Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…
Truth be told, I was never very big on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) when I first heard of it. The idea of an expanded cinematic universe with spin-offs, cameos and sequels seemed anathema to my dimestore-social-studies sensibilities and hipster cinephilic intuition. I’d cynically refer to MCU films as the “McDonalds” of cinema, a fine, easily accessible commercial product that the masses would eat up. And before you say it, no, DC ain’t so hot either.
They’re a dying brand of fast food films that seem content to change the damn menu every year, at least Disney can keep its items in check, but I digress. I guess what I’m trying is say is I’ll never really be a fan of the MCU, no matter how hard I try, and I’ve accepted that fact for the longest time. Which is why I found it altogether frightening and fantastic when I realized that for a brief moment while watching Endgame, I was one. All the lore, character development and relationships in the MCU that I stored in the back of my brain as mere raw data suddenly came alive as if they’re the stuff of myths and legends.
The years of cataloguing MCU history were immediately enriched as I watched on screen a titanic battle between good and evil take place. And by the time the credits rolled, I knew, even it was for only a moment, why people followed the Marvel drama. It was all for THIS film which delivered what can only be described as a flawless finale to the Infinity Saga. Do I think Avengers: Endgame is an amazing masterpiece? No, though if you are interested in knowing what my colleague thought about the film, you should check out his review. Do I think it’s a beautiful conclusion to the MCU’s three phases? Absolutely and I’m about to tell you why!
As grand and spectacular as the final battle of Endgame was (for real, it was Return of the King level of epic man), it was the individual character moments near the end that stuck with me. Seeing Tony Stark come so far from his arrogant warmongering days in Iron Man really is a journey growth, maturity and beauty. Like with each new suit of armour, we saw Tony evolve in character throughout the films. We saw him find purpose and his true war in the first Iron Man. We saw the world he was fighting for in his war, that being his family Pepper Potts. He lost the one he had when Bucky brutally killed them, as seen in the video in Civil War, he won’t lose this one.
But still, the flawed, arrogant man that he was, his love was marred with deep character flaws, which led to some terrible mistakes as seen in future films. His paranoia and insecurity in Age of Ultron led to the death of a nation. In Civil War, His hubris and self-righteous nature led to the death of a team. In his effort to end war, he still can’t quite escape the shadow of his warmongering past. A shadow that his mentor Obadiah Stane has cast over him from beyond the grave.
So right after the events of Infinity War, we see a man who has finally learned to settle down and let go of his fears and paranoia. He has a family now, he has what he’s fought for all his life but he can’t rest yet. He has to fight to keep it. So to have him be the one to defeat Thanos once and for all is apt. His military industrialist past, his career superhero present and his family’ future are no longer at conflict with each other. So like that moment of clarity he found in that cave, he declares to Thanos in an act of unabashed self-actualization, “I am Iron Man.” (“I am Iron Man” is also the last line Tony says in the first Iron Man film all those years ago.)
Tony isn’t the only one to break free from the shadow of his past. Though seemingly innocuous, Thor’s decision to join the Guardians meant a lot more than you think. For his whole life, his destiny has been tied to that of Asgard and his people. He was raised from birth to finally take over the role of All-Father after Odin, to lead his people. But destiny can be a terrible thing, a trap. In Thor, we found him learning what it means to be worthy of the throne. Dark World showed him his inheritance, the wars of his ancestors. Ragnarok showed him his past, the sins of the father.
Thor never had much of a choice, he was a leader to his people for better or for worse. We see in Endgame how his once, great destiny has devolved into a meaningless title. The Thor of purpose and power has become a listless and defeated man. In the final battle, we saw the former Thor return in full might to once again deliver on his promise to defend Asgard. He does. We see him in the ending, handing the role of leader to Valkyrie, entrusting her with his mandate. At long, last he’s free from his family ties, his responsibilities and his destiny. For the first time in a long time, he’s free to be the man he wants to be. And also finally the man gets a vacation, cosmic road trip!
Among the scenes of happy reunions and families made whole, near the end of the film, we see the aftermath still haunt those who’ve lost what the gauntlet could not return. Since The Avengers, we’ve seen that Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov are more than just work colleagues. They’re comrades forged in the fire of war, there’s a respect between them that can never be broken. Even in Civil War, we saw that in spite of the fact that they were on opposite sides fighting, their friendship was still there.
She was very close to Barton and his family, she never quite had a family of her own. Her life and identity were defined as an agent, but with Barton, she found well, family. Which is why to see Barton contemplate upon her sacrifice for him to get the Soul Stone gave us the audience a sobering reminder that war doesn’t always have a happy ending. Her whole life, she fought to kill S.H.I.E.L.D’s enemies but in Endgame she fought to save a friend. Her sacrifice wasn’t a mission, it was a labour of love. That bit of melancholy was just what we needed to add some depth and poignancy to the ending.
Alas, we come to the last lonely soldier, Steve Rogers. I mean he has Bucky and Falcon but they can’t hold a candle to the love that he’s lost in First Avenger, Peggy Carter. Cap is man of conviction, defined by selflessness and courage. He’ll fight for what’s right till the end, whether it be a foreign invader or an enemy from within. For he is not compelled by ideology or mere nationalism, but rather by the strength of his conviction. He believed Bucky could be saved.
He was willing to die for it in Winter Soldier and he was sure as hell willing to fight for it in Civil War. He believed in defending Earth from tyrants and invaders. He’s fought Nazis, Chitauris and Thanos’ armies to prove that bloody point. A man on a mission, a martyr for justice, Earth’s shield if you will. The thing is, his whole life has been defined by the mission but by end of the film, he got a chance to see the what life happened once it was all said and done.
On one final mission to return the stones to their rightful places. Hulk sets up the time machine with Rogers set to return at a timestamp of 5 seconds. It takes a little longer and the group starts to panic only to realize that he’s been there the whole time, an old man sitting on a bench. He tells his teammates that after returning the stones, he decided to “try some of that life Tony was telling me to get.” We see a flashback of him dancing with Peggy Carter in.
The good captain has fought the good fight and now he gets to come home, a real home with the woman he loves. By the present time, he’s lived a rich and full life, the life he deserves after giving so much for his friends, his country and his world. And yes I know, Peggy looks pretty damn good for what should be essentially a 50-year-old woman but dammit I don’t care! The emotion, the catharsis and the joy of seeing Steve finally at peace after his long war was too wonderful for me to consider the plothole. I find it so fitting that First Avenger is the last thing we see. Poetry.
New Era, New Heroes
Endgame truly is a worthy send-off for the Avengers we once knew but in the wake of it all, comes new exciting possibilities! Let’s be honest here, we knew Disney wouldn’t really close up the MCU for the sake of artistic integrity. Not knocking them for that, it’s just not in their nature. Earlier we discussed how we saw character arcs come to meaningful conclusions but we also saw setup for a brave new world coming our way.
Captain America, the living embodiment of American virtue, passes his shield over to Sam Wilson aka Falcon to take up his mantle, which he was for a time in the comics. At first, I was hoping for Steve to hand the mantle over to Bucky but after some thought, I simply had to agree with Steve. Bucky and Rogers have seen the ravages of the war, they’ve been through the wringer. Sam still has so much more to give, so to have the Falcon become the new Captain America is the ideal choice. A modern hero for modern America. That being said, the good captain isn’t the only one getting an update…it could be the whole team as well.
During the final battle, we get a glimpse of an all-female Avengers that is to come. Spider-Man is in need of assistance as he struggles to keep the gauntlet away from Thanos and crew. Lucky for him, the ladies took it from there. We see this panning shot of female heroes the likes of Valkyrie, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Iron Potts (yes, that’s what I’m calling her) and many more just as they’re about to take the fight to Thanos. There’s little doubt in my mind that the Russos were trying to frame them as a sort of rebirth of the Avengers.
Captain Marvel for Captain America, Potts for Tony, Valkyrie for Thor, Wasp for Ant-Man and Scarlet Witch for Vision. If that’s the case, then the evildoers of the universe are in big, big trouble. Not knocking on the old guard but these ladies really are more powerful than their male counterparts. They have a living solar battery capable obliterating whole fleets, a mental disruptor and a freaking reality manipulator on their team. Seriously, Scarlet Witch really is the MVP here, she’s capable of destroying a damn Infinity Stone. It looks like the future is female! It doesn’t just stop at the Avengers, however.
With Valkyrie taking over the role of leader of the Asgardians, Thor is now free to go gallivanting around the great, wide universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the midst of racoons, tree people and outlaws, we can now add a god to our eclectic band of misfits. Thor’s addition to the team just seems so right. Since the days of Thor: Ragnarok, Thor has been rebranded from brooding, self-serious deity to quippy, lovable alpha-bro. Bringing him into the Guardians fold makes perfect sense in my opinion! I can’t wait to see what cosmic threats the team will face next!
To state the amount of time that has passed between the first Iron Man to Endgame and to reiterate the growth we’ve seen in the franchise over the years would be cliche at this point. So if I may be a cynic for one last time, I’d say that the ending for Endgame won’t do much for you if you’re not a fan or haven’t been following the MCU thus far. It would be like jumping into Deathly Hallows without any prior knowledge to the Harry Potter universe. Endgame’s ending feels exclusive and intimate, rightfully so. It’s a love letter to the dedicated fans who have been faithfully sticking by the franchise through all the years. It’s a celebration of the MCU. Well done, Disney. Take a bow.