superhero’s personal themes*) it ends up being a question of what is worth fighting for, but also what is worth dying for. It gives way to explore the question of how each of the heroes deal with the aftermath, the real pain that lingers. It made the movie more realistic, because once you kill the big bad guy all the choas he originally caused doesn’t just evaporate. It grew into the plot being about overcoming such devastating circumstances and banding together one last time to try to overcome it.
It cleared way to focus on the importance of family (through Tony’s storyline), the challenge of recovering post-failure (through many of their storylines), and the value of self-sacrifice (again resurfacing in many of their storylines through the recurring question: “When is it appropriate to sacrifice someone else’s life for the common good?”)
Similarly, I went into Toy Story 4 thinking the story was about a suicidal spork who must be taught what Woody has always said about loyalty.
If you think about it, that’s the first twenty minutes. Let’s walk through it.
There’s the introduction of Forky, his obsession (and connection) to trash. Cue the montage of music as Woody fights against the spork for victory day and night while Randy Newman sings a gloriously fun song that is extremely fitting in it’s topic.
And then the utensil/toy finally gets away.
Woody jumps out after him, finds him, and in one (adorable) scene Woody and Forky walk along the road at night in hopes to catch up to the RV, and we (along with Forky) learn that toys make us happy because they are warm and comforting like trash. There that plot is cleared up. And next thing we see is Forky running after Bonnie yelling and screaming, worried for her.
Sure they still have to get physically to Bonnie but the emotional conflict warps and changes to become centered around the questions Bo-Peep throws at Woody when he stumbles across her in the park and gets a glimpse at her new life.
The plot sits not with Forky any more. It ends up being about the different things Woody, Bo-Peep want out of their life as a toy, which coincides with the story arcs of Buzz Lightyear, the antique doll, Gabby-Gabby, and even the Canada doll, Duke Caboom.
Which leads to the next point…
Parallel #4. In The Final Scene of Both Movies The Leading Moral Character Changes His Mind
Endgame dished out a lot of surprises. One after another. Shock after shock until a viewer is left in a state of stunned numbness. The last blow, and the one I have heard revisited most is Captain America’s decision not to return to present day after returning the last stones to their previous locations.
Which was (and still is) strange because with every moral issue brought to surface with the avengers Cap always seemed to be there to be the foil character, the character promoting the grand and noble ideas of responsibility, goodness, honor, patriotism.
Through so many of the movies and conflicts he always always promoted selflessness. Saving Bucky. Saving hostages. Standing up for team members. Bringing up the question “is the sacrifice of one worth the benefit of the common good?” “What would you give for the sake of freedom?”
And yet there he is at the end of Endgame, making the decision to for once make a decision with only himself in mind. And so he returns to Peggy and lives a long and quiet life. Once his friends realize this, they are sad, but in a sweet way happy for him, and they tell him they understand.
Similarly, look at Woody. Beyond a couple moments of desperation during low points, stands as the constant reminder to the other toys throughout thick and thin about the importance of loyalty. And when the other toys disregard the idea, he doesn’t let it stop him from pursuing it.
He’s always talking about how he’s Andy’s toy, and he only stops when he becomes Bonnie’s in that aching last moment of Toy Story 3 when Andy moves on. When he hands Andy over for the last time with the words, “He’ll be there for your no matter what.”*
So then in Toy Story 4, he teaches a spork what he had been telling the others for years. “You are Bonnie’s toy and Bonnie’s needs you.”
But his view on the world slowly changes and at the end he decides his calling has changed, just like Captain America sitting on that park bench at the final closing of Endgame, so he says goodbye to his friends of two decades and stays behind to see the world on a travelling
And when Buzz Lightyear and the other members of the ole gang realize this. They are sad, but, in a very sweet way, happy for him.
The argument, (which is supported mostly just by credits scenes in Toy Story 4 after the official film has ended), is that Woody is not acting selfishly, or compromising his loyalty to others for himself, but that he’s realized he has greater opportunities to help toys. Besides Bonnie doesn’t need him any more, she has Sporky. For Endgame I’ve heard people say that it was merely Captain America’s retirement, while others say he would have probably gone back if he had earlier been presented with the possibility.
Either way, both Captain America in Endgame and Woody in Toy Story 4 arrive at the end of the same type of story arc.
Parallel #5. They Both Stand as the End of an Era
Sure there are more Marvel movies coming out, but it will never be like “phase one” or “The Infinity Saga” (as they call them) in which superheroes were fresh and new. And then Toy Story? Well that is the original Pixar movie.
Ironman and Toy Story changed the film industry, and with Endgame and Toy Story 4*** ending of that era which lays out a timeline that many people in this generation grew up with.
And thus concludes my thoughts on Endgame and Toy Story 4 in relation to each other.****
I hope this was as interesting to you as it was to me to think about. I for one now feel like watching them both again to compare and see if I remembered all the points correctly and if I didn’t miss anything.
But, I’ll leave you at that.
Until next Friday!
*I’ve found that most superhero films follow a pattern (surprise!) in which the mc struggles with their emotional problem (e.g. not being about to fight in the war even though they want to serve their country honorably, feeling useless, struggling with growing up, filling the shoes of responsibility, realizing the power they have been rashly putting to use etc.) which a big strong bad guy exploits, and there is the who-is-stronger scene in which the bad guy wins, but then when they meet again our superhero has worked out their emotional problems which aids them to reach their full potential of power and thus in the end turn out to just barely be the bigger guy on the block and save the day.
**Side note: listening to melancholy music and talking about the moment Andy leaves Woody are enough to make you want to cry even not when watching the movie. Heed this warning with care. #thepowerofpixar
***Unless they make a Toy Story 5, oh please no.
****Let us forbid I try to summarize my actual thoughts on the movies as a whole haha