Written by David Holland
We made it. This is the culmination of more than 10 years of foundation laid by the Marvel Cinematic Universe starting with Iron Man and Nick Fury’s declaration that the universe was much, much bigger than just Tony Stark. Like Infinity War, Endgame is an achievement. It has quite a bit of heavy lifting to do in order to reverse The Snap(TM), but it has an impressive three hours in which to do it. I’m not usually one for speculation ahead of big movies, preferring to be surprised, but even I engaged in some theorizing around Endgame. I thought that 1) Gamorra was alive in the Soul Stone, 2) Nebula would wear the Gauntlet at one point, and 3) Adam Warlock would make an appearance. For those keeping score at home, I was 0-3 on Endgame theories.
This was always the goal. Thanos first appeared in the post-credits scene in Avengers, and both the Tesseract and the Mind Stone (at the time just called Loki’s staff) were used to lay the foundation for the Infinity Stones. The other stones appeared slowly, and Thanos was sprinkled throughout in other post-credits scenes and with a larger role in the Guardians of the Galaxy. As I said in Infinity War, the previous Avengers installments were like Act One and Infinity War was Act Two. Now we are finally to Act Three.
The Russo Brothers returned to direct, which makes sense because Infinity War and Endgame were filmed back to back over the course of 200 days. Because this movie takes place after The Snap, for most of its run time the cast is actually pared down. That helps tell one more consistent story instead of focusing on the many disparate threads of Infinity War. The main focus is mostly on the original Avengers, which is not an accident. A few others from the MCU that did not appear in Infinity War do show up for Endgame including Valkyrie, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Wasp, and Captain Marvel.
How Does it Hold Up?
I love this movie. I know I was critical of Infinity War, maybe more than I intended, but I think Endgame is genuinely awesome. I remember there being several times that I was not sure what would happen next which is my absolute favorite feeling when I am watching a movie (side note: this is why I’m not big on prequels – “I wonder what’s gonna happen? I bet everything falls into place for the story we saw already”). As I said above, the pared down cast for most of the movie gives us one story to follow – the “Time Heist”.
Previously I said that I don’t care about the “Why doesn’t Thanos double the resources” argument because, well, I don’t. I also don’t care that the time travel logic doesn’t work. I understand that people say “If you make rules in your universe you should be consistent and follow them” but also there’s a guy who turns tiny which some how allows time travel and a metal shield that boomerangs so I’m over it.
Infinity War was Thanos’ story, which was by design and was also why it was sooooooooo dark. But “Endgame” is really the Avengers’ story. We revisit early films from different angles, Thor gets closure with his mother when he revisits the time of “Dark World”, and we are reminded of Quill before he was a Guardian and had matured. We see their past adventures in a new light and retrace their steps as they collect the Infinity Stones themselves.
I still don’t like Vormir. I think it’s lazy writing and a cheap emotional punch. Black Widow deserved better.
The last hour of the movie is devoted to the final battle and its aftermath. Everyone gets an opportunity to shine here. We follow the gauntlet around from hero to hero and watch everyone use their skills and powers to defend humanity. Everything from the moment Thanos arrives in the present is a pure, epic, MCU battle on the scale of The Two Towers but with superheroes. Instead of breaking it down scene by scene, let me touch on two things:
1) The Superman problem – Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel are so absurdly powerful that it makes them difficult to put in an ensemble movie. That’s why Doctor Strange gets distracted keeping a broken dam from flooding everything and Captain Marvel has to spend two and a half hours somewhere in space. I don’t know that this is a complaint, it’s just something I noticed.
2) “That one scene…” – Most people who have a problem with Endgame have the same problem, and they always describe it as “That one scene. You know… with the girls.” Which feels weird. No one ever complains about that one scene with all the guys. You know, that one. The only one scene that focused on just guys. You know the one I’m talking about? No? Interesting. Maybe representation is important and seeing powerful female characters matters. If you’re complaint is that it wasn’t subtle, I will just remind you that we are talking about Marvel movies! They are many things but subtle is not one of them.
Let’s clarify who is in this scene: Captain Marvel, who is so strong she is only hurt when Thanos punches her with an infinity stone; Valkyrie, an Asgardian honor guard; Scarlet Witch, who would have defeated Thanos if he hadn’t been forced to bomb his own troops; Gamorra & Nebula, most feared assassins in the galaxy; Mantis, so powerful she previously disabled Thanos; Shuri, who rivals the invention power of Banner and Stark; Okoye, honor guard in the most technologically advanced nation; and Pepper Potts/Rescue who is wearing a superweapon. This is not the JV team. This is real power.
Theme: “Whatever it takes…”
Doctor Strange told Tony Stark at the end of Infinity War that they had only one chance at victory out of the fourteen million he foresaw and then he gave Thanos the last Infinity Stone. That sets the Avengers on the path of Endgame, which is essentially the last X-Wing in the Death Star trench about to take a shot with no targeting computer. “Whatever it takes” is Cap’s final message before the Time Heist, it’s one of the last things Black Widow says before her sacrifice on Vormir. That same sentiment is clearly on Hulk’s mind when he puts on the Gauntlet which may kill him. When Thanos arrives in the present, he announces that if he gets the Stones again he won’t stop at half the universe, he will completely erase all life and start the universe over as its god. This means when Tony makes his last grab for the Gauntlet and lifts the Stones in the process he is echoing Cap’s sentiment – this is the only way they win. Whatever it takes.
In between finishing the movie for this rewatch and sitting down to write this, Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer. I Rebel is going to release a tribute article to Boseman (may have already, time is weird), but let me say this: When Captain America stands alone against Thanos and his entire army and a portal opens behind him the first people he sees are Okoye, Shuri, and King T’Challa. This choice was intentional and was the right choice. By the end of the Civil War, T’Challa came to respect Steve Rogers and had enough compassion to use Wakanda’s resources to rehabilitate Bucky. Through the Infinity War, King T’Challa never lost sight of his faith in Cap and even allowed the final battle to take place in Wakanda, because he knew it was the only nation on earth that could stand up to Thanos. Black Panther’s appearance in this movie sparked cheers in theaters worldwide because the Black Panther is a symbol of black royalty, black independence, and black strength.