Wearing dice on my head since 2008 Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart. Randomly amazed.

More thoughts on Avengers Endgame and the MCU

· by roy · Read in about 15 min · (3143 Words)
pop-culture movies

I already wrote about Avengers Endgame a bit in yesterday’s post, but that was a bit rushed and I had more thoughts, so here we are. I figured I might as well get everything out. There will be unmarked spoilers for Avengers Endgame and Agents of SHIELD.

Before even going into the movie that was seemingly sold out everywhere despite being on almost every cinema screen in the Metro, I was thinking to myself what a phenomenon. Endgame is the culmination of a decade’s worth of movies, 22 in total, and even some number of shows, something unrivalled in all of movie history. It’s a new form of serialized event entertainment - even though there have been movie franchises with continuity before, most have been limited to trilogies, and the MCU blows them all out of the water. In my head it’s more akin to an extended HBO or Netflix series, one that only gets three episodes a year, and each episode is an event in that you can go to the cinema and watch it with your friends. And Endgame was here, trying to put a bookend on all of that, an entire decade worth of stories, with dozens of characters and the stakes no less than half the universe. The scale of it is mind-boggling and very ambitious, and if they dropped the ball on this one it would be so terrible and a huge waste and it would take another decade to even attempt to conclude another story in this manner.

  • The movie starts with the cold open of Clint and his family getting dusted. This could have easily been done as a post-credits scene in Infinity War, but having this here allows them to remind the audience of the stakes involved at the very start. (And saves them having to credit Jeremy Renner in both movies.)
  • Next we get the trailer scene of Tony in space recording his message to Potts. The trailer makes this out to be kind of a hopeless-we’re-about-to-die situation for Tony (and Nebula), but the movies resolves it quickly by having Carol come in to save them at the last minute. At first I was confused a bit about whether we were going to see the Captain Marvel post-credits scene in this movie, but they save some time by having all of that (including introducing Carol to everybody and explaining Thanos and all) happen off-screen. Tony gets back to Earth but he’s still pissed at cap and they part ways.
  • With Nebula now on Earth, they know where Thanos is and the plan is to go beat him up, get the stones and use that to resotre all the dusted people. But Thanos has destroyed the stones, making the snap apparently irreversible. Thor is frustrated and goes for the head this time, and we timeskip five years.
  • Both the timeskip and the length of it caught me a bit off-guard, I wasn’t expecting it. I can imagine that Infinity War could’ve ended here too (if not for the pesky detail of Carol not yet being introduced.) Aparently five years was not enough for the people of the world to move on. That’s understandable, but I would have assumed they would clean up the mess a little bit.
  • Next we have the rat that saves the world. Pure blind luck gets Scott out of the Quantum Realm; the only reason it took five years to get to this point is that rat was lazy.
  • Continuing the MCU tradition of trying to complete the Community cast, we get a 2-second cameo by Ken Jeong/Senor Chang. Later on we also get a slightly longer cameo from Yvette Nicole-Brown/Shirley!
  • Scott gets to meet grown-up Cassie, setting up the stage for her Phase 4 adventures as Stature, and perhaps, the Young Avengers? Who else would be there?
  • After some meandering, Scott makes his way to the Avengers compound, and finally explains his ludicrous timey-wimey plan of using the quantum realm to do a time heist. They need someone smart to figure this out so they go to Tony, and we get to meet his daughter Morgan (I would guess at 4 years old). Tony dismisses their plan as some fantasy Back to the Future-type nonsense. Apparently (as would be explained further on), Back to the Future rules do not apply in the MCU - changing the past does not affect the future. I initially thought they would try to use time travel to go back and redo the battle of Wakanda, this time with more foreknowledge and Carol on their side and thus stop the snap from even happening, but this throws that out the window. There’s no getting around it now - the snap is irrevocably part of MCU history and future films will have to work around that or otherwise deal with the consequences.
  • They need another smart guy, so they go see Bruce, who is now Smart Hulk. Not what I was expecting, though not unprecedented from the comics. Banner has had a weird character arc since Age of Ultron, going from permanently Hulk to unable to Hulk and now both Banner and Hulk.
  • Tony figures it out and comes around, so they try to get the gang back together to do the Time Heist. Rocket and Bruce go to pick up Thor, who is now a depressed fat drunk idiot apparently. Far Thor is a bit of a disservice to the character - but given that during the last few movies he’s lost his mother and his father and his girlfriend and his home and his posse and half the remaining Asgardians and he feel responsible for the snap because he didn’t go for the head, maybe it’s a little justified. Hey, at least Valkyrie and Korg survived, so that’s something.
  • Natasha tracks Clint swordfighting some Yakuza in Tokyo and gives him hope.
  • So the Time Heist crew are: Steve, Tony, Bruce, and Scott going for the three infinity stones in New York 2012, Rocket and Thor going for the Ether in Asgard 2013, Nebula, Rhodey going for the power stone on Morag in 2014, and Clint and Natasha going for the Soul Stone in 2014 as well. They only get one round trip each, so no one is allowed to fail
  • I was pleasantly surprised all the appearances of characters from previous movies: the Ancient One, Rumlow, Agent Sitwell, Loki, Alexander Pierce, Frigga, even Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster! Did they actually get Portman to shoot a scene gain, or just reused footage from Dark World? (I assume the latter). Tt’s amazing that they were able to shoot new scenes with actors like Tilda Swinton and Robert Redford and not have that info leak
  • Some great throwback moments include:
    • “I can do this all day” “Yeah, yeah”
    • the Ancient One punching Bruce out of the Hulk
    • the elevator scene from Winter Soldier turned on its head by Cap whispering “Hail Hydra”
  • Cap, Iron Man and Hulk going back to the battle of New York made sense, since they could blend in during the fight somehow and Tony has access to Stark tower
  • Thor does his blubbering idiot thing but gets a bit of his mojo back after talking to his mother and finding out he was still worthy to summon Mjolnir
  • Once you know that Clint and Natasha are going for the Soul Stone, you already know one of them has to die; the only question was which one. Natasha unfortunately, did not have a spouse and children to go back to
  • Rhodey and Nebula successfully conk out idiot Peter Quill and grab the Power Stone from him. It’s weird that they chose to go back to this time instead of say, after Gotg1 when the power stone was safely in the hands of the Nova Corps. I guess they figured it was easier to get it from Quill rather than try to infiltrate Xandar, but coming back to this time creates an opportunity for Nebula to get her wifi network crossed with 2014 Nebula and so 2014 Thanos finds out about the entire Time Heist and sends 2014 Nebula back to 2023 as a sleeper agent
  • Steve and Tony hop to 1970 as their back up plan for getting the tesseract. Steve catches a glimpse of Peggy, but she looks a bit too young considering she should be 50ish at this time. Tony meets up with Howard and I am momentarily confused because I am more familiar with Dominic Cooper than John Slattery but here we are. Howard saying Tony is about to be born tells us Tony is more than 50 in 2023, quite old already as well. Oh, and Jarvis is here too.
  • The Time Heist is successful! Everyone but Nat makes it back home, and they mourn her for all of ten seconds before going to build their own Infinity Gauntlet. She probably deserved more than that, but she is still slated for an upcoming movie, however that works, and this movie is all about a sendoff for Cap and Tony, so she gets less focus
  • (As the third act is beginning, I suddenly get the urge to pee, but I can’t go now! And I’m in the middle of the row so going would bother a lot of people and I end up uncomfortably holding it in for an hour. This is my excuse in case I screw up some facts below)
  • 2014 Nebula brings 2014 Thanos and his warship through the time machine into the present day. One would wonder how they got enough Pym particles to shrink the entire warship, but presumably they had enough time to study and clone the tech before 2014 Nebula called to them. The ship did not pop out full size in Avengers compound as I expected, instead appearing in the sky above
  • Bruce prepares to use the gauntlet, and without explanation everyone suits up, as if expecting they’re about to be attacked by the Mad Titan they thought they killed a while back. Bruce snaps, and a phone call confirms the undusting worked, but then they get space bombarded by Thanos’ warship
  • Clint is left alone to run away with the gauntlet to protect it from beasties. The original three (Steve, Tony and Thor) go face to face with Thanos directly. Thor, probably bursting with a chance to redeem himself, dual wields Stormbreaker and Mjolnir and uses the lightning to get out his sweatpants and fashion himself new armor and braid his beard. They go at it
  • 2014 Gamora frees 2023 Nebula and they go save Clint just when 2014 Nebula was about to take the gauntlet from him. Bruce is trying to keep the rubble from collapsing on Rhodey, Rocket and himself as Scott heads their way
  • Thanos vs the original three is a close fight, but the Mad Titan has them on the ropes when suddenly Steve wields Mjolnir! Completely predictable, but it’s something the fans have been clamoring for since Age of Ultron. Thor cheers “I knew it!!”
  • In spite of everything, Thanos beats them back, shattering Steve’s shield. Steve struggles to get up, barely breathing, and all seems lost when he gets some radio comms from somewhere. It’s Sam! Right, all the dusted people are back! Took them long enough! “On your six” is a throwback to their jogging days back during Winter Soldier
  • Magic portals from Doctor Strange’s peeps pop up all over, and the reinforcements are here: T’Challa, Shuri, Okoye and the armies of Wakanda! Sam, Bucky, Wanda, Quill, Drax and Mantis! Peter Parker, Spider-man! Pepper in the Rescue Armor! Hope van Dyne! Valkyrie and the Asgardians! Wong and his magic friends! 2014 Gamora and 2023 Nebula! Scott goes Giant-Man and busts Bruce, Rhodey and Rocket out of the rubble! Thanos calls down his armies, the Black Order and the Leviathans from the battle of New York. Everyone is geared up for a rematch of Wakanda, and Steve finally utters those magic words: Avengers Assemble! (We’re already assembled, Steve!). Hands down the best moment of the movie!
  • Not much to say about the battle itself, its great and everyone has their moments. I don’t have a problem with the whole girl power moment after Carol comes in
  • Tony’s response of “I am Iron Man” as he snaps his gauntlet is weird but I understand why it’s there. His journey begins and ends with that line. His body can’t take the power of infinity and he dies. Pepper tells him its time to rest
  • Tony gets a long funeral scene, and some characters notably appear for the first time in the movie: Janet van Dyne, Maria Hill, Nick Fury and some teenager I don’t recognize but later find out is supposed to be the kid from Iron Man 3. Some posts are also naming him as “Iron Lad”, which doesn’t jive with the Young Avengers Iron Lad origin, but I suppose it’s a possible future something
  • And now, the weakest part of the movie’s plot: Steve going back to the past to return the infinity stones (and Mjolnir) to where they got them, to minimize timestream damage. So many questions:
    • Why is Steve the only one to go? Hank Pym is back, they can make more Pym Particles again.
    • Why is his shield whole again? Did Shuri repair it?
    • Did he go back to Asgard and inject the ether back into Jane Foster?
    • How did he make the tesseract a cube again? How did he put the mind stone back into the sceptre which he didn’t bring?
    • How did the reunion with Red Skull on Vormir go? Did he get a refund on the price paid for the Soul stone?
  • There are a bunch of timey-wimey problems but probably there are multiple ways to justify things and you shouldnt think about them too hard and just accept them. For the record, here is what I believe. Presumably, returning the infinity stones to where they got them removes the branch timeline that was created when they originally got them. This means:
    • Returning the time stone to the Ancient One means the events of Doctor Strange still happen in the prime timeline, and that time stone was the same one Thanos used in Infinity War
    • Returning the sceptre to Agent Sitwell means it still has the same mind stone used in Age of Ultron etc.
    • Returning the space stone (now Tesseract) to the SHIELD vaults means it does all of its stuff in the prime timeline as expected, and is still the same space stone used in Infinity War
    • Returning the ether to Jane Foster means the events of Dark World still unfold as they did
    • All of these are merged back into the prime timeline via TV Tropes: You Already Changed The Past, so they all already happened in the prime universe. This means four of the stones used in Infinity War and later destroyed were also the same ones used in Endgame
  • However, there are at least two changes Steve would have been unable to repair:
    • Loki escaping with the Tesseract in 2012
    • The removal of 2014 Thanos, Gamora, Nebula and all of Thanos’ crew from their time. This means it was also unnecessary to return the power stone and soul stone to this branch timeline, but I guess they did it anyway
  • Another mystery is in what timeline did Steve get his last dance with Peggy and hence grow old etc. The fact that he was able to appear on the bench as an old man shortly after being sent back implies to me that he grew old in the prime timeline (in yet another instance of You Already Changed The Past), and that Peggy simply kept the real identity of her husband a secret to her dying day
  • The real problem with this whole affair character-wise is that it means Steve became selfish and chose to live out his life given the chance, instead of going back to his friends as expected. I like to think that seeing Peggy again in 1970 made him realize he was always meant to be with her and thus made him decide to do what he did
  • Handing off the shield to Sam: I expected it to be Bucky, given that in the comics he got to be Cap before Sam, but this is okay too. Though I think Steve could’ve given Bucky a few parting words as well
  • Quill pretty much got the short end of the stick in IW/EG: Fans hate him now for screwing up the battle on Titan, his girlfriend is dead, and now his leadership of the Guardians is in question
  • Notable deaths/absences:
    • 2018 Gamora truly dead and gone. No explanation given for what happened to 2014 Gamora, as she wasn’t shown being dusted. Presumably we’ll see her and Thor again in Guardians 3
    • No Vision this time, but presumably Shuri would be able to restore him sans mind stone, especially since he and Wanda are slated for a Disney+ show
    • Natasha dying was sad, but she is slated for a solo movie, and EG leaves at least two outs for her coming back: one is via a Soul Stone refund as mentioned above, and another is Bruce saying he tried to bring her back when he did the snap
    • An Agent Coulson appearance would have been nice, although he presumably died after the end of the last season of Agents of SHIELD. This movie also leaves Agents of SHIELD in a weird place: in the last season they had Infinity War happening concurrently with the season finale, and they delayed the start of season 6 until after Endgame, but given that they now have to live with a 5-year time gap where half the people are dead, IDK if they’ll have to adapt their scripts to that
  • In future movies, they now have access to a time machine! They can’t change the past, but they can do silly things like bring back dead characters to help lol
  • Future movies also have to deal with the fact that half the population skipped ahead 5 years and also that the world is a mess. Things certainly didn’t look like a mess in the Far From Home trailer though. Presumably Peter Parker’s friends Ned, MJ and Flash all got dusted in IW so that they are all still the same age in Far From Home

Whew, I wrote a lot! I guess it’s justified given how much I liked the movie and the scale of it and everything. As I mentioned in the spoiler-free review, they could end the MCU here and it would be fine. A fitting end and tribute to the past decade of movies. I am even tempted to watch it in the cinemas a second time, maybe I’ll have even more insights then!

Comments