Retro Review — Avengers: Endgame
We only have one movie remaining in Phase Three of the MCU. And yes, it’s the one five years after evil has triumphed; This is our Retro Review of Avengers: Endgame.
So, let’s skip straight to the action. Here’s a retro review of Avengers: Endgame, the one where Thanos died. Twice.
What If the Bad Guys Won?
Marvel spent more than a decade introducing fans to dozens of beloved characters. Then, with a literal snap of the fingers, half of them vanished.
Thanos harnessed the power of the Infinity Gauntlet to achieve his dream. He reduced the drain on life-essential resources by 50 percent.
Alas, the tactic he employed proved…controversial. The Mad Titan turned half of civilization to dust.
Avengers: Infinity War ended with intergalactic heartbreak. Endgame starts the same way, as we witness the toll that Thanos’ actions have taken on society.
Hawkeye suffers the worst, as every member of his family dies, which the mathematician in me realizes is only three percent likely to happen.
Here’s a hero I can say for certain wishes it’d been him instead, something the movie explores masterfully later.
Meanwhile, loneliness and isolation overwhelm most of the other Avengers. They have spread themselves too thin as they try to solve all the world’s problems.
In outer space, Tony Stark and Nebula show hints of camaraderie before Captain Glow Marvel saves the day.
I vividly recall smiling in the theater as I had accurately anticipated this moment. It still holds up, the veritable light in the eternal darkness of space.
On Earth, Black Widow holds down the fort as the de facto leader, which makes Marvel’s later decision all the more frustrating.
Still, something I admire is that Tony Stark’s paternal instincts have already kicked in, foreshadowing something upcoming. He laments to Steve Rogers that he “lost the kid.”
Countless worlds have suffered grievously, yet Tony Stark feels the worst about his protégé, Peter Parker.
Meanwhile, the scariest premise of all, at least to me, involves Thanos and his garden.
This psychopath’s living a simple life as a farmer, tilling the land he protected by killing half of all sentient life. It’s like he’s earned access to the Garden of Eden. Chilling.
The Avengers locate Thanos, who reveals he used the stones to destroy the stones.
He then claims he’s inevitable and starts a half-apology to his daughter when Thor decapitates him. That’s phenomenal storytelling.
Thor has learned from his past mistake…and it didn’t help one bit. At this moment, the God of Thunder enters his downward spiral. It’s symbolic of all humanity, even though he’s not one of us.
After a five-year time jump, Endgame delivers its first satisfying emotional moment. To me, that’s one of the hallmarks of the film. We get long-term payoffs aplenty.
Ant-Man somehow escapes the Quantum Realm and finds that time moves differently there. Only hours have passed for him. Seems significant.
Anyway, the one defining characteristic of Scott Lang involves parenthood. He’s the world’s greatest dad.
Lang fears that his daughter has died, only to learn that he’s been declared deceased. Their tearful reunion brings out my inner Hallmark movie fan.
Soon afterward, Lang reveals the quirks of Quantum travel to the Avengers. Now we’ve got a ballgame.
The superheroes recognize that one of the scientists among them should be able to unlock the secrets of time travel.
Of course, we’ll need Tony Stark for that. Hey, remember when I ceded the title of best girl dad to Lang? Yeah, he’s got competition.
For all his many gaping personality flaws, the Iron Man displays a tender heart where his daughter is concerned. He loves her 3,000.
Avengers: Endgame gets emotion right. Well, mostly.
When Endgame came out, people absolutely buried the time travel elements, picking apart the logic like it was an Olympic sport.
What those critics missed is that Marvel took a Doctor Who approach to quantum travel. So don’t overthink it, Poindexter. You want Spider-Man back, right?
People really should have gotten this from the way the film introduces it. Ant-Man turns into multiple versions of himself and then pees himself.
Does that sound like a scene from a hard science film? Instead, the whole thing functions as a slapstick McGuffin. We don’t care about unlocking time travel.
This story involves Smart Hulk and Fat Thor and Hope-Having Hawkeye.
Then, we get a videogame quest to collect some colorful power stones before the clock counts down to zero and kicks us back to the start screen.
I’m being snide, but this sequence plays out as a prolonged flex by Marvel head Kevin Feige.
We learn that he has meticulously plotted the location of the various Infinity Stones years before this film, carving the path for this wildly satisfying payoff.
Thor meets his mother and ex-girlfriend again. Bruce Banner learns how far he has come with dual identity struggles. And Tony Stark briefly reunites with his father.
I’m in awe of all of it, as pretty much everything works…except that one thing.
Throughout the 15 years of the MCU, Marvel has struggled with female empowerment. Even in Endgame, it’s a trouble spot.
Black Widow nobly sacrifices herself to save the universe…and gets nowhere near the funeral that Tony Stark does at the end.
Yes, her dudes act sad and motivated, but you know what that’s called, class? Fridging.
First Snap’s Free
We get some other stuff about America’s Ass and Nebula’s suffering. However, all of it serves the purpose of leading to the proverbial endgame.
With the stones collected, the Avengers earn a chance to rewrite history. And that’s why we all showed up on the opening night. We wanted Thanos to get his…and he does. He really, really does.
First, Hulk snaps his fingers and brings Laura Barton and her kids back. The dude almost melts his arm off in the process, a nice touch.
We also get the tiniest bit of foreshadowing, as Tony provides the coolant to save the arm. But, of course, he won’t have anyone capable of doing that for him in a bit.
Soon afterward, old Thanos arrives, not to be confused with current and dead Thanos. He quickly deduces that he hates the Avengers, even those he’s never met in his timeline.
Then, they fight. We’re in the endgame now. And it’s amazing.
The core Avengers from the comics, the one with the suit, the shield, and the hammer, square off against the Man Who Killed Half of All Life.
As far as boss fights go, that’s a good one.
I’m someone who rewatches movies regularly. I’ve probably seen Endgame 30 times by now. However, I’ve watched these 40 minutes more than 100 times.
I’m utterly incapable of turning it off when I notice it on television…or on an airplane. I cannot remember the last flight I had where I didn’t watch it.
Look, I’m old enough to remember Return of the Jedi when it came out. And I saw Die Hard on its first Saturday in theaters.
I’ve watched movies in front of some passionate crowds. Before 2019, the hottest crowds I ever saw were at There’s Something About Mary and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
That Endgame crowd was next level, though. Even now, I sometimes watch YouTube highlights of people losing their damn minds during the high spots.
I’m talking about Captain America wielding Mjolnir, the women rising up to lead a surge, Captain Marvel eviscerating a spaceship, and the three moments that will always stand out the most.
As a diehard fan of Captain America: Winter Soldier, I’ve always marked out at “On your left.” So its return here gave me pure joy.
Similarly, Feige and co. saved the first usage of the Avengers’ comic book battle cry for this moment.
How can anyone not get chills when Captain America says, “Avengers assemble!”?
Thor’s nearly simultaneous cry of fury is an underrated aspect of this as well.
When that Avengers battle music plays, I still lose my mind three years later. I think everyone does.
Overall, this scene suffers no missteps of note, even though I think the “Is that everyone?” bit is two lines too many.
Still, we build to that phenomenal moment when the Scarlet Witch reveals herself as the biggest badass in the MCU.
She wrecks Thanos in the fight, forcing him to kill his own troops to provide a distraction. I know this one has been meme’d a lot, but it’s still incredible.
We may underrate Elizabeth Olsen as an actress. In Endgame, she’s the apocalypse walking. But, then, in WandaVision, she’s better at Donna Reed than Donna Reed was.
Ultimately, Tony Stark snaps his fingers and delivers the most fitting fate to Team Thanos. His heroic sacrifice leads to a funeral of loved ones, the kind Black Widow deserved.
Still, the payoffs overwhelm the minor quibbles. Hawkeye reunites with his family, Ant-Man gains a glimpse of the family he’ll have, and World War II heroes finally share a dance. What’s not to love?
You may have noticed that I’ve mostly skipped the review this time. This one’s more of a love letter, even as I acknowledge the film’s flaws.
In 2008, Marvel released the best film of the year, Iron Man, but people were too busy talking about The Dark Knight to realize it.
Feige and his gang took a victory lap more than a decade later, one overflowing with standing ovations.
Avengers: Endgame represents the kind of storytelling masterpiece that may never be matched again in our lifetime…and I say that without hyperbole.
Think about how badly Game of Thrones spit the bit in a similar situation. Of course, I could say the same thing about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as well.
After only four years, we can already say with confidence that Endgame will stand the test of time. It’s become an iconic cultural footprint in the zeitgeist.
I’m not just giving this film an A+ on rewatch. I’m saying that the entire MCU from Phase One through Phase Three deserves an A+ for the complete journey.
Take a bow, Feige. You earned it.