Welcome back to the MCU Photo-Recap Countdown! It’s been a while, eh? If you recall, way back in December of 2018 I started recapping every movie in the MCU, leading up to the culmination of a decade of storytelling in the aptly named Endgame.
It was a RIDE.
Black Widow will hit theatres… eventually, so I thought this was a good time to finish up the phase, and remind viewers of where we left off (even though Black Widow’s events happen before Endgame, and it’s unlikely anyone is going to forget what happened, and *shhhhhhh, brain, just shut it down*).
In truth, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Endgame upon my first watch. It was A LOT. I knew I had big feelings about it, I just wasn’t sure what those feelings were. I was satisfied, but I also… wasn’t? There was SO MUCH this movie had to do, it was the very definition of impossible to cover everything we wanted. Upon rewatch, though, knowing what I was getting into, and able to see the smaller details, I can definitively say that I am satisfied.
I suppose my judgement of whether it was a success hinges on; okay, it didn’t give us everything we wanted, but did it give us what we needed?
Yeah, it did.
Time travel is always a tricky story-telling device, but in this case it was perfect. The final chapter in this story honoured what came before it by taking a journey through its own past. This wasn’t a do-over. It didn’t reset anything, no events were rendered meaningless, and the timeline remained intact. This wasn’t a, “hey you know all that stuff you emotionally invested in? Well that’s gone now.” No, this movie may have looked back, but it kept moving forward.
During Infinity War, people were all, “hey, where’s Hawkeye??” and other people were like, “who?” and the original people were like, “HAWKEYE, the guy with the arrows,” and everyone was like, “oh yeahhhhhhh, where IS that guy??”
Well, now we know! Hawkeye and Ant Man were on house arrest after the events of Civil War, and apparently don’t have televisions, so they weren’t concerned with the aliens who landed in New York City. Oh, and all of the Bartons were snapped. All of them.
The last we saw our hero, he was stranded on Titan with the only other character left standing after the snap; Nebula. Let me tell you, this pair-up was everything I wanted and needed it to be. I would watch a 24-hour Truman-show-esque channel of these two living their lives on that ship. Anyway, then Captain Marvel showed up and was like, “need a ride?” and Tony shrugged a sure, and off they went!
I’d been yearning for this reunion since the end of Civil War, and it was beautiful and heartbreaking and full of hurt feelings and pouts, and was so true to both their characters that I’m pretty sure I was already crying in the theatre.
Nebula told them where Thanos would likely be, and sure enough there was some sciency-stuff to back her up, so off they went to get the stones and fix everything.
No dice! Thanos ain’t no fool, and he knew having the stones just lying around would tempt a do-over, so he destroyed them. Then, in some attempted therapy, Thor lopped off his head.
Then it was FIVE YEARS LATER.
Here’s something about me: I don’t watch trailers. Well… I glanc,. but I just hate knowing ANYTHING before going into a movie, especially one as big as this. So, perhaps you guys knew there would be at time jump, but I certainly didn’t, and I’m pretty sure I made some sort of guttural noise in the movie theatre, startling the poor gentleman beside me.
Captain America was doing what he does best; inspirational speeches. This time, it was while leading a support group. IMAGINE being in a support group led by Captain America. Anyway, we learned that since the snap, the world sucks and everyone is mopey about it. Oh, and Cap mentioned Peggy a bunch, which I’m sure was just a reminder of how sad this guy’s life is (so damn sad), and nothing more. *wink*
With an assist from a helpful little rodent (see guys, Cinderella totally had it right), Scott popped out of the quantum realm (where he was trapped at the end of Ant Man and the Wasp after his whole supporting cast was snapped away). Then he walked around like a dummy, not knowing about a global catastrophe, but was caught up pretty quickly when he met his teenage daughter. Look, I know a movie like Endgame is above a “seems like only yesterday you were a little girl” joke, but Scott Lang isn’t, so I’m furious.
This sad little team meeting established a few key points; Captain Marvel is conveniently off-world being awesome, Nat is large and and in charge but in a very sad way, and Hawkeye is a total murderer (but only bad guys, so it’s fiiiiiiiiiiiine).
Then Steve Rogers of Captain America fame popped in for a chat about how Nat’s life totally sucks now, but it totally sucked WORSE before SHEILD, so she’s in it to win it no matter what. I said this in my earlier recaps, but I absolutely love this friendship. There’s so much history between them, so much respect and heart, and aw dammit now I’m sad.
Anyway, then they got a visitor!
Because science is weird, the quantum realm is all, “what is time, though,” and for Scott, it’s only been five hours since the snap. This somehow translates to a possible time machine, but Scott is only smart enough to come up with the idea, not execute it. But you know who IS…
Tony wasn’t interested (sure, pal) because he had a domestic life with Pepper and their daughter, and didn’t want to get sucked into any more Avengers shenanigans that might mess that up. So they went to the next smartest person they know.
I gasped out loud, and then giggled for a solid minute. Bruce fused himself with the Hulk! This was a brilliant reveal, and this scene was magic. I do wonder where the Hulk’s personality went, though. He was a whole different guy, right? Was he just sort of… murdered? Or is part of him still chilling out in Bruce’s brain?
Tony solved time travel because of course he did, and had a great talk with Pepper about his responsibility as the smartest dude on the planet. Should he put himself at risk and help just because he can?
The answer, obviously, was yes, so after an amazing scene where Bruce Benjamin Buttoned Scott in a matter of minutes, Tony showed up to save the day.
THIS FRIENDSHIP, it kills me. The opposing world-views, the mutual respect, the tension, the banter, the love. In a moment YEARS in the making, Tony gave Cap back his shield, and it was understated and magnificent.
The team started assembling (heh heh), which meant a few errands had to be run to gather everyone up. Bruce and Rocket went to get Thor (hi Valkyrie!!), while Nat went to pick up Clint from his murderous play-date.
After a great talk about the theory of time travel (where they decided Back to the Future was a bunch of bullshit), they sent Clint on a test run. And it worked! He went back to his farm, heard the sweet sounds of his family, then straight-up stole his son’s baseball glove.
Then it was time for a high-tech summary / think-tank about where the stones were during what movies in time, and what would be the best emotional payoffs.
Cap fired them all up with an inspirational speech (as he tends to do), and off they went through time! Outstanding!
Cap, Tony, Scott, and Bruce went back to The Avengers, and it- *happy dance* you guys, I cannot stress enough how much I love when long-running stories dive back into their own histories, I promise I’ll stop gushing, I just loved this so much.
Because this was a time when Stephen Strange was still Sherlock Holmes, Bruce didn’t find his pal at the… magic… house? but instead found The Ancient One. And you guys, stop me if I’m way off, but this dynamic was electric! These two got on so well! I love it when two smart people smart-talk at each other, and I could’ve watched these two just spit-ballin’ all day long. Anyway, in the end he convinced her to give him the Time Stone by pinky swearing to bring it back, and also Doctor Strange gave him a personal reference letter or something.
Meanwhile, Thor was having a bit of an emotional meltdown on Asgard and was little help to Rocket, who had to be the one to suck the reality goop from Natalie Portman.
A lot of Thor’s journey is played for laughs, but you don’t have to look much deeper to see his poignant struggle. He clearly had PTSD and was dealing with his guilt and personal failure with self-destructive behaviour. The talk he had with his mom (everyone’s crush Rene Russo) was touching and fulfilling, and was a long time coming in a lot of ways. He needed closure not only on failing to stop Thanos, but on the brutal death of his mother, his friends, the loss of his planet, his romantic uncoupling, and the chaffing from all that leisure-wear (I assume). His mother giving him that closure in a “no one’s perfect” speech was so simple, yet effective, and honestly very, very beautiful.
I dug it, is what I’m saying. If you read my previous recaps, you know how much I wanted some actual emotion from everyone’s favourite lovable dummy.
Rodey and Nebula arrived on Morag to get the Power Stone, which created a link between her frequency and old Nebula. This allowed Team Thanos to access her memory and watch the MCU on their own time. Whoopsie doodles!
Back on Earth, Cap got the mind stone fairly easily (and hilariously) by hailing hydra, and fighting himself, which was truly, TRULY delightful, BUT Tony and Scott weren’t having as much luck getting the Tesseract.
They almost had it, but at the last second a very poorly timed cardio workout made Hulk knock Tony over, and they lost the Tesseract to Loki (!) who blooped on outta there. This led to a delightful brainstorm sesh between Tony and Cap that Scott couldn’t understand because they have so much history and camaraderie that they have their own little shorthand and don’t need full sentences, and I just love them so much, you guys. So they sent Scott back, and away they went to 1970!
While retrieving the Tesseract from SHIELD, Tony ran into his dad, Howard Stark. This was brilliant in so many ways; the closure it gave to Tony, the emotional payoff, and the humour, but what struck me as brilliant was the way John Slattery played him halfway between the rogue we know from 1945, and the serious man we met in 2010. It always bothered me how different those two men were, and this felt like a satisfying middle ground.
Meanwhile, Steve burgled the Pym particles (hi young Michael Douglas!), and caught a glimpse of Peggy being awesome, which was very, very sad, because everything about this man’s life is just so damn sad.
Rodey plooped away, but Nebula was stuck behind because her brain was on the fritz. She figured out that the jig was up just as Thanos showed up and daughter-napped her, forcing her to dish about the future. After a fun fight where Nebula fought herself (lots of that going around), Old-Nebula took New-Nebula’s head plate and particles, and plooped to the future to start some shit.
This hurt my whole heart. We all know the deal of the Soul Stone – you have to sacrifice that which you love the most, which made this pair-up very convenient, because these two are THE BEST OF BUDS FOREVER. Imagine if it was Nebula and Rodey? “Oh, um… wow, heh heh, I guess we’ll come back, then? With, like, my favourite pillow? Could that work?”
Anyway, they discussed it and couldn’t agree on who should die for the cause, so they kerfuffled and Nat ended up making the ultimate sacrifice. I’ll admit that on my first watch I was upset, but I didn’t cry because I 100% thought she’d be coming back. I thought both her and Gamora would be, I don’t know, sucked INTO the soul stone, and brought back out again? It’s the MCU, you KNOW that shit could happen. But let me tell you, upon a rewatch, knowing the end of the story, and thinking about how much these two meant to each other… OKAY YES I WAS SOBBING.
“Did she have any family?”
YOU STOP IT RIGHT NOW (never stop).
*Pulls self together* Where we we? Oh right.
There was a discussion about who should do the snap, and science decreed it had to be Bruce. So he snapped, and almost immediately Clint’s phone started to buzz with a call from his un-snapped wife. Yay!
Unfortunately, while they were being heroes, Past-Nebula was up to some sneaky shit to get Thanos back in the plot. He came crashing through the time machine and blew up their clubhouse! Everyone seemed relatively okay but nonetheless in some major peril, and what followed was an awesome testament to this team as they all worked together to save each other.
At this point Clint had the gauntlet, and Past-Nebula was all, “hello Earth friend of mine, nice gauntlet, may I have a looksee?” and he was like, “why are you being weird?” and then he figured out she’s NOT his recently acquired alien-pal and tried to get on outta there. It wasn’t looking great for our boy, but then a freshly traitorous Gamora showed up with Present-Nebula, who quite literally killed the demons of her past.
Outside the clubhouse Thor, Cap, and Tony were facing off with Thanos, having themselves a dramatic talk-kerfuffle. You know what I mean, where they say really intense things between blows. Turns out, Thanos had changed the plan to wipe out errrrrrrrybody, because this beta test had glitches.
The fight was, obviously, very awesome, and Thanos showed how strong he is, Infinity Stones or not. The boys were pretty down-but-not-out when Cap SUMMONED THE HAMMER to save Thor and fight Thanos with it. It is no exaggeration to say that my theatre SCREAMED at this part. We ALL screamed. Anyway, Thanos broke Cap’s shield, which was, again, an insane show of strength (it’s VIBRANIUM!).
So now the boys are hurting, and Cap is standing alone, facing Thanos and his army, when…
I am unashamed to admit how hard I cried when all the un-snapped heroes of the MCU started marching through the wizard-doors.
What followed was one of the best payoffs in cinematic history. All of the heroes we’ve grown to love over the past decade came together and fought side-by-side, using their different skills, quipping at each other, and just generally being awesome.
Amid the fight Tony reunited with Peter and gave him a hug, which was MAGIC. Also magic; Ant Man punching an alien ship, Thor trading Cap his hammer for his axe, Past-Gamora kicking Quill in the nuts, Wanda getting awesome revenge on Thanos (*sad face* Vision), Cap calling Peter “Queens”, the heroes tossing the gauntlet around like a football, the Carol-ex-machina where she sawed through an alien ship with her glowing body, and of course, the lady-fight moment where they all teamed up to get the gauntlet to the time machine (it was total pandering but I don’t care, I’m about it).
In the end, there was only one way they could win this fight, as Doctor Strange pointed out to Tony moments before he took the stones from Thanos and snapped all the bad guys away.
And then, with the most important people in his life surrounding him, Tony Stark died.
This hurt. It was beautiful and fitting, and an honorable, heroic end for our leading man, but it just huuuuuuuuuuuuurt so much.
The funeral was sad as hell, and everyone stood in their little movie-family-clusters, and we even got to see the kid from Iron Man 3! Then Clint and Wanda talked about Vision and Nat, and how they probably “know” they won, and I lost it some more. Then Happy told Tony’s daughter that he’d get her all the cheeseburgers she wants, and I lost it THE MOST. Ugh.
Thor left Valkyrie in charge of New Asgard (rightly so), and took off with the Guardians! Thor’s journey throughout this whole epic saga is honestly very satisfying. Boy never wanted to be the king of Asgard! He was always so caught up in what he was supposed to be, the hero he HAD to be, that he never got to figure out who he actually is. I am very pumped for Guardians 3, or Thor 4, or Beardo McLightning or whatever movie we see him in next.
Cap plooped back in time to put all the stones back, but whoopsie doodles, he didn’t immediately ploop back to the future! That’s because he was too busy FINALLY getting a damn moment (or, lifetime) of happiness! That’s right, folks, the Saddest Avenger got a happy-ever-after. He stayed in 1948 and lived a life with Peggy Carter, then (somehow) ended up on a bench as an old man just in time to give Sam his shield.
This was a beautifully fitting end for Steve Roger’s story, even if it does raise every single question.
And that was that. The culmination of a decade of storytelling, brought to satisfying fruition in just under three hours.
Be honest – how many times have you rewatched this since?
It’s true what was said by a lot of critics and fans alike; it gets better upon re-watch. All of my “they didn’t give us” and “but what about”s, were forgotten, and I just allowed myself to enjoy what they did give us. When I knew what was going to happen, when I wasn’t so concerned for everyone’s survival, I was able to appreciate the little things; the hints and nods, the subtleties and not-so-subtleties.
- FYI, “comes out on video” is something we said in the 90s when you actually had to go to a store and rent a physical video, and you know what, don’t worry about it.
- For a movie dealing with so much PTSD and loss, it is shockingly funny. Bruce pretending to be old Hulk was the best moment of this movie, followed closely by Steve’s exasperated, “I know,” when Past-Steve said he could “do this all day.”
- I wonder what it was like for the actors to revisit their old costumes. *dreamy sigh*
- When I first saw this movie I was OUTRAGED on Bucky’s behalf. After all that time apart, after EVERYTHING they’d been through together, he and Steve barely get a reunion?? They don’t even get a proper goodbye when Cap comes back as Old-Steve?? Then, upon rewatch, I realized that Bucky knew. He had to have known. He said he was going to “miss him”, and Steve didn’t contradict it with a “it’s going to be 5 seconds.” Either Steve told him what he was going to do, or Bucky just knew instinctively, but either way, that subtle detail made everything okay.
- Lots of people fighting past versions of themselves! Okay just two, but that’s still a lot when compared to most movies where people rarely fight past versions of themselves.
- Watching now, knowing what was going to happen, everything Nat said made me very sad / excited for Black Widow (finally).
- If I were Marvel (I would be an unstoppable all-powerful juggernaut), I would go back and re-release Age of Ultron where we first meet Clint’s family, and have his kid complain about their missing baseball glove.
- Obviously they needed Loki alive for his spinoff show, and him blooping away with the Tesseract was a good fix, but what does that mean for the timeline? Is it splintered? Thanos got the Power Stone because Loki took it from Asgard in Ragnarok. So did this create a time-branch like Ancient One said it would?
- The thing I love about intersecting stories all culminating into one (well, everything, I love everything about it), but what I love THE MOST is how you get to see different characters interact. Tony and Nebula. Professor Hulk with The Ancient One. Korg with an aggressive video-playing teen.
- Speaking of unlikely duos, Nebula and Rocket essentially spent 5 years together traversing the galaxy on missions for SHIELD. I sincerely hope their relationship is explored in Guardians 3.
- Where do you guys stand on the whole “did Steve create an alternate timeline” debate? Even the writers and directors are split on this issue; Joe and Anthony Russo (directors) say Steve lived a whole life within the MCU timeline, while Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus (writers) say he lived in an alternate timeline, then plooped over to the MCU with his remaining Pym particles.
I’m inclined to side with the writers, and not just because I want a happy ending for Daniel Souza AND Cap, AND both versions of Peggy – but because of the logistics. Even if he lived under a false identity, he’s a pretty recognizable dude. It would only be a matter of time before the world knew he was back, and if the world knew he was back, he couldn’t just show up in 2011 as a young man without some serious explaining to do. WOULD he even show up in 2011? Would Fury even bother if the Captain America the world knew was already an old man?
Then there’s the idea of both Steves living through the same events – no one is going to NOTICE THAT SHIT? And even if he was smart and plooped himself out of there just as young-Steve came back on the scene, that still leaves a lifetime’s worth of connections he made that are gonna be like, “heyyyyy wait a minute…”
It’s just cleaner, in my opinion, to leave it as an alternate timeline. So. Anyway. … I’m going to get yelled at for this, aren’t I?
- On that topic (I promise I’ll stop), how does Cap have his shield at the end to give to Sam? It was destroyed, right? Was there something I missed? Feel free to set me straight!
- Nebula and Rocket holding hands in their grief DESTROYED ALL OF ME.
- LAST THING ABOUT CAP, I promise. It was very, very cool that he could use Mjölnir (yay!), but that shouldn’t mean he can shoot lightning with it, right? It was confirmed in Ragnarok that Muh-muh was just a conduit, right? It was never the hammer the lightning came from, it was the GOD OF THUNDER. It’s a nit-pick, but I’m pickin’ it!
- The banging at the end of the credits was the sound of Tony making his first suit in the cave and- *wipes tear* I CANNOT.
- Bucky being at Tony’s funeral was nice – remember that time he accidentally brutally murdered both his parents? Heh. What a day.
- If this movie was seven hours long and could contain everything my heart desired, I would’ve had more interaction with Tony and Nebula post-rescue and after the time jump. I also would’ve had seventeen more scenes with Cap and Bucky being bros. I also would have had a reunion scene with Captain Marvel and Nick Fury (it’s been 25 years!). I also would have had them all eating some ice cream, because gosh darnit, they DESERVE IT.
- On a scale of one to “my heart is both full and broken”, how much did you love / hate / like this movie?
THAT’S IT FROM ME! I SHALL RETURN WHETHER YOU DESIRE IT OR NOT FOR FAR FROM HOME, STAY SAFE OUT THERE, FRIENDS, AND WASH YOUR HANDS.