It’s happened. It’s over. The box office is obliterated, our tear ducts are drained dry, and the shape of our asses will never be the same again.
What did we think of Endgame? Come along, friend, and find out. With spoilers. So many goddamn spoilers.
<<<<<<<<<<THIS IS ALL SPOILERS ALL THE TIME>>>>>>>>>>>
You have been warned.
A Beautiful Ending, Whatever it Takes
Marvel has accomplished the impossible, and that makes them mighty: they’ve crafted a 23-movie series (that isn’t “Land Before Time”). The movies getting made at all is an incredible achievement: that 95% of them are great — or at least good if you’re feeling cynical — is shocking.
As an ending, Endgame does a remarkable job spreading out the characters beats and giving everyone at least a little moment to shine. Some characters obviously get more screen time, but considering most of those chosen few get their swansong here, it’s understandable. For instance: why give Captain Marvel a ton of screen time when she’s about to have like three more movies?
When it comes to paying off foreshadowing, calling back to old movies, while still moving characters and stories forward, Endgame is second to none in cinematic endings.
The Big Three Killed My Baby
While we’ve still lost Heimdall, Vision, OG Gamora, OG Loki and a dozen more side characters I can’t remember, the big three deaths/endings in this movie are rightly receiving the most attention: Natasha, Tony, and Steve (kinda).
Daughter of Ivan
I found Natasha’s death well done, and a fitting conclusion to her storyline. It’s too bad she dies relatively alone and uncelebrated by the universe at large, but to be fair, it’s appropriate to her character. A covert agent like Natasha does her best work saving the world from the sidelines, content with the idea that most people will never even know the sacrifices she made to help others.
The final self-sacrifice duel between Hawkeye and Black Widow made for an excellent callback to their apparent contractually-required once-per-movie fight scene with each other. It also served to illustrate that Black Widow wasn’t just saving the universe, but her best friend and the life she thought he deserved.
Her character journey from cheeky assassin to self-sacrificing superhero was one of the more subtle arcs in the MCU, and I’m happy with how it concluded. I’ve heard a few mumbles and grumbles about “dying to facilitate man-pain,” but I think that’s a really shitty way to look at it. Black Widow used her agency to make a choice to save the world at all costs: calling it another case of “women in refrigerators” is misguided.
She didn’t die to make Hulk sad — she died to complete her own story, a character arc that was never going to have a happy ending.
The Tony of It All
Tony dying a soldier’s death, making the “sacrifice play” and jumping on the wire, is a pitch-perfect ending to the man who started it all.
Plus, Endgame allowed us the final insight on Tony Stark: what he’s like as a father. Tony Stark has always been a walking, talking Daddy Issue made flesh, and that kind of pain and trauma tends to get passed on to the next generation. The movie even makes this clear when Howard Stark explains that his own dad wasn’t exactly the model father either.
However, it did touch on one of the normal truths of everyday life: no father is perfect, or even can be perfect, but a good father tries his best to give better than he got. Howard doesn’t pass along the physical abuse to Tony, but instead misses his own blind spot of neglect.
Tony, like Howard, is revealed to be terrified that he’d be a shitty father, a terror I myself have felt and still feel nearly every day, but the movie reveals that he’s a wonderful, hands-on father committed to keeping his family together and safe.
The only trauma he passes on to his daughter is loss. The only damage his presence could to his daughter was by its lack, which is a tear jerking finale for Tony’s lifelong daddy issues. It also means that, like Tony, Morgan will be looking up to a father she feels she can never compare to, just like Howard. It’s heartbreakingly poetic.
As the first Avenger (at least in our world), it’s fitting that Tony Stark be the one to close out this run. I loved the lack of a final choking death speech (which always end up long, boring, and ineffective, TRINITY), I loved Pepper putting aside her own grief and offering Tony one last moment of love and strength (“We’re okay, Tony. You can rest now.”), and I loved Tom Holland’s acting as he tried to process what was happening.
Well done, Tony. We all love you 3000.
The Star Spangled Man with a Plan
I’m a Cap-man down to my bones, so it’s no surprise that I started pouring tears like my eyeballs had been punctured when I spotted that old man on the bench.
As a clever reverse of Tony’s story, and of his own up until then, Captain America gets to live a normal life. When Ultron taunted Steve with the idea that he could “ever live without a war,” it felt true. As much as we love Cap and his “aw shucks” personality, the dude likes to fight. He doesn’t seem to have any other purpose in his life. No girlfriends, no non-work friends, no real hobbies. Rogers fills up his losses with more victories, because he doesn’t know what the hell else to do with himself.
So Tony having to become a soldier is a wonderful parallel to Steve having to become a civilian, and really goes to cement just how much of an effect those two brothers-in-arms had on each other.
Passing the shield to Sam totally worked for me, though it wasn’t exactly a surprise for anyone who follows the comics. I love Sam, but I do have one request: better facial hair. I’m 100% behind him as successor, but only if he figures out his beard game. It starts halfway up his face; it’s so bad in the last scene with Steve that it nearly ruins the whole effect.
Nitpick: I understand and even agree with the movie skipping the whole time-adventure to put back the stones, but it’s too bad we won’t find out how Cap reacted when he went to return the Soul Stone and spotted his old Nazi nemesis floating around like a spooky dementor.
Obviously, the final shot of the movie made me cry and cry and cry I don’t wanna talk about it except to say it was a brilliant ending to my favorite MCU character, and no one deserved it more.
The Flaw in the Diamond
This is all opinion, not fact. If it worked for you, I’m honestly happy. But for me? Well . . .
Honestly, Endgame would be an easy 10/10 for me except for the one glaring flaw in this cinematic gem: Thor.
God of Blunder
Thor has fully transformed from rad fish-out-of-water to complete and total clown. The “fat and drunk Thor” reveal is funny in its first scene, I’ll admit, but it’s hardly worth the damage it does to the rest of the movie. In a lot of ways, the “Thor is fat and drunk” storyline suffers from the exact same problems as “Pam is addicted to coke” in Archer. A kind-of-amusing idea stretched long past its sell-by date.
Cap and Tony get these amazing journeys, and Thor is shuffled into little more than comic relief. And worse, because his comic relief is almost entirely a visual gag, it stands out in every single scene. Even serious scenes become ridiculous when fat-Thor comes wandering in and the camera focuses on his belly.
Thor reuniting with his mother could have been moving, except the theatre I was in laughed through the entire scene. This continued through every “serious” scene that starred Thor: no matter how epic the moment, here comes tubby-Thor with his gut hanging out and his hobo beard and total lack of actual angst and the audience just kind of sighs.
He sits there on the screen, a visual reminder, a petrified turd sticking out of every casserole dish. And worse, he seems to continue the Ragnarok trend (thankfully skipped in Infinity War) of existing solely to make fun of the first two Thor movies.
The Past is Dumb
Every moment from those movies is referenced as a joke. Even Thor recapping his family’s death is played for comedy. So, when he faces down Thanos at the end of the movie, instead of feeling psyched, it’s mood whiplash. We go from Cap doing something awesome to fat-Thor getting thrown around like a ragdoll and we as an audience don’t know what to feel. Is this fight scene funny? Is it cool? Am I supposed to think this filthy beard and barista top-knot is dope or ridiculous or even ironic dope/ridiculous? Do I take the clown seriously now? Is that the plan?
Let me explain why Thor felt so weird with a (very small) academic lesson.
The Three Persuasions
Not to get too far into the weeds with writing talk, but there are three principles of drama (or modes of persuasion) called pathos, ethos, and logos.
Pathos is an attempt to get to the audience with emotion — Cap dancing with Peggy, Tony cleaning Peter Parker’s picture.
Ethos is an attempt to win the audience over with competence, knowledge, or skill. When Captain America “does something rad,” or Tony Stark figures out an amazing scientific breakthrough, that’s ethos. We like the character because they’re good at what they do. On the meta scale, ethos is also the movie establishing that it knows what it’s doing. The editing and pacing feel good, it feels professionally done: the movie teaches us as soon as possible that the makers know their trade.
Logos is mostly about exposition: does everything that happens in the movie make sense? Does it feel logical? Do consequences follow actions, do the characters and situations seem real or plausible?
Now, there’s a third, anti-mode of persuasion called “bathos.” Bathos is generally not something you’re supposed to do on purpose: it’s what happens when you fuck up pathos. It’s when the audience laughs in a spot you didn’t intend them to laugh, ie, you messed up. Something meant to be grand comes off as verbose or absurd (Exodus: Gods and Kings), something that was supposed to be sexy is gross (50 Shades), something trying to be funny is pathetic (any Netflix Adam Sandler movie), etc.
Is bathos occasionally used on purpose? Sure. But it’s kind of like a scalpel: you really only want a real expert sticking one in your eye.
Thor, as presented in Endgame, is a walking bathos bomb that turns every moment into an awkward joke, even when the movie wants us to take him seriously.
House of Pain
In theory, Thor (between Dark World, Ragnarok, and Infinity War) has had the most tragic week in the history of weeks: he’s lost his parents, his brother, his best friends, his girlfriend, his eye, his hammer, his home, his civilization, his fellow Avengers, and now he feels responsible for screwing up his one shot at Thanos and by extension murdering half the universe.
Hawkeye’s pain at losing his family is treated with respect: Thor’s pain causes eyerolls in his fellow Avengers.
Thor, as presented in Infinity War, was perfect — he still had some wry humor and silliness from Ragnarok, but beneath it lay true loss. His jokes were gallows humor — he wasn’t treated as ridiculous. He was treated as wounded and heartbroken and committed to revenge.
The turnaround to the fat, drunken clown in this movie is like whiplash. And then, to have it end with him giving up the kingship of Asgard (again) so he can be the funny fat guy in the Guardians of the Galaxy?
Every other movie Thor either takes up the crown or puts it down (he’s flip-flopped like four times now), and at this point, it seems clear the writers have no idea what to do with him, A, and don’t really care if he has a consistent personality, B.
It’s not crazy to say that as far as consistent character work goes, Thor “died” at the end of Dark World, and the weird alternate-universe Iolaus-clone that appeared in Ragnarok has just been steadily degrading into the cold macaroni and Elmer’s glue he was originally constructed from.
It sounds harsh, and maybe it’s too harsh, I know. And as a writer, I know what it feels like to have something you wrote ripped to shreds. It sucks. But Thor’s mistreatment and the damage he does to every scene is only so shocking because the rest of the movie is literally perfect. The contrast is jarring, and I wonder if there’s a behind-the-scenes story that explains it.
It’s like one group of writers created this perfect send-off to the MCU and then someone’s stoner nephew came in during the last draft and added slobby fat-Thor.
Bobby, You’re a Fat-Shaming Prick
Now before you begin waving the fat-shaming flag: First off, I’m fat. Secondly, I don’t dislike that Thor is fat, nor do I think he has to be thin to be badass. But, rather, the movie itself engages in some kinda hacky fat-jokes and make them the thrust of the humor, and then subsequently abandons the idea in the last chunk of the movie and pretends like it wasn’t making fat jokes the whole time.
You can have your cake, and you can eat it, but, well, I think there’s a saying for what I’m talking about.
This isn’t really Thor-related but since it’s my only other real (minor) criticism of the movie I thought I’d pop it in this section.
I thought it was an odd way to go to play the Star-Lord/Gamora reunion for laughs.
It’s horribly tragic – Star-Lord lost the love of his life and there’s someone walking around with her face who has no idea who he is. It’s probably one of the more subtly tragic things in the movie and it’s addressed with a comedic scene about ball-punching.
I’m sure they’ll address it better in Guardian 3, but just thought it was a weird way to take it.
Embracing the Fan-Service
These days fanservice has become a dirty word, which I find silly.
While empty fanservice is gross and just kind of dumb (the first-person shooter section in the execrable “Doom” movie), fanservice slapped on top of solid writing and directing is a beautiful thing. When it comes down to it, all fanservice really is “giving the fans what they love.” How is that a bad thing? If I order a BLT sandwich and I get a birdmeat, legume, and Toblerone sandwich, that sucks.
Sure, the movie shouldn’t be only fanservice, because then there are no surprises or challenging moments, but embracing what the audience loves about your art and trying to do your best to deliver it is a noble act. And a difficult one, at that.
And make no mistake — this entire movie is fanservice from hell to breakfast. And because it’s done well, and it’s been earned up to this point, we love it. We gobble it up.
Was Cap grabbing the hammer 100% expected by everyone? Of course it was! That didn’t make it any less fucking rad. Was it cheesy and a wee-bit contrived to have a conveniently all-girl rush in a battlefield full of multiply-gendered heroes all mixed together? Of course it’s cheesy! That didn’t make it any less totally fucking sweet.
Spider-Man activating instant-kill was fanservice. Star-Lord getting kicked in the nuts was fanservice. Falcon saying “on your left” was fan service, Cap fighting Cap, the jokes about Cap’s Avenger’s outfit (and ass), the “Asgardians of the Galaxy,” damn near everything was fan service.
So what? Didn’t make us cheer any less.
These are action adventure movies. Fist-pumping is the key ingredient.
Now, putting any criticism aside, I loved the movie. It’s not only a phenomenal piece of art, a heart-thumping action extravaganza, and a fitting end to the longest-running cinematic TV show in history (for now), it’s also a commercial and technical achievement. 23 high-budget, interconnecting, good movies starring a bevy of Oscar-winning talent in less than 10 years? It’s improbable. It’s insane. No one would have believed we’d get from there to here, no one, not even Kevin Feige or the Beyonder himself.
So here’s a big fucking “well-done” and “kudos” to every single cast and crew member involved in this gloriously successful experiment.
You all brought a little magic into our lives, and for that, we’ll always be grateful.