[NOTE: There are SPOILERS AHEAD. STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN “Avengers: Endgame” — You’ve been warned.]
Well, we made it. After 45 hours and nine minutes (!) of MCU movies, this past weekend we all sat down for the three hour and two minute conclusion of a decade of blockbuster films… and it was every bit as glorious as we thought it’d be. What follows are my instant reactions to the film, and my educated(?) guesses as to where the MCU goes from here.
All of the emotions. All. Of. Them.
Much like Infinity War, Endgame begins with a gut-punch when we’re treated to the moment Clint Barton (Hawkeye) loses his entire family to Thanos’ snap. We’re then zipped right into the film’s “what the fuck?!?!” moment when the remaining Avengers find Thanos, discover he’s used the Infinity Gauntlet to destroy the Infinity Stones (making The Snap permanent), and then an angered Thor FUCKING BEHEADS HIM. I was floored. My brain nearly exploded trying to figure out where in the hell we were going from there.
The film then zips us five years into the future, into a ravaged Earth with a fairly devastated civilization. We see Scott Lang’s (Ant-Man) escape from the Quantum Realm, his discovery that things are extremely different, and his reunion with his now-teenaged daughter. Now, I know The Leftovers has already been made, but give me the MCU version on Disney+, and give it to me now. And devote an entire season to fat Thor, please.
As far as theater audience reactions, the two biggest moments in my screening were when the vanished heroes return — It took a split-second after Sam Wilson’s “On your left,” but once the crowd realized what was happening it exploded in applause — and Tony Stark’s death. That funeral scene made it awfully dusty in my theater. The only sounds were sniffles — no crinkling of candy bags, no popcorn crunching, no drinks slurping, just silence and sniffling. What a fantastic job of writing, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Of course, Endgame had its fair share of one-liners and comedic moments. The MCU has always been excellent at keeping things just light enough. If this film’s objective was to be a payoff for the emotional commitment fans have made over the past decade, it succeeded.
The time travel thing
I’ve seen pieces that blasted the time travel logic, and I’ve seen arguments saying it was well done. My take: who cares? Time travel is not a real thing, so there are no rules for it being portrayed “correctly.” All I asked for in films is to explain their logic, and they did. It’s just pointless to get riled up over the logic of something that doesn’t exist. If you watched this movie and that’s your hangup, then you’re taking it too seriously. I mean, how could you not enjoy all of the callbacks to past movies and scenes in the MCU?
Bringing back the dead
As I wrote in last year’s review of Infinity War, the gravitas of that movie could’ve easily been undone if this movie was just “bring back the heroes, fight Thanos again.” Luckily, this did not happen. I loved the way Marvel handled this. Make the entire film a fight to revive the fallen, then have the big battle. It gave so much more weight to that ultimate moment when Dr. Strange starts opening portals for all of our fallen heroes. As said above, my theater exploded into applause when we heard Sam’s “On your left” call to Captain America.
The other big thing this accomplished was making the movie about the OG Avengers (MCU version, obviously): Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Having those characters and their narratives drive the movie was absolutely the right choice. Again, I loved how Marvel handled this aspect of Endgame.
Life without Steve and Tony
So, of course, two of the biggest plot points from this movie revolve around the death of Tony Stark, and the revelation that Steve Rogers handed his shield and mantle of Captain America over to Sam Wilson.
Tony’s death hit hard, but it was a great conclusion to his character arc. His whole deal has been building a “shield around the world” and it turned out he was the shield. I thought for sure Marvel would at least keep him around as kind of a tentpole of the MCU, popping in movies for cameos here and there, but I do really like this move. It sucks to lose Stark (and Robert Downey, Jr. in particular), but he fulfilled his purpose for the MCU.
After the big battle, Cap is charged with returning the Stones to their original hiding places. He does this, but also apparently decides to use the chance to live a full life with Peggy. Again, I don’t care about the time travel science behind this. I just love that 1) Cap didn’t die, like we all just knew was gonna happen, and 2) we get the line of succession of the mantle of Captain America. Now, will we get a Sam Wilson as Cap movie(s)? Who knows? I’m all for it, though. This was the perfect ending for the Steve Rogers we know and love. He did his job, and got to enjoy the life he never had.
So… now what?
This is where things get really fun, because other than a few release dates, Marvel hasn’t really given us any clues as to where the MCU goes from here. We didn’t even get a post-credits teaser. Instead we got the sound of Tony Stark’s hammer banging out the first Iron Man suit (a fitting tribute).
So, what do we know? Well, we know Thor has handed his crown as king of Asgard over to Valkyrie, and is shooting off to space with the Guardians of the Galaxy (abso-fucking-lutely sign me up for that); and we know there is gonna be a third Guardians movie.
We also know that there will be a Spider-Man movie laster this year, and Marvel has said it’s the last film in Phase 3. We also know we’re gonna get sequels to Black Panther, Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel at some point. It’s also a safe bet we’ll still get Avengers films featuring a new lineup.
There’s a cool little scene in Endgame where all of the female heroes team up. We even see Pepper Potts in an Iron Woman suit. Might we see an all-female Avengers down the road? We do know we’re getting a Black Widow movie, although sadly it will be a prequel of sorts because she dies in Endgame.
With all of that said, it doesn’t really give us a clue as to where the MCU is headed narratively.
My best guess is we’re going to space. There are a ton of great Marvel stories set in outer space, and with Disney now owning the rights to just about every single Marvel character, there are numerous options. We’ve gotten our introduction via the Guardians and Captain Marvel, and Wakanda technology certainly provides a good foundation.
A wishlist for the MCU going forward
I know we’ve gotten three really, really bad Fantastic Four movies, but now that the characters are under the wing of Marvel Studios, we need to give it another shot. They are friggin’ first family of Marvel Comics. They are all about space. They can be a foundation for the MCU just as the Avengers were. Plus, with the Four comes Dr. Doom, and the MCU needs a new big baddie. Doom is one of the best villains on the Marvel roster, and done correctly he can be the antagonist of the next phase.
The Fantastic Four also links us to the Silver Surfer, and the Surfer links us to Galactus, a world-eating bad mother fucker who would absolutely present just as high stakes as Thanos did.
Lastly, and this is the big one, Marvel Studios has the ace in the hole: the X-Men. Now, the Avengers have been the A-team for the MCU, but when I was a kid the X-Men were the A+, A, A-, B and C teams. The animated series is still one of the best comic book adaptions ever made. The video games were awesome. The X-Men are the shit and there’s little doubt in my mind Marvel Studios will absolutely take advantage of those character rights.
The only question there is when? Fox has two more X-Men movies to release — Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants. After that who the hell knows. The X-Men also give us a big bad in Magneto, although his inclusion into the MCU could be tricky. Of all of Marvel’s characters, his origin story is the most set in stone: he was a kid in a Nazi concentration camp, and the MCU is pretty far removed from those days. We shall see.
Also, Marvel has plans to release a film based on “The Eternals,” a comic series based on a race of, for lack of a better term, genetically-superior human beings (the origin story is a bit too complex to quickly summarize them). How they plan to integrate them into the MCU remains to be seen, but it’s absolutely safe to say it will involve space. It also could be used as inroads for the X-Men into the MCU. I believe this film starts filming later this year.
Either way, I’ll be there, and I can’t wait.