The wait is over. The big weekend has come and gone and most, if not all, of your friends has seen the latest Marvel Studios offering. The MCU’s actual first phase is complete (the first time there are no ongoing subplots or cliffhangers awaiting for closure) and a lot of emotions, questions, and opinions are still brewing in everyone’s heads. As I mentioned in my Infinity War analysis, very few evens in pop culture history have been this big, it is no surprise the vox populi is running wild with what this franchise means now to the comic book nerds and mainstream movie public.
Avengers: Endgame, in spite of being the resolution to what was established in Infinity War, is not structured as the previous movie’s third act, but as a whole movie by its own right. The film is just as daring as its predecessor, but in a more chaotic narrative structure since it has a lot to do to tie-up 10 years worth of movies within a time-travel/heist plot—and those themes tend to be chaotic by nature—while throwing call-backs to the MCU’s rich history and even developing further some of the characters.
Having said this, the comics cannot be taken as part of this since it’s clear the MCU is a separate universe with its own rules, in spite of being inspired by these magazines.
I really liked the movie and enjoyed the achievement of its set-pieces, call-backs, and character moments. Something we don’t get to see often outside the comic book realm. It certainly takes cues from comics events like Fear Itself and Secret Empire.
I also understand the commercial implications and production obstacles which prevent such a massive undertaking to be dealt with freely. I think the Russos are currently the best directors in Hollywood juggling all of this and have nothing but massive respect for their work. This being their last film in this cinematic universe is a sad but wise decision for the creative team, leaving when the chips are stacked in what is the most ambitious movie made ever for the foreseeable future.
It’s so easy to be a couch script doctor after the fact and none of the pressure, right? I don’t think I could have done it better myself, to be honest. Especially with the added weight of how big and well received Infinity War was. Those are massive expectations.
The intention of this text is to analyze the movie as I would any other script I get paid to fix. I won’t nitpick stuff which has no real effect on the story and its plot points. This isn’t YouTube.
On a final note, the entire MCU is fan service and saying these movies have a lot of fan service is not understanding them at all. It’s not rocket science. These are, above all, comic book superheroes. Though Easter eggs and nostalgia a movie do not make, there really isn’t anything other than Stan Lee’s final cameo not helping the story progress.
Avengers: Endgame starts just when Thanos (Josh Brolin) uses the Infinity Gauntlet to eradicate half of all life across the universe. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is on house arrest but spending quality time with his family when they turn to dust, just like the fallen heroes in Infinity War.
Three weeks later, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are the sole survivors of the space encounter with Thanos and are in very bad shape, stranded in the middle of space) with almost no prospects of survival, especially Iron Man.
I’ve heard a lot of criticism regarding space fuel mentioned here and how it would be impossible for them to be stranded in space. It’s obviously misguided to insert real-life physics in such a movie, but even then this argument is false. This would only work if space was completely empty and it wasn’t on expansion. The gravitational pull of stars, planets, moons… by themselves are tricky enough, then there’s the rapid expansion of the universe which would make you stranded in the middle of nowhere unless you are moving faster than the speed of light when talking about intergalactic journeys though deep space. Just getting that out of the way.
Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) appears all of a sudden and rescues Nebula and Tony from deep space. Since Captain Marvel was filmed after this movie, it could have been a good idea to justify this early scene using the end credits of that film.
They return to Earth and join the remaining Avengers—Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Nebula reveals to the superhero team where Thanos went to after he fulfilled his goal. They find him injured and intend to take the Stones to reverse his actions, but he already destroyed them to prevent further use. An enraged Thor can’t contain his anger and beheads Thanos.
Five years later, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) escapes the quantum realm where he was trapped at the end of Ant-Man & the Wasp thanks to a rat jumping into the control deck of the van they used for the experiment. He finds out he is presumed disappeared and goes looking for his family. After that, he joins Romanoff and Rogers at the Avengers’ compound. Lang explains these last five years were only five hours in the quantum realm, theorizing that it can allow time travel. The three ask Stark to help them retrieve the Stones from the past so they can revert Thanos’ actions, but he rejects them out of fear of losing his new, calm life with hos wife, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his daughter, Morgan (who enjoys playing with an armor Tony made for Pepper).
Stark is categorically reluctant lamenting the disintegrated Peter Parker, but he comes up with the answer to make time travel work and works with Banner—who has merged his intelligence with the Hulk’s body, like Peter David’s Hulk comic book run—to stabilize travel in the quantum realm. Romanoff recruits Clint Barton, who has become the ruthless vigilante Ronin following the disintegration of his family, while Banner and Rocket find a drunken, reclusive, manchild Thor (who can regrow an eye but loses metabolism just like humans, apparently). *CORRECTION: Spike misremembered, Thor got a bionic eye.
Banner, Rogers, Lang, and Stark travel to New York City in 2012 because they can find three of the stones at the same date. Banner visits the Sanctum Sanctorum and convinces the Ancient One to give him the Time Stone after both figure out how to not screw up reality itself and make it into varying timelines; Rogers overcomes undercover Hydra agents and his 2012 self to retrieve the Mind Stone, while Lang and Stark fail to retrieve the Space Stone and allowing Loki to escape with it. Rogers and Stark use the last of their size-altering Pym Particles to travel to the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters in 1970 and steal an earlier version of the Space Stone as well as vials of Pym Particles from Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) so they can return to the present.
Rocket and Thor travel to Asgard in 2013 to retrieve the Reality Stone from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and Thor obtains his former hammer, Mjölnir, which was destroyed by Hela in Ragnarok. Barton and Romanoff travel to Vormir in 2014 and learn from the Soul Stone’s keeper, the Red Skull, that it can only be acquired by sacrificing what they love the most. They fight over which of them should die and Romanoff sacrifices herself.
Just like I mentioned with my Infinity War analysis, the Infinity Gauntlet is, basically, a plot hole device which creates paradoxes because of how overpowered it is. In this case, in 2014 Clint Barton’s family was alive and well, not to mention he didn’t really sacrifice Black Widow. The scene is good, it has action and emotion in spades, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense even if you just vaguely think about it. The weakness of this particular film is that those kinds of plot holes riddle the movie. Not only do we have the already complicated Infinity Gauntlet at play, add to it the always messy theme of time-traveling and it just makes a bunch of situations the audience have no choice but to question when they are abruptly taken out of the fiction, breaking the flow much more than the less evident Infinity War plot holes.
On Morag, in the same year, Nebula and Rhodes steal the Power Stone before Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) can. Rhodes jumps into the quantum realm with the Power Stone without Nebula, due to the latter’s cybernetic implants glitching because of quantum entanglement with those of her 2014 self. Through this connection, the Thanos of that time and Gamora capture present-day Nebula and see her memories and that he has already won in the future and the Avengers are trying to erase his achievement. He then secretly sends 2014 Nebula to the present.
With all the Infinity Stones collected in the present, Banner uses them to restore those whom Thanos disintegrated by putting them on a Stark Tech gauntlet (one of the most careless plot holes, since the previous movie established the uniqueness of the Infinity Gauntlet, which was made by Eitri using the power of a star). Banner barely manages to handle the power of the Infinity Stones, meanwhile, 2014 Nebula uses the time machine to transport Thanos and his ship to the present day, where he immediately attacks the Avengers’ compound. Rogers, Thor, and Stark confront Thanos. Captain America proves worthy to wield Mjölnir. However, Thanos overpowers them and summons his army to lay siege to Earth. Present-day Nebula convinces the 2014 version of her sister Gamora to betray Thanos, later killing the 2014 version of herself.
Now restored, Dr. Strange arrives with his fellow sorcerers, teleporting the other restored Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the armies of Asgard, Wakanda, and the Ravagers. They fight Thanos’ army alongside Captain Marvel and attempt to return the Infinity Stones to the past. Thanos seizes the Stones and plans to destroy and rebuild the universe. Stark steals the Stones back and disintegrates Thanos and his army, and later dies from the energy the Stones release (though he doesn’t seem to suffer as much as Hulk before snapping his fingers). Following Tony Stark’s funeral (no memorial for Black Widow), Thor appoints Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) as the Queen of New Asgard and joins the Guardians of the Galaxy. Rogers returns the Infinity Stones and Mjölnir to their original places in time. However, Captain America doesn’t immediately return to the present. He remains in the past to marry Peggy Carter and live out the rest of his life. In the present, an elderly Rogers passes on his shield to Falcon (Anthony Mackie) with the blessing of Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
The Russo brothers had a massive enterprise ahead of them and they really took the task by the horns. They have managed to balance what the Hollywood honchos want from the film with creativity, making the most of the actors I’ve seen in the franchise, especially regarding Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. This is a great send-off to these characters & their actors who have been the core of the MCU which perfectly closes their story arcs.
A notable exception is Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, who has been turned into a joke ever since Thor: Ragnarok and had a very uneven portrayal in the film (which could be a production mandate as he seems to be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise). He becomes the MCU’s “Big Lebowski” right after the dead serious attitude he had at the beginning of the film when he kills Thanos. This really was ‘The Last Jedi’ levels of “subversion”.
On the other hand, Karen Gillan’s Nebula shines with character development in this movie and is outstandingly portrayed by the actress. We’ll have to wait and see to figure out how is her grim personality going to work in the Guardians franchise. The Scarlett Johansson/Jeremy Renner duo have some of their best moments in the whole MCU, especially Hawkeye. And even though the end for their friendship is, basically, a plot hole, the strength of the acting and the emotional tension of the situation is strong enough to make you overlook the complications of the script.
The trailers didn’t give away almost anything this time around, and most of what they showed were scenes from the film’s opening. This helped a lot with the punches Endgame threw at the audience. Though I consider Infinity War a more competent, overall better film, the intensity was on the same level in this last one.
Avengers: Endgame is definitely something all audiences should check out, worthy of its status as a record-breaking pop culture event. Not without its flaws but with enough gusto and strength to be a fondly-remembered end of an era.
A final achievement by the Russo Brothers, unsung architects of the MCU, who leave in a very high note and puts the question on the table; will the MCU be able to keep up such momentum after all of these very important players in their universe are gone?