11 years, 22 movies, 1 epic saga.
I am fresh off my first viewing of Endgame ( Yes, I plan on seeing it multiple times) and am honestly blown away at the work the Russos did with this film and their previous entries in the MCU. These two guys went from having their biggest directorial accolades being the paintball episodes of the TV show Community to directing Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War & Avengers: Endgame!
This is going to be a lengthy post where I discuss many of the amazing points of Endgame and the things they did well to help set up the future of the MCU.
Seriously… SPOILERS that will ruin Endgame if you haven’t seen it yet!
FINAL WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD!
I would just like to say that I, like many others, called it right form the get go that the entire problem would be solved with the use of Quantum Time Travel! Now that that’s out of the way, time travel?!? I mean it had to come into play at some point, but they never mentioned it until Ant-Man and the Wasp, and even then it was a blink and you’ll miss it moment from Michelle Pfeiffer. Despite all the pop culture references that both Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and Scott (Paul Rudd) make to previous time travel films, Endgame makes it’s own rules in regards to that. Vulture Magazine does a great job of explaining the school of thought that went into to Endgame’s time travel, their article is here:
For those that don’t want to read it all I’m going to give an abridged version…
Linear time. That is the method of time continuity utilized in the MCU.
This goes against every single previous film where various characters established that by influencing something in the past, that drastic changes could happen in the future, think the Butterfly Effect. This also brings into the effect of the “grandfather paradox” wherein you travel back in time and meet a girl (or guy or person or sock puppet… I don’t judge) and end up having an offspring. This child grows up to become your parent who then goes on to have you, who grows up to go back in time and complete the loop. Or you go back in time and accidentally kill yourself by some freak accident or on purpose, this erases you from the timeline and your future self ceases to exist because you died earlier in the timeline, Looper is a prime example of this.
Banner quashes this notion right away as they begin meddling with their time travel experiments. “If you travel back into your own past, that destination becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past, which can’t now be changed by your new future“; this is the explanation he offers when Rhodey suggests going back and killing baby Thanos. Basically, even if they went back and killed Thanos as a baby it wouldn’t change their future because the ‘snappening’ already occurred. By killing Thanos it would create an alternate timeline where the snap didn’t occur. This explanation helps to establish early on that this won’t be an easy fight for the Avengers. Time travel tends to be an easy out for a lot of difficult situations and while yes, it can very well be, the fact that they can’t just go back to a previous time and beat Thanos means that they need to find a different way to win, and they do, kind of. They still use time travel to go back and get the stones, but they take them from points in time where they were not actively being used, also resolving to return them to the exact moment when they were taken so as not to upset the flow of time and create an alternate timeline.
The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) explains this to Banner when he goes to the Sanctum Sanctorum to get the Time Stone from Strange. She explains that when a stone is taken out of “its reality” this creates a diverging path on the time stream which makes an alternate timeline. Banner reasons with her that Strange had to know this would happen which was why he gave up the time stone to Thanos in Infinity War. The Ancient One finally agrees stating that since Strange is destined to become the greatest Sorcerer Supreme, he must’ve know what he is doing.
This portion of the movie made me extremely happy when I saw it. Obviously, because of each of the stones being at different points in time and locations in the universe, small teams had to be made to grab each stone. I’m going to break them down into their locations:
New York, 2012: Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-Man and Hulk
This squad had to travel back to the Battle of New York and try and abscond with two separate stones following their victory. Cap ended up having to fight his past self and beat him to obtain the scepter/mind stone. Tony and Scott nearly had the Tesseract/Space Stone but an untimely entrance from an angry Hulk let Loki use it to disappear. This led to Tony and Steve going further back into the past to get the Tesseract and more Pym particles to make the trip home. Having the future crew slinking around the post battle New York trying to steal the stones made for a great “Time Heist” as Ant-Man so aptly put it. We were also given a nice little nugget when Cap gets into the elevator and takes the scepter from the Strike team. I was preparing for another epic elevator fight but Cap just leans in and whispers in Sitwell’s ear “Hail Hydra” letting him walk away with the scepter no questions asked.
Asgard, 2013: Rocket and Thor
Arriving on the day of Malekith’s attack on the fabled city, “fat Thor”, as he has come to be coined by the fans, and Rocket need to sneak up on Jane Foster and steal the Aether/ Reality Stone out of her using a menacing looking needle. Thor has a panic attack and runs away because of his failure in stopping Thanos previously. He meets up with his mother and she instantly recognizes him as her son from the future, because and I quote “I was raised by witches boy”. She helps Thor to realize that it wasn’t his fault and that he did everything he could while Rocket plays a very weird game of secret agent following Jane around trying to poke her. When they finally get the Aether and are ready to leave, Thor calls Mjolnir to him proving he is still worthy of his Godhood and the power he wields.
Morag & Vormir, 2014: War Machine, Nebula, Widow and Hawkeye
The Morag crew lie in wait for Star Lord to do his entrance from the first Guardians film to the tune of “Come and Get Your Love” playing on his walkman. They ambush him and knock him out stealing the Orb/Power stone before he or Korath and his necro soldiers could get it. As they leave, Nebula malfunctions and is then abducted and has her place switched with her past angry and relentless self.
The Vormir crew were doomed from the start. We as fans knew what the cost of obtaining the Soul stone was, but Clint and Nat didn’t. Watching them bond and take comfort in each other’s company on the way there and act like nothing has changed was saddening. They met with Skull and were told the same thing Thanos was in Infinity War, in order to obtain the stone they must lose what they hold most dear… a soul for a soul. Natasha ended up making the sacrifice play so the team could get the soul stone.
They get the stones, they put them on the gauntlet and Hulk puts it on and snaps his fingers. Nothing happens. Then, 2014 Thanos and his invasion Army show up and attack the Avengers compound, decimating it. Thor, Cap and Iron Man decide to take the fight to Thanos and hopefully kill him so they can reset the timeline. The battle gets intense with Cap picking up Mjolnir showing, that like many have suspected since Age of Ultron, he is worthy of the power of Thor. Even two hammer wielders are not enough and the trinity is beaten with Thanos shattering Cap’s shield. As Cap stands, bloody, exhausted and beaten facing down Thanos, his Children (Corvus, Ebony, Proxima, Cull) and his invasion army, he gets a call over his comm from Sam (Falcon) saying the cavalry is coming. Dozens of sling ring portals open and the people of Earth, sorcerers, Wakandans and heroes newly revitalized emerge onto the battlefield and stand with Cap. He stares Thanos down and gives a rousing “Avengers Assemble!”The heroes charge forward and the battle starts.
Throughout the battle each hero is given their own little bit of the spotlight while the good guys and their allies are playing a game of keep away from Thanos. Several of the heroes have heartfelt reunions like Tony and Peter showing the stakes they were all fighting for. The game of keep away intensifies as Thanos grows enraged at the heroes tactics. Peter takes the gauntlet, activates his instant kill mode and runs through the battle. Panther and the Wakandans deal blow after blow but somehow Thanos gets closer to the gauntlet. Wanda stares Thanos down for what he did to Vision and begins beating him and crushing him with her powers, the ship fires on his position further decimating both sides of the battle. Captain Marvel shows up in a new suit with a new haircut and takes the gauntlet from Peter. She teams up with every female hero and they blitz through the battlefield to get the gauntlet to Scott to hide in the Quantum realm. Thanos destroys the Quantum tunnel leaving the heroes with only two options, kill him or use the gauntlet. Despite their efforts, Thanos gets the gauntlet and Tony tackles him. As Thanos throws Tony off and snaps his fingers he says ” I am inevitable” (*cough* Agent Smith *cough*). When nothing happens he looks at the gauntlet to see all the stones gone. Tony pulled them all off and set them into his armour. He looks at Thanos and replies with ” and I… am Iron Man” as he snaps his fingers. Thanos and all his troops and children turn to dust with Tony bringing back everyone that had previously been snapped out of existence. Tony dies of the toll using the stones took on his body, but he died a hero for the entire universe.
Passing the Torch
This is it, this is the end of the path he started us on. It began in 2008 with Tony and Iron Man, it ended in 2019 with Tony and Endgame. During the funeral service for Tony where we see all the heroes and their families who are alive because of him and his actions, we are also shown a (now teenage) Harley Keener, the kid who helped Tony in Iron Man 3, attending the memorial service solo. Happy is having a tough time with Tony’s death and talks with Tony and Pepper’s daughter Morgan, who asks him for cheeseburgers. Happy smiles and tells her that her dad loved cheeseburgers as well vowing to get her all the cheeseburgers she could ever want.
Steve and Bruce use a now rebuilt and smaller Quantum platform to send Steve back in time to return all the stones to their original points where they were taken, thereby setting the timeline on its correct path. Steve however never returns. When Sam and Bruce freak out trying to find a way to bring him back, Bucky spies and old man sitting on a bench overlooking the lake. He tells Sam to go talk to him and as Sam approaches it’s shown to be an old Steve Rogers. He tells Sam that after he sent the stones back he decided that the future wasn’t for him and returned to the love of his life Peggy. They got married and grew old together. He then bequeaths the Captain America shield (now fixed because it was taken from an alternate timeline) and gives it to Falcon naming him the next Captain America.
I spoke with my oldest friend, Malcolm Cottle, about his thoughts on the movie and we both felt that it would’ve meant more to Steve’s arc to give the shield to Bucky. He went through so much trouble to get Bucky back and then he just gives his mantle and prized possession to some guy he met a little over 2 years ago? Doesn’t make sense. I know Falcon is the current Captain America (in the Marvel Comics) but I think it should’ve gone to Bucky so he could help to redeem his past deeds as Winter Soldier.