In this spoiler-heavy piece, Tony Stamp takes a look at the original six Avengers from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the fates that awaited them in Avengers: Endgame.
Well, that happened. Ten-plus years of franchise-building culminated in the greatest splash page spectacle ever put on screen, and we all bore witness. Safe to say that critical/audience response has been mostly/overwhelmingly positive, and just days later the internet is littered with hours and hours/pages and pages of moderately-spiced Endgame takes (which are rapidly increasing in heat). So let’s add a pinch of our own, like a T-shirt-clad Thanos adding some herbs to his stew.
I loved this film. I bathed in its nostalgia and fan service like the proverbial pig in dust. I think it’s incredible what this series has done. But it’s ok to critique things you love, and I’m going to pick a few nits. [There’s also every chance a second viewing will wash away my niggles, like tears in the Tokyo rain].
The Russos have spoken about this film being a wrap up for our six main Avengers, so viewed through that lens, let’s go through them and see where the chips landed. Starting with the biggie.
I mean, come on. They nailed it. A perfect ending to the Iron Man story, we saw Tony get a chance at family life—the path he’s very slowly been creeping toward since Iron Man 3—making his eventual sacrifice that much more resonant. The Avengers films in particular are all about doing what’s necessary for the greater good, stemming from Cap taunting Tony about not being the guy to lay down on a wire. He was proved wrong at the end of that first team up when Iron Man flew a nuke through a wormhole, and while you can see the corporate machinations a wee bit in the way Tony’s arc kind of stopped and was rebooted a few times after that, raising his personal stakes in this way allowed him to go out on a totally selfless act.
Pepper’s “You can rest now” knocked the stuffing out of me, and “I am Iron Man” is a great final line, but “Hey Pep” is even better.
When a cavalcade of guest stars who show up at the funeral, it’s dazzling and entirely appropriate in a meta-sort-of-way as a tribute the man who kicked off this whole saga. Happy Hogan talking to Tony’s daughter Morgan about cheeseburgers was a lovely grace note. God, this movie nails the emotional beats.
As great as Tony’s sendoff was, this was even better. Steve has ALWAYS been selfless, and culminating his story with some well-earned selfishness was the most satisfying moment in the film. The MCU is not renowned for its romances, but when he kissed Peggy you just KNEW it would cut to black, and it did. Perfect.
Cap’s earlier Mjolnir-wielding is one of many, many moments in Endgame that rewards your fandom with a colossal hit of pure dopamine. A glorious payoff to that moment in Ultron when he budges it slightly. So was he ‘worthier’ now than he was then? I’ve always suspected he was faking a bit in Ultron, like he could have lifted it if he really tried but didn’t want to bum out Thor. AND SPEAKING OF THOR GETTING BUMMED OUT:
Things get tricky here. I’m torn.
For one, this didn’t seem like an ending—it seemed like a setup for Guardians 3. Which, great! I’m onboard, put it in my eyeballs! But it does make the Russos seem like fibbers.
Slacker Thor is hilarious. The comic highlight of the film is his scene in New Asgard with Korg (I cheered when Taika showed up, as did most of the theatre). And to the Russo’s credit it flips between funny and tragic on a dime, when Thanos’ name is mentioned.
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But as the story goes on, playing Thor’s breakdown for laughs starts to feel a bit mean-spirited, particularly when he can’t face Jane. I mean, I get it—he lost, and couldn’t handle it, and he shed all that vanity that Odin hassled him about way back when.
The conclusion to Thor’s story may well be the moment Steve wields Mjolnir just in time to save his life, and the God of Thunder’s pride isn’t wounded in the slightest—he’s frigging stoked. “I knew it!” he bellows, and we all cheer like lunatics.
…but then he’s back to being egotistical AF with Quill. We’ll see.
Even more torn here! Plenty of folks seem to be cut up about this, but I didn’t connect with her death at all. Partly because we’d seen it play out before with Thanos and Gamora (and honestly, that scene felt more emotional than this one), partly because jeez hasn’t Hawkeye been through enough already, partly because, well, a Scarlett Johansson-starring Black Widow movie is coming out in like a year.
We can safely assume it’s a prequel thanks to some heavy-handed ‘she’s really gone!’ dialogue back on earth, which kind of flies in the face of Gamora being plucked from the past and circumventing her own death, but there’s a huge confusing cloud over all that until we get to the next Guardians, so let’s forget about it for now.
Happy with this one. That first scene was so chilling, and I was stoked to see them let Renner do some dramatic acting in this one.
His turn into mass murderer was kind of swept under the rug, but it did give us an audacious long take that contains a sword fight in Japan which culminates in a man getting his throat graphically slit, offering a brief peak into a much ‘edgier’, Image-Comics-in-the-nineties type of MCU film.
No idea how he survived the complete destruction of the Avengers compound—which left a literal crater in the earth—with nary a fracture (or Rocket for that matter, the others I can deal with [yes I get that Tony put the building into special shield mode or whatever but c’moooon]), but hey: comic books!
The funny thing with Hulk is, all his character development happens off-screen. Between his solo film and The Avengers, he learns to control his transformation into Hulk. Prior to Ultron, he learns how to go the other way. Before Ragnarok, he develops more of a personality and masters the power of speech (although a cheeky retcon in this film shows he knew more than ‘Puny god’ all along). And during Endgame’s five year hiatus, he merges his two personas into Professor Hulk, another moment comic fans have been waiting on for a while. It’s really great.
He’s another character I strongly suspect we’ll see again, and he’s always been used as a garnish rather than a meal in these films, but this does feel like a nice place to leave him for now.
Except… what about him and Nat! He threw a seat, got a sad close-up, and said “I miss her man”, but I could have used more. I guess there’s only so much emotion to go around.
A few other things
1) The MCU got its first openly gay character. Yes, a very, very minor one, but… great!
2) There was a Girl Power moment. Yeah… not so great. Bit on the nose, Marvel. We get it, you’re woke now. It took you like ten years, don’t slap yourselves on the back so hard.
3) Ant-man/Giant-man/Regular-size-man/Paul Rudd all rule very hard (Tony’s ‘pissant’ remark? WAY out of line tbh).
4) Tilda Swinton continued to play The Ancient One PERFECTLY. She knows exactly how to pitch her performance—comic-booky, but not condescending or silly. She’s so great.
5) People are getting very confused about the time travel stuff. The hand-wavy ‘The past is now your future’ chat was a pretty clear signal to me not to sweat it. I get that it will bother people (as seen above plenty of other stuff bothers me), but these films have stood in total defiance of physics since they started, so a bit more logic-mangling is all good if it gives us the jumbo-sized serving of fun that Endgame did.
And getting back to that splash page…
It’s gorgeous. The movie spends a good deal of its run-time without a villain at all, but when it comes time for smashy-smashy, boy howdy does it deliver. Dozens of moments to pick from, but my favourite might be Drax stabbing one of those big gorilla-things in the back just prior to Korg smashing its face. Glorious.
I love thinking about this stuff, how setting up Dr Strange and his wizard-powers in his own film pays off here with the moment that got the biggest cheer in my screening, as all those portals open and our fallen heroes return. This is all a product of corporate synergy, something which quite rightly inspires cynicism on a gut level. But sitting in a theatre and hearing the way these movies instill joy in people, and sadness, and catharsis, it’s very hard to be cynical. They’re without a doubt the best communal cinema experiences I’ve ever had.
There are myriad goosebump moments I haven’t even mentioned, but you all know them. I can’t wait to experience them again. All I need to do is drop one word and, if you’re anything like me, you might get a wee chill just reading it…