SPOILER ALERT – This article discusses an ending detail from Avengers: Endgame at length.
Ya Gotta Eat
This is an article about cheeseburgers – what we choose to consume, and what we choose to create. There is a common comparison in pop culture discussions relating the arts to food. Someone might defend a crowd-pleasing blockbuster by saying, “Maybe you expected filet mignon, but I just wanted a cheeseburger and was satisfied.” The filet mignon would be the sort of movie that people claim is “trying to win the Oscar for Best Movie Ever,” and the cheeseburger summons that common refrain of, “just turn off your brain.”
Got it? Good. Let’s talk about Endgame.
At the end of Avengers: Endgame, everyone is torn up at Tony Stark’s funeral. Stark’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau) comforts Stark’s daughter Morgan. She asks for a cheeseburger, and he says he’ll give her all the cheeseburgers she wants. In the context of the scene, the cheeseburger dialog tugs at the heartstrings because Morgan has been impossibly cute throughout the movie, and we want to comfort her in such a grief-filled moment. It’s also a callback to the first Iron Man movie, in which Stark asks for a cheeseburger as soon as he returns to America. It’s comfort food that reminds him of home, and now his daughter will probably associate cheeseburgers with safety, too.
In real life, Robert Downey Jr. has a history with Burger King’s cheeseburgers. In short, his decision to quit drugs and go clean was marked by a repulsive cheeseburger. Compare that to Stark returning home and eating a cheeseburger while mapping out how he’ll get out of military arms manufacturing. Cool parallel, huh?
The food symbolism doesn’t stop there, though.
Jon Favreau directed the first and second Iron Man movies. Popular consensus on them tends to elevate the first one and slam the second. After those, he wrote, directed, and starred in a smaller indie film, 2014’s Chef. Okay, it had some star power behind it, what with Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Sofía Vergara, Amy Sedaris, and Bobby Cannavale rounding out the cast, but are you just now hearing about it?
The basic premise goes: a popular chef quits his restaurant after getting a nasty review over a dish he only made under orders. He goes back to basics, serving people from a food truck. He foregoes having an elite staff in order to drive around the country with his son and an old friend. The more intimate environment gets his creative juices flowing and restores his reputation, with the negative critic indulging in the food truck, too.
Now ask yourself, was that a description of a chef who needed to reassess his menu priorities? Or was it about Jon Favreau getting fed up with directing superhero fare under Disney’s orders and finding greater satisfaction and fulfillment doing things his own way for less recognition? Are there breadcrumbs in Favreau’s story that also point to Joss Whedon’s burnout during production of Avengers: Age of Ultron? Or Lucrecia Martel turning down directing a Black Widow film because the studio would “take care of” the action parts for her?
Iron Man is still Favreau’s baby, though. Of course Favreau came back as Hogan to witness Stark’s proposal to Pepper Potts. Of course he wants to be there for the big finale, whose post-credits tease is simply a nod to Stark hammering together the original suit of armor. However, he’s also a producer on Disney’s upcoming The Lion King, The Mandalorian, and Jungle Book 2. Clearly, the House of Mouse has been good to him, or else another Chef would pop up somewhere on the docket – or is Favreau acting as a smoothing agent between Disney’s corporate bosses and the creatives bringing their billion-dollar franchises to life?
I don’t know enough about Favreau’s life to say. That cheeseburger line at the end of Endgame brought all of this to mind, though. That promise to provide all the cheeseburgers a child could want sounds like a mission statement blending professional expertise and personal drive. People can rail against big studios and safe storytelling all they like. Audiences are still shelling out billions of dollars for them and inspiring even more internet thinkpieces about them (hi there!). I hope the chefs are just as concerned with taste and variety as they are with sales figures and merchandising.
Isn’t that a lot of toppings for a cheeseburger?