With an all-star cast and ties to every other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie from the “Infinity Saga,” Avengers: Endgame is arguably the franchise’s most ambitious project ever. Cinemas are echoing with fans’ triumphant cheers as their favorite heroes get their big-screen moments. But the unidentified character in the film’s tear-jerking close has left cinema-goers baffled.
If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame yet, then be warned: spoilers are ahead. For those of you who have watched it, or just thrive on knowing plot points in advance, then read on. And with that formality aside grab your tissues, because we’re going to revisit the movie’s most emotional moments.
We knew that there’d be consequences when the heroes failed to defeat the supervillain Thanos at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Actors’ contracts were coming to an end, character arcs were closing and the baddie, also known as The Mad Titan, was still at large. And after he activates the completed Gauntlet, half of the universe is destroyed, with the loss of some of the franchise’s key characters.
MCU original Avengers Black Widow and Tony Stark are among the losses, but even after their deaths, some people refused to believe that they were truly gone. After all, these were two beloved heroes – Scarlet Johansson had played Natasha Romanoff for nine years and Robert Downey Jr. was Stark for 11.
Perhaps their deaths put fans already reeling from loss on the back foot when Stark’s funeral came around in Avengers: Endgame. Whatever the reason, there’s a lot to take in during the emotional scene, which pans across all the mourners. But teared-up viewers noticed an unnamed character standing among the recurring characters, raising questions about his identity.
Meanwhile, Thanos and Stark have a long history in the Marvel comic books. In fact, the prune-chinned galactic conqueror debuted in the February 1973 edition of The Invincible Iron Man. And since then, he’s grown as both a character and a threat before ultimately appearing as the MCU’s supervillain. And considering his evil credentials, he was the logical choice.
So Thanos ranks among Marvel’s most powerful bad guys by himself, but he’s not alone. Indeed, he’s got dedicated generals, an army of aliens and, since Avengers: Infinity War, he also possesses the Infinity Stones. And these made him almost unbeatable, which some of the galaxy’s most powerful defenders found out the hard way.
And, as mentioned earlier, by assembling the stones into a gauntlet, Thanos clicked his fingers and turned half the universe’s lifeforms to dust in Avengers: Infinity War. And with that, a majority of the MCU cast as we know it, including Spider-Man, Black Panther and Dr. Strange, vanished. Fans commonly refer to the event as “The Snap,” and it left the Avengers short-handed for their inevitable rematch.
In Avengers: Endgame, after a time heist courtesy of Tony Stark and Scott Lang – aka Ant-Man – the remaining Avengers manage to restore the gauntlet. However, when Black Widow sacrifices herself to get the soul gem she pays the ultimate price. And thanks to her, Banner-Hulk manages to bring those killed back to life, culminating in a clash with a version of Thanos from the past.
As a result, the Avengers live up to their name when they meet Thanos’ forces on the battlefield. And although The Mad Titan pursues a recombined Infinity Gauntlet tenaciously, the heroes don’t make it easy for him, with Thor, Captain Marvel and a Mjolnir-wielding Captain America intercepting his progress.
Nevertheless, at one point it looks as if history is doomed to repeat itself when Thanos claims the gauntlet once again. After a clash with Stark, the would-be conqueror clicks his fingers once more – but nothing happens. That’s because Stark pulls a sleight-of-hand, taking the stones for himself. According to Dr. Strange, it was the only chance of victory in over 14 million possible timelines.
With the words, “I am Iron Man,” Stark initiates his own Snap, dusting all of Thanos’ army. And the Mad Titan himself becomes the last adversary to die, but Stark’s suit can’t contain the consequential power. His life is forfeited and he dies as a hero, leaving behind his daughter Morgan and wife Pepper Potts.
Stark’s subsequent heart-wrenching funeral scene also features many familiar faces from MCU movies past and present. The view pans slowly across the mourners revealing their somber reactions to the fallen legend that was Iron Man. Actually, there’s so much to take in that you might not have noticed some attendees in the crowd.
Founding MCU Avengers such as Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and the Hulk are obviously there. And they are joined by relative newcomers including Black Panther, Shuri and Okoye, along with Captain Marvel, Dr. Strange and Wong. And Peter Parker, Stark’s surrogate son of sorts, stands alongside his aunt May to pay his respects.
The Winter Soldier, aka Bucky Barnes, is there too, despite the fat he killed Stark’s parents previously in Captain America: Civil War. And several military personnel are in the crowd, some with a more personal connection to Stark than others. For example, Nick Fury and Maria Hill are unsurprisingly present, standing with the slightly less obvious Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross.
But it was none of these characters that got MCU fans talking. Instead, their attention was on a figure standing alone slightly away from all the Avengers and supporting characters. No one speaks or interacts with that person, and the camera only focuses on them briefly. But they are important enough to warrant an appearance, apparently.
The character in question is a young teenage male, and it’s unclear who he really is. And after Avengers: Endgame hit the cinemas, social media was awash with people asking for the boy’s identity. Indeed, one Reddit user started a thread about the issue on the website in April 2019, asking, “Can somebody tell me who the new age kid standing my himself at the funeral was?”
“I was so goddamn confused and they kept the camera on him way too long for him to not be relevant,” the poster elaborated. Another Reddit user added, “I had no clue and was wondering who… he was supposed to be.” However, some dedicated MCU fans recognized him from a previous movie.
Part of the reason the teenager is hard to recognize is because a few years have passed since his last appearance. Imagine the young man six years younger, and you might remember him. If not, cast your mind back to 2013 when Iron Man 3 first hit cinemas; does his face bring back any memories now?
Indeed, the youth is none other than Ty Simpkins, who played Harley Keener in the third Iron Man instalment. Keener is instrumental in helping Stark locate the film’s antagonist, the Mandarin, and they share several emotional scenes together.
After his near-death experience in space during The Avengers, Stark is understandably left with debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So Keener brings his ally out the other side of an anxiety attack by giving him another focus. He tells Stark to follow his mechanic’s instincts and build something to overcome his problems.
With Keener’s help, Stark manages his PTSD and confronts the movie’s true enemy, Aldrich Killian. The former then bequeaths his young sidekick with a memento of their time together: a plethora of high-tech equipment. In addition, Stark leaves a note from “The Mechanic,” confirming himself as Keener’s generous benefactor.
Meanwhile, the role was the opportunity of a lifetime for Simpkins, he told the comic book website The White Space in 2013. The young actor said, “I was so excited to have an Iron Man audition. I had been asking my agent to get me in on a super hero movie because I just really love comic books and action sci-fi stuff…”
Simpkins continued, “So when Iron Man 3 came up I was so excited.” On the other hand, he revealed it wasn’t an experience he could share with just anyone at first. He added, “It was all top secret, and we couldn’t see the audition lines until just before we auditioned. But I went in and thought I did pretty good.”
In retrospect, Simpkins certainly did a good job at the audition – he got cast as Keener, after all. First, though, he had to get through another hurdle of the casting process. Specifically, the actor had to test his on-screen connection with Robert Downey Jr. And he wasn’t alone, there were three other young applicants vying for the part, too.
Meanwhile, the prospect of meeting a star of Downey Jr.’s stature excited Simpkins immensely. He explained in his interview with The White Space, “I was just really confident, and knew i was going to get it. At that audition, I was so excited to meet Robert.”
So did Iron Man himself live up to Simpkins’ expectations? When he was asked what Downey Jr. was like, the actor responded, “Robert is more than awesome. He is my favorite person in the world. He just let me try different stuff, in different ways, and made being on set really, really fun.”
Simpkins elaborated, “He helped me a lot. We got really close and he actually shared with me a secret that I won’t tell. But it just makes everything so easy!” Indeed, it seems like the connection Keener and Stark had in the movie was partly a product of the bond the actors shared.
Indeed, in 2013 Downey Jr. conducted an interview with Comingsoon.net, and there the former confirmed his fondness for Simpkins. He said, “Ty Simpkins is great, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot of him.” The actor also attributed some of the humanizing elements of Iron Man 3 to his scenes with Simpkins. Furthermore, he explained that the film’s director cooked up the concept.
“[Director] Shane Black had this idea of this kind of Capra-esque departure,” Downey Jr. described. “I think we all knew we were taking risks [with a lot of things in Iron Man 3]. And we were kind of out of what would have been the familiar territory.” Indeed, Simpkins played a big role in this cinematic vision.
Downey Jr. continued, “And [Black’s] idea of a superhero running into a little kid in the heartland of America, I think wound up being a wise choice and kind of a calculated risk.” Indeed, many applauded the scenes that the actor shared with Simpkins as some of the movie’s most memorable moments.
Newsday’s Rafer Guzman referred to Stark in Iron Man 3 as “the anti-Batman, all zip and zingers. Some of the movie’s best moments are shared by Stark and latchkey kid [Keener], who mock their budding father-son relationship while acting it out.” But what happened to Simpkins’ character Keener after the movie came out?
We haven’t seen Keener return in subsequent movies after Iron Man 3, but considering he’s seen standing alongside Stark’s other allies in Avengers: Endgame, perhaps they kept in touch. Fans have even speculated that his presence hints there’s more to come from Keener in the future.
Indeed, many on social media believe Keener’s character may be due a comeback on the MCU franchise. One Reddit user posted in May 2019, “Now, why he showed up to the funeral and they spent a moment showing him is the real question. This kid is gonna be more important than we know right now.”
And perhaps they’re right; according to his Wikipedia bio page, Simpkins has a three-movie contract with MCU. Assuming his cameo in Avengers: Endgame counts as movie number two, there’s still one more appearance from Keener to come. Nevertheless, whether the MCU has bigger plans for the young character or not remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, some fans on social media have questioned the time gap between Keener’s appearance in Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Endgame. One Reddit user asked, “That’s weird that he spent like, one weekend with [Stark] ten years prior but is still invited to the very small and private funeral.” Another posited, “Oh. Well that’s a reach… Why include him?”
And for his part, you may recognize Simpkins from another movie series he starred in prior to his performance in Iron Man 3. Indeed, he appeared in the Insidious movies, where he played Dalton, son of the Lambert family, whose nightmare begins after they move into a haunted house.
Simpkins also reprised the role of Dalton Lambert in the 2013 sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2. However, the actor has another claim to fame that you might not be suspecting, but you’ve almost certainly heard of – he also starred in 2015’s Jurassic World.
Jurassic World was the second-highest grossing film of 2015 and the most financially successful instalment of the franchise. Additionally, it broke box office records as the first movie to earn over $500 million on its first weekend. For his part, Simpkins starred alongside fellow MCU star Chris Pratt as young Gray Mitchell, nephew to Jurassic World’s operations manager Claire Dearing.
The last movie Simpkins starred in before Avengers: Endgame was 2016’s The Nice Guys, with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. However, hopefully it’s not the last we’ve seen of the budding actor. And perhaps Avengers: Endgame isn’t the final appearance of his MCU character, Keener, but only time will tell.