It has officially been one month since Avengers: Endgame came out, so I feel no qualms about sharing all my thoughts now. If you still have not seen it for whatever reason but fear spoilers, turn back while you still can.
So, after 11 years and 22 movies, was all the build-up worth it?
Avengers: Endgame read like a love letter to fans, giving nods to moments and characters both major and minor from across the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We got circa 1970 Hank Pym and Howard Stark, and even Edwin Jarvis made his jump from T.V.’s Agent Carter to the big screen; Cap repeated a Hydra-infested elevator ride ala Winter Soldier but with a different strategy this time, there was another teasing Budapest reference from Hawkeye, Thor got a heart to heart with Freya to reaffirm his worthiness, which then led to a reveal that’s been building since Age Of Ultron: Cap is worthy too!
“I love you 3000” indeed (there was a rumor this line referenced the actual run time of the entire MCU, and while the math does come out pretty close if you include the upcoming Spiderman: Far From Home, it was actually inspired by something one of Robert Downey Jr.’s children actually told him).
The movie did feel a little slow at first, but that feeling wasn’t necessarily due to the pacing of the movie so much as the heavy sense of defeat weighing over our heroes, not to mention the context—audiences have been dangling on a major cliffhanger for a year, so it’s hard to be patient. The story actually picked up in the immediate aftermath of Infinity War, and didn’t even bother including the end credit scene from Captain Marvel to introduce her, assuming audiences were invested enough in the MCU at this point to have already seen or it or at least be familiar enough to know who she was.
Once Ant-Man made his appearance and the time travel plot got in motion, things really picked up, in both pace and tone, and it was like cruising through the Avengers’ greatest hits. And then we got the ultimate battle scene, where we finally heard Captain America say the full iconic line “Avengers Assemble,” and watch all of our favorites literally run the gauntlet to keep it away from Thanos.
It wasn’t all nostalgic fun and games though, as the original Avengers, except Thor, who appears to be going forward with the “Asgardians of the Galaxy,” completed their arcs and took their final bows, one way or another. With his family back, Hawkeye can return to retirement. Hulk could still technically return, but by finally bringing his dual sides together he can go back to the scientific life he’d originally envisioned for himself, especially since his gauntlet-wielding arm sustained serious permanent damage, making him less able to fight. Steve Rogers got to go out on his terms, going back in time to live out the life he’d always wanted with Peggy, returning as an old man to pass the torch to Sam Wilson.
Black Widow’s death was probably the biggest surprise to me, though it’s inevitability dawned on me as the scene played out. Her fate has been sealed since the first Avengers movie: “I have red in my ledger. I’d like to wipe it out.” This was further cemented when Bruce offered her a way out in Age of Ultron, a chance for them both to slip away and salvage some kind of life together, but she wouldn’t go with the fight not over. Her arc has always been from assassin to hero, and while not as drastic as Tony’s, self-interest to self-sacrifice. Whether it happened in this movie or another down the road, she was never going to give up the fight unless she was forced out, always believing she could do more to atone for the sins of her past. Going out to save not only the world, but particularly her best friend, Hawkeye, and his family, was a way to completely wipe out any remaining red in her ledger. (Though I’m not ruling out her return, should the Guardians discover a way to bring back Gamora in their next movie; it appeared Starlord was looking for Gamora in his final scene)
And as much as I hoped against hope it wouldn’t happen, Tony Stark’s death was a fitting end to this chapter of the Avengers’ story, and it was satisfactorily done. The character who’s film jumpstarted the franchise with that one phrase “I am Iron Man” got to say the words one last time and make the sacrifice play that, at the beginning, everyone doubted he could make. And though he didn’t get the happy ending we might have wanted for him, it takes some of the sting out knowing he did get a happy middle with Pepper and their daughter, Morgan, in the five years following Infinity War.
So, while there are probably some holes in the time-travel logic that I don’t really want to think too hard about, Avengers: Endgame lived up to my expectations. It was a nostalgic celebration of the Avengers as well as a satisfying conclusion to the first three phases of the MCU that earned both its cheers and tears.
The real question is if there’s anything the MCU can do to top it going forward.