It’s been 11 years since the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe came out. I still remember that moment perfectly, though. It was 2008, and the film was Iron Man. I recall how I felt the first time I saw it, and the first thing I thought when I left the movie theater after hearing Tony Stark utter those celebrated words—I am Iron Man. “Damn right he is!” Those were my thoughts.
Robert Downey Jr. was perfect in the role. He created something that time. He changed our perception of superhero movies. A flawed, though extremely charismatic human built a fancy suit and changed the world. Marvel had struck gold, and it all led here, to this one film—to the endgame.
The ride was uneven, for sure. For every stroke of genius we got an absolute disaster too. For every Iron Man-level flick we also got to see the lows of a Thor: The Dark World. But that was fine. It was part of the fun, and I enjoyed every second of it. This time, though, I left the movie theater with mixed feelings. Avengers: Endgame is, in this sense, nothing if not the most fitting ending: the uneven ride we get in the whole MCU culminates in an uneven ride of a movie. For every stroke of genius in Endgame, we also get clumsy writing and rushed storylines. And I enjoyed every second of it. Here are 7 things Avengers: Endgame did right, and 7 moments where it utterly failed.
There’s plenty of good things about Endgame. It’s safe to say this is the most ambitious Marvel film to date, and it was an almost impossible task to meet expectations, but it was a fine attempt.
The film was nothing if not satisfying. That ending, the way the storylines merge and culminate in a single, colossal battle for the universe, the way the Avengers got to revisit their past and deal with their own ancient ghosts—it was all pure gold. It was sad, exciting, and fun all at once. That’s not an easy feat at all. Marvel was under a lot of pressure to make it work, and, despite all the odds, they did. To a great extent, at least.
Sure, the ending was sad. But it was also appropriate. The man with whom it all began is also the man with whom it ended—kind of. It was especially fitting that (SPOILERS AHEAD) Tony’s final words before snapping Thanos out of existence—sacrificing himself in the process—were the (in)famous “I am Iron Man.”
2. Great humor
Endgame definitely felt lighter than Infinity War. Marvel movies are known for being funny when they need to be, and they use humor to their advantage in a way no other superhero franchise can even come close to achieving. That all holds true for Endgame. The humor is neither too in-your-face, nor too absent. It was, simply put, balanced to perfection. Fat Thor was a terrific highlight, by the way.
Well, who would doubt this? Endgame was on a scale never before seen in the MCU: literally everything, existence itself (considering Thanos’ final threat) was at stake. And these epic levels of peril were met with the proportionate level of strength on the part of our heroes. They were up to the challenge, and wow—was it exciting to see it all unfold! Never before had we seen so many superheroes and villains, each one of them as powerful as the other, packed into a single battle. Despite the exaggerated use of CGI and confusing narrative, it was simply a Marvel to watch.
4. Great villain—again
Thanos is back and meaner than ever. He no longer has the upper hand, though, as he is now the one chasing and trying to stop the Avengers rather than the other way around. He’s one step behind at pretty much every point in the story, and he still manages to be just about the biggest threat even the most powerful of our superheroes (in this case, Captain Marvel) have ever faced. With or without the Stones, Thanos is a force to be reckoned with. And he is made all the better by Josh Brolin’s stellar performance, which gives the character a depth and complexity that is seldom seen in superhero films.
5. Amazing reunion
Here’s another spoiler, but they’re inevitable at this point. The lost Avengers—the ones turned to dust during Infinity War—are back, and with a vengeance. The moment they appear on screen is at once exhilarating and heartwarming, and seeing them all together with the “snap survivors,” teaming up in their best form, is quite an experience.
But things are not so easy. Sacrifices had to be made. We lose Natasha in an emotional, selfless jump into the void so that Barton could get the Soul Stone, and Tony’s heroic death is nothing short of a waterworks. Needless to say, everyone in my theater was sobbing after that particular scene. Losing Tony is about the hardest, most difficult punch to process. To think of a Marvel universe without this charming, megalomaniac character feels wrong, and the world feels somehow emptier without him. That’s perhaps Robert Downey Jr.’s biggest accomplishment: in a crazy, absurd world of magic, super-technology, and time-travel, he made us care. And we cared deeply.
7. Worthy finale
The whole movie is certainly a finale worthy of the Avengers. What we saw Marvel build over the last 11 years got what it deserved in Endgame: a charismatic, funny, and exciting conclusion to an epic saga. Sure, it’s not perfect. But it’s definitely worthy.
One expression sums up the issues here: Endgame is a plot-hole nightmare.
1. Deus ex tempore, or a god from the time-traveling nonsense
Well… they did it. They went for the time-travel solution to undo everything Thanos had done. I gotta give it to them: they really tried to make it different from other time-traveling “heists” (as Ant-Man calls it). They knew they couldn’t just go back to kill baby Thanos, because that would merely create another timeline without actually changing the past set by Infinity Stone. They had to bring those lost during The Snap to their own future. In other words, the surviving Avengers had to “revive” the dusted ones, rather than stop them from being killed in the first place.
Problem is, nothing about time-traveling made sense in this movie. The whole storyline felt so rushed, so utterly superficial, that they didn’t even tried to explain it at all. Scott comes back after five years in the quantum realm, realizing time works differently there. So he tells the Avengers, and Tony’s genius mind comes up with a way to use “quantum physics” to time-travel. Just like that. They pick a date, go very small and into the quantum realm, and suddenly come out in the past. That’s it. No more explanation given.
In previous Ant-Man films, going into the quantum realm was a big thing. It was dangerous, unstable, and riddled with unknowns. By the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp, we see that film’s whole team experimenting with this, trying to understand how it all works. As soon as Scott returns, we’re supposed to believe that the Avengers suddenly have no problem “going quantum,” but have such a mastery of the quantum realm that they can use it to go back and forth in time without consequence. The only restriction? They don’t have that many Pym particles to do it indefinitely. Otherwise, there’s no problem.
Never mind all the work previous Marvel films did to establish that going quantum was a big deal. In the whole history of the MCU, we never, not once, got a hint that you could travel in time by making yourself very small before this film. Now, suddenly, they all figure it out because Scott didn’t experience time quite as the other Avengers did. It’s all too evident that, having written themselves into a corner, Marvel just pulled this one out of their sleeve when the narrative needed it. It was lazy writing.
I get Endgame is not trying to be scientifically accurate. And I’m not asking for accuracy. I’m just asking for a bit of sense.
2. Ant-Man didn’t go into Thanos’ bottocks
Speaking of Ant-Man, I’m deeply disappointed he didn’t go up Thanos’ butt while small and then expanded from the inside in order to defeat him. That was one of the most popular fan theories out there, and we never got to see it. Well, perhaps we wouldn’t want to see it, actually, but it would’ve made sense to do that. Perhaps Tony would be alive now if Ant-Man had taken one for the team.
3. Scattered plot
But seriously. The time-travel issue is just one instance of a more general problem in Endgame. The whole plot felt all over the place—rushed, uneven, and filled with plot holes. I’ll mention a couple more instances below, but suffice it to say that if you can’t write yourself out of trouble in a single film, then either do more films, or don’t write yourself into so much trouble in the first place. As it stands, things weren’t done well.
The film bit on far more than it could chew. It was incredibly ambitious—too ambitious for its own good, as it turns out.
4. An angel to save a Stark—out of nowhere
Here’s an example of what I mean. At the beginning of the film, Tony Stark and Nebula are drifting hopelessly in space, thousands of light-years away from Earth. They have no way to repair their ship, and no way to get back home. Just before they run out of oxygen, suddenly and out of nowhere, Captain Marvel appears and rescues them.
I feel there must be a deleted scene out there, for this was simply too nonsensical. No explanation is given as to how she finds them, where she came from, why she took so long… nothing. She just happened to appear when the narrative required it. This is but another instance of a deus ex machina: solving your plot’s problems through sheer lazy writing.
5. Professor Hulk
Here’s yet another example of what I mean. In Thor: Ragnarok, a character arc for Hulk began. In that film, Banner couldn’t come out. In Infinity War, Hulk refuses to appear. Now, all of a sudden, we see them both combined into one. We are treated with Professor Hulk, if you will. This whole affair was also unexplained, rushed, and ultimately superficial.
Banner doesn’t expand on how he managed it, he just mentions he did it through experiments. That’s exactly what I mean by lazy writing. The whole point about Banner’s conundrum is that his power is incredibly unstable, hard to manage, and a cure is seemingly impossible. Then, without reason, all this is thrown away and actual character development seems to count for nothing. What an unsatisfying resolution from the Ragnarok-Infinity War Hulk arc.
The “time-travel fixes everything” plot is overdone already in the film industry, so it’s a shame they went that way, especially in such a lazy, out-of-nowhere manner. Granted, the movie didn’t take itself seriously here—the Avengers are the first ones to mock the trope by ironically referencing pretty much all time-travel films out there, especially Back to the Future.
And that would’ve been fine, if it weren’t the single key to seriously solve the whole problem Infinity War left them in. For all the mocking and half-hearted undertones regarding time-travel, the film’s gravitas and seriousness is grounded on it. They can’t really get away with that. Humor about this trope is mostly used here as a way to beat us to the punch, but the punch lands heavily nonetheless.
7. Endless possibilities and random, nonsense limitations
Infinity War raised the stakes to unparalleled heights, so it’s not surprising that things couldn’t be so simple in Endgame. The Avengers can’t get away with everything without consequences, so true sacrifices must be made. The film would have no emotional commitment otherwise, right? Some people are truly dead, whereas some others can be revived. What the Stones taketh away, the Stones can giveth back. But apparently, these all-powerful stones have some very… random, unexplained, convenient, for-the-sake-of-narrative limitations too.
They can’t bring everyone back, of course. Why not? No idea. There’s no explanation given for why Natasha, for example, must remain dead. There’s a whole scene dedicated to trying to explain this, and to say the “explanation” is unsatisfying would be an understatement. Basically, the Red Skull told them Natasha couldn’t come back. So she can’t. That’s it.
As far as potential explanations for addressing this issue go, that’s about the lamest possible one. She just can’t be brought back because she can’t be. That would be too easy, so we won’t make it happen. For that matter, how come the Stones cannot bring Tony or Loki back either? I get there should be limitations in place—it would be too cheap if they could.
But there’s no real, creative, ingenious (i.e. satisfying) reason for why the Stones can bend time, souls, and the very fabric of reality, but not get the heart of an organism beating again. It’s just a rather senseless, ad hoc limitation as it was presented. Future movies might address this, but it’d still be a question that we’d want answered during this film to actually take the sacrifices seriously.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I loved Endgame for what it was. But its issues are too salient to ignore, don’t you agree?
Cover photo via Game Spot
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