Avengers: Endgame and Why Bigger isn’t Always Better

**SPOILERS**

**Lots of Spoilers**

**You Were Warned**

**But the spoiler ban has been officially lifted**

Avengers: Endgame.

We’ve been waiting for this movie. It’s the biggest, most spectacular team-up movie of all time. And it delivers, in a big way. Maybe too big.

I love the MCU movies. When I walked out of the theater in 2012, after watching Avengers I said, “I can’t believe they actually pulled it off.” Fast forward to Avengers: Infinity War and I was pumped to see all those movies and characters come together in a massive two part extravaganza. The stakes were high because the real world easily infiltrated the movie world. Some of the actors were retiring from Marvel and that means characters die. The excitement of a huge story mixed with the emotional pull of seeing the end of favorite characters created a hype machine matched only by Star Wars.

Avengers: Infinity War didn’t disappoint. It was huge! It was universe spanning. It was an emotional roller coaster.

Until.

The Snap.

Don’t Think Fourth Dimensionally

For fans of comic books, sci-fi, adventure, or fantasy stories we’ve learned a few things over the years. Villains love to monologue. Dead isn’t always dead. Time travel fixes everything. Marvel Studios have deftly created fantastic stories. Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame are two of the most ambitious movies I’ve ever seen. They’re an achievement in film-making, but in the end, Endgame is not an achievement in story telling.

It was easy to predict the plot device for Endgame because Infinity War left us no choice. And that’s why bigger isn’t always better.

The moment the credits rolled on Infinity War fans like me knew, when you “kill” that many characters, they don’t stay dead. Ultimately, Endgame was going to bring everyone back. The directors tried to trick us into thinking it wouldn’t happen. They thought we wouldn’t notice. But we did.

Fan Theories

The fun of Marvel movies is in the speculation. After every movie, we’ve theorized about what would happen next. What did it all mean? What was it pointing to? Did anyone guess right?

But this time I left the theater counting every plot hole and I never do that. There were so many dead ends and paradoxes that speculation has now given way to “whatever breaks, time travel fixes.” 21 stories without time travel and when we get to the big conclusion of the whole thing … time travel.

I’m not saying it isn’t fun, and Marvel didn’t restore everything “just the way it was,” but it is disappointing that this masterful epic web of storytelling all resolved to: destroy half the universe, fix it with time travel.

Make Me Care

Time travel is just a plot device. A MacGuffin as Hitchock used to call it. The real story is about the characters and their journey and that has always been the trademark different in Marvel super heroes. I’m split down the middle on the characters because the endings for the original six Avengers fall into two categories: Powerful and What-was-the-point?

Iron Man (Powerful)

Robert Downey Jr. has played the character of Tony Stark amazingly well.

Tony has had one of the most dramatic character arcs in the series. In Endgame, he starts out embracing his inevitable death. Once saved he falls into despair. Despair turns to anger. Angry Tony is like a dog with a bone. He doesn’t let go until he has a plan. A plan turns into hope. He’s all in, even to the point of sacrificing himself. A selfless act that pre-Iron Man Tony couldn’t fathom. Tony is dying and for once, can’t speak. Pepper is there to comfort him. His death is an emotional moment. The only emotional moment I felt in the two movies. I even started to tear up.

Hulk (What-was-the-point?)

Hulk has no arc in this movie.

Professor Hulk is a treat, for sure. He’s funny. He’s got some great lines, but he never changes. He’s just there because he’s supposed to be. For a character who’s always dealing with actual physical change … this time, he never changes. The Banner/Hulk arc was resolved somewhere in the five year gap.

Captain America (Powerful, but what-was-the-point?)

Chris Evans has played Cap to a T. The Captain America movies are among the best of the MCU. A boy who wants to be a soldier wins the war, loses not just the girl, but everything he ever knew. In the Cap movies Rogers has to deal with a fractured America that spends all its time fighting itself. In Endgame we see a Cap who has lost everything he knew again. Heart strings are pulled when he sees Peggy, but a hero is a hero and Cap has a job to do. ‘Nuff said? It mus be. Cap’s ending is unemotional because he gets it all back. Peggy. The life he missed. The Shield he lost. Everything works out for Cap and he hands off the Shield to the next Captain America. Because time travel fixed everything.

Thor (Powerful)

Chris Hemsworth is Thor.

I never liked Thor until the MCU. Chris Hemsworth changed my opinion. He makes Thor a believable, relatable, funny and genuine character from his first appearance in Thor, to his last scene in Endgame. In fact, Thor never really gets a moment of peace. His life has been in turmoil since we met him. Infinity War starts with Thor losing everything. He spends the movie hunting Thanos and when he finds him … he fails. Endgame starts with a depressed Thor who kills Thanos, but too late. He’s given up because he believes he failed his parents, his people, and the universe. He’s depressed and secluded. He has to be pulled back into the fight only to relive the loss of his mother. Thor fights for what’s left of his people and restores some order to what they have left. And then gives it all up. His character comes full circle and then steps out of the circle. It’s an emotional arc with a triumphant ending leading to a new beginning. Time travel didn’t help Thor, but we were already told it wouldn’t.

Hawkeye (What-was-the-point?)

I love Hawkeye. I love Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.

He’s the new every-man-hero, like Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford were in the 80’s. Hawkeye has always been a supporting character, but Avengers: Age of Ultron stepped things up a bit, giving him a family and a cause. In Endgame, he loses his family, fights bad guys, gets his family back. Because, time travel. …

Still hoping for a Hawkey and Black Widow movie

… without time travel.

Black Widow (Powerful, but what-was-the-point?)

So much for a Hawkeye and Black Widow movie.

Again, Scarlett Johansson brought Black Widow to life and made her into a real person. While her character has been mostly shrouded in mystery, and she often worked against Iron Man and Cap, her arcs have been mostly flat. Everything we learn about her is past tense with no real impact on her present because she’s already joined the good guys. Johansson is great as Black Widow, she brings the character to life, but ultimately Endgame ends her story once again sacrificing herself for Barton. Still, because of Johansson’s portrayal, I wanted to see her in action on her own and the Black Widow movie sounds like it’s in the works … and then … No more Natasha.

This was disappointing because if it means that the Black Widow movie is a prequel … what’s the point? Prequels don’t advance a story unless they’re setting up a future story, but Natasha’s dead … unless … time travel.

Thanos (Powerful? What-was-the-point? I’m not really not sure.)

Thanos just wants to save the universe from itself, right? Wrong. Thanos has a god complex, but unfortunately he’s all too mortal. He doesn’t just want to fix the universal problem of suffering, he wants everyone to thank him for it. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll create a new universe and make sure they do. He’s not doing justice, he’s demanding acquiescence.

But that’s not the real problem with Thanos.

Thanos is a genius, cursed with knowledge we’re told. He’s a master planner able to join multiple threads with multiple and seemingly in multiple realities. Ultimately his plan comes down to – send a big army (Avengers), send a bigger army (Infinity War), now send a really big army (Endgame). Ulysses Grant would be proud. It’s not just that his plan is send a bigger army, but he doesn’t even fix the problem this trope has always presented. The Chitauri, in Avengers, are defeated when the mother ship is destroyed, a la The Phantom Menace. In Infinity War, the big army is defeated when Thor shows up and smacks them with his hammer, a la Return of the King. In Endgame, the biggest army is defeated when Thanos “rains fire” on his own soldiers, a la Captain America: The First Avenger.

Bad guys of the universe, I say to you, get a new plan.

{I am The-End} *

The reliance on Time Travel, in a story where Time Travel has never been a thing, is a recipe for confusion. I know, they tried to explain that Marvel Time Travel is different from Back to the Future Time Travel, but all it did was create entirely new paradox problems.

The reliance on yet another massive major battle feels like a cop out. It’s big and loud and frenetic, but somehow in the midst of the mayhem characters can stop and chat? As soon as the battle started I started calculating when the switch was going to happen and all the bad guys would abruptly be defeated.

The girl-power moment was forced. All the female characters end up in the same spot at the same time? I don’t know, maybe they were all headed for a potty-break.

What’s with all the foul language in this movie? Et tu, Cap?

The universe practically came to an end, but it’s okay, this guy in Steve’s therapy group got a second date.

Avengers: Endgame really is a fun movie to watch and, aside from the aforementioned problems, it’s got a lot of heart. It’s a worthy ending to a fantastic run. I was glued to my seat. I’ll watch it again. I will miss Tony and Steve. I’m definitely interested in As/Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.

But …

If the journey is the best part of the story … and everything can be changed by time travel … it feels like “the means justifies the end,” and from here on out nothing matters because … time travel.

But …

We’ll see. The stories have been fun to watch and I’m sure there’s more to come.

To steal a line …

Excelsior.

Post Credits Tag Scene

Loki’s dead.

But time travel.

He has an Infinity Stone.

Where did he end up?

Disney Plus.

* Translated from the Groot. Original: I am Groot.

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