SPOILER TALK – Avengers: Endgame

It’s been at least a few weekends since Avengers: Endgame premiered to the world and I’ve wanted the chance to talk about this movie in a greater detail. In this write-up I’ll be going through my personal highlights and favourite moments as well address a few criticisms the internet is fixating on.

THIS WRITE-UP CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS so if you are one of the few who have yet to see Endgame then I suggest you STOP READING NOW.

Mind you the spoiler ban has been lifted and Endgame is also the fastest film to reach US$2 billion at the worldwide box office (in just 11 days) so probably enough of you saw it already.

THE “SPOILER BAN” HAS BEEN LIFTED

As I mentioned in my review the other week, I absolutely loved this film and it’s the most satisfying movie I’ve ever experienced. I’ve seen it twice, still itching to go a third time, and both occasions it really did hold up for me.

I also said that it’s important to delineate between what you didn’t like and what didn’t work. Sure they can sometimes overlap but more often than not they’re not the same thing.

Having said that, amongst all the amazing moments I do have a small list of nitpicks (I always do). Most of which can be explained away or made less problematic but at the end of the day, for me at least, they don’t ruin my satisfaction or overall love of the movie.

The Avengers movies have always existed slightly outside of the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s story telling formula. The first Avengers film was a party in honour of its own existence, Infinity War was a celebration of the entire MCU. Endgame was a love letter to the fans.

Tony and Steve
Captain America: Civil War sits in my top five favourites of the MCU most notably because it’s our heroes at their worst. Tony was a guilt-ridden, Scarlet Witch-induced paranoid mess sacrificing freedom for security and Steve, falling for his own hype, turned arrogant and sanctimonious. These are actually very much in-character progressions that made sense at that point in time.

“Do you trust me?”

Their reunion and confrontation, while some have claimed was overdue, sits perfectly in Endgame because it needed to happen after a major catastrophe. Not only does that make Tony’s outburst at Steve after his return to Earth understandable, it also (and I’m perhaps the only one that thinks this) makes him right. While Steve wasn’t wrong in standing up for what he believed in, he did break his promise that they would face any adversity “together”. Had they not been fragmented by the events of Civil War (not just the Sokovia Accords, which neither side was wrong about, but by the secret that Zemo uncovered, etc.) they might have had a better shot at defeating Thanos.

From the moment Tony figures out time travel (yes, as simple as that) the rest of the film is filled with moments where these two are trying to make amends with one another: Tony is always looking to Steve to approve the next course of action and Steve is always deferring to Tony for his intellect. Both rebuilding and reassuring one another of the trust they had lost all while working together for a common good.

It was a wonderful way to tie up that part of their relationship arc.

“So Back to the Future is a bunch of bullshit?”
Time travel stories are always a tough one to navigate but I appreciated the hell out of the effort put into Endgame in explaining how it works in the MCU (admittedly it took a little longer, and with help, to get my own head around one aspect from later in the film that had to overcome a lifetime of science fiction).

I don’t avoid a lot of news and info about a film and I didn’t go out in search of every ounce of info either. So I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised by the appearance of The Ancient One (in all fairness I may have simply forgotten Tilda Swinton’s addition was announced).

The Ancient One astral punches Bruce out of his new body.

In the home release of Infinity War, the writers and directors talk about a concept they called “strange alchemy”. It was a method by which they decided what character meetings and team ups would create the most interesting scenes. Having Bruce Banner and The Ancient One establishing the rules of time travel in the MCU, where science and mysticism come together, was a really cool moment (it also helps with their other rule in that scenes do more than one thing).

The act of time travel itself wasn’t just a “convenient solution” in Endgame, it allowed for copious amounts of welcomed fan service and took us on a trip down memory lane to re-experience some favourites (the first Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy) as well as re-contextualise lesser entries (Thor: The Dark World).

What’s wonderful about their revisit of the Chitauri invasion of New York of 2012 is that within those scenes the filmmakers seemed to emulate the Joss Whedon tone of that movie (Banner not really being into smashing stuff because he thinks it’s “gratuitous”, the Whedonist babbling levity and jokes). Similar with Nebula and Rhodey being on the planet Morag waiting for Star-Lord, and watching from the outside of his “musical entrance” in Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as Rhodey’s Temple of Doom pop culture reference is very James Gunn in the contrast and absurdity.

On top of that, despite the current strides in visual effects technology as well as the digs at Back to the Future, those scenes are filmed like Back to the Future (or filmed like many of the time travel stories we’ve become accustomed to over the decades). Scenes we’re familiar with from previous movies are shot from an alternate POV just like Back to the Future II including in a manner that hides the face of “body doubles” (even if they didn’t use body doubles, it simply conveys the same feeling we’re accustomed to).

Stepping up
Many complained that certain characters were underutilised in Infinity War completely ignoring the balancing act that was required there as well as it being only half of a larger story.

In any case I was pleased to see Hawkeye get a more substantial role in Endgame. I was perhaps one of the few people that really appreciated the reveal of his family in Age of Ultron as it added variety and depth to a cast of heroes who are otherwise unattached. Having that continue and play out in Endgame was one of the many emotional anchors of this film: the loss of his family to the “snap”, his spiral as the vigilante Ronin, his relationship with Nat.

However the real MVP in terms of story (as well as performance) goes to Nebula. Over the course of the two Guardians of the Galaxy films she goes from being a villain hating her “sister” Gamora and trying to prove herself in the eyes of Thanos, to finally reconciling with Gamora and having a sister. But that’s not the end of her arc as Endgame continues that by showing us how does someone raised (and abused) to essentially be an attack dog suddenly deal with getting along with other people for a greater good.

A quiet moment that also re-enforces Rocket’s development as a character who cares.

Her time stranded on the Benatar in space with Tony is the first sign that she is becoming more than she was (someone else pointed out her reaction to being rewarded for her competitiveness for the first time). When you watch her interact with the other Avengers she’s still learning to get along with them but is doing so with little trepidation. And that develops along the course of the movie until she has to make a decision in the moment to shoot her past self (symbolic of her transformation).

Love letter to the fans…
Endgame is full of the aforementioned fan service, a term which has turned dirty in recent years mainly because it’s so poorly done in too many films. But for the most part the MCU has been good with this treating it as a reward for fans. Endgame is pretty much a huge reward. In fact this is perhaps the best and most perfect example of fan service ever!

“She’s got help.”
Not including all the extrapolations done thanks to trailers, news announcements, and merchandise (Professor Hulk was pretty much a given looking at the toy), I made THREE predictions about what this film would feature and got two and a half of them correct. One of the one’s I got correct was the tableau of all the women in the final battle that many are calling the “Girl Power” moment. And I fucking loved it!

Some have complained saying it was “forced” or “pandering” but honestly did these people watch the rest of the film? Others have complained that it wasn’t earned and was tokenistic, which I don’t agree with but I can see how they arrived at that.

This moment wasn’t just about fan service. It was a deliberate statement to the more toxic elements of the audience that are trying desperately to gate keep and maintain the “boys club”. It was a statement about the future of the MCU as well as media and the world. When you witness how loudly many of them whine and throw tantrums at the slightest hint of progressiveness, it was vital that a statement like this be made.

And if you can’t let people enjoy that, well there’s no helping you.

America’s Ass
Before I get to that joke, the Russo Brothers have stated that they love to subvert expectations every now and then, which is born from their love of film, and one of the best examples in Endgame was their set up for recreating the famous elevator scene from The Winter Soldier… and then:

Woop! There it is!

Again, scenes are meant to do more than one thing so not only is it a cheeky reference to the recent controversy in the comics, it’s also an example of the Captain’s growth as a character. Instead of punching his way out of a problem, he used his wit and foreknowledge to accomplish what he needed. This was further demonstrated by his encounter with his past self, which provided that contrast.

2012 Steve was slightly more impulsive than the slightly grizzled, post-snap Rogers. The former still probably coming down from the adrenaline of the recent battle and on high alert, and even susceptible to the easiest of distractions.

Oh and of course, the line that is pretty much a tribute to the fans and the way they talk about that specific star-spangled uniform…

Return of the King
One of the best comparisons I’ve heard about Endgame was calling it a less bloated Return of the King and it’s orgasmic battle scenes like this that earn that comparison.

Honestly, there are so many little moments that I absolutely loved but that would just end up with me retelling 90% of the film.

Tony’s Sacrifice
My second prediction (based on early info that the Avengers would be hunting down the Infinity Stones) was that Tony would be the one to wield any new gauntlet made, which pretty much happened with him wielding all the stones thanks to his armour’s nanotech. And that leads to my third guess…

“I am Iron Man.”

In the first Avengers movie, Steve says to Tony:

“The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.”

And once upon a time that would have been 100% true… until he personally escorted a nuke through a portal into space above New York. But Tony has been restless ever since. What began has a way to make amends for his ego and arrogance turned into utilising his intellect to do good. His whole drive has been to protect the ones he loves.

“I love you 3000.”

And he really struggled with this in Endgame. He didn’t want to get involved with anything that was going to alter what he had finally gained with Pepper. All this time there was always this pressure for him to not do anything that would get him killed (which is why the Ultron program existed in the first place, to take *people* out of harms way). But he, as well as Pepper, ultimately realised that him going “back into battle” to protect all that he had built (family, not just Pepper and Morgan) was the only way he could rest.

When you consider the strain all six Infinity Stones exerted on Thanos, you can only imagine the effect it would have on Tony.

As a fan of Iron Man, quite fully on #TeamIronMan during Civil War, and Tony Stark being one of my top favourites in the MCU, I was perfectly content with his death. It made sense considering his arc over the last 11 years. Like so much else in this film it was earned and was a perfect way to cap off this saga.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man and it was going to be saved by him.

Another favourite moment.

I forgot to add that my third guess I only got half right, that BOTH Tony and Steve would die in this film. However, having them both “written” out is fairly close.

As I said before I have a few nitpicks with this film. It may be a perfect ending to this part of the Marvel saga but it’s not quite a perfect film. However, most of the issues I had with Endgame were either so minuscule to be a problem or took a little longer (and a little discussion with more attentive friends) to process.

The past two weeks have been a bit frustrating seeing the online discussions about this movie. So many bad takes and out of context analysis getting in the way of the enjoyment of this movie. That’s not to say that many of the criticisms being brought up aren’t valid it’s just they require a tad more thought and don’t necessarily fall into the “thing good” or “thing bad” baskets.

Worthy
I figured they weren’t going to ever answer this question when we saw Mjolnir destroyed by Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. So I completely set it aside even when older Thor summoned it during his time travel jaunt with Rocket to a not-yet-destroyed Asgard. So yeah Captain America finally being able to wield Mjolnir during the final battle definitely caught me off guard and I loved it.

“I knew it!”

The biggest problem I have is with the talk surrounding Steve’s “worthiness” with many proclaiming that he was always worthy and in that famous scene in Age Of Ultron he was just pretending to not be able to lift Mjolnir as to avoid hurting Thor’s ego. It’s a sentiment backed up by the Russo Brothers.

Unfortunately, the Russos didn’t write or direct that movie so they can’t go all “J.K Rowling” on it. And while his opinion doesn’t hold much water these days, Joss Whedon doesn’t actually have a definitive answer mainly because it wasn’t important at the time.

The problem with claiming Steve was worthy this whole time is that it trivialises the secret he was keeping about his brainwashed friend being responsible for the death of the parents of his other friend. Steve found this out during The Winter Soldier but it was Zemo who forced it into light in Civil War (the real core of the conflict and their fragmentation). You could argue that the good Captain was trying to protect both his friends from the truth but I would submit that doing so would deny Tony the chance to have closure on his trauma as well as prevent Bucky from making amends.

I personally don’t think that at the end of Civil War Steve instantly became “worthy”. No, I’ll tell you the exact moment I think that happened and it’s much later than you think:

RIGHT HERE!

Steve and Tony go back to 1970 to steal more Pym Particles and the Tesseract from the underground SHIELD bunker. Upon success, Steve is hiding off to the side while Tony is having his moment with his father, a younger Howard Stark. Steve witnesses Tony finally having closure with his dad.

For everything Captain America has gone though, the changes he’s undergone as a character (the more swearing he does in this film, ha!), Steve has a conscience and more than anything else that is what defines him as a hero.

Of course that’s just my head canon but it makes a helluva lot more sense.

Speaking of worthy…

The Big Lebowski
One of the biggest reveals (and reactions) in Endgame was seeing Thor of five years later had let himself go after killing Thanos in the movie’s opening. His hair grown out, stuck at home drinking copious amounts of beer. He was no longer the chiselled love child of a pirate and an angel but looking like, as Rocket points out, “melted ice cream”.

People have quite rightly expressed their outrage at Chris Hemsworth putting on a fat suit and playing this for laughs because it does set a dangerous precedent when the biggest film in the world is allowed to get away with something so crass (we’ve seen in the past where this kind of “humour” can lead).

But that’s taken in isolation. When you examine what Thor goes through in this movie, I won’t say it outright exonerates the choice but there’s much more to consider here than declaring “thing bad”.

His body is one part of the external manifestation of his spiral, his guilt and PTSD at failing not only his people but the universe by not killing Thanos the first time in Infinity War (to have him still in great shape even under a lot of clothes to hide it dilutes the effect).

As he struggles throughout most of this film with that guilt, Thor’s physique is not the focus of his struggle. It’s his mental state that needs “repairing”, his guilt and self esteem is what is preventing him from overcoming the hump and that is highlighted by his pep talk with his mother, Frigga. And it apparently worked as he was able to summon the still-intact-Mjolnir in the past.

SIDE NOTE: For anyone that has expressed that they “ruined” Thor in ‘Endgame’ after his development in ‘Ragnarok’ has admitted that they don’t understand how character progression works. It’s not always a straight line, there are peaks and troughs, some days are harder than others. Thor keeps getting knocked down and he’s not always going to get back up as quickly nor in the way you think.

As an overweight bloke myself, what I appreciated the most about this was that they kept him fat, or cuddly, or rotund, or chubby, or whatever else you prefer. There was no exercise montage and they didn’t magically make him svelte and muscular again. He goes into the final battle hell for leather looking more like a Norse god than he ever has.

In fact, other larger blokes online were expressing their appreciation about this, “feeling seen” for the first time, some even glad they can comfortably cosplay Thor with their physiques. Now keep in mind this is not a good example of representation in media because it still is a performer in a fat suit but if this problematic fakery can make some people feel good then how positive actual real representation will be.

None of this shuts down the original criticism, it’s still a legitimate concern and not a case of people being “too sensitive”. It’s still problematic despite its intentions but it is something that requires more thought and contextual consideration.

A soul for a soul
Although we knew there would be some major deaths in Endgame, I’m not sure anyone properly guess that Black Widow would be amongst them considering they have plans for a solo film coming up. So her sacrifice came as a surprise to many when her and Hawkeye went to retrieve the Soul Stone on Vormir.

But there are a few issues that people have brought up, which are actually very simple to explain. For example, many claim that the Avengers had to have known beforehand what the requirements were for retrieving the Soul Stone because Nebula would have told them.

Unfortunately, everyone has forgotten that Nebula was only aware that Thanos went to Vormir with Gamora but came back with only the stone. Thanos only admits, while under Mantis’ mind control, that he “had to” kill her. It’s reasonable for the others to assume that Gamora died trying to stop him. Nowhere is it established that he passes on the knowledge of the process of retrieval on Vormir. So of course they went in blind.

And in regard to the rules on Vormir, its guardian Red Skull informs us:

“To ensure that whoever possesses it understands its power, the stone demands a sacrifice…. In order to take the stone, you must lose that which you love. A soul for a soul.”

Most people are stuck on that last part, so when Steve, at the end of the movie, has to return the stones to their place in the timeline many are speculating that this means he can retrieve Natasha. But Red Skull only ever explains what is needed to retrieve the Soul Stone and never establishes the rules for putting it back so there’s no rule to say you have to get something in return (it’s like trying to return an item you bought but being offered store credit instead of your money back). In fact this has been backed up by the writers.

The biggest and most understandable criticism of this death is that it is yet another female character being killed off (ignoring that Gamora “comes back” from this technically). Unfortunately, from a narrative perspective, Nat’s sacrifice makes horrible sense in terms of her overall arc.

Somewhat similar to Tony, Natasha Romanoff’s story has been one about redemption (a running theme of many characters in the MCU) for all the death and pain she cause once upon a time. But it has also been about clearing a debt… mainly to Clint.

For Hawkeye to die would mean Nat fails in her goal (especially if they succeed in bringing everyone back, Clint’s family would be without a father). Sure that would make for an even more tragic twist but Endgame is mostly about tying up loose ends and bringing story arcs to their logical conclusion.

This scene is also important in creating a distinct contrast to the relationship between Thanos and Gamora. Out of the original line up of Avengers, the platonic love between Nat and Clint is the most meaningful of relationships and is something that either of them would lay down their life for the other as opposed to the delusional and abusive love felt by Thanos towards his “daughter” (people have tried to argue that Thanos didn’t really love Gamora but that ignores his delusion and messiah complex… he believes it well enough).

Nick Fury may have brought this lot together but Nat is the glue that holds the OG team together: She was Tony’s connection to this new world of spies and heroes, Steve’s closest working partner since he came out of the ice, then there’s the romance with Bruce Banner (that I seem to be the only one that didn’t have a problem with it), and of course the friendship with Clint. Thor is perhaps the only outlier, which is reflected by his lack of sadness while the others were mourning her by the lakeside.

Black Widow in the MCU has copped a lot of shite over the last decade in particular being forgotten from the merch and this understandably stings for many fans. In terms of optics it’s not ideal, my rationale doesn’t necessarily explain away the criticisms, but this made very tragic sense.

Also remember what I said about the difference between what you don’t like and what doesn’t work? That it hurts and you don’t like it may be part of the point.

Steve’s Happily Ever After
A lot has been made about this by fans and the biggest point of contention can’t even be agreed on by the makers of the movie.

At the end of Endgame Steve goes back in time once more to return the stones (and Mjolnir) to their respective points in history. To the shock of Banner and co he doesn’t return like he’s meant to. We find out that he stays in the past, reunites with Peggy Carter and lives the life that he missed out on due to being frozen in the ice for 70 years.

There are major ramifications: did Steve alter history or does it sit within what we already know?

Even the directors and writers of Endgame are split on this one (although it must be noted that the Russo Brothers have openly admitted they like it when people are discussing their films so…).

Courtesy of Fandom

Either way it appears selfish doesn’t it?

The Russo’s suggesting that the good Captain’s actions creates an alternate timeline is the most simple of answers but it’s also surprisingly not very imaginative. It does however set up the next phase of the MCU to tackle the idea of alternate timelines, in the similar way both Ant-Man and Doctor Strange set up the quantum realm.

The quote by Christopher Markus, one of the writers, is a tad clumsy in presenting the other case but it also offers a far more compelling and later simpler solution despite how complex it may end up sounding.

Strap on your scuba gear because this is a deep dive…

People are assuming that an alternate timeline is being created not by Cap’s mere presence in the past but that marrying Peggy he destroys the life we’re told she had after he went missing in the ice and she had to move on.

We are TOLD that she moved on.

In The Winter Soldier, Steve watches an interview with Carter at the Smithsonian where she talks about meeting her husband who was part of the team rescued by Captain America. We then cut to an elder Peggy and beside her table to old photos of her and her kids.

Here’s the thing about working for a secret government organisation: keeping secrets and telling lies is pretty much in the job description especially when it comes to the fate of the world.

Imagine knowing the future but having to keep it hush or else it won’t happen (remember Doctor Strange said that same thing about the 14 million or so possible futures he witnessed).

The only other proof we have of this family are the old black and white photos on Peggy’s bedside table. There’s no photo of her husband and we never find out more about him (most likely to leave as a question to be teased and answered in the Agent Carter TV series)

So there are a couple of ways this could pan out: Steve went back in time to the late 1940’s and was the husband Peggy alluded to and those are actually his kids in the photos. Or Peggy did indeed move on and started a family with someone but something happened to him and Steve came along after that and then Peggy remarried this time to Steve and he became a stepfather to those kids (If those photos are legit mind you, we see her niece Sharon Carter aka Agent 13 give a Eulogy at her funeral in Civil War not Peggy’s kids).

The timeline works out too. The two seasons of Agent Carter are set in 1946 and 1947 and in that series they did tease a couple of possible romances. Imagine if in 1948 she did marry and have kids and then give that interview in 1953 that was shown at the Smithsonian. Steve could have popped in to the mid 1950’s, because the only car we see in the establishing shot still existed during that decade, and he could have picked up from there.

This does bring up the issue of Steve Rogers, a man with a conscience as well as perhaps some foreknowledge of the future, could sit back and let the horrible aspects of history unfold or even just sit back and not be Captain America in general (let’s face it, he doesn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of history his time spent on the internet was catching up with pop culture according to his little notebook).

Well again it’s about staying out of history’s way for the greater good. If he interferes with it in a major way then how can you be sure things won’t be much worse? If you take down Hydra ahead of time then does that ensure SHIELD remains as is? Does Nick Fury still become Director without Alexander Pierce to appoint him? Do the Avengers still form? And so on and so forth…

But if we go with the Russo’s theory that Cap creates a new timeline then he may have continued his adventures as a superhero and perhaps indeed created a future that did work out well enough for him to pop back and give Falcon his shield. A shield that was not scratched up by Black Panther in Civil War and one that was not broken by Thanos because they intercepted that threat before it became a thing.

But what if he did stay hidden, remained in the main timeline to appear on that bench at the lakeside? Where did that shield come from? Remember it was broken in half during the final battle.

Well the next part is a bone of contention when I floated it because I heard something completely different from everyone else it seems.

When Tony and Steve make peace outside Avengers HQ, he gives Steve his shield back. Now, it’s easy to just think that’s the original one, it’s the one Steve dumped back in Siberia after the fight they had and Tony said his father made that and that Steve didn’t deserve it.

Now I appear to be the only one but when Tony takes the shield out of the boot of his car I heard him say, “I made it for you.”

Everyone else heard, “He made it for you” and that’s perfectly reasonable as it would refer to Howard Stark. And admittedly, having spent two days watching over and over again on loop various clips online, that first syllable is a tad mumbled.

But why would he say “He made it for you” instead of “My dad made it for you” or “Howard made it for you”?

So, maybe Tony made a new one instead of buffing out the scratches made by T’Challa’s claws in Civil War and repainting it, that’s even if he bothered to take the one that was dumped in Siberia. Think back to Spider-Man: Homecoming (set after Civil War) where Happy Hogan is packing up Avengers Tower and he rattles off a few items, one of which is “prototype for Cap’s new shield”.

OR (and this is even simpler) Old Steve simply went to someone with a cache of vibranium and asked him to make a new shield at some point (Maybe he took a trip to Wakanda, or someone who had a melted down Ultron). Either way… shields.

Honestly, I am more than happy to be proven wrong on this either by the script or DVD subtitles.

By the way, Sam was a great and obvious choice to take on the Captain America mantle from here on end. He’s been pretty dedicated to being a good guy from the moment we meet him and has shown to be rather capable. Bucky, having only recently been deprogrammed from HYDRA’s influence, still needs time to atone.

Oh by they way, speaking of which… BUCKY FUCKING KNEW!!!

Just before Steve hops onto the quantum realm device, he and Bucky exchange a goodbye and Bucky specifically says, “I’m going to miss you, buddy.”

Now there are two ways that Bucky had this knowledge: The two of them actually discussed this at some point before Steve’s mission to return the stones or Bucky ran into Steve in the past. He turns away from the platform with a knowing smirk when Steve doesn’t return as he was supposed to and seems at peace instead of panicked.

~

Anyway, this mammoth write-up pretty much covers what I have to say on this, I just needed to get most of it recorded down somewhere.

For the multitude of issues many people have, a few of them are legit concerns and people have every right to air them as long as the criticism is genuine and in good faith. I see too many claims of the film being overstuffed but that simply tells me they didn’t watch it and just assumed such based on how Infinity War was. There are problematic elements that really do need to be avoided in future or else other less nuanced productions will try to repeat these elements without understanding them.

I absolutely loved Endgame and while it’s not without it’s niggling flaws I cannot wait for the blu-ray release to watch again and again.

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This took two weeks to write and research so if you enjoyed my ramblings please help support me by heading to ko-fi.com/oldtrenchy and by me a coffee or ten!

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