Marvel’s triumphant conclusion to a story that is over a decade in the making and contains more than 22 films has subverted expectations for what the genre of comic book movies means to everybody. Reactions have been emotional, heartfelt and surprising, with numerous twists and turns taking place within this three hour chapter that not only ends one part of Marvel cinematic history but flings open several new doorways for growth. I’ll say it right from the top; Endgame for me is about as satisfying a conclusion as I have ever witnessed, with only the flawless Return of the King trumping this achievement. Before I continue, if you’ve still not seen the movie, please, save this article for later, run to your nearest theatre, get your drinks, popcorn, and sweets and enjoy the film. Then get back here and let’s get into some theories and thoughts, as we’re going to cover not just the film, but what it means for the MCU going forward and beyond.
SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ONWARDS
Okay, you’ve hopefully seen the film and want to continue, or you just don’t care about being spoiled. That’s fair enough. With that said, I’ll get right into it; I loved Endgame, which probably won’t surprise you, but it’s not my favorite in the entire franchise, which may surprise you. In fact, I preferred Infinity War overall. Having said that, my anticipation for this film was at new heights. For once, I didn’t ingest every single trailer and look for clues and hints as to what was going to happen. Indeed, I just watched two trailers and that was it, no TV spots, not much in the way of hunting around online for reviews and theories, I just simply wanted to go in to the movie without much knowledge, so as to heighten the impact of what would be revealed to me within the realm of the storytelling and I’m so glad I took this approach. The film’s biggest moments, Captain America getting Mjolnir, the snapped heroes returning to fight Thanos and of course, Tony Stark’s death, all had me in various states of emotional turmoil, either sheer jubilation or complete despair and that’s one major thing Endgame gets right; you’re so invested as an audience member that these moments really matter.
That’s one thing I want to touch on right away; the emotional beats throughout this film hit and land so well and it’s not just thanks to the many individual movies that came before it, there are moments in Endgame that work completely in isolation. For example, the start of the film has us spectating Clint Barton (Hawkeye) enjoying some downtime with his family. Now, Hawkeye hasn’t had the best reaction from the audiences at large and it’s not unfair to say that he’s not at the top of the pile in terms of fan favorites. That being said, when you get this quiet moment with Clint, you’re immediately drawn into the likeability of the character, who you’re already familiar with anyway, but this opening scene attempts, and succeeds, in giving him that added layer of depth. For when his family is dusted by the snap, you feel the anguish and you instantly put yourself in Clint’s shoes and immediately, his character is elevated and with it, your investment in him and his story. The same applies to his counterpart and longtime friend, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow). After our team of heroes pay a visit to farmer Thanos and discover, to their horror, that the stones have been destroyed, Nat is left in a complete state of shock and misery, it’s very well portrayed on her face. The story takes us into the future, five years so, and we again see Nat, this time looking somewhat disheveled and out of sorts. Her blonde hair dye has almost grown out, but her lank hair doesn’t appear to have had treatment in a while, her eating habits appear to be sporadic and poor; it’s implied that a day having a peanut butter sandwich is a success, and she’s attempting to control things that aren’t able to be tamed, like an underwater earthquake. This all adds up to the conclusion that she’s attempting to control everything, to perhaps fill the void of loss since the snap. We then get a report from Colonel James Rhodes (War Machine) who has discovered that Clint has gone on another vicious killing spree, and Nat initially can’t bring herself to face the truth that he’s committed such atrocities, but it’s plain as day that it’s him. Right here we see just how much this impacts her as she begins to tear up, her last frayed thread of control all but snapping as she realizes how bad things have got. This translates to the audience, who are now seeing the effects of a world post-Thanos, a world that is darker, crueler and in need of salvation and repair. Much of the first act follows this line of set-up; we’re viewing our heroes in a whole new light, most are in dark places, some are simply getting by and yet there is one who has had a chance of a second life. Going back however to our dynamic duo of Hawkeye and Black Widow, their bond has been evident since the first time we see them team up in 2012’s Avengers Assemble and it’s within Endgame that it’s finally broken. I was surprised how much this moment hit me and I believe it’s due to the earlier set-up mentioned previously, of Nat being so upset at Hawkeye’s path in life and her finding him in Tokyo, finally convincing him to come back home and do some good. In summary, the two are dispatched to Vormir in order to retrieve the Soul Stone. As the audience, we’re already pretty sure that this is going to result in one of the two dying, but as for who will impact us most, it’s difficult to say at this point. We’ve had the established back story of Clint grieving over his lost family, that he’s ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get them back or sacrifice himself, so he is prepared, as well as the audience, for Hawkeye to die. Black Widow has other ideas. In a dramatic brawl that ends with Nat quietly uttering the words “it’s okay”, the red-haired assassin, introduced to us in Iron Man 2, plunges to her death, leaving Clint to come back to the team with the stone, but without Nat, whose final message to the team “see you in a minute” seems to become more upsetting with each viewing.
Our leading man and favorite genius, billionaire playboy philanthropist, Tony Stark has managed to exist in a world post-Thanos and thrive; he’s now got a family, something that he envisioned at the beginning of Infinity War and is living a happy life, retired in a cabin by a picturesque lake. Married to Pepper and fathering a beautiful daughter, Tony’s story is one of tragedy in this film. Going into Endgame, I had a feeling we would see either Iron Man or Captain America die or even both, but I wasn’t ready for it. No way. Again, circling back to my assertion that this film as a standalone hits us so very hard emotionally; one of the biggest tear-jerker moments comes when Tony, as a hologram, tells his grieving four-year-old daughter (Morgan); “I love you 3000.” A line that has such incredible magnitude and weight by the climax of the film, thanks to the earlier set-up, wherein a quiet bedtime scene, Morgan tells her father that she loves him 3000, which Tony of course uses as a form of bragging rights to his beloved wife Pepper. It’s these character moments that really drive home the importance of what’s transpiring and makes the shock of Tony’s death that much more impactful. Without the earlier time dedicated to nurturing Tony’s family environment, his moment of sacrifice doesn’t feel as important. Yes, it would still be an enormous milestone in the grand scheme of events, as we’ve cherished this character since 2008, but Endgame was able to elevate that feeling of loss and shock just that bit more, to really build the stakes and stick the landing so successfully, which is why, I believe, people are reacting so positively online with the “I love you 3000” saying being spotted everywhere. Tony’s legacy, however, is not dead and is survived by the effects he’s had on so many of the characters in the MCU and his reach and influence is felt with those in attendance at his funeral. Peter Parker being chief amongst those who will be most affected, both positively and negatively, as he deals with the loss of a mentor and father figure was joined by all of the major characters and an intriguingly out of place young man, who on closer inspection is Harley, the boy from Iron Man 3 who assists Tony when he’s got his back against the wall. By contrast, Captain America himself took a lesson from Tony by “finally getting some of that life” that Stark had always said he should go after. Again, this really shows how far Iron Man’s influence was spread and acts as a microcosm for our real world; Tony Stark will be missed by us all.
Appealing to Marvel’s legions of hardcore die-hard fans can be a tricky proposition. Too much fan service one way, or the other….it needs to be perfectly balanced, as all things should be. See what I did there? Fan service. If you’ve watched Infinity War you would appreciate that little joke. Well, Endgame takes that philosophy and magnifies it ten-fold, by giving us moments that have been years in the making and once again, land with supreme impact. Where to begin? The obvious would be Captain America not only picking up Thor’s enchanted hammer, Mjolnir, but being able to knock the everlasting life out of Thanos with it. Unleashing a devastating string of combinations, Cap beats down on the purple-skinned tyrant and I don’t know about you, but for me, this was poetry in motion. I was genuinely on the verge of happy tears here, I never expected to see something so downright amazing and depicted so jubilantly from its comic book origin, I was in complete awe and amazement. The fact that this was set up since Age of Ultron, where Steve Rogers appeared to move Thor’s hammer during the party scene where the God of Thunder challenges his compatriots to attempt to move his mighty weapon, is such a great call back, with Thor himself exclaiming “I knew it!” What really makes it work though is that it makes sense within the universe. Of course, Captain America is worthy, no debate. Sticking with our super soldier hero, he’s at the center of yet another outrageous moment in not only MCU history but cinema. Standing alone against the entire might of Thanos and his army, Steve Rogers hears a crackle of static and the familiar voice of his close friend Sam Wilson (The Falcon) echo a phrase Steve said to him many years ago at the start of Winter Soldier; “on your left.” Hearing those words sent a rush of adrenalin through my body that made the hair on my arms stand up. It was finally time. Hulk had reversed the snap some minutes earlier with the newly forged Infinity Gauntlet, containing the stones that the team had gathered over the course of time and all of a sudden, our favorite heroes who had been dusted in the last film were back, and ready to go to war. This then manifests into another callback and something the fans have been dying to hear since 2012’s Avengers was released; Captain America calling out “Avengers, assemble.” Again, the line was teased at the climax of Joss Whedon’s Age of Ultron and we’re finally rewarded some five years later in this glorious scene that echoes (but doesn’t surpass I’m afraid) the charge of the Rohirrim at Pelennor Fields from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Finally, and still sticking with our star-spangled hero, Captain America got to dance with his best gal. As I alluded to earlier, Tony Stark insisted Steve should go and live a life and well, that’s exactly what he did. The dance that Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers seemed destined to never have was at long last fulfilled and truly provided final closure for Steve.
Things That Didn’t Land
No film is perfect and Endgame doesn’t buck this trend. As much as I enjoyed the film, I do have a few issues that I’ll explain here. First off, I’m going to address one of the most contrived and ham-fisted attempts at female empowerment I’ve ever seen. You know exactly what I’m referring to; that ridiculously forced scene where all of the female characters are randomly in the same place at the same time on the battlefield and it’s trying so desperately to be a badass moment, but it’s just not, it’s unnecessary and for me, completely agenda driven rather than the organic development that it should have been. After seeing Pepper land in her rescue variant of Iron armor, Captain Marvel take down Thanos’ ship by herself and Scarlet Witch very nearly killing the Mad Titan, there was plenty of amazing moments that gave the women of Marvel their time to shine, which was my biggest issue with this scene as it almost took away from those previously mentioned, great action sequences.
These next two are very much personal preference and more what I was hoping for rather than expecting, but starting with War Machine. I’ve always felt he’s been criminally underused in his appearances and often gets his thunder stolen; I refer again to Age of Ultron where he swoops in for the save at the film’s climax, only to have Tony do a better job of killing the bots than he does. Fast forward to Infinity War and we finally get to see a semblance of his full power unleashed when he’s devastating the Outriders with his potent arsenal, but again, this is cut too short. So when he emerges from the wreckage of the Avengers base with Rocket riding on his enormous shoulders of what appears to be a new suit, I was ready to see all hell unleashed. And what did we get? Nothing. Not even a single shot. What a waste. War Machine rox guys, come on.
Lastly, Hulk. I predicted that we’d get one of two variants of Hulk; Professor Hulk (which is what we got) and World Breaker Hulk (which we didn’t). There was a moment, where the debris of the battlefield erupts and Giant Man comes bursting through but for a second, I truly thought we’d seen the emergence of a severely enraged and ready for vengeance World Breaker Hulk. The real shame for me is that we saw Hulk get completely decimated by Thanos in hand to hand combat in Infinity War, which resulted in Banner being unable to transform into the green beast because he got so severely outmatched and I, therefore, assumed we would get a big payoff in Endgame. I was wrong and I feel like it’s a missed trick. We did get other amazing moments, the aforementioned Scarlet Witch showcasing her incredible power against Thanos and nearly killing him for example, so perhaps there wasn’t enough room for Hulk to also get his point of retribution. He did, after all, manage to snap everyone back into existence, so that’s something.
What’s Next – Predictions
Although Endgame marks the culmination of the Infinity Saga, Marvel isn’t done yet and indeed, Phase Three of their movies officially concludes with what is set to be the epilogue to this tale in Spider-Man: Far From Home. That movie will likely deal with the events after the climactic battle with Thanos, as well as the death of Iron Man and the retirement of Captain America, so a lot to sift through. Beyond that, however, we have a few films already in the pipeline which were either teased or alluded to in Endgame. Beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy 3, it seems fairly set up that the team will be searching for Gamora, who is now the 2014 Gamora who doesn’t have the same bond with the team anymore, so that’s an interesting plot device already. Secondly, Thor has joined up with the team and I think it’s more than just a bit of comic relief. Cast your minds back to the end credit scene of Guardians 2 and the imminent birth of “Adam.” This will surely be the character Adam Warlock who is an immensely powerful being in the comics and I believe Thor is going to be demolished by Adam to show us all how powerful this new villain is.
Disney has already stated that Loki will get a TV series, as will Bucky and Falcon and finally, so too will Wanda and Vision. To the former, I think it’s clear that Loki’s adventures will take place immediately after he gets the Tesseract (again) thanks to Tony’s “dropping of the ball” during the time heist. That Loki didn’t return at all after that in Endgame is clearly a sign that his mischevious ways are being saved for the TV show. As for Bucky and Falcon, it’s harder to call for certain what will transpire here, but hopefully, we get some more of that fantastic chemistry the two shared in Civil War, which was very buddy-cop in its depiction. The two can deal with the more serious tonality of proceedings as well, namely Bucky’s dark past and Falcon now shouldering the immense responsibility of taking on the Captain America mantle. Finally, for Wanda and Vision, there’s not much to be gleaned from Endgame so theories come to mind that Shuri from Wakanda may play a role in constructing a “new” Vision, one who doesn’t need the Mind Stone, but perhaps doesn’t have the same personality as the one Wanda fell in love with, so the story could mirror that of Peter Quill and Gamora in that respect.
We can lament the loss of Tony and Cap and begin to question whether the MCU will be as good, the new characters such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel don’t resonate or connect with us as deeply and maybe, just maybe, the MCU isn’t going to be as dominant or beloved. Let’s re-assess. We need to put our faith in Kevin Feige, without any question, and as to why a quick recap of what this man has managed to do is in order. Firstly, he took Iron Man who at most was a B+ player for Marvel and transformed him into a household name, who would carry an entire franchise that has spawned 22 films over 11 years. Thor, who’s a middling character at best, now one of the most beloved and revered heroes. Captain America, who was never anything but “meh” is now a treasured national hero. The point is this, Feige and his team took a bunch of limited characters and transformed them all into superstars. Marvel’s big hitters have always been Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four and we’ve all seen how those properties have been handled over the years at different studios; haphazard at best and that’s being kind. So what we need to do now is simply sit back and put our trust, once again, in this man’s hands and I am absolutely confident that we’ll be growing more and more attached to our team of New Avengers in the years to come.
Next Time – I’m going to take a look at those aforementioned names of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four and with the rights back with Marvel, how they’ll factor into this universe! Stay up to date with my blogs by subscribing and following me on all the socials;
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