A single line of dialogue that brought a worldwide audience to tears has a way deeper connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe than it appears. This overlooked Avengers: Endgame Easter egg might make you cry even more than the movie’s ending already did — if that’s even possible.
Major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead.
In Avengers: Endgame, young Morgan Stark (played by Alexandra Rachael Rabe) says to her father, Tony (Robert Downey Jr.), “I love you 3,000.”
Later, after Tony sacrifices himself by using the Infinity Stones to wipe out Thanos’ army, the Avengers play a pre-recorded message for Morgan (and for us, the audience, reduced to blubbering puddles).
“That’s the hero gig. Part of the journey is the end,” Tony says. Looking into Morgan’s eyes, which puts his line of sight directly into the camera, Tony tells Morgan/us, “I love you 3,000.”
A reminder that a “ton” is 2,000 pounds, so Morgan and Tony are saying that they love each other more than a ton. Yeah, it’s cute. But “3,000” means more for the MCU than it seems.
If you tally the cumulative running time of every film in the MCU, from 2008’s Iron Man all the way to Avengers: Endgame, the total length would be one day, 23 hours, and 48 minutes. Converted into minutes (there are 1,440 minutes in 24 hours), that equals to 2,868. Nearly 3,000.
(If you further add the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, the final film in Marvel’s “Phase 3” that will have a run time of 130 minutes, the final total is 2,998 minutes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)
Some fans have picked up on this connection through, what else, memes.
None of the filmmakers of Avengers: Endgame, from producer Kevin Feige to directors Joe and Anthony Russo, to even screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have commented on whether or not “I love you 3,000” actually refers to the combined runtime of the Marvel film franchise.
But whether it is or isn’t, it’s surely a clever nod to the unprecedented 11-year journey that fans have embarked on through 22 movies.
It’s also worth pointing out that this total does not include the spin-off television shows that have only loosened its connections to the MCU over the years. Adding the combined run time of shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Cloak & Dagger, Runaways, and Netflix shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher surely puts the combined MCU run time well over 3,000 minutes.
And we’ve still not even factored in the “Marvel One-Shot” short films that were included in the Blu-ray releases of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 movies.
Meanwhile, just for fun, the DC Extended Universe (consisting of movies from 2013’s Man of Steel all the way to 2018’s Aquaman and this year’s Shazam!) has a combined total of 18 hours and six minutes, or 1,086 minutes total. This isn’t to rain on anyone’s fandom (Hi! I’m a DC fan!) but “I love you 2,000” just doesn’t have the same oomph. Maybe one day.
Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now.