Avengers: Endgame – SPOILERS! I AM TOTALLY SPOILING THE ENDGAME HERE! The long-awaited follow-up to last year’s Infinity War ties up the loose ends from that one, and provides closure for some aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s about three hours long, but maintains interest throughout. For everything they packed into it, it might be surprising there are still some loose ends, but there are pretty big ones. Maybe that’s inevitable, as even though there are no more Avengers movies in the works for the time being, the franchise is set to continue indefinitely on both the big and small screens. Thanos has used the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half the life in the universe. Why half? I don’t know. It sounds like the kind of thing someone would think of when they’re really drunk or stoned. I kept imagining a scene where Thanos checks his math and says, “Crap, I actually was only supposed to wipe out a THIRD of all life!” The film starts out showing Hawkeye’s family disappearing, and then switches to Captain Marvel rescuing Iron Man and Nebula from space. Nebula provides the vital clue that Thanos always planned to settle down on a farm after fulfilling what he sees as his life’s work, so the remaining Avengers go there and kill him, much sooner than I would have expected. The only problem is that he no longer has the Infinity Stones, as he used them to destroy themselves so no one else could undo what he’d done. Then there’s a five-year time gap which seems to be solely so Tony Stark can raise his daughter. That works, but otherwise, it doesn’t look like much has happened in those intervening years. Ant-Man escapes from the Quantum Realm when a rat steps on the controller (shades of the dog peeing on Freddy Krueger’s body in Nightmare on Elm Street 4), and finds out that five years have passed in the regular universe while only five hours have passed for him. That gives him the idea to use time travel to get back the Stones, and he, Tony, and Bruce Banner eventually work out how that can be done. There’s a bit of getting the band back together in this part, where we find out that Bruce now has the Hulk’s strength with his regular intelligence, and Thor is living in Norway and has gotten fat and lazy due to PTSD. I’ve seen complaints about the use of a fat suit (well, really more fat CGI, from what I’ve read), and I’m not a fan of such things either. It’s also using fatness as a shorthand way of showing that he’s basically given up, and obviously that’s not true of everyone with that body type. I don’t think it could be considered fat-shaming in a direct sense, but I can see how it might bother people. And Hawkeye is hunting down gangsters as Ronin, a persona he’d taken on in the comics, but here it seemed a little tacked on.
Bruce makes a point of saying that time travel isn’t like in the movies, yet they end up using a lot of the same clichés anyway. It’s specifically said that you can’t change the past like in Back to the Future, but there seems to be a bit of a nod to the second BttF film in that the Avengers go back to the events of other movies, specifically the first Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy films and Thor: The Dark World. This allows them to bring in some characters who are dead or written out in the main timeline, or just wouldn’t have any particular to be there otherwise, including Loki, the Ancient One, and a much younger Hank Pym. Jane Foster appears in archival footage from Dark World, but Natalie Portman did do some voice-over work for her. Thor gets to have one last moment with his mother, and Tony with his father. Hawkeye and Black Widow argue over which one of them will sacrifice themselves to obtain the Soul Stone, which leads to another more permanent death (although you never know for sure with comic characters). Hey, if Thanos specifically had to sacrifice the one he loved most to get that Stone, does that mean Natasha is the one Clint loves most? More than his wife and children? Or do they not count because they’ve been disappeared, even though that’s in the future? Maybe the problem is believing the Nazi ghost in the first place. I wouldn’t be too shocked if he could give the Stone to anyone at anytime, and just liked watching people die. Unfortunately, a glitch in Nebula’s network allows her past self and hence Thanos to find out what’s going to happen. The Mad Titan doesn’t seem that upset about the fact that he’s killed until he finds out that the Avengers are trying to undo his culling of the universe.
The good guys successfully bring the Stones back to their present, where Tony makes a new Gauntlet and the Hulk uses it to restore everyone Thanos had turned to dust. Nebula from the past, however, helps Thanos and his army enter into this time as well, and there follows what appears will be another losing battle. I found it kind of weird Thanos even HAD an army, as his plans are just so crazy that I’d think his only followers would be the ones he’d been manipulating for years, and even some of them secretly hate him. I understand that, in the comics, the Outriders were genetically engineered to serve Thanos. But maybe that’s not even necessary, as history has shown that some people are willing to lay down their lives for pretty much any cause or leader, no matter how stupid. Anyway, in an impressive scene, Dr. Strange transports in a bunch of reinforcements, including all the superheroes Thanos had made vanish. It’s kind of a deus ex machina, but then, I guess most things with Strange are. I would like to know how Valkyrie got that pegasus, though. Pretty much everyone participates in the final battle, although the impact of some of them is lessened a bit when there isn’t much preparation for them. This is particularly true with Scarlet Witch, who does quite a bit of damage to Thanos and for good reason, but from what I can remember, she was barely mentioned earlier in the film. Getting to see Captain America wield Mjolnir was awesome, though. Strange makes clear to Tony that this is the one scenario where they win, but I have to wonder just how detailed his vision of this scenario was, as it seems to include way too many variables. Was the rat stepping on the controller an integral part of it, or could that have worked out some other way? What about where things go wrong? Surely the whole thing would have worked out better if Thanos HADN’T been able to access Future Nebula’s memories, right?
The wrap-up comes when Captain America goes back in time to return the Stones to where and when they’d previously been, which is just glossed over despite this quite possibly being even more difficult than getting them in the first place. Does he somehow put the Reality Stone back into Jane and the Space Stone into the Tesseract? And what about the Soul Stone, which required a sacrifice to obtain? And they’re really not going to show Cap’s reaction to running into his old nemesis again? Then he just shows up as an old man, despite how the previously established rules say he would have been in an alternate timeline. I guess it’s possible he returned to the original timeline in some way we didn’t see, but it’s still a plot hole. And if Bruce was wrong and the past really CAN be changed, then Cap going back to the 1940s knowing what he knew from the twenty-first century could potentially have altered a hell of a lot of history. I suppose the most likely fix is that he used the Stones themselves to overcome potential difficulties, and he might have had the Ancient One’s help in doing so. The Time Stone alone would presumably have given him practically infinite do-overs. But still, considering how much they try to resolve in the last few scenes, I think they totally copped out on this part. Also, it’s cool that everyone Thanos dusted comes back, but are they just going to have to get used to having skipped five years without aging or anything? I understand Spider-Man: Far from Home takes place right after this movie, and several of his classmates are still in high school according to the trailer. I presume this means they were all snap victims, but did they have other classmates who survived and graduated in the interim? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out, or maybe we never will.
Okay, after writing the rest of this review, I came across this translated interview where the Russo Brothers answer many of my questions, and they mostly go with the most obvious and least interesting possibilities. Maybe that’s what they planned all along, but it could also be a case of just coming up with answers to questions they didn’t think about before on the spur of the moment. But really, why even use Red Skull as the guardian of the Soul Stone when he’s not supposed to be the same guy?