ENDGAME doesnt really work for me as a movie, but it’s also a perfect cinematic culmination of the MCU. Not necessarily from a story perspective (loool mf’s can’t even track things like Hulk’s arc from the previous film!) but in how it represents the grandiose design of the entire franchise. Occasionally, there will be a rush of adrenaline and excitement. The undeniable cheer-worthy moments punctuate arcs that are roughly defined or hardly instigated by anything other than what the fans want. Even if a handful of them are cynically calculated and perfunctory, I can admire seeing ALL these characters on the big screen together for the first time. Nearly every MCU character gets an appearance, a kick-ass moment, a funny line, a heartfelt farewell. But what does it mean to these characters? Maybe half of these people speak at all, only a quarter of them have meaningful relationships to one another. So when every woman superhero in the MCU gathers around to protect the infinity gauntlet, of course that’s the shit people wanna see. But most of these characters, good characters in their own rights, don’t gain or explore anything outside of the grand hero shot. These women deserve that same development.
And I’m sorry, but anybody signing off on Natasha’s arc should never write women again. Though her character writing varies from series to series, Natasha has always been a character whose agency was driven by need to atone for past sins. She doesn’t even consider herself a hero. She doesn’t even *attempt* to pick up the hammer in AOU. She brushes it off as a joke, “That’s not a question I need answered.” Because she doesn’t even believe in it. How could she? She was trained since childhood to be a killer. Through Barton, Fury and the Avengers, she was able to do some good. She was a hero, even when she couldn’t believe it. When standing alongside Cap on Sokovia, and they discuss the possibility of sacrificing themselves and the citizens of Sokovia to protect the planet, it’s Nat that suggests the heroic suicide. If it wasn’t for Fury pulling through, Nat would’ve never left that rock. She spends so much of her life embracing death, so these clowns determine her ending should be… heroic suicide? Go fuck yourselves, oh my god.
And Fuck the soul stone. Contrived, lazy ass storytelling that white dudebro filmmakers seem to latch onto “death” and “sacrifice” being the ultimate storytelling tool. TWO women superheroes meet the same grizzly fate. And they’re the only women who joined the beginning of the Avengers and Guardians teams? I’m baffled people aren’t up in arms about this.
I gotta digress because as much of this is fundamentally broken from writing and character perspective, and hell, even filmmaking, this also might be the most accomplished technical feat the Russo’s have strung together? I mean, there’s some Tommy Wiseau level blocking in the moment when Rhodes, Peter and Pepper are saying goodbye to Tony but y’all ain’t ready to have that conversation yet.
Make no mistake, THE WINTER SOLDIER is their best film (and I’m basically convinced they didn’t make it at this point), but there are moments in the finale that do edge on the boundaries of fantasy and expression. Cap standing alone as Thanos and the Chitauri forces charge towards him is a beaut, and of course the portals opening is fucking awesome. Nobody is denying that. But back in 2012, when the Avengers first assembled, we weren’t just cheering because it was a group of comic characters nerds really liked were uniting on screen. We were cheering at the 360 shot around Earth’s Mightiest Heroes because they had forged relationships with one another. They were united under purpose after having met one another, fought one another, lost with one another. Their power wasn’t just in punching things extremely hard and looking badass while doing so.
Nah, the first Avengers works like gangbusters because we see these people become truly vulnerable, truly human. In the best of the MCU, we understand the respective hero’s relationship to their heroics and the world at large. Obviously, in these last two movies they want to stop Thanos from destroying half of all life in the universe. Like, no shit that’s a bad thing that should be stopped. But what does it mean to the world to go through this? This is a devastating event that changes the course of the UNIVERSE. FOR FIVE YEARS! These people are gone, and the Avengers failed them. And though they bring them back, they make sure to have Iron Man say “We have to leave everything else the way it was.” To which,,,, what? My dude? I know these things are trying to convince people there are stakes but if you’re going to just… revive half the population of the universe, maybe think through what that would do to the universe at large. The main conflict there should be for Tony having to choose between his reality, and the one they’re going back to with the undoing of The Snap. To mirror Captain America, Tony would have to choose between settling and the call to action. His own wants/needs vs. the world at large. And the film never challenged that perspective! It’s insane!
Even with all this bullshit, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choke up a few times. The time travel nonsense is beyond baffling because only Tony and Cap’s time heists relate tangentially to their characters, but Tony running into Howard? Cap seeing Peggy through the glass? Brutal. Pepper telling Tony he doesn’t need to save anyone else anymore, that he can finally rest? That one didn’t hit me til the second viewing. But the final moment of Tony’s funeral gutted even my guarded emotions. Just his little Stark girl next to Happy Hogan, saying she wants a cheeseburger. Happy telling her his dad loved them too. But the thing that probably saved this three hour experience for me? That final moment. Anybody who knows me, knows TFA is far and away my favorite Cap movie. So to see Steve and Peggy finally get their dance? Yeah, that’s all I needed. You can poke holes in that thing logistically, thematically, whatever. For me, if works as a moment in a vacuum. Cause that’s all these last two Avengers movies are: moments. Moments that work, and all the other ones. So I’m meeting the film on its own terms. Here’s a moment so profoundly human and moving (arguably undeservedly so, because only AOU ever confronted Cap turning into a fascist??? Steve Rogers let all the bad shit still happen????) that nothing else even ultimately matters. Two people embracing one another like nothing else ever existed. That kiss is eternal.
I’ve brought up AOU a few times in this post, but I often find myself thinking about Vision saying “A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.” And that’s shockingly true of this series. Through the good, the bad and the Russo’s, these films will continue. Their overall structures and presentation will go unchallenged. But maybe the heroes will question their own heroism and how it fits in the world. We’ll see the Avengers act as the search-and-rescue response team hinted at in AOU. Maybe the Guardians will continue being far and away the best thing the MCU ever gave birth to. Maybe I’m just an idiot for believing these movies could pull off crafting genuine storytelling across multiple films. And just maybe, we’ll see more of these stories that put characters and their emotions in the forefront of the story, so we can be reminded what makes Earth’s Mightiest truly Heroes. Not all of these movies will succeed, but the ones that do? I’m glad I have those. Even if they weren’t built to last.
But fuck, that final moment.
• Vision: a character who thematically represents the ideals of the Avengers and what they fight for… never speaks to Thanos?!
• I liked Thanos more here! The legacy of the shattered Avengers vs. the legacy of the Mad Titan. Less of s philosophy 101 drop out. Good things! Still should’ve made him an incel.
• I still do not understand why people snap the gauntlet in this version? In the comic, horny-on-main Thanos used the snap as a measure of cosmic dick measuring to impress the personification of death. Thanos flaunts his violent power fantasy by manifesting it literally. But in the movies, it’s just a Snap? Wouldn’t it be better for him to just close his fist or something? Clenching might be easier? Like, they replaced the nonchalant setting into a literal battlefield so there’s no specific purpose for snapping in this new context?
• Black Widow and Cap should’ve tossed Mjolnir back and forth in the finale, where Black Widow should have also been.
• Chad Hulk is making people horny but honestly I’m just impressed by his style. Mf’s got the DRIP.
• Thor being a heavy set fella undergoing years of depression is totally fine with me, but the film never stops from joking about it? He’s suffering, going through years of tragedy and feeling like he failed his people. Then the film ends by… him giving the right to rule to Valkyrie? Did they film a first draft? Cause these are all decent ideas but there’s no exploration of them on the film side of it. Frigga tells Thor to be who he wants to be, but he never interacts with any of his own people! The fuck kinda arc is this! Then he joins the Guardians and they just got fucked hard during these movies, so that’s a whole other can of worms that I’m not ready to deal with.
• Captain America has a similar problem re: retirement, with handing off the shield to Sam Wilson. He seems like a nice guy! I’d like to get to know him. What do you mean he’s been a character since WINTER SOLDIER? Oh god, and Bucky doesn’t even get a full on reunion with Cap? After spending TWO movies trying to save him? Jesus Christ. I’m pro-Sam Wilson Cap in the comics (a winged black man punching Nazis with a shield marked by the American flag is extremely good) but they forgot to make the MCU version a character! Bucky is also there.
• Peter Parker so clearly replaced Harley as the kid Tony was meant to be mentoring. Apologies to the kid from IRON MAN 3. At least you got to co-star in one of the best MCU movies.
• Fuck this movie, I still cried tho.
• this probably reads like nonsense but whatever I’m tired
• Okay but blue collar, average joe, Scott Lang holding the key to saving the universe? That’s legit great. There, I ended on a positive. Please be nice.