Don’t want Endgame spoilers? Don’t read this.
Avengers: Endgame arrived last week, and we liked it! The movie is three hours, and while it is insanely well-paced, it is still an exhausting experience. Amanda saw it on a Tuesday and woke up on Wednesday thinking it was Monday. I also saw it on a Tuesday, but when I woke up the next morning, it felt like Friday. Maybe that’s because I had also seen the movie on the previous Thursday. Regardless, for a film that deals with time travel, it felt like it actually altered the flow of time for us. Impressive!
Still, even if we liked Endgame, it doesn’t mean it comes without problems. And since everyone and the alternative reality versions of their mothers have a hot take, here’s ours.
A Lovely Family Picnic … During a Hostile Alien Invasion
During the Ant-Man and The Wasp mid-credits scene, I couldn’t help but wonder why the Ant-vengers were running important quantum realm experiments on the day alien forces attacked New York and Africa. Like, they had to know it happened, right? Especially the giant ship landing in New York. We know it was widely reported. Scarlet Witch and Vision learned about it via a convenient newscast while they were in Scotland. You’re telling me San Francisco doesn’t know about this? But I was mostly willing to suspend my disbelief enough to assume that maybe they were mid-experiment during the attack and didn’t even know it had happened. They were just sciencing real hard. Whatever.
I cannot cut the same slack to Hawkeye and his family at the beginning of Endgame. A giant alien ship landed in New York. It attacks, and said attack is reported around the world. So what do the Bartons do? Have a picnic a few hours later. Huh? I get that their farm is a secure location, but that’s for like regular Earth espionage shit. It’s off the grid, not alien proof. Also, I noticed when Clint went back in time during the test mission, you can see that the Bartons have neighbors. Are they even actually off the grid?
Clint’s got to know the Thanos stuff is going down, right? He used to be part of a superhero team that was explicitly created to deal with issues like this. He may be retired/under house arrest, but he can’t be that far out of the loop. But then again, he doesn’t even really need to be in the loop. People in Scotland know this is happening! Also, isn’t he maybe a little worried about his friends who are still on said superhero team and have to solve this problem? I guess not. His biggest concern is that his wife thinks mayo is an appropriate condiment for a hot dog, which I admit is a bit worrisome.
Captain Marvel Is Here … And She’s Gone
It really seemed like Captain Marvel was set up as the key to defeating Thanos. I mean, they teased her in the end credits scene of Infinity War, and Marvel made sure to release her origin story a few months before Endgame to introduce her to audiences. And then she spent most of the movie not participating in the main action. She’s just somewhere else in the universe, kicking ass and getting haircuts. I get that it’s important to help the rest of the worlds that were affected by Thanos (i.e. all of them), but Nebula and Rocket are also patrolling the wider reaches of space. They still make a point of coming back to Earth for the time heist. Probably because it’s the best chance they have of undoing what Thanos did. You know, that really important goal that everyone, including Captain Marvel, has.
But she does make it back for the big battle, and she does that thing we already saw her do in Captain Marvel. I mean, it’s cool that her big move is literally flying through spaceships to destroy them. But it was exactly what she did in her own movie to demonstrate the full extent of her powers. Thrilling to see it revisited in a movie that is jam-packed with cool, unique fan-service moments. They are really using this character to her full potential.
But what’s really important is the vital role that Carol Danvers plays in defeating Thanos. At the beginning of the film, she helps the group by finding where he retreated to after Wakanda. No wait, that was Nebula and Rocket. Well, she does subdue Thanos … as part of a group attack. But she gets the gauntlet away from the purple dude. Oh right, that was actually Thor during that group attack. Well, it’s definitely Captain Marvel who kills Thanos. Wait … nope, Thor again. Well, that’s just the first part of the movie. After Captain Marvel is gone for most of the runtime, she shows back up, destroys Thanos’ ship, and then goes mono e mono against the Mad Titan. There it is! That’s why she’s important. No one else could do that. I mean, except for Thor, Scarlet Witch, Captain America and Iron Man.
I like Captain Marvel, and I don’t think she’s bad in the movie. She’s just not really important at all, and it feels weird that such a big deal was made out of her presence. Everything she does could be done by another character. I guess possible exceptions include rescuing Tony and Nebula and destroying Thanos’ ship in such a dramatic fashion, but those plot points honestly could have been worked around in different ways, too. I’m just disappointed that Marvel was touting the importance of this character when she’s in no way vital to Endgame. She may be the most powerful Avenger, but she has less narrative significance than Ant-Man. Ant-Man!
Thanos Destroyed the Infinity Stones … Isn’t The Universe Just Done Then?
When Bruce Banner has his little tête-à-tête with the Ancient One in 2012, she reveals that the Infinity Stones are responsible for the flow of time. That seems like really, really important to keeping the universe running. In fact, it’s so important that she won’t give him the Time Stone because without it, her reality will branch off on some dark path. Just missing one stone will screw everything up.
Well in 2018, Thanos destroys all the stones. So is time like not a thing anymore? The movie seems to think it still is since we very shortly get a “5 Years Later” timestamp. But the things that are responsible for the flow of time are gone. Shouldn’t that fuck shit up? Are the stones’ atoms floating around enough to keep everything operating smoothly? It seems like maybe the universe should be irrevocably broken by the absence of the Infinity Stones, but then again, I’m no expert on magic space rocks.
Marvel’s Big Gay Moment … Except It’s Small, Like Really Small
I have mixed feelings about Joe Russo’s cameo near the beginning of the film. Russo plays a man attending a Captain America-led support group for the survivors of The Snap™ who shares his recent experiences dating again. He casually uses masculine pronouns when talking about his date, and that’s it. Oh, also the Mets aren’t a thing anymore, and he’s sad about that. No big deal, right? Right! Except that this nameless Mets fan is the first openly queer character to appear in the MCU. After 11 years and 22 movies, this is the first tangible piece of LGBT+ representation. (Because saying Valkyrie is queer in interviews doesn’t count when it’s not shown at all in Thor: Ragnarok.) That’s kinda sad, right? Like, I can’t be the only person who was bummed out when they realized this.
Still, there are some things I like about that moment. I think having a character be incidentally gay and not treating it as a big revelation is nice. We now know the MCU is a place where people are gay, and a lot of other people are cool with it. Also, having Captain America be the Avenger on deck for this scene is very important. He’s the literal representation of the best of what it means to be American, and he is supportive of queer people. It wouldn’t be nearly as impactful if Black Widow, Thor or even Iron Man were in his place. Explicitly showing Steve Rogers as an ally feels like a win, regardless of how small.
It feels disingenuous not to mention the importance that it’s one of the directors playing the character. There is clear intent behind this moment, and the creators are trying to make Endgame more inclusive. The Russos brothers have gone on record saying that they wanted to include a gay character during their tenure at the creative helm of Marvel. Nameless Mets Fan isn’t in the movie for long enough to have anything like an arc or a narrative impact, but it’s still a nice nod to the fact that gay people exist and may even enjoy Marvel movies.
It’s sad to think that of the major blockbusters to tout gay characters or inclusive moments, Endgame may actually come the closest to delivering, but the more the Russos talk about it, the more it becomes overhyped. Ultimately, it’s literally just one scene, featuring an unnamed man who never appears again. He is unquestionably queer. Now, if only he were unquestionably a character.
Professor Hulk Is Here … And He Kinda Undermines the Point of Hulk
Hulk and Bruce Banner are all about the duality of man. Do you let raw, unbridled emotion and instinct take control, or does reason and logic win the day? Can these two facets ever co-exist, or are they doomed to always be in opposition? Those are some heavy themes for a big green idiot in ratty purple pants to tackle, but that’s what the character does. In Endgame, however, Hulk and Bruce are now reconciled into a single entity. Banner’s logic and intelligence married with the Hulk’s brawn and none of the pesky baggage or, you know, duality.
I understand that Hulk is never going to really be explored deeply in the MCU. There won’t be a standalone movie, and there’s only so much time you can devote to him when he’s acting as an ensemble member or playing sidekick. But still, maybe don’t just undo his entire deal offscreen. It feels especially wrongfooted after Infinity War where Hulk and Bruce were so disconnected that Hulk refusing to emerge was a major conflict. That’s just been totally dealt with when Endgame’s second act starts, and it’s very vaguely explained away. Bruce now is essentially conflict-free. He’s a jolly green giant who dabs. Great.
Hawkeye Looks Really Cool … I Think You Know I’m Being Sarcastic
I get that Hawkeye is going through some serious stuff in Endgame. His family is gone, and I’m betting he never got that hot dog (with or without mayo). But seriously that mohawk-undercut hybrid he’s rocking just looks dumb. I believe that Clint’s grief could cause him to become an out of control vigilante with little regard for human life. But the midlife-crisis-meets-edgelord haircut? #NotMyHawkeye
Oh, and don’t get me started on that sleeve tattoo. A badass samurai skeleton. Really guys? That’s how you pay tribute to Ronin? Jeremy Renner is almost 50 years old. Why did you do this to him, Marvel?
Whew, They Got the Soul Stone … But That Could Have Been Awkward
It’s established that the Avengers don’t really know what has to be done to get the Soul Stone. They know it’s on Vormir and that Thanos returned with the stone but without Gamora, but that’s pretty much it in terms of intel. In retrospect, it’s pretty lucky that they sent two characters who unquestionably love each other to retrieve it. Like imagine if another pairing went after it. Most of the original Avengers probably could pull off the whole sacrifice-of-something-beloved routine if they were paired with each other. But Scott barely knows these guys. Sure, Rocket knows Thor and Nebula and has apparently been in communication with Natasha, but what if it were him and Tony standing at the top of that mountain?
I guess this isn’t really a complaint. It’s more just something I think is funny to think about. Like, imagine Nebula and Scott are the ones sent to Vormir, and they have to figure out how to make one of them love the other enough that it would be considered a worthy sacrifice by the Soul Stone. Red Skull is just hovering in the distance, watching everything and enjoying it. He spends most of his time alone, so this is a nice, entertaining change of pace. How long would it take? Months? Maybe longer? Then Scott comes back with the stone, but he’s completely heartbroken, and no one really understands why he would care so much about Nebula. I mean, she’s this grumpy space lady that only Tony and Rocket really have a connection with. Plus for the others, it’s only been an hour tops since the time heist started, but Scott spent like three years building a deep connection with Nebula. That’s the movie I want to see!
Thanos Attacks Avengers HQ … But Don’t Worry, Everyone’s Fine
So the first thing Thanos does when he reaches 2023 is blow up the Avengers headquarters. And everyone is totally fine. I mean, not just everyone survives, which I totally expect. But everyone is ready to fight like nothing happened. Even after Rhodey and Rocket get crushed and almost drown, they just join the fight like it’s no big deal. It was kind of jarring. Rocket especially seems really vulnerable in those moments. He panics about not being able to breath and seems generally frightened by the prospect of drowning, even as Rhodey offers a cool “See you on the other side.” And speaking of Rhodey, did Scott also save the War Machine armor from the wreckage? Because Rhodey wasn’t in it. I don’t think it was even next to him. So Scott, as Giant Man, took the time to search around for the suit while Thanos armies were attacking? Plus, Hawkeye is like extra okay after the attack. Clint is probably the most human of everyone since he doesn’t have a super suit of armor, and he comes away with barely a scratch from being in an exploding building. Hell, Captain America seemed more affected, and he has super soldier serum.
Captain America Wields Mjølnir … Wait, Does He Have Lightning Powers?
Captain America picking up Thor’s hammer and swinging it right into Thanos’ big, stupid, purple face is one of the most satisfying moments in cinematic history. We all knew he was worthy, even if Age of Ultron wanted to play coy about it. Him continuing to wield it through most of the final battle? Also awesome. Him calling down the power of lightning? Well, that was confusing actually. Thor’s lightning powers don’t come from Mjølnir. We see that in Thor: Ragnarok when the hammer is destroyed but he’s still all God of Thunder-y (aka Sparkles). So how did the very human Steve harness the forces of nature? Does Mjølnir have lightning powers separate from Thor? I’m confused, but I also don’t feel like researching the properties of a fictional hammer to figure out if this is actually a problem. Just show me Cap throwing the hammer to save Spider-man again.
Female Avengers Assemble … For Like Ten Seconds
Like the gay thing, I’m not the first person to have a hot take about Endgame’s big girl power moment. I personally was not moved by it. It seemed more than a little like pandering and didn’t even make logical sense. Are Pepper and Mantis really the backup that Captain Marvel needs? Why not have one of the sorcerers just portal her to where she needs to go? It would have been a great opportunity for Wong to redeem himself after just peacing out in Infinity War. And anyway, I feel like the portal power was really underutilized in that final battle. There were a bunch of sorcerers with literal magic, and they portaled everyone there. Couldn’t they like portal a hefty chunk of Thanos’ forces away? Wait, I’m getting off topic.
Look, an exclusively female moment is fine to include, but don’t tell me a single shot of a powerful group of women somehow makes the movie any less male driven. If anything, it just points out how much less important these characters are when compared to their male counterparts. Maybe two of these women exert any real narrative influence in Endgame. And the most impactful female character isn’t even there. Because she’s dead. That’s how she impacted the plot. By dying.
But even more importantly from an entertainment standpoint, Infinity War already did this moment, and it arguably did it better. In the Wakanda battle, Scarlet Witch squares off against Proxima Midnight, and when the baddie taunts her that she’ll die alone, Okoye and Black Widow step in with an assist. It’s undoubtedly a girl power moment, and it ends with Proxima Midnight getting thrown into a shredder, which is a great way to end any fight. Sure, it’s smaller than what we get in Endgame, but the moment actually has some weight. These three women need each other’s support, and they band together to have a tangible impact. They kill one of the secondary villains … via giant shredder.
What happens in Endgame? We get some cool action shots of the ladies before Captain Marvel goes supernova to shoot across the battlefield, proving she didn’t actually need the backup. Oh, and Thanos thwarts the attempt to get the Infinity Stone to the quantum gate (aka Scott’s van) anyway. So, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America step up to provide the actual backup for Captain Marvel. Feminism!
I Hate Time Travel … I Just Really Hate Time Travel
If you keep up with the almost absurd amount of K-pop content produced on this website, you may have noticed I recently posted about the BTS webcomic Save Me. I wasn’t thrilled that it centered around time travel. Guess what? I’m not thrilled with how time travel is handled in Endgame either. But not really for the same reasons.
In Save Me, the rules of time travel are undefined, seeming to change to fit what the plot needs. Frustrating. Endgame on the other hand sets up firm rules. For lack of a better explanation, time always remains linear in the MCU. Going back in time cannot change the present because that present is now your past, and the past is now your future. Something happening in the future cannot change the past. It can only create a new, separate future. So basically, you’re dealing with alternative realities. It’s why 2023 Nebula was able to kill 2014 Nebula and not die. Despite it being an earlier version of herself, it’s not actually 2023 Nebula’s past.
This is why the Avengers can’t just go back and stop The Snap™. Sure. it will create a new reality where it didn’t happen, but it will leave everyone in their timeline still dust. It’s also why Rhodey’s idea about garotting baby Thanos wouldn’t work. I actually like these rules. It introduces time travel into the mix while keeping the stakes intact. Everything can’t just be undone with a jaunt to the past. The impact of Infinity War remains substantial, and the fix isn’t so neat and easy. But then Endgame goes and shits on its own rules in the last five minutes of the movie.
Now, I really like how they decided to wrap up Captain America’s arc. I think having him make the choice to go back and live the life he was denied is lovely. But it goes against everything the movie establishes about time travel to have old Steve Rogers show up in 2023. By choosing to stay in the past and marry Peggy, he has created a new future. Hulk, Bucky and Sam waiting for him is technically his past, and he can’t get back to that moment without using the Pym particle and time machine. But we’re shown he doesn’t do that. He just turns up to sit his centenarian ass down by that lake, which I’ll admit is truly on brand for someone who is around 117 years old.
Gamora Is Back … Which Means They Can Bring Back Anyone
After biting the big one in Infinity War, Gamora has returned to the fold … probably. It’s a little unclear. We don’t see her again after the big girl power moment. I guess there’s a chance she turned to dust with the rest of Thanos’ crew after Tony did his version of The Snap™. We didn’t see what happened, and it’s totally possible that Tony just thought to disintegrate everyone who came from 2014. He wouldn’t know to think “Except Gamora, she’s cool.” But it’s far more likely that 2014 Gamora is still out there running around in 2023, and she’ll feature prominently in the third Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Yay!
Yes, yay; I like Gamora, and the Guardians wouldn’t be the same without her. But also, nay. You know what no longer matters in the MCU with this turn of events? Death. I mean, death barely mattered to begin with, but now it extra doesn’t matter. Gamora died as a sacrifice to the Soul Stone, which is presented as a big deal. Hulk mentions that he couldn’t bring Nat back even though he tried. And he was basically harnessing all the power in the universe. But they could totally bring Nat back. Just pop back in time to before the time heist, grab her and pop back to 2023. You’ve got Nat back!
And why stop with Nat? Feeling that it’s just too sad that Morgan will have to grow up without a father? It’s not a problem anymore. Just head to your handy time machine, and go get yourself a past Tony. Now, Morgan has two parents again. Everyone wins! Sick and tired of looking at 117-year-old Steve Rogers? You don’t have to! A younger version is only a quantum leap away.
“But that would just mess up the timeline,” I hear you complaining. Who cares? Nobody in the MCU that’s for sure. There’s now a version of 2014 where Thanos and his forces just up and disappeared. There’s a 2012 where Loki got away with the Tesseract. Plus, a whole reality where there were presumably two Captain Americas. Although for most of it, one of them was frozen in ice. I mean, Steve marrying Peggy presumably erased some people from existence in that timeline. She was married to someone else with kids in the main timeline. But as long as the prime reality doesn’t get too screwed up, what’s the harm in messing with some of the alternative ones?
“But the Ancient One said messing up the timeline is a bad thing,” I hear you insist. Did she? I’m pretty sure she just said that taking an Infinity Stone from a reality would essentially doom it. We aren’t taking Infinity Stones. We’re taking people. I bet the Ancient One and the other sorcerers won’t even notice.
Remember how I liked how Endgame’s time travel kept the stakes intact? I lied. There are no stakes anymore. Time travel is just a thing they can do whenever they want, and they can bring back whoever they want. Even if they don’t do it in future movies, it’s still annoying that I know they can. Time travel is like my Thanos. The fact that it’s going to piss me off is inevitable.