Marvel Cinematic Universe Retrospective: Avengers: Endgame

How do you solve an problem like Avengers: Infinity War?

The standard blockbuster template for sequels to majorly successful films is to go darker, raise the stakes, kill off some characters.. Like movies such as The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight, Infinity War works as both a cliffhanger, with half of the universe’s population wiped out, and a proper ending itself. The Russo Brothers, as well as the movie’s screenwriters, have stated that Infinity War’s ending was mean’t to be definitive, and the beginning of Endgame backs this up nicely.

At three hours long, there was something sneaky about getting the remaining Avengers assembled, joined by Captain Marvel after she rescued an existential Tony, and having them find Thanos fairly quickly. The rug-pull was that Thanos destroyed both the Infinity stones and the gauntlet to ensure that his galaxy-wide genocide could not be reversed. That’s an incredibly anti-climatically downbeat way to begin the movie that’s supposed to make everything okay again. With no plan, no stones, and Thanos losing his head to a distraught Thor, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes go back home to mope about for five years. This is a good choice creatively; as a fan, I’ve had about a year to come to terms with what happened in the last movie, but the characters need time too – that way, even if everyone is brought back, their loss still matters. After all, the click is just a snap if it isn’t earned, and Endgame spends the rest of the runtime trying to earn than snap.

Endgame is, by all metrics, a decent movie – it’s entertaining, it has three clearly defined acts, with lots of fun mini-narratives, and Ant-Man is typically great when he isn’t leading his own movies. You all know that Marvel have triumphed again, so with that I’m going to focus the rest of this article on certain things that I feel the MCU needs to fix – and how some choices in Endgame may hinder the franchise going forward.

Who Replaces Iron Man and Captain America?

The main two Avengers got incredibly poignant endings In Endgame –  as Tony saved everyone he loved, and Cap, quite literally, did this all day. Tony’s death and Cap’s reward are integral to the movie’s success, and to the completion of each character’s mulit-film story. So, who takes over? From an Iron Man perspective, and if the trailers are anything to go by, it looks like Peter Parker is taking his mentor’s place. Spider-Man: Far from Home is the official end of Phase 3 which gives us a hint to Pete’s importance. A further clue is that Ant-Man was the final movie of Phase 2, and it turned out that he was absolutely pivotal to saving the universe. Cap is a little easier to replace, as both Bucky and Sam are good candidates, especially as Sam was Steve’s choice to take up the mantle.

Should the dead have stayed dead?

We all knew that everyone who Thanos killed in the snap was coming back, even if we didn’t know about certain future movies and TV shows. Seriously, it would be nice if Marvel kept something close to the chest – we are going to watch this stuff regardless of whether you introduce it a year or two before it comes out. This is absolutely the case in terms of the Infinity War deaths that occurred before the snap. Loki and Gamora were the big casualties, but the knowledge that the third Guardians movie would center around her, and the existence of a Loki TV show, kind of ruins what was an incredible finish to Loki’s arc, and a surprisingly powerful end to Gamora’s. Still, time travel can get you out of any plot hole, as the Loki and Gamora of the current timeline is not the same as in Infinity War. Marvel are having their cake and eating it here: Loki’s sacrifice for Thor still stands, and Gamora starts fresh thanks to the actions of present-day Nebula. Fuck me, this is getting confusing. I can’t fault the plot acrobatic,  but it still feels a little cheap to me.

That Girl Power Moment

The MCU has many brilliant female characters, most of whom could easily lead a movie of their own if the studio was brave enough to do it. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with that now-infamous “fuck yeah!” shot of all the female heroes kicking some ass, it does highlight the fact that many of these characters have been wasted by playing second fiddle to less interesting male leads. Shuri and Okoye were the best thing about Black Panther, Hope Van Dyne spent two Ant-Man movies making me wonder what the fuck Scott Lang was even for, and, well, okay, Captain Marvel was cool. This is a clear case of a studio trying to lampshade fans: here are all you’re favorite female heroes, but try not to think about how little time they’ve actually been given. Marvel have rewritten the rulebook when it comes to superhero movies, but they are still so far behind the times in this regard. The real shame is that Marvel is the studio that all the rest look to for guidance (whether they admit to it or not). It’s annoying that I feel that I have to say this, but it’s not just boys who love superhero movies, and consistently backseating these great female characters is a waste of prodigal talent.

I’ve been writing about the MCU movies on this site for over a year and a half, but because these movies have been the biggest game in town for a decade, I’ve been writing about them in some form or another since I began writing about pop culture. I love this franchise, I love its ambition, its shrewd eye for casting, its frequently terrible villains, and its infrequent great ones. I love that it has made me give a shit about Spider-Man again, that it turned its version of the big blue boy scout into the lead of a spy thriller, that its billionaire playboy is psychologically affected by saving the world, then almost damning it, then saving it again. Endgame, as part of the franchise that I love, is a good  movie. And that’s what matters to me most.

If you enjoyed this article, please check out the rest of our MCU retrospective, as well as our look at the Batman cinematic universe, and consider supporting us on Patreon!

By Kevin Boyle

Header Image: Cnet

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