Avengers: Endgame is out, eleven years after the first Iron Man movie kicked off the Marvel cinematic universe. Forming the capstone to a twenty-two movie story arc is a pretty tall order. Let’s see how it fared.
What came before
A lot happened in the twenty-one movies that came before. Ten of them introduced super heroes and the Avengers movies put those superheroes together. However, instead of stand-alone stories, all those movies also changed the status quo of the Marvel universe. This leaves Endgame with the momentous task of tying this multi-headed interwoven changeling beast off with a pretty ribbon.
Now, in this next section I am going to spoil several of the previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not Avengers: Endgame, I’ll do that at the end. You have been warned.
It all began with Captain America’s girlfriend Carter starting S.H.I.E.L.D. with Tony Stark’s father (see the Captain America movie). Agent Nick Fury started the Avengers Initiative to protect Earth from the universe fifty years later (see Captain Marvel). The first Avengers movie shows Nick Fury pulling the members of the Avengers Initiative together to stop Loki. Loki steals a mysterious energy source, the the Tesseract, and tries to open a wormhole to let in an alien army. During the credits it turns out Loki was actually working for a mysterious villain. This same villain turns out to be Thanos, the antagonist in Endgame. As the movies progress more mysterious artifacts of power reveal themselves and Thanos takes the stage.
The order of things is overthrown when Hydra overthrows S.H.I.E.L.D. inCaptain America 2. In Captain America 3 (which should have been Avengers 2 instead of the actual Avengers 2 in my book), Captain America and Iron Man come to blows and tear the Avengers apart as well.
That finally brings us to Avengers 3, that sees Iron Man and Captain America each take on Thanos in their own way. And, scarily, Thanos wins, destroying half of the life in the known universe. How’s that for a setup?
Endgame starts where Avengers 3 left off. Half the universe is dead. Thanos vanishes. Now what?
Well, I won’t go into details in this spoiler-free section, but let’s say the answer is sort of surprising, and also not. What the movie delivers is three things:
- A closure of the personal arcs of many of the characters in the movies. It shows how their defeat and the last ten years in general affected each of the Avengers.
- A lot of fan service, which includes cameos, in-jokes, and back-references. For that it reaches back to many of the previous movies.
- An epic conflict with lots of superhero fighting in an epic climactic battle.
In short, it delivers a lot. Somehow, the pacing is handled well. The movie juggles a tremendous numbers of balls but manages not to drop them. All in all, pretty damn well done.
However, if you haven’t seen all twenty-one other movies, you might have some trouble following some of the finer details. I have seen all of them, and even I had to think hard at times.
Still, if you like any of the other Marvel movies, you’ll probably like this one. It looks gorgeous, it has all your favorite heroes, some jokes, and a thrilling climax.
Now then, some SPOILER-FILLED details below the picture.
For those who have seen the movie, let’s some of its more interesting aspects. The movie closes off the arcs of its heroes.
In the Thor trilogy, Thor learned first not to be arrogant, then to take on his father’s mantle, and finally he had to watch his people largely destroyed. In Avengers all his powers were for naught and he lost. He took that hard.
In this movie we see Thor does not handle defeat well. He ends up a pot-bellied drunken recluse. However, at the end of the movie, Thor pulls himself from the gutter and steps back up to the plate.
The problem with Thor, of course, was that when Thor 3 rolled around, most of what was possible with the character had already been done. Thrashing him completely in this movie and showing him be so human was a good touch because there really was nowhere else left to go.
Captain America has been stuck for most all of the movies. He’s a relic from a more polite time, who embodies everything that is good. Since he came to our present, he’s been adrift. The movies put him in the murky waters of espionage and back-stabbing, a good place to go with a character without guile. Unfortunately, it means he got lost along the way and saw himself become the enemy, and now… he loses.
He handles defeat better than Thor, but he still doesn’t actually finds a life for himself. Until the end of this movie that is, when he hangs up his shield and lives a life with his love Peggy Carter. A fitting conclusion to his many-movie arc.
Black Widow and Hawkeye
Black Widow has been a staple of the movies. One of the most enigmatic characters of the franchise, she was one of the few female superheroes. She was with S.H.I.E.L.D. before any of the others, and we see her take over from Fury now that he’s gone. But she needs a rest, and finally gives her life for the cause. Her character arc has always been flat, making it hard to give an emotional close. It was smart to tie her end to Hawkeye’s arc.
Hawkeye was the opposite of Black Widow, a character begging for an arc but never really getting one. His secret family has taken the stage, and we’ve seen his struggles up close, but to me it seemed more a beginning arc, not an ending one. This movie finally gives him the arc he deserves, even if it is at the cost of Black Widow.
The Hulk has been struggling with himself for several movies, and he’s the only hero to have switched actors. The Hulk has always been an interesting dilemma for writers, if you look at the various movies and comics. How do you give a character an arc when there is one central problem to his life that probably sidelines the character if you resolve it? They chose one of the approaches from the comic that works well in my opinion. Hulk reconciles his two halves and becomes a mix of the two bodies and minds that inhabit him.
And finally there’s Tony Stark. From movie to movie he’s grown from an arrogant selfish man to an arrogant righteous man, to a man who can care about others. He’s haunted by his father’s legacy and death, and he tried to reconcile himself with that.
He saw his ‘adopted’ ward Spider-Man die at the end of Avengers 3, and in this movie we see him having a peaceful life with Pepper Potts and even a daughter. The start of the movie foreshadows his demise, and the rest of the movie sets it up for maximum effect.
If Avengers Endgame is about anybody, it’s about Tony Stark. It’s fitting that after Iron Man started the movies off in 2008, it’s that they end with him. He buries the hatchet with Captain America, accepts who he really is, and reconciles with his father. And then he ends.
A pet pieve
There’s one things that bugs me, though.
The whole movie there’s a consistent view of time travel: you cannot change the past because you create alternative timelines. Then, in the final scene, they ruin it on not one, but two counts.
First, they send Captain America back in time to return the infinity stones. That wouldn’t work, of course, but just create more alternative timelines. In my opinion, Hulk should have used the stones to return the stones to their original past. Of course, that would have ruined the climax a bit.
Secondly, and worse, Captain America chooses to stay in the past, but then his older self shows up. After we’ve been told for the entire movie that that is impossible. Such a stupid mistake, and one so easily avoided. Why didn’t he just return through the time machine, in his suit, only very old?
Go watch this movie! It’s ten years of awesome!