Avengers: Endgame is a genuine event.
If you needed any statistical evidence, its box-office-record shattering means Avengers: Endgame has achieved a zeitgeist potency, and it’s a pleasure to be on this ride with a movie that’s not only popular, but actually pretty great, too.
Watching it a second time accentuated the parts of the film I enjoyed in the first round, and diminished the parts I didn’t. Not an uncommon experience with the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, especially the very good ones.
My review of the film last week included a bit of shade about the way two particular characters are handled in the film. If you haven’t seen the picture yet, stop reading here, because I’m going to get into those issues again, and it’ll be spoiler heavy. Go watch the movie, then come back, read my original review, then continue below.
The biggest gripe I had was the handling of Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow. I’ve been frustrated with the way the franchise hasn’t given her enough to do. As the lead female character in this broad fantasy series, she’s never had the attention the men have received, despite the actor playing her being one of the biggest stars in the world, proven able to open her own features, which is more than Chris Evans can say.
She’s deserved her own stand-alone movie for years. She was a highlight of the Avengers (2012), and played a key role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)—which, incidentally, was also better the second time.
Now, with her demise in Avengers: Endgame, her late-arriving, expected solo movie feels like an afterthought. How do we engage with a feature, presumed to be a prequel, when we’ve seen her whole life, and death, unfold? (There was a terrific piece in The Guardian this week that digs into this conundrum.)
I’ll admit this: The second screening of Avengers: Endgame made it clear they seeded her death in a way where it felt earned. Knowing it was coming, the early scenes of Natasha holding down the fort at Avengers headquarters trying to keep the organization going through those five dark years, it made more sense to me that she’d be willing to do anything to bring back those who’d been lost in “the Snap,” and certainly she’d want to prevent Clint from sacrificing himself. She’d want to give him a chance to have his family back.
Further: my issue with Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel’s absence from the bulk of the film’s running time—it doesn’t seem as much of a problem the second time through. I still wish she was there on earth during the opening act—even one scene where maybe she goes looking for Maria Rambeau post-Snap, or had more personal exchanges with the other characters. (I gather Endgame was written before the Captain Marvel film was finished, so it could be the issue was continuity, one of the few times Marvel Big Cheese Kevin Feige bobbled his producer/overseer ball.)
But, I did recognize that Danvers’ return to the battle in the third act of Endgame is a cheer-worthy moment . It works like gangbusters, and her hand-to-hand combat with Thanos reveals that she is, in fact, the most powerful Avenger. No one else has been able to hold their own against him without help.
With those two issues smoothed out, it really drives home the fact that this whole chapter of the MCU experiment has ended on a high note. This is remarkable blockbuster filmmaking, and I hold up the best of these 22 films—which I must now acknowledge Avengers Endgame is amongst—as matching what George Lucas, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and Steven Spielberg have accomplished in their careers; broad, crowd-pleasing, and quality fantasy entertainment.
I still have other questions after my second run through Avengers: Endgame.
Here’s one, raised by my cinepanion: If Nebula gave her sample of Pym Particles to Thanos: How did she get back to the future on her own without them? Or maybe she didn’t give them to him, but kept them for herself. If so, how was he able to shrink his ship and come forward in time?
Here’s another: what happened to 2014 Gamora after Thanos was defeated? Quill’s face and screen seemed to indicate she didn’t join the 2023 version of the Guardians.
The biggest questions after my second viewing circle around Steve Rogers’ Captain America and his return mission into time at the end of the movie. Just as they used Stephen Strange back in Avengers: Infinity War to help set up the odds-against single possibility of Avengers stopping Thanos, I believe at the conclusion of Endgame they’ve set up an unlikely return of Black Widow.
Follow me on this:
Captain America heads back in time to return the six Infinity Stones to their original timelines. That means one stop on Morag (the Orb aka the Power Stone) in 2014, one on Vormir (the Soul Stone) in 2014, one on Asgard (the Aether aka the Reality Stone) in 2013, two stops in New York in 2012 (the Mind Stone in Loki’s Sceptre and the Time Stone aka the Eye of Agamoto), and one in New Jersey (the Tesseract aka the Space Stone) in 1970.
After that he’s got to head back to the late 1940s to reunite with Peggy Carter.
That would realign the various time streams, aside from the ones where Thanos and his crowd died, and where Loki absconded with the Tesseract. But, let’s put those paradoxes aside for a second.
Question One: Once back in those eras, how would Cap make the journey to these far-flung planets and cosmic realms? He didn’t bring the Benetar—the Guardians’ ship—with him into the past. He’d need to find transport.
He also left with Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, which I assume he’ll also return to its rightful owner in Asgard. Provided he found a way to reach Asgard—mortals have a tough time visiting without the company of an Asgardian, even when carrying an enchanted mallet—you’d have to assume he’d return the Reality Stone while he was there, but it’s unlikely Jane Foster would want that power, the Aether, back in her body. The events of Thor: The Dark World would likely be quite different as a result.
Question Two: Would Cap feel good about giving the Mind Stone (in Loki’s Sceptre) back to Hydra in 2012? Seem unlikely. Then, what would he have done with it? Left it with Tony Stark, so ultimately Ultron could use it to create The Vision in 2015?
The Time Stone would go back to The Ancient One, and presumably Rogers would be able to get the Tesseract back to the bunker in New Jersey somehow.
The biggest question here is the disposition of the Soul Stone.
Following in the footsteps of Clint and Natasha—and Thanos and Gamora—Rogers would need to climb the mountain on Vormir. There he’d come face-to-face with his old enemy, the Red Skull. Would he just return the Soul Stone to him? Would they fight?
And would Rogers having returned the Soul Stone bring back the Widow?
Despite Clint’s assurances in Endgame that there is no coming back from that, I think there is. I think, somehow, the Marvel maestros are fixing to have part of Black Widow’s standalone movie—in development now—be a flashback to how she got so much “red in her ledger,” and part how she finally manages to make good, clear her debt, and return to life.
At least, I hope so. She deserves it.