It’s been eleven years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with a millionaire who became a show-boating but effective super-hero. From that, a super-hero team, some misfit guardians, a teen superhero and a powerful female would make the MCU almost as important to fans as real life.
Now a story that started with an alien invasion seven years ago ends with a desperate attempt to reverse the universe’s darkest day, where half of creation was erased by a snap of an alien madman’s hand.
This is the plot of Avengers: Endgame, the end of an era that could lead to an interesting future.
This is the ultimate movie version of Marvel Super Special issues that pays off very well. Some may not like or understand some of the decisions made, but the Russo brothers have made a movie (action, comic book or otherwise) for the ages.
It begins with Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) with his family, teaching his daughter what he knows about archery. Then some bees dissolve into dust. He doesn’t notice.
Then he can’t find his family. The hand has snapped.
Meanwhile, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillian) are stuck in the Benatar spaceship, waiting for death since it’s stranded. Fortunately someone finds them to give them a tow.
It’s not long before the Avengers, Nebula and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) find Thanos (Josh Brolin). The battle is sudden, but the result is futile. Nothing changes.
Endgame over….or is it?
Remember when Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) was stuck in the Quantum Realm at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp? He somehow gets out and finds out things have changed. He’s been gone a long time to the snapped world, but only hours to him. He tells the Avengers they may be able to manipulate time and get the Infinity Stones before Thanos can find them. He also learns it’s not like Back To The Future. There’s a lot of doubt about whether this will work, especially from Stark. Of course, once he figures out it could be done, the plan is underway.
The gang also have to deal with personal changes they’ve experienced since the snap to Ant-Man’s return. Hulk isn’t the big guy he used to be, in a good way. Barton has become a ruthless killer, which worries Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) a lot. She doesn’t want him to be worse than her. The biggest change is Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who’s busy being The Dude in New Asgard with Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson).
Still, they get together and try to do a little “rewriting” of the events of The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
It leads to very interesting encounters, including two characters who discover they are their own worst enemy
Not only that, they have to make sure they don’t seriously affect the past to preserve their future. That works for a while, until Nebula and War Machine (Don Cheadle) try to get the Power Stone at Morag just before Peter Quill shows up at the start of GotG. Once their time lines cross, the plot makes an excellent left turn and raises the stakes.
This leads to a major showdown in the third act with the universe at stake. It’s not exactly the Battle of Winterfell, but it’s big and exciting and helps the three-hour running time fly by.
The cast is wonderful, of course, with the Original Six Avengers stepping up to save everything. The best thing is Hemsworth as a flat-out comedic genius when he plays a thunder god in major decline. He doesn’t like what he’s become but he’s determined to get back to his old self. Getting an old friend at Asgard helps a lot.
The movie says a lot about family, by blood and by choice. Thor meets his mom Frigga (Rene Russo) before her tragic end and somehow she knows he’s from the future. She gives him the pep talk he needs to finish his mission. Meanwhile (as meanwhile as you can 45 years apart…) Tony runs into his dad Howard (John Slattery) in 1970 while he’s trying to get the Tesseract and some Pym Particles. Tony is practically tongue-tied seeing his dad It’s a chance to say good-bye and give Howard some parenting advice. Captain America is there too, seeing a very familiar face.
The one scene that everyone will be talking about is Natasha/Black Widow and Clint/Ronin trying to get the Soul Stone in Vormir. As fans remember, Thanos got it when he sacrificed Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Like it or not, Natasha and Clint have to decide who has to die. How this plays out is very interesting. Just remember how losing his family affected Clint, and gaining a family saved Natasha’s soul. That’s how the one who lives gets the stone. It’s just as painful as what Thanos felt.
Some people may be disappointed Captain Marvel doesn’t play a major role in the final battle since she’s featured in the trailer. We forget she just got here. She helps get stuff done, but this movie is the curtain call for the veterans. She’ll get her chance, along with the other recent additions.
As for io9 claiming the Marvel women didn’t get the spotlight they deserved, Natasha’s Choice was a big moment, as was Nebula’s role. Again, the crossing of two timelines made her a key player. On the other hand, there should have been more of Okoye, at least holding down the fort at Wakanda. Act 3, though, does its best to remedy the problem, and Phase 4 should finish the job.
Then there’s the epilogue, where some people may ask questions, like how come those who got dusted didn’t age. There’s also the final scene, where someone makes a decision that may have changed the MCU… but many couldn’t help but shed a tear afterwards. Entertainment Weekly has an explanation of that scene (click the link if you’ve seen the movie), while the Hollywood Reporter has more on the movie. Both links are spoiler-filled.
Avengers: Endgame is the ultimate Marvel movie, a super-sized comic book in movie form. It’s a very good finish to the first three phases of the MCU era. Whoever is next, even if it’s a reboot of X-Men or Fantastic Four, will fill some very big shoes.
Making comic-book movies that are also entertaining dramas is always a long shot, just like what the Avengers did seven years ago. Since it can be done, many times, anything is possible.
The MCU will remind us of that for a long time to come.