The Legacy Of Character in Avengers: Endgame


I HAVE SEEN REVENGERS: BLAMEGAME.

*checks notes*

I HAVE SEEN REVENTURES: EDAMAME.

*squints*

I HAVE SEEN AVENGERS: ENDGAME.

*whispers to self: “nailed it”*

My very brief non-spoilery review is this:

The first third is solid — it’s total bedrock.

The second third — the middle! — is plotty, and a bit draggy.

The final third is holy shit.

Just that. Holy shit. HOLY SHIT. It is so holy shit, in fact, that it is a mushroom cloud of pure comic book awesome whose blinding white heat and light washes away any of the film’s other notable imperfections. (At least, temporarily. Eventually, one’s sight and good sense is likely to return.) It puts every other GIANT COMIC BOOK CROSSOVER ACTION EVENT to shame. It is every two-page spread of pure superhero action glory writ large, on screen. If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, I suspect you’re unlikely to be disappointed. There are aspects and angles that might stir disappointment (from mild to severe depending on your particular expectations), and for me those are worth talking about as a part of the overall whole.

If you wanted, you could dissect this movie from the plot side of things, because there’s quite a lot of plot to chew on. And it’s plot that’s been threading throughout the MCU for ten goddamn years. Comic books and blockbuster movies by their nature tend to be heavier on plot — and not organic plot, not the kind driven by character, but I think where the MCU deserves real credit is that they have given us, by and large, a massive world populated with characters who rise and fall, who change and shrink and grow, who are the anchors to everything. I’m never not ranting about how the best plot is Soylent Green — “it’s made of people!” — but the MCU mostly takes that pretty seriously. That’s no small thing. It’s a strong lesson to lead with feelings, with character arcs, with ideas about who these people are — and what they want, what problems they’re trying to counter in themselves and in the world-slash-universe — because that’s why we actually give a shit. Ten years of plot-heavy movies where character isn’t a focus would get pretty fucking boring. (Don’t get me wrong, the MCU has flirted with being boring now and again, but overall, I’d argue it’s pretty impressive as a whole.)

Which is why, for me, it’s worth looking at this last movie from that one angle: from the angle of character. It’s why we’re here. It is the single most important give-a-fuck factor in storytelling.

So, let’s do that. Let’s unpack the character legacies on display here.

Let’s see what works, what doesn’t, and what yet befuddles us. (The royal “us,” meaning, mostly, me.)

BUT FIRST, WE NEED SPOILER SPACE.

I’m going to cut and paste a nonsense passage from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. When that passage ends, you know it’s A ONE-WAY TICKET TO SPOILERTOWN.

Buckle up.

So This Is Dyoublong?

Hush! Caution! Echoland!

How charmingly exquisite! It reminds you of the outwashed

engravure that we used to be blurring on the blotchwall of his

innkempt house. Used they? (I am sure that tiring chabelshovel-

ler with the mujikal chocolat box, Miry Mitchel, is listening) I

say, the remains of the outworn gravemure where used to be

blurried the Ptollmens of the Incabus. Used we? (He is only pre-

tendant to be stugging at the jubalee harp from a second existed

lishener, Fiery Farrelly.) It is well known. Lokk for himself and

see the old butte new. Dbln. W. K. O. O. Hear? By the mauso-

lime wall. Fimfim fimfim. With a grand funferall. Fumfum fum-

fum. ‘Tis optophone which ontophanes. List! Wheatstone’s

magic lyer. They will be tuggling foriver. They will be lichening

for allof. They will be pretumbling forover. The harpsdischord

shall be theirs for ollaves.

And we’re back.

Spoilers begin now, awooga, awooga.

Iron Man: Tony Stark

It began with ol’ Tony Stank, and it ends with ol’ Tony Stank.

Tony is a character driven by his own ego, though that has changed, somewhat, over the course of the films: his worldview expands greatly, opening up to include Pepper Potts and Happy, to eventually encompassing the whole world. And then it shrinks down somewhat, too: he takes to Spider-Man as a sort of pseudo-father-figure, possibly as a way to bandage over his issues over the loss of his own father. And in this movie, there’s been an extension of that to include his own new family: he and Pepper have a daughter together. But, all that being said, Tony’s never really taken his ego out of it. It’s arguably grown alongside his need to do good; ego, as it turns out, is a little like a balloon. It can be inflated to great size, but still be filled with a whole empty air. That’s not knocking Tony as a character! It’s the opposite. He’s for a very long time been something of a narcissist. And one who has been flirting with self-destruction since the very beginning. (Hell, he tries the self-sacrifice thing in The Avengers.) Here, he finally negotiates his anger, his ego, his father issues, and in that finds a reason to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

It’s strong. It works. A character arc is as much an arc as it is a bridge — like in a bridge-building game, you need at least two points to anchor the bridge, and only two points gets you a shit-ass bridge. A droopy rope bridge, at best. More anchor points get you across the chasm — just as it gets the character from where they were, to where they are, and shows us where they’re going.

(“The other side,” if you will.)

Tony’s arc is probably the strongest in this film — maybe strongest in all the MCU. Part of that is simple economy: he’s had the most screen-time. But it’s also shown a diligent vision to bring this guy from somewhere in the pit of his own vapors to somewhat more elevated, a man of higher purpose, not singular need. He’s like the anti-Batman. Still rich, still a prick, but likes the sun, not the dark, and the guy under the mask is more of a legacy than the mask itself. People care about Tony Stark, not about Iron Man. Which is a helluva feat, itself. To make people care about the character more than the icon is really, really tough, and honestly runs counter to what we think about a lot of superheroes. That is what the MCU helps to give us.

And speaking of all that —

Captain America: Steve Rogers

If you would’ve expected anybody to sacrifice themselves, it’d be Steve Rogers. Here’s a guy who has given himself to service. Service to his country, to its laws, to its wars, and eventually to higher ideals — Steve becomes the embodiment of the spirit of the law more than its letter. He cleaves to a greater code, a higher honor, than you can simply write on a document or carve into a tablet. He’s the North Star to Tony’s spinning compass. He’s the rock.

And at the end of this, he goes the other way. He crosses with Tony. Tony gives himself up for a greater cause after loving himself too much — Steve gives up the greater cause in order to learn to love himself. (And by proxy, to love Peggy Carter. I wept. If you didn’t weep you’re dead to me.)

Endgame gives him strong moments, and lets him be his very best self. You know, someone like Rogers is easy to get wrong — he’d be easy to make annoying, or to be just a series of character traits shoved in a costume. Some kind of shallow Dudley Do-Right dipshit. The writing — and Chris Motherfucking Evans — serve the character well, and elevate him beyond some patriotic pastiche, some hero-for-the-sake-of-heroing. And it’s sad to see him gone. He and Tony were the two counterpoints to this thing — if the entire MCU had a character arc, these guys were at opposite ends of it while still being connected. To lose them risks the whole MCU, and again, it’s a testament that I don’t think they will lose it. It’ll hold together, I expect.

Black Widow: Natasha Romanova

Well, it can’t all be aces. Here’s where we get into a sort of… issue, and one that traditionally comes at the expense of women characters due to a sort of institutional sexism baked into, well, *gestures broadly* everydamnthing. I think Black Widow is probably the most capable character on the whole team, because they all have superpowers. She just kicks people. And yet she holds her own, every time.  But is that enough? Maybe not so much. Because classically, in blockbuster movies, we end up with Sexy Action Figure characters — aka, women who seem powerful because they can win fights, but who are ultimately posable dolls with minimal agency of their own. And that’s… that’s kinda a little bit Black Widow, isn’t it?

Think about it: she’s a character stolen from her former life, has no background, no parents, no children, no anything. She’s taken, trained to be a killer, and later ends up with SHIELD and then with the Avengers and… that’s it, right? She’s a useful tool. And there’s not a lot of recognition for that. Endgame, to its credit, tries. She deals with having no family, and the Avengers being her found family — and that’s no small thing. But it never really sells it, and it feels too-little too-late —

Especially with what comes after.

Which is, she’s kinda fridged. Or fridged-adjacent. She has to die to yield the Soul Stone to Hawkeye (oh no). And there are two levels to this: one, as a character, she does have some agency in this choice. She’s not thrown there, murdered. And I like that she competes with Hawkeye for this purpose. But the second level is, these characters aren’t real. Writers write them. And at that level, she’s still someone who is there for the purpose of dying in order to move plot and make men feel things. Hawkeye needs to feel redeemed so he can go back to his family. Bruce needs to feel sad she’s gone because — well, I dunno, they never really fulfill that arc much. The two of them were a thing, until they weren’t. It still flirts with the idea (Infinity War’s “that’s awkward” line from Rhodey, I believe), but never pays it off. Mostly Bruce is just sad. Hawkeye is honored, and sad. And she’s dead, never to come back. (In theory. There’s supposedly a film, and in comics, nobody’s ever dead).

We see her body. Blood dashed out of her head. It’s a touch grisly.

And that’s the conclusion of her arc. A self-sacrifice, like with Tony, but with minimal underpinning. Hawkeye arguably had a reason to die — he’s gone so deep down the pit in terms of his own morals, he can’t come back. And it would work to have him die so that his family may live. She dies in a way that feels rote. As if she has recognized her own purposeless and lack of arc. And it leaves us with one less woman character in a universe that doesn’t always have a lot anyway. It also leaves the team being incredibly bro-heavy, especially with Nebula off and away.

(Plus: Thor can get his hammer back, but we can’t get Black Widow? Mmkay.)

Again, Endgame tries — it gives her some good moments. And Scar-Jo is legitimately good as the character. It’s just sad to feel like they never knew what to do with her, only to ultimately discard her. And beyond that is a good storytelling lesson, to boot — a disappointing ending is often the fault of a weak beginning. Bad foundation means the structure will always wobble, lean, and eventually collapse under its own poor construction.

Hawkeye: Clint Barton

I mean, I guess it’s telling I forgot what his actual name was. I had to Google it. (I also have a brain like a mouse-eaten shoebox, so.) Endgame probably does the best with him it could — it gives him a place of ruination and guilt, and the movie starting with the loss of his family is truly impactful. But he’s still Arrow Guy, and I hope in the next arc of stories, they find for him a better angle.

The Hulk: Bruce Banner

His arc is pretty simple — veering a bit toward simplistic, maybe. On a character sheet, you’d almost be tempted to write two traits: BANNER and HULK, and leave it at that. The films never really grapple with who Bruce is other than a genius nerd with a monster inside. Or a monster with a nerd inside? I dunno. So, the PB&J sandwich that becomes Bannerhulk in this is the most sensible outcome — I don’t know that it’s emotionally satisfying, but it makes fun visual, comic book, cinematic sense. They almost had something in Infinity War suggesting Banner had some real reconciling to do with his own alter ego — and it was a little disappointing that all that seems to have happened off-screen. But oh well, it was fun.

Still, though, the Banner-Black Widow thing is still puzzling to me. It’s one end of a bridge that has no second anchor. So it’s just hanging limp, over the cliff. Untraversable.

Thor Odinson: God of Hammuhh I Mean Thunder

Thor. Thor! Thor.

Boy, I don’t know what to make of this. Thor has been in the past a bit shallow, far as character goes. First few movies, he’s just a kind of half-baked pseudo-Shakespearean son who is, uhhh. I guess torn between being a hero and being a prince? Torn between Earth and Asgard? Between… beer and not beer? He’s a bit daft and very pretty and okay, whatever.

And then Thor: Ragnarok happened, aka the best film ever. And we got a funnier, lighter Thor that simultaneously felt like a Thor they’d figured out — a bit daft, in conflict with himself, a guy suffering the heroic-version of The Yips, also a guy who has Daddy Issues —

(Dang, the MCU has its share of Daddy Issues, doesn’t it? Tony. Thor. Nebula. Gamora. Quill. Peter Parker, a little. Maybe a little heavy on the dude-based problems.)

We got a clear picture of a Thor in command of himself. In command of his destiny and his people. And then Infinity War comes along, and okay, it rattles him — I like that. You can’t keep him all confident and awesome. He has to be kicked around. And his godhood was confirmed in that one, though he also started to lean again on needing a weapon instead of being the weapon…

And now, Endgame.

Where Thor gets fat. Which is okay. I don’t care. But the movie cares. It’s a negative, not a positive. It’s a joke. And he gets fat because… arguably he’s traumatized. Right? He’s got some kind of god-version of PTSD. Which I also like! But the film can’t seem to decide whether it thinks his PTSD is a serious trait or something to mock him for. And the end leaves him kind of rudderless, a spinning compass again — no longer a leader of anyone or anything, even himself. It’s like a weaker version of Steve Rogers — he goes out to live life, not because he realizes he misses it, but because he has no other purpose. And he gets his hammer back (until he gives it away again), allowing it to determine his worthiness… which Ragnarok decidedly told him he didn’t need. He’s not the God of Hammers. So, I don’t feel like they had confidence as to what to do with him? Which is a shame. I think he’s a peculiar one to write, and maybe that’s why Taika Waititi got him so well. Which is to say, give Thor 4 (Fthour?) to Taika, now, please. FTHOUR: THOR AND VALKYRIE SAVE THE UNIVERSE or some shit. Cool? Cool.

(Sidenote: getting his hammer back is also where this movie’s plot starts to make no sense. Time travel plots rot fast, like bananas. The moment you think about them for five minutes, they unspool like a ruptured testicle. How moving the stones would create off-shoot realities but not the loss of Mjolnir — where presumably the Thor of that timeline still needs it? — is beyond me. It’s why the middle feels muddy and rote — we kinda know the “time heist” is gonna work out to a certain degree, and mostly we’re just watching the clockwork mechanism go through its motions.)

Nebula

In a movie that doesn’t do very well by its women characters — Nebula is an outstanding and welcome change. I don’t know that she gets a huge arc, and it’s not super well-shaped through the other films, but there’s payoff here for those who have been waiting to see someone really come to terms with her anger, with her sisterhood, with her shitty father, and with her maybe actually being “good.” She, like Tony and Nat, sacrifices herself — she just sacrifices her old self, while keeping who she has become. It’s good. It’s also a bit of sadness that she doesn’t get more moments — it’s already an overstuffed movie, but given how Thanos literally tortured her I think I wanted her to at least land a few meaningful hits on him. It felt like, at the end, they just threw her into the scrum.

And here it’s worth highlighting that one moment in the scrum, the fracas, the battle tableau — the one moment where it’s LADIES NIGHT, all the ladies, kicking ass.

It’s an awesome moment.

I loved it.

And it’s also a little shallow.

Like, it feels a bit cheeky to have a three-hour runtime with very little girl power, only to stuff it all into one moment. Like, I’m happy they’re kicking ass! I am. But again we run into the potential SEXY ACTION FIGURE part — “Hey, don’t forget we have women who can fight, too, and here they are, fighting together. Woo, Ladies Rule! NOW BACK TO MANPAIN.”

I don’t mean to diminish the importance of seeing this sheer torrential female force of pure power on the screen. It’s great. It’s also just important to recognize that none of that is a proper substitution for character growth and agency.

Ant-Man: Scott Lang

I dunno that the movie does a ton with him, but it starts strong — I think there’s something to a Scott Lang trying to do right by the world and his daughter while also still being a really talented thief? It’s got something there, and I think he’s more vulnerable here than he’s been before. It’s less an arc and more the start of something, though, I feel — like we’re on the upward tick-tick-tick of a roller-coaster on the hill, and we really haven’t seen the top, yet — or the drop on the other side.

Iron Patriot: Rhodey

I wish he had more to do, or be. There’s a nice moment between him and Nebula on Morag — that really needed more beats, though, because without it, it feels a little shallow. But again, we’re talking an overstuffed movie already with a lot to do. It’s just a shame that the people most likely to be shortchanged in these narratives are the women or the one black dude. (Black Panther isn’t present for most of the movie.) He’s cool. He seems to get a weird new suit at the ending and I’m not sure how? I wish he had more to do.

Thanos McThanosface

Thicc Daddy Thanos. The ego being. Bad parent. Galactic warlord and genocidal dickhead. I think Endgame gets to the heart of him, which is an egomaniacal dictator who doesn’t really care about balancing the scales so much as he cares about being obeyed and adored. The ending bears that out. And justice is served. It’s hard in a way that you don’t really know who you want to kill him? (Even though spoiler, he dies twice in the movie.) Tony is right on, a good choice — though regrettable that Nebula and Gamora have almost no part in it. Quill gets to kill his own Space Dad, but not Gamora? Not Nebula? Ennh. Unfortunate. That would’ve been a nice bow to tie in the narrative ribbon. But then you lose Tony’s sacrifice — I suppose the way to do it is to give Gamora and Nebula some time in the ring with him, so to speak. Just the same, I was glad to watch that motherfucker go to dust. A great villain with a spectacular death. Eat shit, you big purple dong.

Captain Marvel: Carol Danvers

And now, my second greatest disappointment in this film.

(First being: Black Widow’s weird sacrifice.)

One of the things we like to do with story is pay-off the promise of the premise. And the MCU has for the last two movies been promising one thing:

Captain Fucking Marvel. 

Fury in the post-credits scene dials her up. Then we get a whole movie showing her realizing her potential and shedding her male-given metaphorical shackles. Then another post-credits scene that is about her showing up and then —

Endgame where she gets like, five minutes of screen-time.

And all of it is her acting as a gun.

That’s it. She’s just a weapon. We get zero character beats. She’s just a hero who heroes, a gun who shows up and fires big noisy blasts, boosh, kaboom, fhhhzzt. She’s utterly wasted after the promise she’d be some kind of leveraging, balancing factor — some key character in the war. But she’s not. She’s a bookended deus ex machina, at best. And it’s really a shame.

There’s More

We could talk more. There are others — though many were Dusted. Rocket is there. I don’t know that he has much of an arc, if any. Thor gets a nice moment with his mom. I liked Howard Stark. I didn’t so much like having to hop back and forth through the other movies, because it felt a bit fan-servicey-greatest-hits-recap-episode. FUCK YEAH KORG. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I want to see it again. It pays off Infinity War, mostly. It earns a lot of beats, while significantly failing a few important characters. It’s honestly a major fear of narrative engineering and is unparalleled in cinematic history. Hell, it’s better than what you get in most giant comic book crossovers. Its failings are its failings, and they shouldn’t be excused — but rather, learned from. But they also don’t destroy what is really something very strange and special that shouldn’t have ever worked. And yet, it did. One out of 14 million kinda chances. And it all began with Tony Stark.

Congrats, MCU. You did it. (Mostly.)

P.S. these are all just my thoughts, not facts, so you don’t need to be upset by them or offended by them if you disagree — it’s good to disagree! This shit ain’t math with hard-and-fast answers. It’s ideas and opinions, ones here that I’m trying to see through the lens of character arcs and beats, but we needn’t agree. Now, REVENGERS, REASSEMBLE!


58 responses to “The Legacy Of Character in Avengers: Endgame”

      • I wonder how that looked to then-Thor? Was he just sitting around and suddenly Mjolnir flies out of his belt? Wouldn’t that tick him off?

        • And then the hammer comes back and it’s all SMUG.

          And holy shit, that totally recontextualizes the bit in Age of Ultron where Cap ALMOST lifts the hammer — kind of like the look that Obi-Wan gives Artoo in A New Hope when he says he doesn’t remember ever owning a droid …

  1. I took some limited time off and went by myself to an 11am matinee…and was so disappointed. The fat shaming was horrifically terrible and destroyed my mood.

    I mean, Thor meets his dead mother and has a meaningful moment only to have the last thing she says to him be “eat a salad”. I’ve had people say that to me! We know how how these movies work, there are countless rewrites and producers and layers of review….how did all of these people think this was funny or a good idea?

    Bruce wasn’t funny either, he just felt off.

    My biggest eye roll is when they fridged Natasha and the next shot panned over 6 sad white dudes.

    Steve got zero time with Bucky and that was such a large part of his past storyline. Captain Marvel was reduced to a deus ex machina.

    There were just so many weird character choices, I haven’t been this angry about a movie since I saw A Star is Born (which I ranted about for weeks)

    I did like some things. I liked the resolution of Tony Stark’s character arc. I liked general plot with the callbacks to prior movies. The final battle was pretty awesome.

    But overall I’m pissed I wasted a day off for it.

  2. Nailed it (mostly). I have a couple very minor disagreements. But they aren’t worth pointing out because it’s semantics & trying to treat a movie like real life or a book where you can have moments that don’t sync up either because you’re living it or you can write a thousand words of exposition to explain it. Movies shouldn’t have filler because every second of film time is valuable real estate. But you’re right, it was an incredible ending that (mostly) gets it right and the mistakes they made I feel where made from a (mostly) good place.

    And yeah, if you didn’t cry, you probably cheered when Old Yeller died.

  3. I agree with all that you say, especially with regards to Captain Marvel. I went in expecting to be disappointed by the arcs of at least a few characters, but she was not one of them, given the hype. Made it doubly disappointing. It also feels like, going forward, they’ve given themselves a Superman who will always have to be conveniently absent in order for others to shine. I’m not looking forward to every MCU movie from here on requiring someone to say ‘Why can’t Carol do it? Because she is in space doing space things.’

    Despite the good character focus, there were a few plot problems that shone through. Namely: I feel like Nebula knew enough to have a decent idea what was required to take the soul stone. It bothers me that it never came up during the plotting of the heist, resulting in Clint and Nat going in blind and with no option but for one of them to die. Either that, or I’m misremembering and Nebula didn’t know that much, in which case the Avengers sent their two weakest members to claim the stone they knew the least about.

    The other one is Thanos insanity. I feel like in both films nobody ever points out to him any of the many flaws in his plan. Like the fact that it affected all planets equally regardless of their technology level or how many of their resources they’ve gotten through. Or that it’s a stop-gap at best considering how fast populations can rise, and that they will rise differently again depending on the original population and advancement of medicine (this is especially bothersome since he destroys the stones). I realise the flaws are glaring enough that we can see Thanos insanity through them, it’s just a bit weird that no one in-universe bothers to bring it up.

    Overall, though, it was incredible. Truly incredible.

    • I feel like Nebula *did* know what it takes to get the Soul Stone and might have even suggested that two friends go together knowing that they’d have to sacrifice one. You have to admit she’s one character who understands the stakes and the need to make hard choices.

  4. Minor thing, but Steve Rogers takes Mjolnir with him when he travels back in time to return the stones. I assume he dropped it off.

  5. “I loved it.

    And it’s also a little shallow.”

    I’m hopeful– obviously we’ll see in whatever announcements are made in the months to come– that it was also a signal of what the future of the MCU is going to look like.

  6. Just gonna comment first on your Black Widow thoughts- agree completely. Also want to tell you how they could bring her back– if they want to follow the comics. In the original Infinity Gauntlet – you learn about how Silver Surfer was captured in the Soul Stone, but released by a character Adam Warlock. This character will [should] be introduced in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie as the character was being created in the end credits of the 2nd movie. — This is sorta important as they are starting filming of the new Black Widow movie this summer.

    The Captain Marvel one is the biggest frustration of mine. I felt the entire thing was a waste of time. And in an interview on the Tonight Show I think Brie Larson proved it. She apparently was given a redacted script where she didn’t even know what her character was really doing or who she was…why? Because they filmed ALL of the Endgame scenes BEFORE she ever filmed the Captain Marvel movie. So she had no idea of her story and what she really was or why. Not sure who gave that idea a go, but it is what it is.

    But if you want to add one more problem for the future movies… how does society deal with losing 50% of the population – thus cutting back on the food, goods, etc- and suddenly have the entire population back at once? And so many other things– 5 years gone and new relationships, younger siblings now older than their ‘older’ siblings, etc. Like did all the kids who were in the Spider-man homecoming movie disappear or just the important ones? Okay that’s just fun fodder, but thoughts none-the-less.

    • I had the same thought about Spider-man. Obviously Ned and MJ were both dusted so they could be the same age. Are they going to address the weirdness that half their class has now graduated, and half was in elementary school last time they saw them? It could be a cool side plot in the movie.

  7. Hey, guess what? I HAVE NOT SEEN AVENGERS: ENDGAME! Therefire, I will skip reading your post until after I have done so. Probably next weekend, but no promises. Not that I think you’re the type of person who revels in dropping spoilers throughout your post, but I don’t want to take any chances.

    FYI, I’d already heard the warning to bring Kleenex, so the last sentence or two (that I had a hard time ignoring as I scrolled down to add this comment) about crying at the end was not a major spoiler for me, but I DON’T WANNA KNOW ANYTHING ELSE. GOT IT?

  8. There are a couple takeaways that the Russo bros. got really right. This was a movie for grown ups. I saw it with my teenage boys, and they loved it, but the character thing for me was the difference between before kids/after kids me.

    Kids, unless you’re a total fuckhead, force you to learn and even embrace sacrifice. And this showed that in droves. What made Thanos so evil, Thor’s mom so awesome, and Tony so much more grown up.

    The other one is meeting the motherfukcing-love-of-your-life.

    Took me 45 years and 2 failed marriages to get there. Cap mentioned Peggy was his MLYL. It’s a big deal that not only pays off the ending, but shows how it’s not just some girl that makes our moral straight man go for broke and self, but that it’s sort of the point of the whole thing that matters.

    Why Pepper gets Tony. Why Barton, the family guy, loses his shit. Why Quill/Starlord has to find the woman who nutpunched him twice.

    First thought leaving the theatre, after Holy Shit!, was “I gotta see this with my girl.”

    Chuck, you got it, the MCU succeeds where DC fails, because of character.

  9. I agree with your assessment of Thor. He clearly had depression, alcoholism and possibly PTSD all mixed together, and it was a big joke, in a way that felt offensive to anyone without six pack abs (so most of us).

    And yeah, big lead up to Captain Marvel, awesome comments like “last time you didn’t have me,” but she did little to nothing. Would a thrilling plot with more super hero fights and less grieving / poorly explained time travel been so much to ask for?

    Like maybe they find Thanos before he destroys the stones, are able to wrestle most of the stones from Thanos, in a desperate move Thanos distributes the stones across the galaxy and it’s a race to gather them again, easier this time because they have Captain Marvel and Ant-Man. Also, maybe the plot keeps or makes a new flipping Infinity Gauntlet that works.

    Meaningless now, I guess. But there were just a lot of things that could have happened and didn’t because you couldn’t have as much over-the-top angst that way. When you led up to this story for over 10 years, I don’t want to feel depressed and awkward through like 50 percent of it.

  10. I will always love this film’s use of Tony Stark for what happens after he returns to Earth. We were set up to expect the reconciliation, but that comes much later. Instead, we see Tony completely melt down. Him going off on Steve was one of the most real moments in any of the Marvel films, and it sets the stakes for the film. It’s a brilliant moment.

    I completely agree about most of what you say. I was also disappointed by Black Widow’s fate, but I’ll grant that Hawkeye getting sacrifices seemed the more likely route, making her sacrifice more unexpected. I gotta give them that.

    I’ll confess to having grappled with Thor’s arc. My initial reaction was that Thor’s decline reduced him to comic relief, but the more I’ve considered it, I think the humor is his defense mechanism. Ragnarok somewhat establishes this, making it consistent here. The moment he summons Mjolnïr is such a significant scene, and I loved it. That’s when he drops the false face for a moment, his relief that he is still worthy in spite of all that’s happened. It’s too easy to see this as only a plot device for getting Mjolnïr into the big battle at the end for Cap. It’s more important than that.

    I cried so many times in this film. I wept when the portals opened, and playing the music from that scene still gets me teary-eyed.

  11. I agree with most of what you said, great post, a very interesting read especially for a writer like me. 🙂

    One thing that was really weird for me in Endgame was: I didn’t cry. I normally cry in movies, but even though I thought this was a great movie, and a thrill ride to sit in, it didn’t touch me emotionally. I think it was because I could see the plot spinning. I don’t want to put any spoilers in the comments, so this is hard to describe. There were points during the time travel stuff where I thought: “aha! This is where the heroic sacrifices will come in!” But no. It comes at a point where it wasn’t necessary any longer.

    And the women fighting scene? I cringed. Why not show them fighting inside the bigger battle? The camera could just cut between them, while each is busy in her own corner. Why give them a totally unnecessary thing to do just to show them in one shot?

    We summed the movie up among friends as: “American, when compared with Thor: Raknarök”. Some of the concepts just feel “scripted”. Like that nobody ever needs any instructions for magic items or spaceships – they just hop in and of course that thing does exactly what it needs – in seconds.
    Or that you can’t invent a device unless you are willing to go along when your friends use it. %-) That’s like captains going on away missions to unknown planets. 😉 NASA sends out astronauts for a reason, and not the guys inventing the spaceships. If the spaceship crashes, you still have the scientists who can invent the next one.

    I agree on Thor. My husband said: “You just don’t like it because he’s fat.” No, I don’t like it because he is shown as an alcoholic – and because the movie finds it funny that he has PTSD and has put on weight.
    One of the pet peeves on this side of the ocean: These guys are meant to be Gods. Different rules apply. Human alcohol doesn’t make Thor drunk – and now he gets drunk with it … because it serves the plot?
    That almost as cringeworthy as Thor pondering in Ragnarök: “I hope Odin has gotten into Walhalla.” Several people laughed out loud in the cinema when that was said. Just imagine: He is Odin, the Allfather, he created Walhalla. And they might not let him in?
    I imagined the “How it should have ended”-scene they could have done with that. 😉

  12. My brief thoughts are that the more invested you are the more you’ll enjoy Endgame as you’ll question it less. I had several teary moments but my god the story is convoluted. Poor Black Widow, she had no agency. And Spiderman turned into a puppy. It has a lot of fan moments and did well to end things considering the pressure on it. Just don’t think too much about it.

  13. One thing: Captain America takes Mjolnir with him when he goes back in time to put the stones back. He doesn’t have it when he gives the shield to Falcon, so he presumably put it back as well.

  14. By the time the Cap and Peggy dance happened, I was way too drained to start crying. It was beautiful, it was needed, but seeing Tony reconcile with his dad (sort of), Barton losing his family. Thor getting a few more moments with his mom, I was a wreck. The tissue fest started at the beginning when Tony was teaching Nebula to have fun. There was a feral quality to this character and I’m glad Karen recognized it, and seeing her grow just hit the right spot.

    That’s just me.

  15. Yep to the Black Widow/Captain Marvel/Thor comments. Especially Black Widow. I am hoping that the Captain Marvel parts got cut but they’re still on a 4 million hour director’s cut some place. (I mean, better if they hadn’t been cut? But at least if they *exist*…) The saving grace for me was Nebula, and I didn’t mind that she and Gamora didn’t get to kill daddy. It was enough they chose each other.

    • That’s a great point. Hadn’t thought of that. Though a cut scene where Steve realizes that the Warden is also the Red Skull would be hilarity.

      Also, Wanda’s moment of just utterly trashing Thanos to the point where he has to order his ship to fire on the melee (including himself and his troops) just to get her to stop? *chef’s kiss*

      “I don’t know who you are.”
      “You WILL.”

      Very disappointed in the lack of Captain Marvel, but I kinda get it? This was really meant to focus on the characters we’re leaving behind, though yes, if she’s gonna be the flagship going forward she shouldn’t just be a few small bits of the movie. Hell, even just some conversations with Tony/Nebula at the beginning or Natasha while she’s leading the impromptu Galactic Security Council five years later would have been nice.

      I know it was shallow, but I still liked the A-Force tease with all the women there.

  16. I’m thinking the problem with Captain Marvel is that they put Brie in the movie before they even wrote her movie. They didn’t have a sense of the character or what to do with her. This is backed up by Brie not even knowing she was in a Marvel movie yet https://youtu.be/c8Mljz89-v4
    So yeah, she’s a gun because they that’s all they had at the time

  17. Agreed. I didn’t mind the black widow sacrifice or the girl power fight tho. My teenage sister-in-law loved the girl power fight and it was meant for her and she grew up with these movies and I’m glad they gave it to her. Now of course they need to do more and I suspect they will. I wish they had done more with captain marvel but this was a send off for the original crew and as such it worked really well. Captain marvel will get more movies. Black widow is getting a prequel (I guess) things are moving in the right direction to make an MCU for everyone.

  18. About Mjolnir, Cap took it back with the stones. He had it when he was on the time machine, and doesn’t bring it back with the shield.

  19. Regarding Thor getting his hammer back, although it isn’t stated outright, I believe that Steve Rogers used the time machine to not only return the various infinity stones back to where they got them, but he also returned Mjolnir to Asgard, so that it could be destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok. After all, Steve didn’t have it when he showed up again.

  20. I think the mjolnir question was answered at the end. Cap takes the hammer and the stones back to the point of time it was taken so it never leaves its own original story arc. It was a good movie … i guess. Hard to put much depth in with so many characters. Instead of calling the movies “Avenger movies” they should just call them Cap and the Ironman 1, 2, 3 etc

  21. Agree with your overarching take. Carol Danvers was clearly the most powerful super hero, literally destroying Thanos’ ship in the blink of an eye. But by not bringing her into the movie as a character she was just a tool. I felt like that was a big miss.

    As for a couple of the time travelly and Thor things – I think Thor knew Rogers would be able to wield the hammer and was bringing it for him. Thor evolved from the ego to a more complete guy, and certainly a team guy. Mjolnir doesn’t go half way; when Cap moves it in the previous movie, I think he stopped himself from picking it up because he didn’t want to show up his teammate. So, Thor brought the hammer back so they would have every tool possible to fight against Thanos. And in the end, Cap brought it back to Asgard when he returned all of the stones; he had to go there anyway to return the Reality stone. At least that’s my theory.

  22. “How moving the stones would create off-shoot realities but not the loss of Mjolnir — where presumably the Thor of that timeline still needs it? — is beyond me. ”

    Wrong. Cap takes Mjolnir with him when he goes back in time to take back infinity stones to when they were taken, and presumably delivers Mjolnir back to Asgard as well. Good piece though. 🙂

  23. I thought that Steve put Mjolnir back at Asgard as well, so it was basically “like” an infinity stone

  24. Ok. What if I didn’t cry at all during a three hour movie I mostly felt bored by, but I did cry a whole bunch during Shazam? Am I still dead to you?

    Asking for a friend… who is me.

  25. Really enjoyed this analysis.

    I think the first killing of Thanos by Thor in a kind of compulsive twitch of passion, was actually spot-on. Thor has spent several movies struggling hard not to find a reason to axe Odin and to find his own centre (finally Odin dies, saving him the bother in Ragnarok) and this loss-of-all-patience moment with Bad Dad was a fit conclusion to that. I agree the fat thing is a bit dodgy but at the same time it gives his mother the ability to send him off into forever with, among other things, “Eat a salad.” Which makes the pathos more so.

    I was very sad personally that Black Widow, like Gamora, got to be fridged because nobody had written her a decent arc. Maybe her own film will make it better somehow but it seems like hoping for a lot. It feels like they were going for her being redemptive for Hawkeye – by not judging him by his fall – but she goes on to take the ultimate fall and he really isn’t worth it. Is her found family worth it? Yes. But that has not been paid up by her previous storylines so it does feel faked. If she’d been going about to Thor and everyone like a compulsive helper, trying to save them from themselves in the years after the dusting then that might have sold it.

    It was good that Tony Stark’s dad showed up to reward Tony with a glimpse into his insecurity and vanity. It wasn’t exactly the real payoff it wanted to be though, because Tony ends up having to forgive him for being the distant authority figure that he then – goes on to be… Tony then continues to save the world and be an absent father – thus copying his own father’s actions and motives, to a degree, but with the justification of success. Bit awkward. I liked that. He might be the only person in the universe to deserve the positive payout of martyrdom. We don’t want to copy our parents, but we do.

    How nice it would be if Thor copied his mother and went on to look after Star Lord and make him eat salad and drive safely.

    But O Gamora! Reduced to a nonentity. A knee to the groin of a silly, hopeful, heroic, idiot. We deserved better than that.

    • To be honest, Gamorra felt like a (needed) reboot – maybe now we can see ‘the most dangerous woman in the galaxy’ really be, instead of mostly functioning as a love interest for ‘him or the tree’-guy; that she was hardly in it, is a reflection of how much impact she had on proceedings so far – also, Nebula’s arc would not have happened without Gamorra – so in that sense she affected a lot, but for the rest she too (hm, another woman) has been a character the films haven’t really done much good with, so in that way it is a fitting end to a period (if not ideal).

  26. Thank you for summing up exactly how I felt about the Black Widow scene. It was so frustrating to lose one of the few women (2 actually, if you count Gamora, although I realize they found a way to work her back in), & to have both sacrifices of loved ones be female (women are there to be sacrificed!)
    Gah! Do better, Marvel!

  27. Joy, Emotions and finally an ending.
    This is the movie for which the whole world waited. We won’t get an another movie like this for sure.
    Love, Emotions, Friendship , goosebumps and fight scenes are perfectly scripted.
    One main theme is ‘Sacrifice’ yes it’s needed in our real life too but we can’t or won’t bear it.

  28. Yeah that shot with all of Marvel’s female characters together was great, but it was also like “Alright, don’t break your wrist patting yourself on the back TOO hard there; most of these characters have as much screentime in their movies as Luis from Ant-Man.”

  29. What I want to understand is, what about the millions of people who undoubtedly survived the snap but died in the chaos immediately following. In car crashes, or planes whose pilots disappeared, etc. Are they all still dead?

    • I thought of that, too. Imagine being a widow/widower who married another survivor in the five years, and then—surprise!—first spouse is back. Or maybe a person who was in an abusive relationship, and the first snap took the schmuck away, but now they’re back. All sorts of potential negatives to the Unsnapture.

  30. Forget Mjolnir, that’s clearly waved away by Steve taking it back to Asgard. What about Steve himself?! He had to live and age through the same timeline in order to be able to pass the shield (duplicate?) to Sam. Are we really supposed to believe that Steve Rogers was so busy his martial bliss with Peggy that he resisted meddling in all the stuff in between – save Bucky sooner, prevent the Snapture, show up at the compound the day after the Snapture and say there’s a way to fix this and we don’t have to let the world suffer for five years.

  31. What frustrates me the most about Black Widow, fridging aside, is that her death had all the impact of a whoopie cushion. One big BLAAAAT of Clint kneeling in the water, and then the occasional sad sputter of “man, I wish she was here” as they finished deflating it, each iteration quickly ignored in favor of other things. She didn’t even get a damned funeral.

  32. I feel like the odd one out with regards to Black Widow, but I loved it. Women rarely get the heroic sacrifice death. I didn’t feel she was fridged because her death wasn’t done to spur the other characters forward(they were already headed there); she died to save trillions+, just like Tony Stark.

    I’m not sure what they’re doing with her solo movie, but I’m assuming THEY do.

    I also liked the female line up moment fine, because, hey, women supporting women to do things is cool, but mostly because it felt like a Promise to showcase more of these characters in the future. I’m personally really hoping for a Shuri solo movie, or maybe a team-up with Spider-man? Now, if they fail to uphold that promise, it will feel much more pandering and condescending than it does right now. They’ve been better with this in recent years, so I’m feeling more optimistic than I probably ought to.

    But, I can also understand people not liking either of these things! But, that’s my perspective, at least.

  33. OK, so I saw Endgame Saturday and aside from the fact that Time Travel (yes I used capital letters) never works (even Thilda was like “What? Bruce this is whack.” and then he just says “But Dr Strange said so” so she was like “Oh in that case, here take the stone”), I have huge issues with how MCU used Black Widow and Captain Marvel. And I’m a guy and not a feminist per se. I’ve been watching Natasha hopelessly flirt with these superheroes in the vain hope she’ll get some man action and one by one these macho men have discarded her – Capitain A. for a girl in the past, Hawkeye for his family and Bruce for what I can only explain as self-satisfaction by discovering the huge size of his little Green Giant. I mean not only does poor Natasha have NO powers but she’s also putting her fine body and lips around and NO ONE wants her. She is so unwanted by these MCU writers that apparently they all thought it would be cool for her to suddenly sacrifice herself for “the better good”. Fuck that, it’s cos she’s basically a character gone wrong as she’s got nothing against even someone like Pepper IronLady (WTF was she doing there) let alone Captain Marvel. And she misses the whole lady gang moment.

    With that gripe over, I missed out on the film Captain Marvel and watched it yesterday AFTER watching Endgame on Saturday. Thank the lord Thor I did because if I’d seen it first then I would have a MASSIVE hump. Using a whole film to show arguably the most powerful character is coming to sort Thanos out? Using the end credits to show that she’s there and ready? And then in Endgame what do we get? A fucking weird haircut and her bitching about having to go and help other nameless planets because C-53 is a such a cakewalk. She comes back, literally fucks a spaceship to death, and then stills gets bitchslapped by Thanos, like every other character. Thanks for coming lesbo Carol, you were cool but we even though we love women, they’re still not going to go anywhere near our men in sorting Thanos out.

    PS Thor has two hammers now and now says Steve can have one of his hammers. But I thought Thor didn’t need hammers any more. Or perhaps he does need hammers because he’s seen Bruce’s hammer and now he needs 2 to measure up. Anyway, there are far too many hammers now.

  34. My huge regret is not Black Widow, but Nebula. They did a LOT of work with Nebula in this movie. They set up a huge payoff for an arc that’s been coming for a couple movies now. They sprayed the walls with Chekov’s guns. I was all super prepped for her showdown with Thanos.

    Then she just …. walked away. Not in the super cool way Captain Marvel got. Just, got forgotten.

    I was 100% ready for her to walk out of the wreckage of the building, pretending to be her younger self, and hand Thanos a gauntlet with pretty Totally Finite stones in it. Then stab him under the chin while he was trying to figure out what was wrong. Because, you know, arrogance and shit.

    It was such a wasted moment.

  35. Agree with almost everything you said. Some curious thoughts, though. First, when they all traveled to the past for the stones they mostly got the artifacts the stones were in – cube, scepter, etc. When Cap returned them, though, he brought just the stones… Second, Cap remaining in the past with Peggy was sweet, but that meant he basically stood by during all the events in the MCU movies. What happened to his moral compass for that?

  36. I’m so damn frustrated about Black Widow ! But mostly about a wasted possible comeback : after all, Steve has to go to Vormir to give the Soul Stone back in place. But, you know, with the “a soul for a soul” deal, shouldn’t Natasha be back or something ? Also, it would have been nice to know the reaction of Captain when realising the Stonekeeper is in fact Red Skull… We could have used at least a glimpse of Cap bringing back the Stones, and don’t care if the movie is longer, it’s worth the scenes we want.
    And one last thing… About the time travel. Bringing back the Stones to their time and space of origin seems logic. Ok. But. When Tony snaps, he killed younger Thanos and Black Order, so in their future, they can’t make Infinity War happen. Maybe it’s the same thing that when Nebula killed her younger self and did not die. But, doesn’t that would mean there’s something of an alternate universe after all ? Then, why bring the Stones back if the universes are already broken into different timelines ?
    This movie was a really great and epic movie, but I can’t help myself but see these plot holes…

  37. Thank you for your piece on this. I have seen a lot of negativity about Steve, in particular, and your thoughts are most welcome. I sometimes wonder, do people need a frying pan approach to character growth & development?

    I think they did a GREAT job on Tony & Steve. These ends were set up previously in many ways, perhaps none more succinctly than with each of their big arguments in previous Avengers films.
    Steve told Tony that he was never one to make the sacrifice play in The Avengers.
    Tony told Steve, in Ultron, that they should be fighting to end the fight, so they can go home.
    That is EXACTLY what they did.
    They are the 2 central characters in the MCU and their respect for one another is so deep that they make the biggest decisions of their lives based upon what the other found as a lacking trait in them.

    The foundations were set earlier, but they also set this up with the time travel closure scenes.
    When Tony gets closure with his dad in 1970, his dad says that he himself had a bad habit of putting himself before the greater good and hopes his son doesn’t turn out like that. Tony puts the great good first later that same day.
    Thor gets similar advise from his mother to be who he is and not who he is supposed to be, which he goes on to do.

    Steve got no closure during the heist since be believed Peggy thought him dead in 1970 so he didn’t speak with her. But seeing her – so real and so damned near yet so far – had to be motivation to go back. She didn’t need to say one thing to him.

    They also make it pretty clear that Bucky knew Steve was going back, otherwise he wouldn’t have said he’d miss him.

    I think there were missteps with Thor (read: fat jokes) but, overall, I feel the positives of finally have a superhero who isn’t the physical ideal, is a victory. His body didn’t magically transform for battle; he was just as powerful while obese. This pajama-pants-in-public-poor-hygiene-self-destruction version of depression is one I see in loved ones.

    Thor being surprised he is still worthy when he summons Mjolnir is the greatest example ever of “YOUR DEPRESSION IS LYING TO YOU.”

    • Thor being surprised he is still worthy when he summons Mjolnir is the greatest example ever of “YOUR DEPRESSION IS LYING TO YOU.”

      Yeah, this is how I felt about this too. Thor wasn’t happy to get his hammer back because he needed his hammer; he was happy because the spell on the hammer (and therefore, by extension, Odin) still considered him to be worthy.

  38. Reading this, I realized a simple fix for a couple of the problems you point out: They should’ve sent Hulk with Black Widow.

    Not the Avengers, the writers. Instead of her wrestling with Clint over who would jump, it’d be her and Hulk wrestling with the fact that he CAN’T jump. I works a couple of different ways: As a callback to the first Avengers where he says he put a bullet in his mouth and the ‘other guy’ spit it out. And they’d be forced into some resolution of their relationship as he struggles with losing her – the one who recruited him, and developed a way to sooth him back into Banner. It would give her a chance to finally expose whatever feelings she has about him. It’s a scene I really wish we could have gotten.

    Of course, it creates the problem of who goes in Hulk’s place for the Time Stone. Barton is probably the only real option, and The Ancient One could still have an interesting talk with him about his double life of family man and ruthless assassin. Then, it gives him the line “Where’s Nat?” when he realizes she doesn’t return.

  39. not a single word of love for Loki?

    Loki, who had his own arc come around in Ragnarok? Loki, who was also tortured by Thanos and would have appreciated the chance to punch him in his massive raisin face? Loki, who sacrificed himself in Infinity War in THE STUPIDEST POSSIBLE WAY, and teed up that line which had all the Loki fans clinging on for a year “I assure you, brother, the sun will shine on us again,” and then it never paid off? Loki, whose death finally broke Thor?

    Thor watched Loki die, and then crawled over to clutch his body, and gave up. Thor was ready to die there. He let the ship explode around him. He never recovered from that. Not through all of IW, not through all of Endgame. All the losses, all the guilt, all the PTSD, started there. And when he goes back to Asgard and *sneaks past Loki’s cell,* he doesn’t linger for even a second to see the brother whom he loved and lost.

    And then 2012 Loki makes off with the Tesseract, and creates an entirely new branch of timeline? and nobody blinks? or tells 2023 Thor?

    There were a whole lot of things I loved about Endgame — yes, act three is just wall-to-wall HOLY SHIT — but Marvel really dropped the ball with Loki in terms of storytelling

  40. I think Captain Marvel exists in the MCU solely for the purpose of Rogue getting the ability to fly and hit a little harder.

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