After seeing Avengers Endgame on Sunday, I’ve been dwelling on my feelings about this movie. While I initially enjoyed it (and still do), I have to admit that my feelings about it have diminished the more time passes and the more I think about the picture. There are two ways this movie should be considered: as a monumental bookend to a cultural phenomenon that spans 22 pictures in 11 years, but also with the coherence of the plot.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
One can’t overstate the level of difficulty in matching the hype in tying this story together, as well as concluding everything that was done in Infinity War. The fact that they were able to cohesively tie together a story that complex, with that many characters – and stick to a landing that didn’t feel like a train-wreck – should be marveled (yes, sorry). Just look at the Justice League movie to see how things could go wrong. Back when I started my blog 14 years ago, I wouldn’t have fathomed that comic book movies would not only dominate the movie industry but that there’d be a coherent plot thread through a cinematic universe – yet here’s exactly where we are. This should be a celebrated, and not just those like me, who consider superheroes an integral part of my childhood and mythology.
The Russo Brothers and all the writers and directors involved with the MCU managed to create high emotional stakes with these characters, often paying off when those character arcs came to a resolution. I have to admit I laughed and cried a few times throughout these movies. One cannot deny the emotional resonance that doesn’t feel manipulative or contrived.
All of that said: when I started to move past my emotional reactions and started to apply some logic to the plot, things started to fall apart quickly, to the point where I have some real problems with parts of this movie.
To be clear, I’m not trying to nitpick the plot in the movie. I know that most scripts have blemishes that may need to be over-looked, especially when time travel is involved as a central plot device. I also realize that this is a comic book movie, asking us to accept Infinity Stones, reality-warping power and super-powered gamma rays, all requiring a suspension of belief to a certain degree. As I revisit comic crossovers from my youth, I’m careful not to be over-critical about the seams in the story. However I do take issue when decisions are made that are not in keeping with the character, or that a serious consequence is ignored, simply because it conflicts with an overarching goal of the story.
This brings me to the major problems with Endgame:
Having the 5 year cake and eating it too
At the end of the movie, when they started to montage everything returning to normalcy, there was a scene where Peter Parker saw his buddy Ned back at school, which triggered the thought, “It’s a good thing they both got snapped out of existence, or else Peter’s buddy would have been out of high school by now.”
So to get this straight – everyone that was snapped back into existence didn’t feel any passage of time, while everyone else who was left behind had five years of aging pass between them. All of a sudden you have a world – or universe – where people who have been coping with grief and loss (and if they heeded Cap’s advice, they moved on) are suddenly reunited with everyone. Hopefully that guy in Cap’s grief group didn’t go on any more dates, or their husband is going to be coming back to an ugly situation.
Maybe there’s some master plan where this five-year gap is going to give way to a slew of new movies and TV shows to address this, but I’m guessing that it’s going to be conveniently forgotten.
At this point, I really wish that they would have just changed the past and either prevented the finger-snap or restored everyone not long after. As a father, I can understand Iron Man not wanting to lose the relationship with his daughter, but that would have presented a pretty big moral challenge to the movie. Let’s say that they confirmed Pepper was pregnant, as it was insinuated at the beginning of Infinity War, there would still be assurances that his daughter would have been born, and the moral quandary would be whether she’d develop into a different person if they altered the events.
The paradox of fighting 2014 Thanos
If 2014 Thanos did in fact die, does that negate everything that happened in Infinity War? Did the 2014 Gamora return back to her original time? You start to think too much about the different paradoxes that occur and start to see the story unravel a bit. Typical comic lore tells us that messing with the timeline results in alternative realities being created (which is why the current one feels largely unchanged), yet it was important for Captain America to go back and return all of the Infinity Stones to prevent this. The writers seemed to pick and choose what paradoxes they wanted to thwart, and which ones should be ignored to arrive at the desired plot point. Frankly, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure approached time-travel more coherently than this movie.
Captain America’s fate
I realize that not all heroes (or actors) can last forever, and that both Iron Man and Captain America’s deaths were speculated leading up to the end of the movie – however the choice Captain America made to remain in the past, seemed completely out of character with what we knew about the hero. If we’re to assume all of his actions (like returning the stones) impacted the Prime timeline, then shouldn’t going back to be with Peggy have greatly impacted everything else that happened after that, including Peggy having children and grandchildren with her original husband? I want Captain America to have a happy ending after all of these movies, but came with consequences that are problematic to say the least.
This brings me to the succession of Captain America. We spent over 4 movies exploring the complex relationship between Cap and Bucky with this whole Winter Soldier arc, which was a story of redemption and trust for the character, a fitting end would have been for Bucky to complete the redemption story by taking the shield from his best friend that stuck with him through thick and thin. I get both Falcon and Winter Soldier have been Captain America in the comics, but the movie spent more time telling us about the close relationship between Steve and Sam rather than showing us. The presumption is that MCU’s Falcon didn’t really have any powers, to begin with. This seemed completely unearned.
There were other issues with the movie, and again I don’t expect the script to be perfect, but the above gaping holes in the plot are really preventing me from loving this story. It’s not to say there weren’t things to appreciate. Iron Man’s death felt appropriate and earned, and the battle at the was an appropriate epic conclusion to the Infinity War and all the other events that led up to this. The movie definitely was “good enough”, but not great.
What did you think?