Avengers Endgame and the Infinity Sadness
by Ian Carlos Crawford
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
It’s been 11 years since Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury first said, “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative” to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark.
We’ve watched Tony Stark evolve from arrogant playboy billionaire to arrogant heroic super genius. We’ve watched Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers evolve from twink to bearded daddy to handsome clean-shaven man all while being the picture perfect superhero. We’ve watched Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow go from super spy who doesn’t care about anyone to heroic leader who cares so much. And boy have I cried a lot along the way.
Act 1: The Infinity Sadness
I’ve heard Avengers Infinity War called “joyless,” and while I love that movie, I might agree and also say that for sure applies to the first act of Endgame. Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is a breath of criminally underused fresh air in this movie — she saves Tony and Nebula (played by Karen Gillan) from an untimely space death and literally carries their ship back to Earth. Tony and Captain America have a tearful reunion, as do Tony and Pepper (Gwenyth Paltrow). Then about ten different things happen at once. Tony (notorious narc) blames Captain America (notorious handsome angel) for their failure and suddenly they’re all going to space on a mission to kill Thanos and hopefully undo what he did with his golden bejeweled gauntlet. I needed to know how much time had passed since everyone had been dusted, since Captain Marvel arrived, and since Captain America stole my goddamned heart (just kidding, he’s always had my heart).
They kill Thanos in a very purposefully anti-climactic scene. He tells them he’s destroyed the stones, Nebula says her father would never lie, and everyone accepts this as truth. Shit is bleak as we cut to 5 freakin’ years later, presumably making it 2023. We see Captain America being tender and leading a therapy group (most likely of vets or folks with post-snap PTSD) where we meet the First Big Gay Character™ played by one of the Russo brothers who doesn’t get a name. The scene would be really nice if the Russo Brothers weren’t jerking themselves off about a no-name person being the MCU’s first out character. Anyway, during my first viewing, before I’d seen the press about that scene, I teared up and thought it was such a great scene. Captain America has, based on name alone, the ability to become a Trump supporter’s fever dream — yet he would never. Of course Captain America doesn’t flinch when a gay man with PTSD is discussing crying in front of another man on a first date — Captain America is a here for everyone, not just straight white male fanboys. Captain America isn’t toxic and doesn’t judge. It’s what makes him ::ahem:: great.
We learn that Black Widow has taken on the role of leader of The Avengers. We see how badly she wants to save the world and that she’s got a bangin’ reverse ombre going on. She communicates with Danai Gurira’s Okoye in Wakanda, Don Cheadle’s War Machine in Mexico, Nebula and the Bradley Cooper voiced Rocket in space, and Captain Marvel also in space via some fancy hologram communication. We also get a glimpse of Captain Marvel’s iconic lesbian haircut before she says she’ll be “off world” for a while, thus annoyingly sidelining her for the next 2 hours of the movie. Then we see the ageless Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man return to the Marvel universe after being stuck in the Quantum Realm at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp (upon my 3rd viewing of the movie, where I took my mother, she very much asked “who is that” a lot starting with Ant-Man’s appearance). He finds his daughter hasn’t been dusted (WHERE WAS JUDY GREER’S CAMEO YOU COWARDS) and then immediately goes to tell what’s left of The Avengers about the Quantum Realm. They get the band back together (and we learn that they’ve decided to put Chris Hemsworth’s Thor in a fat suite for jokes in the year of our lord 2019) to perform a Time Heist to undo what Thanos did.
Act 2: Ocean’s Avengers
The Time Heist is maybe the messiest yet most fun part of the movie — it’s the entirety of the 2nd Act. The amount of bananas cameos and callbacks we get are so fun. At one point, Captain America, Tony Stark, and Ant-Man all discuss Cap’s perfect ass in his costume from the first Avengers movie (LIKE LITERALLY). Captain America later fights himself then checks out his own ass, assuring himself that’s “America’s ass” — which is one of the brief moments of extreme excellence and extreme gay rights in the movie. But the more touching of all the callbacks is the scene we get of Thor getting closure with his mother Frigga (played by Rene Russo) on the day she dies from Thor: Dark World. Thor finally gets to sit down with his mother which feels like the first real moment we’ve had with him since he became the revamped character of whacky dude who probably drinks a lot of Mountain Dew. Captain America gets a glimpse of special favorite Peggy Carter (played perfectly by the underrated Hayley Atwell) and Tony gets closure with his father (if I had to name every goddamned cameo in this movie it’d be a 20 page review). It’s all very cute and all felt very final — which it absolutely was.
Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye are back on Vormir (which I spelled right on my first try), where we saw Thanos make his ultimate sacrifice in Infinity War and where, apparently, no one told them how they’d have to get the soul stone. Hawkeye and Black Widow have a really heartfelt back and forth about who will be sacrificed and who will live. They genuinely care about each other and while narrative-wise it would’ve made more sense for it to be Hawkeye — Black Widow sacrifices herself and Hawkeye gets the stone. It felt less emotional knowing we have a Black Widow movie coming? Watching it I teared up but kept thinking, “Oh but she has to come back by the end of the movie, right?” Well, fuck you, because I was wrong.
The moment Time Heist Nebula was captured by Past Nebula and Past Thanos, is the moment the movie completely threw what little time travel rules it’d laid down completely in the trash. It got even worse when Time Heist Nebula kills Past Nebula — but don’t worry because earlier they said Back to the Future was bullshit so that means Nebula is…fine?
Act 3: Avengers Been Assembled!
The 3rd Act (mostly) begins with Past Thanos arriving in the present timeline and blowing up their Avengers compound after they’ve reversed his snap. No one dies yet though because they’re saving the next deaths for later when they wreak emotional terrorism on our hearts. Captain America, Thor, and Tony Stark all mostly get their asses kicked by Thanos but in one particular emotional scene (aka I cried at this scene all three times I saw it in theaters), Captain America picks up Thor’s god damned hammer and proves he’s worthy — but we knew! We always knew! Marry me, Captain America!
The arrival of every MCU movie character is nothing short of amazing. Sure, the first time I saw it all I could think of was how green-screened it looked but on my next two viewings it genuinely didn’t bother me a single bit. Seeing all those wonderful familiar faces fight together and Captain America yelling, “Avengers…Assemble” was perfectly comic book-y. It was also incredibly gratifying. I feel like I’m underselling it but my jaw was dropped. Captain America refusing to give up made me want to be a better person. Gwenyth in her own Iron Man armor had me absolutely gooped. Captain Marvel going punch for punch with Thanos had me internally yelling, “YAS QUEEN!” Tom Holland’s Peter Parker reuniting with Tony Stark had me tearing up. The moment with all the ladies fighting together had me clutching my fists to my chest in excitement. It was all so much!
Iron Man does the thing and sacrifices himself and yes I did need more tissues. And just when you think you’re done crying you’re wrong because they have this really beautiful funeral scene for Tony (but like, where the fuck was Black Widow’s funeral). After a scene of all our heroes fighting to save the world, we get a scene with even more bananas cameos (truly how much do we think Michelle Pfeiffer made for her no-lines-of-dialogue cameo) of all our heroes mourning the loss of Tony Stark. It’s sad — like genuinely sad. It feels almost relentless.
Then, like Tilda Swinton told us earlier (lol these cameos), the Infinity stones need to be put back where they were taken from. Captain America, of course, is the one putting them back and you immediately get the feeling Captain America isn’t coming back. But then he kinda does as a Clint Eastwood look alike (I joke but I was full on sobbing) and I kept thinking, “If he doesn’t say he went back and married Peggy I swear to Christ” and then they showed Peggy and Cap finally getting their dance and I legit had to cover my face I was crying so hard the first time I watched.
But then, a few minutes after my first viewing, I realized how the whole point was not to create alternate timelines but like they for sure did, right? The time travel stuff was so absolutely fun but also they really didn’t do a good job of setting up their rules other than seemingly “NO RULES DO WHATEVER YOU WANT SO WHAT WHO CARES.” But on second and third viewings, these nagging time travel rules really didn’t bother me. The movie isn’t as interested in world building as it is world ending (of sorts). It’s a perfect send off for Tony Stark and Captain America (but if we’re being honest, not so much Black Widow). It’s sentimental and fun and beautiful and messy and worth the 9+ hours I spent seeing it three times in less than one week.
About the author:
Ian Carlos Crawford grew up in southern New Jersey and, like most people from NJ, he graduated from Rutgers University. He then graduated from New School with an MFA in nonfiction writing. His writing has appeared on sites like Geeks Out, BuzzFeed, NewNowNext, and other random corners of the internet. He currently co-hosts a podcast about his favorite thing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, called Slayerfest 98 and is shopping around his fiction manuscript (you can view the book trailer here). Follow him on Twitter @ianxcarlos.