Let’s not mince words: if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame
DON’T READ THIS
I don’t know just how many spoilers there will be in this piece, but it will be PLENTY I’m sure, and I don’t want to ruin your weekend. Oh, and this blurb has to be long enough to ensure none of said spoilers appear in any previews of this post, or other automatically generated versions.
Ok, I think that ought to do it.
Did I like Avengers: Endgame? Sort of.
I think I’ve finally become like one of those jaded teenagers I grew up with who didn’t really enjoy anything if any part of it was predictable. Because there is plenty to enjoy in A:E, and I definitely did. My favorite part (first actual spoiler) was when Captain America was not only able to lift Mjolnir, but that it actually flew to him in battle, and Thor’s reaction to that. I definitely cheered at that point.
There were also plenty of jokes along the way, Tony Stark’s charm came through again and again. His daughter was perfectly played, and the moments between them really tug at your heart strings. Of course, losing Tony at the end (see, MAJOR spoiler, you can’t say you weren’t warned) was an emotional moment as well.
Was there action? Yes, a lot of that, too; battles and flying, and all of the things you go to a comic hero movie for.
Why, then, am I so meh?
First off, this was just shy of a clip show. When Ant Man returns, and pitches his (somewhat predictable) solution to the problem of The Snap: going back in time to get the Infinity Stones to reverse it, they end up going back to several moments we’ve seen in past movies from the series. This sounds great, at first: seeing these moments from another perspective. And it is, kind of. But in a 3 hour movie, going back to these other moments feels like filler, rather than the revisiting that you’re hoping for.
The structure of the movie also speaks to the hard choices you surely need to make to make a story work. This story does mostly work; it’s never confusing, which is an accomplishment. Still, there’s no real mystery beat to beat. We spend a long time watching Thanos work out what the Avengers are up to, torturing Nebula as he always seems to do. To me, this could have been left off screen, which I think would have created more drama when he finally returns at just the right time to try and thwart the Avengers. With that removed, the movie could have been shorter, or we could have spent more time seeing the effects the snap had on people around the world. The opening sequence does a decent job of that with just one character, to be fair, but there are all sorts of implications that we just never see in any of the movies. And as a fan of Agents of Shield, knowing we’ll never see The Snap effect them, they could have thrown Coulson and Co in there, seeing as they were tying everything else up. That’s probably asking too much.
I was also frustrated by the hand waving on how time travel worked. They made fun of pretty much every other time travel story (but failed to mention Doctor Who, which would have been fun with Nebula in the room), and yet didn’t really give a good alternative. “It just doesn’t work that way” was the best we got, and that felt sloppy.
Which is why when Captain America is shown at the end to have had a life with Peggy Carter, an emotional story beat, to be sure, felt… wrong. If the Avengers can just do anything they want back in time with no consequences, then why the complex plan? Seems to me that changing Peggy Carter’s life like that would make a huge difference. Would it have been so hard to show them meeting and Cap explaining why they have to be careful? It didn’t resonate with me because of this hand wavey time travel.
I also kept thinking “What are they going to do about the gauntlet when they get the stones?!” Stark did have a gauntlet, and maybe he had made one previously that I’d forgotten about. I can forgive them not discussing that, but would it have been so wrong to not bring that up?
I can also pretty much forgive the missed opportunity of the “bank heist” of the stones through time. As soon as they mentioned that, I was hoping for references to other heist movies. There are so many to choose from, would it have been so wrong to play into one or more of them? Fun missed.
With all of the somewhat disjointed story beats happening throughout, it’s a marvel that you could keep track of what was going on. Speaking of marvels, Captain Marvel was fine, and yet… I really expected her to be more of a central character in this. Sure, we have a lot of the Avengers involved, but instead of using her in the plan, we see her, she helps get Thanos, doesn’t do much, then has to go take care of the rest of the universe. Seems like a bummer, here is this shiny new toy, and the audience doesn’t get to see much of her. Couldn’t she have been what they needed to power the time travel? Or maybe she thinks she can wield the gauntlet and they argue with her about it? Really was a missed opportunity.
All of that said, I see a different possibility here.
So much of the story is either convenient, convoluted, or contrived, it makes me wonder: did Thanos actually fail? Did the Avengers actually beat him in the end? Maybe not.
Two days pass after The Snap, and in those two days, Thanos creates his garden paradise. He then destroys the Infinity Stones so that nobody can reverse what he has done. That seems reasonable on the face of it. But if you delve deeper, it doesn’t.
First, The Ancient One makes it clear that if you remove the stones from the timeline, all hell will break loose. Shouldn’t that have happened when ALL of the stones were destroyed? The fact that it didn’t, that five years could pass, and only generic bad stuff resulting from half the population of the universe disappearing happens suggests that something is wrong with that logic.
Next, Thanos is a pretty thorough monster-god-dude. He had all six Infinity Stones and two days to contemplate what he would do with them. Do we really think he wouldn’t ponder the possibility of his enemies trying to undo what he did?
I propose an alternative: Avengers: Endgame doesn’t really happen at all.
For all of his bluster and murderyness, Thanos isn’t dishonorable. Nebula even says that Thanos never lies. Thus, when he said he would kill half the universe at random, that was the truth. However, as a master tactician, he would know that whoever remained could undo what he did. As a result, to resolve those two ideas for himself, couldn’t he just warp reality in such a way as to give The Avengers the appearance of victory? Couldn’t this all be just in their heads?
I haven’t taken time to see if there’s any reason to believe that the Russos actually had this in mind, and they probably didn’t. To me, though, it’s the only way to justify the flaws of the film. This is Thanos’ doing, and none of these things actually happened.
Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part, wanting the movie to be different from what it was.
Don’t misunderstand me: I got my $17 worth of well executed special effects, laughs and emotions, crazy fight scenes, snark and Stark. I just wanted it to be better, and it wasn’t.
Eliot has been orbiting show business for over 20 years as an improv comedian, video director, and general guy you might barely recognize. Currently best known for his work on the comedy podcast Never Not Funny: The Jimmy Pardo Podcast. He wrote previously for MacEdition.com, and is working on a collection of short sci-fi and weird tales that will probably be published someday. He is also one of three principals in Modest Games.