One of the most unique experiences I’ve had in a cinema was the end of Avengers: Infinity War. The palpable silence that followed, with everyone in the theater wondering if the movie was really over and the Avengers really lost was quite something. Unlike what I feel about whatever follows Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I was actually excited about this one. I had not been able to write a review on Avengers: Infinity War, so I’ll make up for it by doing this one.
Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of 11 years of countless things coming together. It’s over a decade of audiences tuning in, following every move and moment. Even if most haven’t seen all of the movies, the stories they told are in the zeitgeist. That’s what happens when the bandwagon is nuclear-powered.
The stakes have been set high before Avengers: Infinity War. After it, with the end of that movie having been so anticlimactic, the stage was set well for this film. Comparing these 3 hours to those 2.5 hours, I can say that Infinity War had a tighter and more focused narrative as it had a more singular objective, while this movie is all about tying up all the loose ends, seemingly at all cost.
That’s also what happens when time travel is involved in a story. Plot holes become inevitable and perhaps only the Back to the Future trilogy can be proud of being the only time travel movie that does it well enough to not make people think too hard about it.
NOTE: This is a full review, so here be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
This movie picked up from Avengers: Infinity War through three major acts:
- The first act was five years of dealing with their failure of stopping Thanos, living in a world with its population cut in half. Then Scott Lang accidentally came back (thanks to a rat) and shows a way to redeem themselves and they try to bring the band back together, convincing each of them that they can actually win this time.
- The second act was the time heist—going back in time to retrieve the Infinity Stones, with the promise that they’ll bring them back seconds later in those points in time to prevent fucking up that timeline.
- The third act is coming back to undo what Thanos did and subsequently having to fight against past Thanos, who inadvertently found out through Nebula of their attempt to undo what future him accomplished. They then celebrate their ultimate victory while reflecting on everything they lost along the way, including the deaths of Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff (and Vision for Wanda Maximoff; maybe Gamora’s memories of him for Peter Quill).
The main subject of contention here is the use of time travel. They went into the complexity to a certain point, then stopped before they got into parallel universes and multiverses and just kept it simple for the purposes of this particular story. This may become a sticking point if ever Disney decides to have the Marvel Cinematic Universe get into Marvel’s penchant for multiple universes.
Let’s take the fate of Captain America as an example of how messed up it really got.
Steve Rogers getting some of that life in the end creates what’s perhaps the biggest plot hole in this movie, in my opinion. After returning all the stones (and presumably Mjolnir), he went back to Peggy Carter and had a family with her. However, Peggy was also one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D. while Captain America was still a popsicle. You can easily surmise that in this timeline, there are two Steve Rogers—Popsicle Steve and Family Steve.
Can Popsicle Steve ever know about the existence of Family Steve? Does Peggy still work for S.H.I.E.L.D. after making babies with her Steve? Is Family Steve cucking Popsicle Steve? Why doesn’t Family Steve help prevent 9/11, or did he as a pensioner?
You can’t say people shouldn’t have thought too hard about the implications of time travel and what Steve did since that’s what happens when people get attached to characters. They will speculate on their ultimate fates and wonder about what could’ve happened if things went differently. Unfortunately, it quickly reveals one hell of a plot hole here.
Despite what Bruce Banner and the Ancient One concluded during their brief encounter, timelines do diverge and create new parallel universes with what they did. This is the trouble with time travel stories as you have to ignore stuff that theoretical physicists ponder and do complex math on for a living.
The official explanation for Family Steve showing up as an old man at the end is that he lived his life in an alternate reality and made one more jump to deliver his shield to Sam Wilson. I’ll take that, it’s a sufficient enough explanation given the information available. Good job by them using that comic book logic to bend space and time.
This is only a problem after watching the movie, so this is more of thinking about it. That actually can mean you liked it since you continue to remember the story, as for bad stories that you’d want to forget and not care about afterwards. The story of Avengers: Endgame does well enough on its own, despite the plot holes.
Here’s a not-so-brief rundown on most characters. I focus mostly on the characterization and whatever I can still remember about them from my first viewing.
I may not go in-depth with some of them. I also may not get everything right, I’m just working off of memory.
I’ve already whined enough about Captain America, so I’ll talk about what he did good for this film. Captain America is still my favorite origin movie of all MCU, even more than Iron Man, since it was the only one that sufficiently sold a story of going from strength to strength while the others go from weakness to strength.
If done wrong, Steve Rogers could’ve ended being another boring boy scout protagonist. However, his character development was done well throughout MCU and was even given enough levity to be relatable. All that build-up culminated in this film, with him and Natasha as the ones who gives the premise of reversing Thanos’ work some gas.
Iron Man proves to be a true hero by sacrificing himself, even if he had moved on since the conclusion of Infinity War. He had the most to lose, having married Pepper and becoming a father of a little girl. Despite that, he went from reluctant to being the one who ultimately ends the entire ordeal, but at the cost of his life. His loss was perhaps the most significant as Tony Stark was more or less the genesis of the MCU.
Meanwhile, Ant Man (Scott Lang) is the catalyst. It’s nice to see him get more screen time and character development. That or the real MVP award here goes to the rat.
Natasha Romanoff also gets the characterization she now deserves in this film. Her motivation is clear here—she sees the Avengers as her family and she would everything she can for them and their mission of bringing everyone back from oblivion. She then makes the ultimate sacrifice to obtain the Soul Stone. Her permanent loss adds weight to the ending.
A significant amount of time in the film had to expound on Hawkeye’s motivations since he was absent in Infinity War, which would’ve earned more resentment from the rest of the Avengers if they weren’t so distracted. He did lose his family, which led to his descent into homicidal madness, but he does get onboard and the movie even shows that his relationship with Natasha was deep enough for her loss to be a tremendous blow to him. But the phone call that he receives with Bruce snapping everyone back makes for a completion of his mini-redemption arc.
The Big Thorbowski is someone a lot of people can relate to, including myself. As someone who also experienced significant weight gain after a major bout of depression, I feel for Thor’s inability to get over his failure. He’s a god, yet couldn’t prevent Thanos from enacting his plan because he made one blunder, as well as the death of his parents and the destruction of his homeworld. He had already been under so much stress and trauma prior to Infinity War, and “not going for the head” was simply his breaking point.
Somehow, I like a Hulk that doesn’t smash. This Merged Hulk isn’t hurr-durr enough to remind me immediately of Gar, the World’s Smartest Orc in Arcanum, but can draw some comparisons to Beast of the X-Men. Perhaps in the future, with the X-Men now acquired by Disney, we’ll see a Beast and Hulk interaction.
Rocket is my favorite MCU character even before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and his appearance here was fairly solid as he and War Machine both contribute to the overall effort. Falcon (Sam Wilson) and Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes) need to have their own buddy cop movie together. Now that Sam is effectively christened as the new Captain America, we may get just that. It’s also good that Anthony Mackie is well past being Clarence from 8 Mile.
Spider Man (Peter Parker) also gets some good screen time at the end as Tony Stark finally shows that they’re there with their relationship. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange is more like a quest-critical NPC here. His decision to just give up the Time Stone to Thanos in Infinity War serve as both clue and reminder of that one chance they have to make it all work.
Nebula makes me scratch my head here. She was great in Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and she’s pretty good here too. But as far as her redemption arc goes, this film gives her a second chance at making it up to her sister as she meets past Gamora and later joins her in betraying Thanos a second time while having to deal with past Nebula.
Her killing past Nebula was perplexing since it was yet another time paradox red flag. I thought present Nebula was going to fade away all of a sudden, but that somehow didn’t happen.
The Thanos in this movie is a different character than the one in Infinity War. This Thanos never faced the challenges that the Thanos who ends up being killed in his hut would overcome. This was a Thanos who was still dreaming of a “grateful universe,” not yet close to achieving it. This was a Thanos who hasn’t yet felt the pain of sacrificing his wayward daughter Gamora to obtain the Soul Stone. Therefore, this Thanos should be a weaker character.
And yet, in the final battle, this Thanos was beating the shit out of Captain America, iron Man, and Thor, without wearing any Infinity Stones. Meanwhile, in Infinity War, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, et al were able to hang with him, even when he had 4 Infinity Stones on the gauntlet. That’s an inconsistency I can’t get past.
The Gamora who showed up in this movie reminds me of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, wherein the protagonist’s love interest falls to her death to save him (not exactly what happens to Gamora in Infinity War) and he goes back in time to bring her back, but at the condition that it would be her past self who has never known him.
Those are the only ones I can bring up for this review. Other than a few gripes, I felt that the cast did their best work for this final go for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A majority of the decisions made by the directors were commendable. From how they fit everything into three hours and made almost every second worth it, balancing all the subplots and major character arts, converging everything into the last 45 minutes of the film, and how they ended it with a neat little bow—they all deserve much merit.
With that said, being a movie meant to tie everything up, it had to juggle multiple subplots at once and swerve left and right to give them equal focus and tie up loose ends. There are also certain moments that they must have thought were necessary to establish character motivations further, like when Steve inadvertently entered Peggy’s office in the 70s and saw her in the flesh.
While I can say they didn’t waste too much time with them since they also explained character motivations adequately, there were at least half a dozen characters that needed that focus. What they did here to create satisfying payoffs for each is nothing short of amazing, but it does mean this movie isn’t as tight as the one that preceded it.
There’s also that one somewhat questionable part in the final battle that I raise an eyebrow on, but that’s only because I’m most likely not the intended audience. Perhaps it even preludes a future movie with that audience particularly in mind.
Both the music chosen for the end credits and the lack of a mid and post-credits scene—an MCU signature—were poignant. In the end, this movie is all about payoff and fanservice, and it mostly succeeds in pleasing a fanbase that is notoriously fickle.
- Picks up from where Infinity War left off without too much fluff
- Light post-apocalyptic tone at the start
- Passable use of time travel
- Scott Lang is not just a patsy anymore
- Twists/surprises set up by previous films
- Payoff in final 45 minutes
- Ending is not without cost
- Ties up loose ends
- Great send-off for major cast members
- Juggles several things at once
- Time travel simplified for narrative convenience and creates plot holes
- Captain Marvel: The character with the least build-up and development
- Different Thanos compared to Infinity War
- Color grading on final battle could be better
- Some characters don't get their own moments
- Not enough interaction between characters of different series
This score is from having watched most of the MCU films that led up to this point. Without over a decade of following this franchise, it would’ve been at least a point lower. It would’ve still been good, but context is important for this movie.
Why it's not a 9 is due to all the little things that had been there since the earlier phases. Building something like this takes a lot of careful planning, but that care can't be consistent throughout the whole time.
Avengers: Endgame is as good as they can get with a conclusion to over a decade of build-up. It’s not entirely perfect, but it’s the best you can ever hope for. Audiences had to endure a lot of mediocre Marvel films to get to this one, and perhaps it can be said that for the most part, it's indeed worth it.
I pointed out a fair number of gripes here, but what bothers me won't necessarily make me hate something. That's for later, like with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If those gripes continue to bother me, I'll give an update. For me, a review is never really finished as I believe the experience continues past the fad. After all, this blog is all about exploring that experience.
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Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below.