Let's Spoil the Endgame!
Spoiler Discussion for Avengers: Endgame
Over in the main review for Avengers: Endgame I specifically avoided talking about the plot of the movie at all. I didn't want to ruin anything about the film because the plot pick up pretty quick into the film and even the first few moments set a big course for the film and could be considered pretty spoilery. Thankfully we have a second article dedicated to discussing all the spoilers of the movie (something we haven't really done much before), so let's get into the meat and really tear this film apart.
Of course, this is the point of no return. If you haven't seen the movie before now and really want to remain spoiler-free (perhaps you mis-clicked this article and need to go back), this is your last chance to get out of here. After this, consider yourself spoiled.
Here There Be Spoilers
Yes, that's the main mechanic of the movie, something everyone was suspecting Online, so yes, let's get this out of the way upfront: to correct the failure to stop Thanos and his plan to eliminate half of all life in the universe, the heroes use time travel. Essentially they go back to previous moments in the history of the Infinity Stones (read: previous moments in the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. continuity, complete with faithful recreations of famous scenes) to steal the stones out from under their own noses.
This means going to Stark Tower at the end of The Avengers to grab the Tesseract and Loki's Staff (which each have a stone inside them) while also making a pit-stop at the abode of Doctor Strange to grab the Time Stone. There are also stops in Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy to get the stones hiding out in those movies plus a bounce to the home of the Soul Stone as well. If you really wanted to get extra time in any of these movies, or to see scenes from a different angle, this film delivers them.
Within the context of the problem set up at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, time travel makes sense as the only solution to the problem. As is revealed at the start of Endgame, after eliminated half of all life in the universe Thanos then used the power of the Infinity Stones to obliterate the Infinity Stones. If the heroes want to fix everything and put right what Thanos did, they have to grab the stones before they were obliterated, and that means time travel is the only solution. It makes sense.
And I don't just mean that because I'm a fan I'm going to accept whatever Marvel gives me (I mean, I'm a DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. fan first and foremost, so my enjoyment of the MCU only goes so far). Fact is, though, that if Thanos wanted to make sure half of all life remained eliminated he had to get rid of the stones. He anticipated the heroes coming for him and demanding the return of the Infinity Stones so he took the only logical step and he got rid of them permanently. As far as his character was concerned this action make justifiable, logical sense, and was the right move for him to make. It also meant that time travel had to be the solution to the problem.
As a fan of the MCU I did enjoy how the heroes went back and crossed their own time line, giving us new versions of scenes we'd witnessed before. Sure, it's fan-service, but it's good fan-service, and considering the fact that this is the last film in the MCU Infinity Saga, they're the kinds of scenes I expect. This is a victory lap (as I noted in my review), and its well-earned.
That said, the time travel shenanigans do raise some serious structural issues within the bounds of the time line Hulk tells us early in the movie that the heroes can't make any major changes to the time line This isn't a warning about paradox -- if you make changes the universe could explode -- but that they literally couldn't do it: any changes they made would already have been made and, thus, everything they will do they've already done because time is a closed loop. It's the rule the movie sets up but, at least within the internal logic of the film, that rule is almost immediately broken.
Consider what happens at Stark Tower when Cap, Iron Man, and Ant-Man go back to steal the two Infinity Stones hanging out there. In one sequence Iron Man and Ant-Man cause the tesseract to fall into Loki's hands, and the trickster immediately steals the power-box and vanishes. This means Loki no longer goes back to Asgard with Thor at the end of the movie and that the Tesseract doesn't end up in the vault. Now, sure, there's a Loki mini-series coming to Disney+ when that streaming service launches and, dollars-to-doughnuts, that mini-series deals with the events immediate after Loki steals the Tesseract and runs off. But that takes place outside this movie and we can't be sure, right now, that's the case. And even if that is what the Loki series is about, it would still cause a major change to the time line the heroes don't remember, one that would have be corrected.
Additionally, while this whole sequence is happening, Cap goes off to grab Loki's staff. At this point the staff is being guarded by the SHIELD Strike Team, a group of men that, as we learn in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, are all deep-cover HYDRA agents. To get the staff from them, Cap says "Hail HYRDA". It's a great call back to Winter Soldier as well as the recent run in comics where Cap had his whole history rewritten so he was a secret HYRDA agent, but this puts a wrinkle in the time line Wouldn't this one moment change everything to come in Winter Soldier? Sure, maybe they just assume it was Loki all along, but that's another major change that has to be explained and the movie doesn't go in for that.
Even at the end of the movie the film is still trying to recover from all the major changes it's caused to its own time line Someone has to go back and return all the stones, which means Captain America (who volunteers for the job) would show up another time at all these previous events to put stones back where they belong (and means he has to inject the red stone back into Thor's girlfriend so it can then be extracted by the Dark Elves later). In some instances this might be easy, but for many of the stones there's just no way to return them as-is and assume there aren't any consequences. How, for instance, do you return the Soul Stone to its home on that remote planet? If you do return it do you get to resurrect the person you had to sacrifice to get it in the first place? And does no one really not notice Cap just walking around in all these time periods when he's as frozen in the ice at the same time?
This doesn't even get us into a pedantic discussion about how if they remove the stones from their place in the time line that would be the future they go back to would have to be a place without the stones. That's how time travel works -- the time line adjusts to what's going on right now, not what will happen if you promise to go back and set things right (no matter how much Endgame wants to reference Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which it does with love and care). Sure, the movie tells us that the time line is fixed and you can't make any changes, except it then goes and does just that. Even if we explain away all the little changes the heroes make in their own past, there's still the climax of the film which makes massive changes. It completely rewrites a good fives years or so of continuity that would have devastating changes on the time line if anyone thought about it.
For the big climax of the film, Thanos of 2014 (from the Guardians of the Galaxy era) jumps forward in time with the help of past-Nebula (meaning there are two Nebulas, past and present, running around at this point in 2023, the year Endgame is set in). Thanos immediately understand what the heroes are up to and decides he's going to get the stones and completely tear apart the whole universe down to its atoms before rebuilding it from scratch.
Instead, the heroes use the stones to resurrect all their allies (specifically without making any other changes -- Tony's specific instructions are "revive everyone five years later but don't make any other changes so that people who were alive, or were born in the five years span since "The Snap" as they call Thanos's big event last movie, would still be alive and aged appropriately while everyone else comes back at the exact age they left at) and then, when Thanos shows up and starts wrecking everything, they use the stones one last time to eliminated Thanos and all his men. They just killed Thanos but this isn't the Thanos of 2023, it's the Thanos of 2014. The younger Nebula also dies in the process, leaving an older Nebula from the original time line still alive somehow. Obviously, from this, we can infer the time line can be changed and absolutely nothing is fixed.
Essentially my point is that the movie sets up some very specific rules and doesn't follow up on them. Now, one could again make the argument that because the heroes specifically stated "we'll make this change but everything else has to remain the same as it is right now" the Infinity Space Magic (TM) would prevent any time line paradox and would allow the heroes to Kill Thanos-2014 without it destroying the universe. It's just inconsistent and immediately make me wonder what else about their assumptions of the time line are wrong. Thankfully Cap then decides to answer that question for us by specifically proving time is malleable.
As we noted above, for the end of his arc (since Chris Evans is done playing Captain America), Cap travels back in time and drops off all the stones. Then, because he's freely bouncing around time, he decides to give himself a well deserved rest. He goes back to 1950s era New York and sets up house with Peggy Carter, the girl he's never gotten over. It's a sweet moment and a good bit of closure for both characters (especially if you were also a fan of Peggy like I was -- her TV series was great and canceled way too soon). It does add a wrinkle though because originally it was established that Peggy married someone else in the past, a man from WWII, and had children with him. Now, this could all have been a lie and maybe she really married Cap, but kept his real identity secret (which would make sense). If that's the case, though, doesn't that mean that technically Cap was getting busy with his own grand-niece, Sharon Carter? And if Peggy originally married someone else, this wipes that away.
Suffice it to say that the time-travel mechanics are great fun within the context of the movie but they are also the one thing I had the most issues with since there are all kinds of little niggling issues that just don't quite resolve themselves without a whole lot of thought (and, apparently, just a little light incest).
Character Deaths and Resurrections
A number of major character deaths happen in this film as well, some of which we had to expect. It was pretty obvious that Captain America was leaving this film so his "death" (via old age and simply retiring from the movies) was inevitable. By that same token we had to expect that Tony Stark was dying in this film as it was all but assumed Robert Downey, Jr. was done with the role. He's made so much money over the years playing the biggest and most popular character in the MCU that it was just time for him to bow out. He does get a lovely death, though, giving up his life to set everything right (with a snap).
Of course, Tony dying does mean that we have yet another child in a Disney movie, Morgan Stark (his little daughter) losing their parent. And because of Morgan, and the fact that Tony wanted to preserve her and made all the Avengers promise to just bring back everyone who died but not change anything else, we have another issues we'll have to discuss in a moment.
The other major character death was a surprising one: Black Widow. Her is surprising for two reasons. For one, it seems like it was permanent since she sacrifices herself to gain the Soul Stone (which Hawkeye takes back) and a sacrificed soul cannot be resurrected afterwards, even by the power of the Infinity Stones. Secondly, Black Widow is supposed to have her own movie and, if this death is permanent, then it would have to be a prequel of some form. This could, of course, be the case as Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has stated he wants to do more prequels, but it's just a strange turn to take for the character when it seemed like she had plenty of potential ahead of her (and the actress, ScarJo, is still on board to play her).
While these character deaths were big, other characters were brought back. Naturally, everyone that died at the end of Infinity War returned, barring Vision (since he was powered by the Mind Stone and... well, huh, we need to talk about this in a moment). That means all the planned sequels for Black Panther, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spider-man can happen without any of them having to be prequels.
Vision, though, is a glaring issue. Since Thanos-2014 died at the end of Endgame, we now have a strange narrative loop where the stones can't be destroyed by Thanos-2018, but Thanos-2018 has to destroy the stones or the heroes have no reason to go back and steal the stones before 2018. But if they go back and steal the stones, Thanos-2014 would travel into the future, and then the heroes would kill him. This is why the only way to say the time line is "safe" is by explaining it away via Infinity Stone Magic and Tony's demand that "the time line remain the way it was." The movie sets up it's own get-out-of-jail free card, but it's certainly a tenuous one at best.
Meanwhile, we also now have Gamora-2014 running around in 2023 and, from the looks of it, she's going to get to keep on existing as if she wasn't later sacrificed to the Soul Stone. This is clearly a circumvention of the movie's own rules about time and the Soul Stone, but it's treated like it's no big deal. Well, okay movie, if you say so.
All Those Resurrected People
Speaking of people suddenly walking around as if it's no big deal, we need to address the fact that the universe is back to having a full 100% of its population again. The movie opens after Thanos's magical snap and then jumps five years into the future. That's five years where the governments of the world collapsed and slowly started to rebuild themselves, five years for everyone to move on after half the population was gone. Think about all the businesses that closed down, all the utilities that had to be reworked, all the resources that were lost or reconfigured. For the world to keep moving it would have had to adapt and, as we learn in the film, things still haven't settled.
Now imagine after all this the other half of the population just magically appeared again. The five years have still passed, the governments of the world are still overtaxed, and the system was barely able to handle the situation it was in. So you think it's really going to be able to handle 3.5 billion people just coming right back and needing food and shelter and money again? I doubt the world could handle that. More like everything is so overstressed the world descends into total anarchy and we all just die off in five years. And this is on every planet, of course, since Captain Marvel specifically tells us every world is just a bad-off as Earth and now they're all going to have to deal with all their people suddenly coming back.
And it's all Tony Stark's fault. He really wanted his daughter to survive so he demanded that the population of the universe be restored but that nothing else were to change. He simply could have said "let's make it like the Snap didn't happen but I still get to keep my daughter," but instead he didn't think things through and probably made everything much, much worse. Good job, Tony.
Look, that was a lot of bitching about the movie, but that's what an article like this is for. As I noted in my review of the movie there were some things that didn't quite work. Despite really enjoying the movie I did think it was a bit of a mess. Everything I just wrote should convey the messiness of the film, but I want it to be clear that despite all of this I enjoyed the hell out of Avengers: Endgame. An article like this is designed for me to be as pedantic about plot holes as possible, but that shouldn't change the accomplishment of making a movie like this.
Despite it's flaws -- some of which are easy to explain while others, thanks Tony, add some seriously glaring issues to the film -- Endgame is a great movie. You'll laugh, you might even cry, but if you're a fan of the MCU, you'll probably love every minute of it. And then, if you're likely me, you'll start poking holes and questioning some of the issues. Hopefully in the next crop of movies, and the series launched on Disney+, they'll have time to explain away these issues and really smooth everything back out again. We shall see as time goes on.