James C. Clay (and Preston Barta) // Film Critics
ATTENTION: This ENTIRE review contains SPOILERS for AVENGERS: END GAME. If you’re looking for our non-spoiler review, check out Courtney Howard’s review, which you can find HERE.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME is an overwhelming experience that encapsulates the 22-film arc of what is now being called THE INFINITY SAGA. It’s satisfying, emotional and logistically a crazy viewing experience that teeters into an obnoxious CGI battle toward the final third of the film; however, directors Joe and Anthony Russo find a way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to reflect upon itself in ways that are emotive and simultaneously mocking itself. I can’t think of a movie that is quite on the level of ambition as ENDGAME. Even if the film has a few issues, it sticks the landing in the final minutes.
This isn’t an article to pick apart the flaws and inconsistencies of ENDGAME, but more of a way to reflect on the little moments that make these films worth revisiting.
Five years after “the snapture,” the original Avengers – Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – are all handling grief in different ways, which feels innately human. One could assume that Steve would handle the loss and failure differently than, let’s say, Thor, just like I would handle the loss of a loved one differently than you, the reader. I really can’t think of a modern blockbuster outside of THE LORD OF THE RINGS that attempts to go this deep. Some attend therapy groups, others become murderous vigilantes, and some start families; this film handles grief in a way that’s grounded, even when the fate of the universe is at stake.
But it turns out that the Avengers turn their grief into revenge heated by words such as Steve spitting, “Let’s get that son of a bitch!” That son of a bitch is, of course Thanos (Josh Brolin). They achieve their goal and kill the weakened villain, who has just destroyed the Infinity Stones by his own hand. Yada, Yada, Yada…
Tony Stark solves the puzzle of time travel to reacquire the six stones and restore the universe to its rightful population, tipping the scale back out of balance (insert pissed off Thanos face). It’s all convoluted, and hopefully, you’ve watched all 22 films right before seeing ENDGAME. Trust me. It matters.
The plot for literally every single Marvel movie (aside from maybe CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and BLACK PANTHER) is completely ludicrous – a billionaire makes an indestructible suit, the God of Thunder fights a Hulk, a talking tree, and so on.
So, what brings us back over and over again?
It’s the characters, obviously. It’s those small moments that brings us close to the action and hold us tight. These films are essentially a bottle and a warm blanket in the thunderstorm of life. AVENGERS: ENDGAME pays complete fan service to our favorite moments, and they do it through time travel.
So let’s end this review by going through our favorite spoiler-filled moments that sparked the most joy. Reminder, SPOILERS are coming.
The Hulk takes a selfie
In INFINITY WAR’s opening scene, after Thanos kicked the crap out of the Hulk, the big green guy went deep into hiding inside Bruce Banner and didn’t appear for the rest film. We were waiting for that big moment where Hulk would emerge, and boy, did Marvel have a big swerve in mind.
It turns out that Bruce and Hulk went into couples therapy, and they merged into a perfectly well-adjusted super-being of Banner’s personality with Hulk’s body. Within the world of the film, he essentially turned into a meme who takes selfies with kids, dabs and just genuinely embraces his own weirdness and inner turmoil. In ENDGAME, he says something to the effect of, “I first treated Hulk as a disease.” We all have quirks about us that we’d like to change, but this just made me think that we should embrace ourselves, green warts and all.
Mini Moment: The team travels back to the Battle of New York portrayed in 2012’s THE AVENGERS, and Hulk calls all of his years of previous smashin’ “a bit gratuitous.”
The reveal that Tony Stark has a daughter
We have come so far with Tony, from lothario, to Pepper Potts’ beau, and now he’s the father of a five-year-old little girl. It’s all been coming to this as he has played a pseudo father to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) since CIVIL WAR. The reveal of her coming out of a camping tent rocking an Iron Man helmet is so cute and so empowering.
Mini Moment: Tony Stark mentions he has a garage workspace in his cabin. It’s kind of surreal thinking about Tony being a regular-ass dad with a two-car garage.
Scott Lang’s ultimate freak out
Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) comes back from the quantum realm freaking out to high heaven that he may have discovered time travel. (Rudd has found his groove as Scott and now illuminates the screen at any given moment.) But at the Avengers headquarters, Scott provides the most satisfying spaz-out the MCU has ever seen. He then claims Black Widow’s untouched peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.
A call back to THE WINTER SOLDIER’s elevator fight
The elevator fight in 2014’s THE WINTER SOLIDER is one of the most memorable pieces of action in the entire MCU. There’s a scene in ENDGAME where Cap is attempting to recapture the tesseract from members of Hydra who are posing as S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives. Instead of engaging in fisticuffs, Cap simply whispers, “Hail Hydra,” acquiesces the stone and quietly walks away. The perfect bait-and-switch that was followed up with a Cap vs. Cap fight that, fortunately, doesn’t last all day.
Mini Moment: Cap’s derriere being referred to as “America’s ass.”
Thor’s beer belly and return of Miek and Korg
The journey of Thor has typically relied on his emotional state. In his origin story, he was filled with hubris, and once he gained some humility, he became more powerful because the guy has been put through the ringer. After killing Thanos, Thor dives into a depression and now lives with insect sidekick Miek and rock-monster Korg (Taika Waititi). Thor’s once-glourious eight-pack abs have turned into a keg-size belly. It’s a bit jarring at first, but it seems that the filmmakers keep finding new and fascinating ways to develop the God of Thunder.
Mini Moment: Korg asking Thor to help him trash talk some kid (with a screen name that ends with “69”) on an online video game. Lest we forget Korg. Bless you for surviving the snap.
Hawkeye and Black Widow’s fight to the death
Clint and Nat travel back in time to Vormir in search of the soul stone (before Gamora faces a certain fate). We already know the rules, but they don’t: “In order to take the stone, you must lose that which you love.” The two elite assassins battle each other like Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck in ARMAGEDDON. These two have always had each other’s back from day one. There’s a deep friendship between the two. Nat is even seen wearing a necklace with an arrow pendant, making this moment even more powerful. Unfortunately, the Black Widow takes the plunge for the greater good.
Thanos picking fruit
It’s kind of a silly moment to attached myself to, but the visual of Thanos’ big, purple body climbing a fence to pick fruit is so simple, quiet and absurd. I loved it.
Mini Moment: Thor cuts of Thanos’ head in the first act. This time he went for the head. I know this is the bigger moment, but cut me some slack! Thanos eating fruit is what we will all remember.
Captain America succumbing to peer pressure and shaving his beard
In the Battle for Wakanda in INFINITY WAR, Thor chastises Cap for “copying his beard,” In ENDGAME, we witness Steve shaving his beautiful beard. It’s a shame that peer pressure exists in the world of superheroes as well.
Hawkeye’s samurai sword fight
Hawkeye has been a joke online about being sidelined for almost every AVENGERS movie, and he didn’t even appear in INFINITY WAR. But it turns out, the snappening eliminated Barton’s entire family and he went on a killing spree, murdering criminals who were spared by Thano’s cold and distant form of mercy.
In this scene, you can sympathize for his grief, and it comes to a head in a visceral sword fight with a crime boss (Hiroyuki Sanada) that was something I never knew I needed out of an AVENGERS film. It’s a well-choreographed scene with the rainy city scape aesthetic of BLADE RUNNER 2049, mixed with hand-to-hand combat of JOHN WICK. This is a worthy return for the unsung Avenger.
Mini Moment: Clint time travels back to his home in a test run, only to be called back just before he can see his daughter again… Like tears in rain.
Captain Marvel’s new haircut
I heard in an interview that the actors actually get to have some creative license with their characters, and it turns out Brie Larson shot this film before her titular role in CAPTAIN MARVEL. While she was tinkering with the character, she opted for Carol Danvers to chop off all her hair and go for a pretty-killer faux hawk.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s return
Tony and Peter are the best. Those guys have an amazing relationship. Peter spazzes out, Tony sends him some light jabs, and we all laugh and fall in love with their dynamic. They both filled a void in each other’s lives, and when Spidey turned to ash it hit pretty damn hard. However, when Peter comes back from the unknown the two have a bit of a delayed hug, it’s almost as if they are both in disbelief. This never happens, but I got a bit misty-eyed. Mr. Stark, I’m feeling much better now.
Pepper Potts gets her own Iron Man suit
For some reason, it’s always kind of fun and silly when Gwyneth Paltrow shows up as Pepper Potts. (Fans of her wellness company Goop will appreciate this.) Paltrow and Downey Jr. have a fun rapport that feels like two friends playfully acting and having a good time. So, when she shows up in the final battle in an Iron Lady suit, I about came up out of my chair.
Captain America brings down the hammer
Undoubtedly the most electric moment in the entire movie is when Captain America calls the original hammer of Thor, aka Mjölnir, and it comes to him in his battle against the 2014 version of Thanos. It is a fan moment that is as chilling as the motorcycle whip in CIVIL WAR.
Mini Moment: When Thor tells Cap, “I knew it!” It brings it back to that funny King Arthur bit in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.
“I am Iron Man”
This is the line that started it all. That line of dialogue uttered by Tony Stark at the end of IRON MAN was an unprecedented moment in superhero history. That moment comes full circle when Tony, Thor and Cap are battling Thanos in ENDGAME’s final battle.
It appeared that Stark created his own Infinity Stones gauntlet on the sly and used it to sneak the stones from Thanos. Tony snaps his fingers after saying his signature line in an ultimate moment for the man who started it all. This one hits hard and is a heroic ending and this really was the only way Tony would ever gain any semblance of peace, he was the kind of person who just couldn’t relax. RIP Mr. Stark.
Tony Stark’s funeral
This is a somber scene that takes place at Tony’s cabin he moved to with Pepper and their daughter. Gathered around is pretty much everybody you can imagine who has made an appearance in the MCU thus far – from Stephen Strange, to Harley Keener, to the little kid Tony befriends in IRON MAN 3. As predictable as this is for the culmination of his story, it’s also what brings us back to the MCU: people coming together to celebrate the greater good. And even though Tony Stark is a bit of an ass, we are all flawed, and that’s what matters.
Mini Moment: Janet van Dyne’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) fierce stare into camera.
Captain America’s time slide at the end of the film
When CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER came out, Steve Rogers was overly cheesy. He was a boy scout, but that was always kind of the point. Over the course of seven films, he has transformed and adapted into a modern version of himself. But he could never forget that date he had with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
In an effort to stow the Infinity Stones away in a secret location, Cap makes a pit stop and winds up getting that dance with his long lost love. He reappears as an old man reflecting on the life he lived and the path he chose. He hands down the shield to Sam Wilson/The Falcon as his best friend Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier watches. The moment wraps up everything in a nice little package, even if Sam Wilson isn’t a worthy successor.
The final shot of the film shows Steve and Peggy dancing and softly smiling, with a cut to black. This final moment shows you that, despite all the big budgets and CGI buffoonery that goes on in the MCU, these films are all about the small moments. #whateverittakes
AVENGERS: ENDGAME is in theaters now for you to see again and again.
The bulk of the article above was written by James C. Clay, with a few contributions from Preston Barta.