One of the amazing things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in an age with a twenty-four-hour news cycle, with more sources for news than you can shake a smartphone at, and with interest in movies based on superheroes at an all-time high—not to mention the sheer number of people involved in making these films—is how tight a lid they’ve kept on information. Even though Infinity War and Endgame were filmed back to back, and had long post-production times—long enough, in fact, that Captain Marvel was made after these two, and yet was released between them—very little information came out about either until they were released. Hell, the title of Endgame wasn’t released until December 2018, eight months after Infinity War hit theatres.
And then it took three months after Endgame’s release for any news about any of the 2020 and beyond films to be released. In part, that was because so much happened in Endgame, and so much of the status quo was upended.
While this movie was originally announced as Infinity War Part 2, at some point they declared that it wasn’t going to be a two-part movie, that this movie would get its own name. While they were right up to a point—Infinity War did have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and came to a conclusion (if not a happy one)—this is still, really, a two-part story. But giving each their own distinctive title makes sense, because the movies are indeed separate.
The film has, at once, a smaller and bigger cast. For most of the movie, we just get those who weren’t dusted at the end of Infinity War, plus some others. But then, for the big climactic battle against Thanos and his minions, it’s all hands on deck.
At the heart of the movie, though, is time travel. Time travel has been part of the Marvel Comics Universe since Fantastic Four #5 by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, which introduced Doctor Doom. Victor von Doom created a time machine, and sent the FF back in time to retrieve Blackbeard’s treasure. Time travel has been part of many Marvel stories, including classics ranging from “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont & John Byrne in Uncanny X-Men #141-142 and its various sequels and related tales in assorted mutant books; to Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek & Carlos Pacheco; to various stories involving Kang the Conqueror, the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Cable, Bishop, Two-Gun Kid, and other folks from different times who would wind up in the present, or whom our heroes would visit on time-travel adventures of their own.
However, the MCU’s version of time travel used a different mode, one from the two Ant–Man movies—the quantum realm, itself based on something else introduced in a battle between the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom, the Microverse. First seen in Fantastic Four #16, also by Lee & Kirby, the Microverse was the home of the Micronauts (at least when Marvel had the rights to that toy set; their comic was very popular, written primarily by Bill Mantlo, with art by Michael Golden and Jackson Guice, among others), and has been visited by Henry Pym in his various identities as well as the FF and more.
And so Endgame included the “time heists,” which inserted our heroes into previous movies, including Avengers (mostly taking place between the end of the Battle of New York and the go-their-separate-ways scene in Central Park), Thor: The Dark World (taking place between Jane Foster being brought to Asgard and Frigga’s death), and Guardians of the Galaxy (taking place during the opening-credits scene of the movie).
In addition, we get the first MCU versions of two variations on characters from the comics. Clint Barton takes on the Ronin role that Hawkeye adopted after he was killed and resurrected as part of the “Disassembled” storyline. And Bruce Banner is now the “Professor Hulk” version, first seen in The Incredible Hulk #377 by Peter David & Dale Keown in 1991, in which David built on the childhood trauma established in Incredible Hulk #312 by Bill Mantlo & Mike Mignola to diagnose Banner with what is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder, with Bruce Banner, the gray Hulk (the original version of the Hulk, who was eloquent, if obnoxious), and the green Hulk (the most well-known version, who talks like a four-year-old) as the three personalities. In the comics, Doc Samson was able to merge Banner’s personalities into a single version, with the green Hulk’s looks and strength, Banner’s brains, and the gray Hulk’s attitude. This proved a very popular version of the Hulk, and has been returned to in the comics any number of times, referred to as “Professor Hulk.” Mark Ruffalo gets to play that version for most of this movie.
Back from Captain Marvel are Brie Larson as Captain Marvel and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Back from Ant-Man & The Wasp are Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp, Michael Douglas as Henry Pym, Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne, and the character of Cassie Lang, now played by Emma Fuhrmann. Back from Black Panther is Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda. Back from Thor: Ragnarok are Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Taika Waititi as Korg. Back from Spider-Man: Homecoming are Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan and Marisa Tomei as May Parker. Back from Doctor Strange is Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Back from Captain America: Civil War are Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, John Slattery as Howard Stark, and Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow. Back from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 are Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord, Michelle Yeoh as Aleta Ogord, Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex, and Ving Rhames as Charlie-27 (all in brief blink-and-you-miss-it cameos). Back from Avengers: Age of Ultron are Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton, Ben Sakamoto as Cooper Barton, and the character of Lila Barton, now played by Ava Russo (daughter of co-director Joe Russo). Back from Thor: The Dark World are Rene Russo as Frigga and Natalie Portman as Jane Foster (visually, Portman was seen via archive footage, but Portman recorded a new voiceover for this movie). Back from the Agent Carter TV series are Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter and James D’Arcy as Edwin Jarvis. Back from Captain America: The Winter Soldier are Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, Callan Mulvey as Jack Rollins, and Maximiliano Hernández as Jasper Sitwell. Back from Iron Man 3 is Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener.
And back from Infinity War is, well, pretty much everyone else.
Introduced in this film are Alexandra Rabe as Morgan Stark and Hiroyuki Sanada as the Yakuza boss Barton goes after.
“Let’s go get this son of a bitch”
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Produced by Kevin Feige
Original release date: April 26, 2019
We look in on the Barton family, with Clint Barton wearing an ankle bracelet that looks very much like the one Scott Lang was wearing in Ant-Man & The Wasp. He’s teaching his daughter Lana how to shoot with a bow (she gets a bull’s eye), while Laura makes hot dogs for them and the two boys (including Nate, with whom Laura was pregnant when last we saw her in Avengers: Age of Ultron).
Then Thanos snaps his fingers, and Laura and Barton’s three kids are all dusted.
A month or so after the snap, and we see Tony Stark and Nebula on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ship playing flick football (with “Dear Mr. Fantasy” by Traffic playing), and the air is running out.
But then Carol Danvers shows up and brings them back to Earth.
Stark is reunited with Pepper Potts as well as what’s left of the Avengers (Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, James Rhodes, Bruce Banner, and Thor) and the Guardians (Rocket, along with Nebula). Stark rants and raves about how he wanted a suit of armor around the world, and nobody listened to him, and how he said they’d lose and Cap said, “then we lose together,” and then they weren’t together. And then Stark collapses.
While Stark has no idea where Thanos is, Nebula and Rocket do. Thanos told Nebula he wanted to retire to a garden after saving the universe, and Rocket found an energy surge similar to the unique one that went off from Earth when Thanos snapped his fingers in Wakanda on a garden planet.
They head there in the Guardians’ ship (which Rocket has repaired) and find Thanos all alone—no army, no nothing. Thanos announces that he’s destroyed the stones—that was the energy surge Rocket detected—and so Thor cuts his head off.
Five years pass.
In New York, Rogers is leading group therapy sessions for people. He’s telling them they have to move on, the way he did when he woke up seven decades out of his own era.
In San Francisco, Scott Lang finally finds his way out of the quantum realm, only to find himself and the X-Con Security van in a storage unit. For him, it’s five hours after he went in—but it’s five years later in the real world, and the place is a mess. Houses and cars are abandoned, and garbage isn’t being picked up consistently. Golden Gate Park has a memorial for “the vanished,” and while Lang is relieved to see that Cassie’s name isn’t on it, his name is. He goes to his house to find Cassie there—but she’s a teenager now.
In New York, Romanoff is continuing to coordinate superheroic activity from Avengers HQ, and we see her getting updates from Nebula and Rocket, from Danvers, from Okoye, and from Rhodes. Danvers says she won’t be back on Earth any time soon, as there are too many planets that need help in the wake of the snap.
After everyone signs off, Rhodes stays on and talks to Romanoff about the latest batch of corpses they’ve found, which they know is Barton’s work—he’s been killing criminals. Both are conflicted about it.
Rogers shows up and they talk about how neither of them have moved on, but for Romanoff, the Avengers are the only family she’s ever had. She’s found fulfillment as part of the team, even now after all this.
Then Lang shows up in the X-Con van. The time differential between him in the quantum realm and reality is nagging at him, and he thinks that if they harness that chaos, they can travel in time. But that requires scientific expertise none of them have, so they go to the cabin where Stark is now living with Potts (whom he’s married) and their four-year-old daughter Morgan. Stark has built a suit of armor for Potts, though he doesn’t expect that she’ll wear it.
Rogers, Romanoff, and Lang arrive and propose their plan. Stark thinks it’s impossible and crazy and too risky. He has a life now, and he won’t risk it for such a ridiculous idea, particularly since it sounds like Lang wants to save the universe by citing Back to the Future.
They go to their next biggest brain: Banner, who has found a rapprochement with the Hulk and they’re now merged. Banner doesn’t think he has the scientific expertise for this, but he is willing to take a shot.
Stark can’t stop thinking about the problem, especially after looking at the picture of himself and Peter Parker that he keeps in the kitchen, so he works on it—and actually figures it out, to his abject shock. After putting Morgan to bed (after he says “I love you tons,” she replies with “I love you three thousand!”), he talks to Potts. He’s figured it out, and he’s willing to put a pin in it and ignore it if Potts wants him to. But Potts, basically, tells him to go be a hero, because not everyone got the happy ending they got.
Banner modifies the quantum tunnel in Lang’s van to build a time machine, and it doesn’t quite work—he sends Lang through his own timeline, being a teenager and a baby. Stark shows up, says, “You turned Lang into a baby, didn’t you?” and shows that he (a) has a working time-travel GPS and (b) has Cap’s shield.
They need to assemble the troops, as it were. Rocket and Nebula return from space, and Rhodes also comes on his own. (“What’s up, Regular-Sized Man?” he says to Lang.) Rocket comes with Banner to Tønsberg, which is now New Asgard. After the snap, the remains of Asgard’s population (including Valkyrie, who’s a bit freaked out by the new Hulk) settled there, with Thor as their king. However, his kingly duties seem to consist entirely of eating junk food, drinking beer, and playing video games with Korg and Miek. He’s suffering from spectacular PTSD and nearly loses it at the mention of Thanos’s name. However, he agrees to come along when Rocket tells him there’s beer.
Romanoff tracks Barton to Japan, where he kills a high-ranking overlord in the Yakuza. Barton doesn’t wish to be given hope, but he reluctantly goes along anyhow.
Stark, Banner, Rocket, and Nebula construct the time machine, Rocket reminding Stark that he’s only a genius by Earth standards. They only have enough Pym particles to give everyone one round trip each, plus one test. Barton volunteers to be the test subject, and they send him to his own house more than five years previous, and he hears his kids (though he doesn’t get to lay eyes on them before he’s whisked back to the present).
Now they need a plan. Rhodes and Lang think they should go to Thanos as a baby on Titan and kill him, but Banner explains that that will just create an alternate timeline and won’t change their present.
They need to retrieve the stones from the past. They go over the events of previous movies. They know the power stone is on Morag in 2014, where Peter Quill stole it in Guardians of the Galaxy, the time stone is in possession of the sorcerers, as per Doctor Strange, the soul stone has been on Vormir for ages, as established in Avengers: Infinity War, the reality stone is on Asgard when it’s infused in Jane Foster’s bloodstream in Thor: The Dark World, and they all dealt with both the mind stone and the space stone in the Battle of New York in Avengers. It’s Romanoff who realizes that the time stone is in the sanctum sanctorum in New York City, which means half the stones were in New York in 2012.
They break up into three teams. One goes to New York in 2012, another to Morag in 2014 (that team will then split, with one sub-team going to Vormir), and the third to Asgard in 2013.
New York, 2012: Rogers, Stark, Lang, and Banner arrive in Manhattan while the Avengers are fighting the Chitauri and Loki. Banner heads downtown hoping to find Strange, but instead finds the Ancient One, who declares that Stephen Strange is performing surgery elsewhere in town. Banner realizes that she guards the time stone, and he needs it. The Ancient One won’t give it up, and shoves Banner’s astral form outside his body the same way she did to Strange when she met him.
Asgard, 2013: Thor and Rocket arrive. The plan is for Thor to distract Foster while Rocket drains the Aether from her, but Thor instead wants to go to the wine cellar. He starts to have a panic attack, and Rocket has to talk him down.
Deep space, 2014: Rhodes, Nebula, Romanoff, and Barton arrive on Morag in a ship that presumably Nebula took them to. Rhodes and Nebula stay there and wait for Quill’s arrival so he’ll lead them to the stone, while Romanoff and Barton head off to Vormir.
Elsewhere in 2014, Nebula and Gamora are on a mission for Thanos, and 2014 Nebula’s mind is flooded with images from 2023 Nebula—they’re linked by the cybernetic implants Thanos put in her. Thanos is about to send Ronan to retrieve the power stone, as we saw happen in Guardians of the Galaxy, but he changes his mind upon seeing what the 2023 Nebula has experienced.
New York, 2012: In the aftermath of the battle, Loki is handcuffed and taken downstairs, along with both the Tesseract and the scepter. Some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, led by Brock Rumlow and Jasper Sitwell, take the scepter. All the Avengers take Loki into the elevator (save for the Hulk, who’s too heavy and Rogers, who’s going to coordinate search-and-rescue). The Hulk, reluctantly and angrily, takes the stairs.
Stark and a miniaturized Lang watch, and Lang sits on Stark’s person until they get downstairs. (While observing, Stark says that the suit Rogers wore then didn’t do a thing for his ass. Lang disagrees, declaring, “That’s America’s ass!”)
2023 Rogers enters the elevator with Rumlow and Sitwell and says the secretary asked him to take charge of the scepter, and whispers “Hail Hydra” as a bonafide.
Downstairs, Secretary Alexander Pierce tries to take custody of Loki and the Tesseract, but Thor refuses. As a distraction, Lang goes into the ARC reactor in 2012 Stark’s chest and causes a cardiac infarction. In the confusion, 2023 Stark (disguised as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) grabs the Tesseract—but then the Hulk crashes through the staircase door and sends the case flying. While everyone’s trying to revive 2012 Stark, Loki grabs the Tesseract and disappears through a portal.
After exiting the elevator, 2023 Rogers encounters 2012 Rogers, who thinks he’s found Loki (who created the illusion that he was Rogers earlier). They fight, with 2012 Rogers wanting to know where “Loki” got the compass with the picture of Peggy Carter. 2023 Rogers distracts his younger self long enough to use the scepter on him. As he walks off, he admires his prone form. (“That is America’s ass.”)
Banner’s losing his argument with the Ancient One—until he says that Strange gave up the time stone to Thanos willingly. The Ancient One knows from the time stone that Strange is destined to be a great sorcerer, so she trusts that he did what he did for a reason, and gives Banner the stone.
Thanos’s ship, 2014: Ebony Maw examines 2014 Nebula and discovers that her neural network is entangled with that of 2023 Nebula, whose memories indicate that she’s now working with the Avengers—the same team of heroes who stymied Thanos’s efforts on Earth two years previous. Thanos watches, basically, all of Infinity War and Endgame.
Asgard, 2013: Thor has snuck away from Rocket and is watching Frigga, who then finds him hiding behind a pillar. The daughter of witches, she instantly recognizes that this is a Thor from the future. And sometimes when you’re hurting, you need your Mommy, and Thor pours his heart out. She gives him a pep talk while Rocket extracts the Aether from Foster by himself. Once he’s successful, Thor takes a shot and summons Mjolnir, which is still intact in this era. It comes to him, and Thor cries with joy to realize that he’s still worthy to wield it.
Morag, 2014: Rhodes and 2023 Nebula watch Quill dance across the field dancing to “Come and Get Your Love,” except he’s wearing headphones, so they can’t hear the music, they just see the dancing. (“So, he’s an idiot.” “Yes.”)
They knock him out and take his lockpick, stealing the power stone, Nebula severely damaging her mechanical left hand to retrieve it. Rhodes goes back with the stone, but Nebula can’t go back thanks to interference from her 2014 counterpart. Realizing that 2014 Thanos now knows everything, she tries to contact Romanoff and Barton, but is instead captured by Thanos.
New York, 2012: Stark and Lang inform Rogers that they’ve failed and the Tesseract is gone with Loki, somewhere. They only have enough Pym particles for one trip back each, so they’re screwed. But then Stark realizes he knows where there might be both. S.H.I.E.L.D. has had custody of the Tesseract since World War II (except for the period between the late 1980s when they lent it to Mar-Vell and when Goose horked it up some time after 1995, anyhow), and Pym worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. up until 1989. They go back to Camp Lehigh in 1970, right before Stark was born.
New Jersey, 1970: Stark is wearing a suit and has his MIT ID for some reason, while Rogers puts on an Army uniform. They ride down in an elevator with a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Stark finds the Tesseract and puts it in a briefcase, but then also bumps into his father. Identifying himself as Howard Potts, a visiting professor from MIT, they talk for a bit, in particular about Howard Stark’s wife being about to give birth (to Stark himself, of course), while Stark talks about his own recent foray into fatherhood.
Rogers, meanwhile, calls Pym to the mailroom about a package that’s glowing, which gets him out long enough for Rogers to swipe some Pym particles, which they can use to get home.
The agent in the elevator thinks something’s fishy about Rogers and Stark, and so calls the MPs. Rogers slips into the director’s office to hide, where he sees Peggy Carter, who was running S.H.I.E.L.D. at this point.
Howard Stark finishes his chat with “Howard Potts,” who surprises him with a hug and a thank-you—for, Stark hastily amends, all he’s done for the country. Then he and Rogers head home.
Morag, 2014: 2014 Nebula and 2014 Gamora beat up on 2023 Nebula. 2014 Nebula is disgusted by her counterpart’s behavior, while 2023 Nebula tries to convince Gamora that she needs to switch sides, especially once she explains how, in her future, Thanos found the soul stone.
Vormir, 2014: Romanoff and Barton arrive at Vormir and are confronted by the Red Skull, who identifies them as “Natasha, daughter of Ivan” and “Clint, son of Edith.” It becomes clear that one of them must sacrifice themselves to get the stone. Barton tells her not to necessarily believe this guy because he knows her father’s name, and she quietly says, “I didn’t.”
They fight over who gets the right to sacrifice their life, and Romanoff “wins” and dies, leaving Barton with the soul stone.
Avengers HQ, 2023: Everyone comes back—except for Romanoff, who’s dead on Vormir, and 2023 Nebula, who’s been replaced by 2014 Nebula.
First they hold a memorial for Romanoff (though Thor refuses to accept that she’s all dead, figuring she’s only mostly dead and they can bring her back with the stones). Then they put the stones into the Iron Man gauntlet that Stark has built. Then they argue over who will wield it—Thor thinks it should be him, but Banner says it has to be him. The snap burned Thanos on half his body—the Hulk is the only one who has a chance of surviving.
Everyone suits up, and Stark has F.R.I.D.A.Y. put the compound in defense mode. Banner puts on the gauntlet and then screams in agony from all the power coursing through his body, but he snaps his fingers.
A minute later, Barton’s cell phone rings with a call from his wife, who is very confused.
But while they were restoring half the living things in the universe, 2014 Nebula powers up the time machine and brings Thanos’s ship through, which destroys the time machine. Then Thanos’s ship fires on the compound.
Banner, Rhodes, and Rocket are buried far underground, with Lang heading down to rescue them. Barton and the gauntlet are elsewhere, and Thanos’s Chitauri minions start chasing him down for the gauntlet.
Thanos sends 2014 Nebula after the stones, while 2023 Nebula convinces 2014 Gamora to join the good guys.
Thor summons both Stormbreaker and Mjolnir to his side, and he’s now in Asgardian armor. He, Stark, and Rogers confront Thanos. At one point, Rogers picks up Mjolnir, prompting an “I knew it!” from Thor.
2014 Nebula captures Barton and grabs the gauntlet, but then 2014 Gamora and 2023 Nebula stop her. Seeing no other choice, 2023 Nebula kills her younger self.
Rogers, Stark, and Thor do their best, but are defeated, Cap’s shield shattered. Thanos declares that, while all his other murders weren’t personal, he’s going to enjoy destroying Earth.
But then Rogers’s earpiece crackles with a signal from Sam Wilson, who says, “On your left.”
And behind him and to his left, a mystic portal opens, and T’Challa, Shuri, and Okoye step through, followed by Sam Wilson, M’Baku and a mess of Wakandan soldiers, Wanda Maximoff, Bucky Barnes, and Groot.
More portals open: Quill, Drax, Mantis, and Peter Parker come through with Doctor Stephen Strange. The armies of Asgard, led by the Valkyrie. Wong and a mess of sorcerers. The Ravagers. Hope van Dyne and Pepper Potts, the latter in the blue armor Stark was making for her.
And then Lang grows out of the wreckage of the compound holding Banner, Rhodes, and Rocket in his hand.
T’Challa leads another “Yibambe!” chant and then Rogers says, “Avengers—assemble.”
The battle is joined.
At one point, Parker fills Stark in on what happened when he reappeared alongside the Guardians and Strange. Stark cuts him off and hugs him.
2014 Gamora saves Quill’s life. Quill is shocked to see she’s alive, and then gets kneed in the groin for his familiarity.
They need to send Thanos back to 2014, but the time machine’s busted. Lang points out that they’ve got another quantum tunnel, and he activates the “La Cucaracha” horn on the X-Con Security van. Lang and van Dyne head there to activate it.
Barton still has the gauntlet, and he starts a game of gauntlet rugby. He passes it to T’Challa, who is stopped by Maw, so T’Challa passes it to Parker, who evades capture for a bit.
Thanos orders his ship to fire on the ground. Wong and the sorcerers protect everyone, but that effectively takes them out of the fight—Strange also, as he has to hold the river back.
Stark asks Strange if this was the future he saw where they won, and Strange says he can’t answer.
Maximoff confronts Thanos, accusing him of taking everything from her. This version of Thanos hasn’t met her yet and says he has no idea who she is, and Maximoff declares that he’ll learn.
Thanos’s ship stops firing on the ground and turns toward orbit, confusing our heroes. F.R.I.D.A.Y. informs Stark that there’s something entering the atmosphere—it’s Danvers. Thanos’s ship fires on her to no avail, and she utterly trashes Thanos’s vessel.
Danvers takes the gauntlet from Parker and then plows through, while Valkyrie, Maximoff, van Dyne, Potts, Okoye, Shuri, Nebula, Gamora, and Mantis help clear her path.
Thanos blows up the X-Con van just as Danvers is approaching it, causing her to lose the gauntlet. He grabs it, but is only able to fight off Danvers when he removes the power stone from the gauntlet and hits her with it.
Rogers, Thor, and Stark once again try to stop Thanos, but he blasts them away. Strange looks over at Stark and holds up one finger.
Stark goes after Thanos again, grabbing the gauntlet and struggling for it, but Thanos tosses him aside again. However, the gauntlet and the Iron Man armor are the same tech built by the same guy—unbeknownst to Thanos, Stark shifted the stones to his armor while they struggled. Thanos says, “I am inevitable” and snaps his fingers—and nothing happens, because his gauntlet is empty.
The stones now part of Stark’s armor, he says, “I am Iron Man,” and snaps his fingers.
Thanos and all his forces fall to dust. The power overwhelms Stark and, with his best friend (Rhodes), his protégé (Parker), and his wife (Potts) by his side, he dies, knowing he saved the world.
Barton returns home to his family. Parker returns to Midtown High and is reunited with Ned. Lang and van Dyne are seen together with Cassie, while T’Challa looks out over Wakanda with Ramonda and Shuri.
Stark made a recording before going off on the “time heists,” and Morgan, Potts, Rhodes, and Happy Hogan watch it before having Stark’s memorial service at their cabin. Also in attendance are most everyone who was in the final battle, along with Maria Hill, Thaddeus Ross, May Parker, Harley Keener, Henry Pym, Janet van Dyne, and Nick Fury.
Potts sends a wreath of flowers out into the water, the centerpiece of which is the original ARC reactor in the container that reads “PROOF THAT TONY STARK HAS A HEART.”
Barton and Maximoff have a moment to mourn Romanoff and the Vision. Hogan sits with Morgan, who declares that she’s hungry and wants a cheeseburger, and Hogan promises her all the cheeseburgers she wants.
In Tønsberg, Thor cedes the throne to Valkyrie, since she was really running things anyhow. He needs to be a hero, not a king, and certainly not a drunken absentee king. He instead goes off with the Guardians, where he and Quill seem to be vying for leadership, Thor’s protests that Quill is in charge not reassuring Quill in the least, with the other Guardians mostly just amused.
Rogers will go through time and return the stones, as well as Mjolnir. Banner says he tried to revive Romanoff when he snapped his fingers, but it didn’t work. She’s really gone.
Before going, Rogers bids adieu to Wilson and Barnes. His goodbye to Barnes is more final than the “see you soon”-type exchange with Wilson.
After Rogers goes through the time machine, Banner can’t get him back, and while Wilson and Banner are panicking, Barnes isn’t—and then he points out the old man sitting nearby.
It’s a very old Rogers, who decided to stay in the past and live a life. Wilson says he doesn’t want to live in a world without Captain America, but Rogers bequeaths his shield (now once again intact) to him. When Wilson asks about the wedding ring he’s wearing, Rogers keeps mum.
Then we flash back to the late 1940s, where Rogers and Carter finally get their dance.
The credits, in a nice touch, includes the actors playing the original six Avengers each getting a screen that includes their credit, their autograph, and clips from their previous films in the MCU. But no mid- or post-credits scene, aside from the sound of Tony Stark forging his armor from Iron Man.
“Everybody wants a happy ending, right?”
I love this movie and I hate this movie, and I was really worried about rewatching it because I was filled with so many mixed feelings when I saw it in April, and that hasn’t really gotten any better in the months since.
I’ve previously discussed some of the things I love and hate about this movie on this site. I love that there’s at least one reference to every single one of the previous twenty-one films in the cycle. I hate that they seemed to assassinate Steve Rogers’s character in order to give him an artificial happy ending. But there’s a lot more to love and a lot more to hate. And while numerically speaking, there’s more to love, the stuff I hate, I really really hate.
I want to end this piece on a positive note, so I’m gonna start with what I hated the most: the final fate of Natasha Romanoff.
I can think of about half a dozen ways to bring Romanoff back without even trying hard, and it’s perfectly possible that the 2020 Black Widow movie will find a way to do so in a framing sequence or a credits sequence or some such. But while that would obviate the sin Endgame committed with Romanoff, it wouldn’t change the fact that the sin was committed.
There has been a hue and cry to do a Black Widow movie practically since the character was introduced in Iron Man 2 in 2010, and certainly since the character impressed in Avengers in 2012.
We finally got word that a BW film was being filmed, ten years later, and then just as the excitement about that starts to build, Endgame comes out and kills her off. It’s frustrating because Romanoff has a great story in this movie. She leads the Avengers in the post-snap world, coordinating the work of the superheroes, both on Earth and in space. She talks to Rogers about how she was alone her entire life but she found a family with the Avengers. (She didn’t even know her father’s name until the Red Skull told it to her.) And the culmination of this is to—kill her off? Both from a story perspective—seems she should be given the chance to thrive in a fixed world, not just the broken one—and from a marketing perspective—you’ve just cut off all the good will you’ve generated with the overdue production of a BW movie at the knees—this was a mistake.
On top of that, the mourning for her is muted because it happens halfway through the movie when there’s still work to be done, and then it’s overshadowed by Stark’s death at the climax, which becomes the big thing everyone remembers, with Romanoff reduced at the end to a footnote conversation between Barton and Maximoff. (Though given the friendship—and brief romance—between those two in the comics, that scene was entertaining.)
Speaking of Stark, the fates of both him and Rogers are frustrating because you can see the strings. It’s very obvious that Stark dies and Rogers goes off to live a life in the past because Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are done playing those two roles. It feels a little too constructed.
Banner’s transformation into the “Professor Hulk” persona happens off-camera, and that’s even more frustrating, because Banner’s arc through Avengers, Age of Ultron, Ragnarok, and Infinity War was enjoyable as hell, and then the next stage of it happens during the five-year gap with a very unsatisfying explanation while sitting in a diner and taking selfies. Maybe we’ll be lucky and Disney+ will give us a Mark Ruffalo miniseries that adapts Incredible Hulk #377 and shows the process by which he merged the personalities, but I’m not holding my breath.
Having said that, I do love the use of Banner in this film. Prior to this movie, the Hulk smashed Harlem and the Abomination, he smashed the helicarrier and the Chitauri, he smashed Johannesburg and Iron Man, he smashed his opponents in the Grandmaster’s arena and the Fenris Wolf, and he tried to smash Thanos. And yet, he’s the one who restores everyone. The greatest act of construction, of re-creation, of resurrection, comes from the character who is synonymous with destruction. It’s a beautiful thing.
(Banner’s transformation isn’t the only untold story from this movie that really needs to be seen at some point. In the end, Rogers has to put all the stones back, and while I’m sure replacing the scepter, the Tesseract, the time stone, and the power stone were all pretty straightforward, replacing the Aether would involve injecting it back into Jane Foster, which can’t have been fun on any level, and replacing the soul stone involves confronting Rogers’s enemy from World War II—something he’d have no preparation for, since Barton didn’t know he was that guy. These are stories that really really need to be told, y’know?)
When I first saw Endgame, I despised PTSD Thor, as I saw it purely as a source of grade-school humor. (See Sylas Barrett’s excellent piece written shortly after Endgame’s release on this site for a very good takedown of this story choice.) I hated that they focused so much on fat jokes and drunk jokes and such.
But in the months since, and rewatching it now, I’ve softened my view on it. Part of why is because Chris Hemsworth elevates the material above the shallow scripting. Another part is because, while I appreciate very much the issues that Sylas (and many others) had with it, I’ve also seen a lot of people with PTSD sing the praises of Thor’s portrayal in the movie, recognizing their own lives in Thor’s response to failing to stop Thanos (right on top of losing Asgard and so many of his friends and family dying). And part of it is seeing all the people who have been cosplaying PTSD Thor at conventions since the spring.
Part of it might also be seeing it on a smaller screen in my living room with just my wife and cats for company as opposed to on a big screen in a packed theatre, because I was much better able to appreciate Thor’s panic attack in Asgard, his overwhelming relief at realizing he was still worthy to wield Mjolnir, and his insistence that he be the one to snap everyone back, so he can finally save someone and get it right for a change.
But there really needed to be fewer fat jokes. And did they have to spoil Frigga and Thor’s beautiful mother-son chat by ending it with her saying, “Eat a salad”? Seriously?
The big climactic battle with everyone is a bit of a mess. You don’t get much of a sense of the scale of the battle, just individual bits, and it’s so huge as to almost become meaningless. The start of it is excellent, with a reprise of “Yibambe!” and—after being teased with it more than once—finally hearing Captain America say, “Avengers assemble,” but after that it devolves into a CGI mess. There are moments, from the Stark-Parker hug to Captain Marvel’s arrival (which got the same type of punch-the-air cheers that Thor’s arrival in Wakanda got in Infinity War) to all the female heroes taking charge of getting the gauntlet down the rugby pitch.
But that leads to the biggest problem, as the movie doesn’t make it at all clear why they have to get the gauntlet to the quantum tunnel (which just gets blown up in any case). I mean, they needed to send the stones back in time, but they couldn’t just throw the gauntlet into the quantum realm, could they? I mean, I guess to keep it out of Thanos’s hands? I dunno, it just wasn’t clear, and the Barton-to-T’Challa-to-Parker-to-Danvers passing of the gauntlet just felt silly.
Having said that, the opening act of the climactic battle, where the Big Three go up against Thanos, was beautifully done.
As was a lot of the movie, truly. Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and the Russo Brothers had a lot of balls to juggle, and it’s to their credit that only a couple of them fell to the floor. It’s a lovely culmination of a decade’s worth of stories, in part by actually revisiting several of them. It’s a joy to see Rene Russo as Frigga again, even with the salad line (honestly, her scene here is by far her best in three movies), Stark getting to have the rapprochement with his father that his death never allowed him to have (especially now that Stark himself is a father) is beautiful to see (and both Downey Jr. and John Slattery play it elegantly), and the Ancient One knocking Banner’s astral form out the way she did Strange.
Plus, the Banner-Ancient One conversation combines with Banner’s discussion with Rhodes and Lang to show that Markus and McFeely did their research and actually followed along with actual physicists’ notions of how time travel is likely to work, rather than depending on pop culture. Not that pop culture is completely trashed, given that the only reason why the Avengers are capable of saving the day at all is because Lang has seen too many science fiction movies, and it put ideas in his head when he realized time moves differently in the quantum realm. We’ve got a couple of alternate time tracks at this point, thus bringing Marvel’s concept of the multiverse front and center (setting up two of the announced Disney+ series, Loki with the trickster gadding about with his very own Tesseract, and What If…? which will explore alternate histories, not to mention providing an explanation of why Rogers’s final decision doesn’t make him an indolent murdering sack of shit).
Plus the story themes that have run through all of the MCU are here: heroism, family, response to stress, dealing with the aftermath of disaster, trust.
While Thor’s PTSD is the butt of jokes, Stark’s PTSD is longer-standing and in its way much worse, as he’s been like this since he blew up the Chitauri ship in Avengers. It informed the texture of Iron Man 3, it informed the plot of Age of Ultron, and the events of the latter movie led to the big blowup in Civil War, which brings us to where we are in Endgame, with Stark giving Rogers a big fat I told you so.
But in the end, Rogers and Stark restore their comradeship. Too much water has flowed under the bridge for their disagreement in Civil War to even be relevant anymore, and both of them are heroes—Rogers by nature, Stark by trauma-related choice. The moment when they shake hands when Stark returns to Avengers HQ, and again when Rogers declares his trust for Stark before they jump back to 1970, are glorious.
For all that I hated their endings, the arcs for both Stark and Rogers are excellent. I love that Rogers is worthy to hold Mjolnir (it’s right up there with Superman wielding it in Avengers/JLA #4 by Kurt Busiek & George Pérez), and I love that Stark is such a good father (mostly because he’s pretty much still a child himself).
I also like that, while there is plenty of brute force action against Thanos, that’s a side effect of their heroism, and one they have to deal with, but the actual heroic act they perform initially is to retrieve the stones and restore the dusted half of life in the universe. And to do that, they had to think—first Stark had to work out the time travel theory, then he, Banner, Rocket, and Nebula had to build it, then they had to figure out how best to retrieve the stones. I love the way they thought through it all (while also taking a fun nostalgic look back at the last decade of movies), in particular Romanoff realizing that half the stones were in New York in 2012.
The time heists themselves are tons of fun, from “That’s America’s ass!” to “So, he’s an idiot” to Robert Redford coming out of fucking retirement to reprise the role of Alexander Pierce. (I generally love that the Avengers used their knowledge of Hydra’s infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. to good effect here, as well as providing a belated explanation for how Hydra got their hands on the scepter after the Battle of New York. And seeing Chris Evans whisper “Hail Hydra” was a delightful riff on the recent idiotic storyline in the comics that tried to establish that Cap has been a Hydra sleeper all this time.)
So many great performances here, from Don Cheadle providing commentary on the action all throughout (“What’s up, Regular-Sized Man?”) to Scarlett Johansson’s understated but powerful taking over as leader of the remnants of the Avengers to Mark Ruffalo’s much more relaxed version of Banner to Alexandra Rabe’s adorable portrayal of Morgan (“I love you three thousand!” will always melt my heart) to Bradley Cooper giving us most of the most wonderful bits in the movie as Rocket. Seriously, Rocket is just the best, and he makes so much of this film, from his smacking Thor around to “Don’t throw up in my ship” to “He’s pretty good at that” after Rogers’s inspirational speech before the time heists. (A deleted scene has another classic Rocket bit, as they’re watching footage of the Battle of New York, and Rocket is amazed it took them so long to take out the Chitauri, who are, he says, the worst army in the universe. “You just gotta take out their mothership.” And when Rogers says they didn’t know that was a thing, Rocket just laughs his ass off.)
But the best performance in the film is Karen Gillan, playing two different versions of Nebula, sometimes in the same room. The character’s torment, her growth, her anguish, her anger, it’s all beautifully played, at two completely different intensities, depending on which version we’re seeing. It’s a magnificently nuanced performance, showing her love/hate for Thanos, her hate/love for Gamora, and her general tortured existence.
The five-year jump was an interesting choice, providing much deeper consequences than one expects from a superhero movie. It’s unlikely that a series that only provide a few two-hour stories a year will be able to go into any kind of depth with how the world is recovering from this (Far from Home will take care of it in a student-news prelude that is both amusing and woefully inadequate), and that’s a bit frustrating. But it also adds to the pathos, especially since Stark has to, in essence, give up the first happiness he’s had in his life since his parents were killed in order to restore the universe to what it should be, rather than what a powerful psychopath thinks it should be.
All the female heroes gathering around Spider-Man to get the gauntlet to the X-Con van (and seriously, the moment when Lang plays the “La Cucaracha” horn was just fabulous) was absolute self-indulgent fan service, and I totally don’t give a fuck, because Marvel has so many fantastic women (most especially the one they idiotically killed off), and any showcase is a good one. (The packed theatre when I saw this in April of this year all cheered loudest at this part of the film, by the way.)
Overall, this is an amazing accomplishment, bringing together a score of movies over a decade and bringing them to an amazing climax, while still leaving plenty of room for more stories to follow.
Next week, we’ll be off for Thanksgiving, but in the first week in December, we’ll cover the first of those stories to follow, as Phase 3 gets a coda with Spider-Man: Far from Home.
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at GalaxyCon Louisville this weekend in Kentucky. He’ll be at Bard’s Tower, Booth 1140, selling and signing books, and he’ll also be doing some panels. Click here for his full schedule.