Growing up at the movies, I could always spot the serious cinema buffs at the theater because they’re the ones who stayed all the way through a film’s end credits. From a young age, I have been one of them.
The ritual of staying through a movie’s final frame is common among film scholars and routine within members of the motion picture industry, who habitually search for names of friends and family listed among the scrolling credits, and/or search for jokes hidden in the credits á la Monty Python or the Zucker Brothers.
Today, anyone who’s seen more than one of the nearly twenty movies in the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to expect that any new MCU movie will be punctuated by at least one extra scene at the conclusion of—or in the middle of—the end credits scroll. Sometimes there are two extra scenes. The bonus Marvel after-movie scene, or “stinger,” is an after-party of sorts for patrons willing to stick around the theater through the oftentimes lengthy credits sequence. To this end, the enticing lure of the extra scene ought to be celebrated for helping to keep alive the communal aspect of viewing and discussing movies with other fans in the moment.
I prefer to stay through the end credits—at the very least, for movies I enjoy—because those extra few minutes are the ideal time to indulge in the essential mental percolation of recapping the film in my head while the exit music plays out.
This time of contemplation is also convenient for engaging in momentary social interaction with other movie patrons who likewise stick around through the credits, hoping to glimpse a bonus scene we’ve all been conditioned by Marvel to expect.
Born in the eighties with such comedies such as Airplane!, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles, the surprise stinger is something Marvel has made their own and has been using to great effect since the birth of their Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, when their movies Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk teased The Avengers four years in advance of that movie’s arrival.
It’s not merely the legit MCU movies that offer bonus scenes, but also installments of other Marvel series owned by other studios, such as X-Men and Deadpool. Heck, even competitor DC finally got into the act last year with a double stinger at the end of Justice League.
I did not clock it, but I’ll wager the end credits scroll for Avengers: Infinity War runs close to eleven minutes. If this isn’t a record-setter for longest and most densely populated end-credits sequence in a movie, it surely comes close. Still, loyal fans stuck around for the extra tidbit. And—wow!—what a game-changing and universe-shifting Easter egg Marvel just laid at the close of Infinity War that teases multiple future MCU installments. I was glad to see I wasn’t alone in the theater when that stinger played, and heartened to hear the audience was audibly engaged.
As far as extra scenes go, anything will suffice—an extra punchline to a running joke, an alternate take of a memorable scene, a bit of deleted footage incongruous with the rest of the movie, or perhaps a tantalizing tease for a future chapter—but only in the case of Logan would the absence of a tasty finishing stinger feel like anything other than a let-down nowadays. (In the case of the solemn Logan, any jokey stinger would have undercut the gravitas of the film, and the producers wisely opted against having one.)
While theater ushers and custodians sweep up the spilled popcorn and candy wrappers, we pure movie geeks linger in the auditorium through the lengthy end credits because we have been willingly baited by the promise of being privy to additional material those early exiting audiences will not glean. They’ll read about it online, perhaps kick themselves for missing out, and possibly even plan a repeat viewing of the movie—if not while it is still playing in theaters then at least when the film arrives on home video in a scant few months.
But no matter the movie’s opening weekend gross, no matter the buzz wattage of its spoilers or the percentage score of its critical aggregate, everybody always talks about the latest Marvel end-credits stinger. And because Marvel has made an industry of the special bonus stinger, the fellowship of movie-lovers who view movies in movie theaters is afforded multiple recurring opportunities to engage in a vital element of cinema that home video and streaming viewers inherently miss out on: the communal movie-going experience. In turn for receiving these tiny love letters by filmmakers to fans, we show our patronage by viewing their movies in a theater, on as big a screen as possible and during opening weekend whenever feasible.
And, hopefully, while waiting out the protracted credits in anticipation of the bonus stinger, we’re striking up a conversation with a neighboring movie geek similarly lingering around to catch that extra moment, that final cherry on top of the film.
We keep hearing doomsday threats about how the act of physically going to the movies is a steadily declining culture, but even accounting for technically glitchy and/or less-than-spotless theaters populated by far-from-courteous patrons, there is no substitute for experiencing a movie in a giant hall with an enthusiastic audience. An event movie, especially.
To this end, Marvel’s practice of rewarding its fans with playful stingers deserves a lot of industry cred for making a movie’s end-credits essential community viewing. Anything that keeps people coming to the movies and sticking around to the very end—and, better yet, anything that keeps audiences engaged and that facilitates further social engagement—is a good thing in my universe.