For a while now, I’ve been trying to maximize my time and minimize my excessive word counts with my Triple Scoop Reviews; today, however, we’re going back to the old standard because Avengers: Endgame is kinda the end of an era here, and I feel like it deserves its own space.
Or, in other words, I’ve got a few things to say, and while some of it’s really positive, some of it’s really not.
If you haven’t seen Endgame yet, I sympathize. Life gets in the way nearly as often as it finds a way, and dodging spoilers–assuming you care about spoilers–is an incredible pain in the ass. Sadly, I can offer you nothing but a clear warning: do not read this review if you haven’t seen the movie yet because it’s a veritable truckload of SPOILERS at this point.
Five years after Thanos thoroughly whomped The Avengers and wiped out half the universe, The Best of What’s Left band together to pull off a time heist, hoping to steal the Infinity Stones from the past in order to snap everyone back into existence in the future.
1. When I wrote my review on Infinity War last year, I said I’d been having trouble deciding exactly how I felt about it and would probably continue to do so until I saw Endgame. Now that I’ve seen Endgame, I’m . . . still having difficulties. Because there’s a lot to like here, multiple moments and scenes that I’m genuinely 112% enthusiastic about it, but there are also some problems. And for me, at least, these are decidedly not small problems.
Let’s discuss some of what I liked first:
A. The Time Heist
This was super fun and almost everything that happens here works for me, like, okay, Endgame has about 787 callbacks and probably only needed, say, 700 of them–Howard Stark’s scenes, for instance, could probably have been cut, or at least seriously trimmed–but I was so delighted by most of the homages that it really wasn’t a big problem for me. And almost everything about the Time Heist works so well. Particular highlights include: the Avengers all lying about while working on the plan, Tony checking out Steve’s ass, Steve checking out his own ass, and Steve being mildly exasperated by his own rhetoric while fighting a younger version of himself. Oh, and “Hail Hydra.” Also, FRIGGA! I adore Frigga. She was far too good for The Dark World.
B. The Final Fight
I mean, it’s epic, and there are a lot of really great moments in it. Like Cap pushing himself up and standing alone against Thanos and his hordes. And Sam saying “on your left” and all of our heroes coming back from the dead. I mean, literal chills, people. That was a damn Moment. Also, Steve lifting Mjolnir. (Hell YEAH.) And Pepper as Iron Man. (Hell YEAH.) And the shot of all the badass lady superheroes stepping up together. (Hell–well. Hm. We’ll come back to this.)
And, of course, there’s Tony.
Iron Man came out in 2008, so, eleven years ago now. I’ve been watching Tony Stark since I was 22. Man, that’s fucking surreal. Time is surreal. I’ve been watching these movies almost as long as I’ve worked at the hospital. I was still in college in 2008. I hadn’t gone to Clarion West yet. I certainly hadn’t sold any of my writing. I hadn’t met a lot of people who I now consider some of my closest friends. Supernatural had only been on for three years. I was still watching it, even, and genuinely worried that it would be untimely cancelled, like, what? What is TIME, even?
Okay, I got off track there. My point is, it’s depressing to lose a character after eleven years and nine goddamn movies, like, Iron Man’s not just a character at this point; he’s a goddamn institution. That being said, this is a really solid death scene and great character exit. Between Dr. Strange raising one finger, to Tony declaring that he’s Iron Man, to Tom Holland’s contagious fucking tears, to Pepper telling Tony he can rest now . . . I mean, damn. It just hurts. But it hurts in a way that works.
2. So, let’s talk about some things that don’t work.
A. Black Widow deserved better than this fucking movie.
It’s not Black Widow dying that bothers me, exactly. If I had to pick between her and Hawkeye, yes, I would’ve thrown Hawkeye off the cliff–especially after this film, which I’ll come back to shortly–but it’s not just that. Shit, the total surprise of it actually works in its favor because, going into this movie, I was not particularly worried about Black Widow. Tony, definitely. Steve, certainly. Nebula, absolutely. Honestly, even Thor, a little. But Natasha? Not so much.
Here’s my thing: Natasha’s been a part of this franchise since 2010 and Iron Man 2, almost as long as Tony Stark himself. Despite the fact that she hasn’t had her own movie (yet? if ever? are we dropping the announced BW movie or just making it a prequel no one wants?), Black Widow has appeared in seven of these films, including this one. She’s not a throwaway character. She’s a Big Damn Hero, and while her sacrifice is important to the plot, it’s a shitty resolution for her story.
Endgame gives Tony an arc. It gives Steve an arc. It even kinda gives Thor an arc, although we’ll be discussing elements of said arc in some scathing terms in a short while. Natasha, essentially, gets two scenes that specifically focus on her motivations, goals, and/or emotional state, and while they’re both good scenes–I’ve been a sucker for Nat and Cap’s friendship since Winter Soldier, and I genuinely like watching her and Hawkeye fight over who gets to sacrifice themselves for the cause–two scenes do not a character arc make. Tony’s sacrifice at the end of the movie is the culmination of so much; Natasha’s sacrifice is, at best, a parallel to Gamora in Infinity War. At worst, she’s just another person to provide Hawkeye some man pain with, like, bitches always be flying over this cliff to make a dude weepy. (Bruce, to a lesser extent, also gets to join in on the man pain.) Natasha’s death is mostly about making sure Hawkeye gets his family. It does not feel like it’s about her own journey in any way, and that’s crap.
It also really doesn’t help that while Tony practically gets a Viking funeral with a massive group of superhero and cameo mourners, Natasha gets . . . a sad line or two from a couple of dudes? I mean, that’s it. There is no epic sendoff for Natasha, no parade of people whose lives she’s changed, no video message saying goodbye, nothing. Her sacrifice isn’t treated with anywhere near the importance of Tony’s, and that’s crap, too.
B. Hawkeye’s whole story is kinda worthless.
Prior to this movie’s release, there was a lot of excitement about Hawkeye becoming Ronin. I didn’t care much one way or the other, not having read the comics, but I figured we’d get to see more of him, and that would be cool. And indeed, the first scene where Hawkeye’s family blinks out of existence while he’s looking the other way is sad enough. I figured he wouldn’t be doing super well, like, emotionally speaking, because really, who would?
But then we discover Hawkeye’s been serial murdering criminals for the past five years, and I’m just like . . . meh? Cause I get it: “you don’t deserve to live when my innocent fam died” is a super basic homicidal vigilante backstory, only nothing I’ve seen in his past few movies really feels like it’s been building towards Dark Hawkeye. Like, I didn’t watch his family disappear and think, Oh SHIT. Dude is gonna go DARK. I was more like, Well, that sucks. I wonder . . . oh, I guess he’s just a murderer now? Okay, then. It’s not that I can’t buy it; it’s just that it all feels so generic, especially because there’s so little development in Endgame itself. You know, Rhodey’s all, “Barton’s gone BAD,” and we see a scene of Big Bad Barton killing some dudes, and then after that, like, he’s just Hawkeye with a mohawk again. And I’m like, Cool, that was . . . worth it?
None of it’s terrible, mind you; it just all feels like wasted time. You know, either DO something with Dark Clint or cut this whole Ronin shit and give that time to Nat.
And speaking of things that we could cut . . .
C. Thor’s fat and depressed. Ha ha, SO FUNNY.
No. It wasn’t, and for once, I’m actually glad I got spoiled for this particular bit of fat phobic humor so I could prepare myself a little, although I still didn’t realize just how extensive it would be, how the fat jokes would go on and on and ON. Christ, this whole thing was uncomfortable to watch. Like, everyone’s cracking up around me at the 75th big belly shot, right, and I’m just cringing in my seat, thinking, Ha ha, nothing’s funnier than a severely depressed dude whose whole family is dead, who’s lost half his people to a mass genocide, and whose coping mechanisms have caused him to gain a bunch of weight; yeah, ha ha, Thor, you go eat a salad! It’s funny because you used to be all muscly and attractive! Meanwhile, probably a good call I didn’t buy any candy because I doubt I’d be able to finish it right now, surrounded by everyone chuckling over the hilarity of a fat superhero. How the mighty have fallen! How the God of Thunder has let himself go! Ha, yes, it MUST be Cheez Whiz running through your veins because everyone knows that all fat people only ever eat junk, and hey, if they didn’t want to be laughed at, they should’ve just tried not being so fat all the time! It’s funny because punching down is the best, amirite?
There are two things especially frustrating about this: one, I am sure that some of the people in my life who’ve genuinely, if sometimes cluelessly, tried to be kind to me, saying I was beautiful or didn’t need to be insecure or “honey, you’re not fat,” were also the same people laughing at this endless string of fat jokes, which I find . . . disheartening. Two, the scenes that aren’t about how funny Fat Thor is, that are actually about his grief and trauma and how guilty and lost he feels, are actually really good. Chris Hemsworth does some spectacular acting here. There’s a vulnerability to Thor in these last two movies that show this really amazing character growth–but it’s also incredibly hard to appreciate in the wake of so much mean spirited bullshit.
D. Marvel, apparently, had its first “gay rep” moment? Fucking please, Russo Brothers.
Seriously. It’s 2019 and we’re about 20 movies into this giant, shared cinematic universe. You don’t get to introduce one unnamed gay dude who talks for, like, thirty seconds about his dead husband and pat yourselves on the back for a job well done. Even as I watched this scene, I had the sinking feeling that somebody from Marvel would use it as evidence towards their commitment to LGBTQIA representation. And sure enough, they did. It’s just such shit, all of it.
3. Much as I like all the Time Heist stuff, well. The timey-wimey mechanics don’t really seem to hold up to much inspection. Which, honestly, is not as big of a problem for me as some of this other stuff because I often find the Rules of Time Travel pretty boring, but still. There feels like a lot of handwaving going on.
For instance, did that timeline where Loki took off with the tesseract just disappear? Or did he open up another timeline branch? (And, you know, TV spinoff.) Cause the Ancient One seemed pretty expressly against opening up different timeline branches, but that also feels like a weird plot thread just to leave there if you’re not doing anything with it. How can Captain America possibly live in the past without changing anything? What, was he literally hiding in Peggy’s house for 70 years, doing nothing but slow dancing and, I don’t know, eating Eggos? Or–no, I appear to have just stumbled upon an article saying Cap, too, went and lived in an alternate timeline, which, look, I’ve always been strongly in favor of Parallel Reality Time Travel myself, but again, isn’t that specifically what Bruce Banner promised to keep from happening? Are we just saying our heroes failed all these other universes, or what? Also, how does Future Nebula kill Past Nebula without getting erased? And did everyone in Peter’s class really get the Big Snap too? There have to be kids who are now five years older than him, right? Like, probability laws or some shit. We’re going to address this, right?
By the end of the movie, Endgame sets up a fascinating world where half the population are grief-stricken survivors and the other half have all been magically resurrected five years in the future. And, like, there are so many interesting stories you can tell with that premise–only I can’t help but feel future films are just gonna be super offhand about it, if they bother addressing it at all. Maybe my pessimism springs from the fact that Endgame spent so little time on its own apocalyptic world building, or possibly it’s just because I’m a cynical bastard who knows no joy. (Obviously, both can be true.) My point is, Endgame leaves Marvel with so much potential, so, you know, don’t fuck it up, MARVEL.
(Marvel’s totes gonna fuck it up.)
4. I get that Captain Marvel is ridiculously powerful and all, but I was pretty bummed by just how much she was sidelined in this movie. I really assumed she’d be around more. I was also disappointed by how little screen time Okoye and Valkyrie got. Between my limited time with these characters and how bitter I am about Natasha, the Ladies on the Battlefield shot works less and less for me as time goes on. Like, I did like the moment in theater; I won’t lie about that. And women–well, white women–certainly got better rep than queer people did in this movie. Still, once you kill off Natasha, we only have one primary female character (Nebula) among six white dudes and one dude raccoon (also voiced by a white dude). And even with Nebula getting a good chunk of screen time (which I’m quite happy about because Nebula rocks), the overall M:F ratios in Endgame are pretty lame. You can see a more extensive breakdown here, but just looking at the top ten?
10. Black Widow – 33 minutes
9. War Machine – 35 minutes
8. Rocket – 36 minutes
7. Hawkeye – 37 minutes
6. Ant-Man – 38 minutes
5. The Hulk – 40 minutes
4. Nebula – 41 minutes
3. Thor – 45 minutes
2. Iron Man – 62 minutes
1. Captain America – 66 minutes
So, yeah. The Power Ladies scene is cool, but then again, it’s not really a scene; it’s a five second shot in a three hour movie. Not to mention, this list also makes it even more glaringly obvious how white this overall cast is. Endgame has its strengths, but diversity–whether it be racial, gender, or sexual diversity–isn’t really one of them.
5. I’m absolutely sure I’m forgetting stuff, but I wanna go ahead and wrap this up, so let me end on a few more random thoughts:
5A. I never, ever warmed up to Sharon Carter–I’m pretty sure she’s my least favorite MCU love interest of all time–but man, even I felt a little bad she didn’t get to show up for the Power Ladies scene. Also, Lady Sif. Why is there no mention of Lady Sif? Did Lady Sif die? And shit, where the hell is Nakia?
5B. I forgot to mention it before, but–timey-wimey shenanigans aside–I really do like how Steve’s story ends. I think my only problem is that I wish he and Bucky got to have one more scene together. I’ve never been much of a Stucky shipper, but I am invested in their epic friendship, and I wish there had been . . . I’m not exactly sure what, just something more. Though I did get the impression that Bucky knew what Steve was planning, which I really liked, that only he knew Steve well enough to know that he wasn’t coming back, at least, not in the same way. And I really loved Sam’s scene with Steve, too. I just wish Bucky and Steve could have had one more moment, just the two of them. It didn’t even have to be big, just something small and personal.
5C. I really adore the few Tony and Nebula scenes at the beginning of the movie, just goddamn adore them. I also really like the scene early on where Tony essentially has a breakdown, like, it’s kinda hard to watch–I just wanna hug everyone–but on a character level, it’s a good scene. Which is basically how I felt about the scene where Tony stops Thor from putting on the gauntlet in the midst of his own breakdown, too.
And yeah, I’m apparently a giant sucker for Dad Tony Stark. Hey, if someone wants to cheer me up, now that Dad Tony Stark is dead, they could write an AU fanfic where he and Steve and Pepper and Peggy collect orphan superhero children, like Little Bruce and Thor and Nat and Nebula and such, and raise them into an amazing found family. I don’t even usually go for that type of fanfic, but still. I could see it.
Man, it’s been ages since I’ve read Avengers fanfic; I think after Age of Ultron–and especially once Domestic Avengers faded away–I lost interest. It makes me a little sad. Domestic Avengers could’ve been a hell of a show.
Thanos: “I am inevitable.”
Iron Man: “And I . . . am . . . Iron Man.”
Past Steve: “I can do the all day.”
Future Steve: “Yeah, I know.”
Scarlet Witch: “You took everything from me.”
Thanos: “I don’t even know who you are.”
Scarlet Witch: “You will.”
Captain America: “Hail Hydra.”
Falcon: “On your left.”
Iron Man: “Do you trust me?”
Captain America: “I do.”
Tony: “Up until this moment, I thought you were a Build-a-Bear.”
Natasha: “I get emails from a raccoon, so nothing sounds crazy.”
Tony: “I’m going to stop you right there, Scott. Are you seriously telling me that your plan to save the universe is based on Back to the Future?”
Ant-Man: “As far as I’m concerned, that’s America’s ass.”
Captain America: “That is America’s ass.”
I wanna be one of the people ecstatic about how this all turned out, I really do, but I just can’t. Not entirely. I don’t regret seeing Endgame at all. I’d never tell someone not to see it or argue they were wrong for loving it. There’s some really great stuff here, and I will definitely rewatch certain scenes like whoa. It’s just that when I left the theater, my immediate impression was that I was disappointed, and upon reflection, that hasn’t really changed.
Hm. For me, I think it’s a tossup between Robert Downey Jr. and Karen Gillan. I like Chris Evans a lot too, though. Awards for everyone!
B. It might, with time, slip down to a B-, but I sincerely doubt it will ever raise to a B+.
Never give up, never surrender, and when in doubt, time travel.