I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, my experience with these characters goes far beyond the movies, and into comics, video games, cartoons, toys, etc. Superhero movies are still the genre that’s more likely to attract my attention even with my ever-evolving tastes. That’s why after walking out of Avengers: Endgame, the film kept me thinking about its many missed opportunities. There is so much in this movie that I love and can’t get enough of, so much that I’m probably going to take note of it in a separate piece. Today, however, I want to share the reason why I didn’t love Avengers: Endgame and how a lot of it can be boiled down to one thing: the final act.
The following article contains heavy spoilers for the movie. Beware.
Many walked out of the theaters this week claiming the last hour of Endgame was the greatest thing to have happened to the superhero movie genre. Meanwhile, I’m wiping my glasses in disbelief to the sound of those exclamations. I have a few gripes with the final act of the movie that stand out; they don’t only bother me a little. The minute I start thinking about the whole film my mind wanders into what the final act failed to accomplish.
One of the things I love about this movie is it started conversations surrounding fan service. No longer is the term used with negative connotations. Avengers: Endgame made many take notice that fan service can be both good and bad. I’d agree that this movie has some of the best fan service I have ever seen.
Marvel even went on to include James D’Arcy’s Jarvis from the Agent Carter TV show. Small things like that prove the studio cares for more than making a cheap buck. Watching the Avengers revisit the places we’ve seen them battle in, makes it as satisfying as well executed themes in the film. Having said this, almost all my praises come from the first two acts. It’s the final battle with Thanos that so many adore, where the Russo Brothers drop the ball.
Whether small or big, the fan service prior to the third act is tasteful. It clicks because it’s naturally weaved into the story. Now, the last hour has some of that. Falcon gracefully flying in through a portal saying, “On your left”. Another one is the Wakandans getting battle ready as everyone once decimated now makes their grand entrance. Then you have the scene where Black Panther yells, “Clint!” to Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, a moment hardcore fans will take notice of. Thanos’ demise had a nice visual nod to his victorious farm ending of Infinity War.
Evidently, it’s the details that are what’s responsible for so much of the life in these scenes. That’s why the lack of those finer touches is also what often plagues the final act.
Marvel managed to undermine two of the biggest things of the final battle. We have a scene like Captain America picking up Mjölnir, a genuine surprise that caught me off guard. I didn’t think they’d go that far. But what could’ve been an engaging and tense sequence all around, ends up losing me as it doubles down on Cap’s over-glorification.
It doesn’t work how effortlessly Captain America was swinging the hammer to a display of god-like feats, casting lightning from the sky with little to no difficulty. I understand this is a superhero film, but there’s more to it than that. The scene focuses so much on Steve’s badass moves that it forgets to maintain the tension of a final battle. The moment should be building up the scene; the scene shouldn’t be building up the moment. Allow me to make a comparison with another generational event film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
In that movie, we have a character, Rey (might’ve heard of her). In her narrative, she shares many similarities to Steve Rogers. Both are setup to have some sort of potential to master a weapon/power. During the films’ final acts we see an iconic weapon fly off the ground into the hands of our hero. At that moment we find out Rey truly has force powers. At that moment we find out Rogers is worthy.
There is a subtle difference, though. This is the first time we see Rey wield a lightsaber and the scene is accordingly tangible. We see her sloppy technique, she screams, stumbles and tries to flee for a good portion of the fight. Rey’s never fought someone like this before. It isn’t until the second half of the fight where she taps into her potential and gives Kylo Ren a proper go at a fight.
I don’t need Captain America to run away from Thanos during a fight. Nothing says you still can’t play the scene out heroically. I understand Steve is quick to adapt to any weapon, that’s why giving him all the manuals feels deprived of tension. Highlight his fast-learner and combat strategist trait through him learning as he fights. Just something to elevate the thrill and significance of this scene. It would’ve been more satisfying to watch Steve attempt to call down lighting to no response at first and only find success at the last minute as Thanos runs in to make a fatal blow. Including one shot like that makes it more than an emulation of what it feels like to smash two actions figures against each other. As I said, the devil is in the details.
The next major plot point in which they falter is the lead up to Tony Stark’s death. I’m talking the lack of effort it took him to snatch those stones off of Thanos’ fist. For now, the transition from Iron Man and Thanos wrestling over the gauntlet to Tony getting the stones is abrupt. There had to have been something more to it than just taking them like that. You expect me to believe those stones gained sentient life and jumped out of the gauntlet without Thanos noticing? Although the way in which it plays out serves its own dramatic purpose, it’s missing a story beat that would make it gradual or gratifying.
And finally, the female empowerment bit that came out of nowhere. In Infinity War you had something similar only with Black Widow, Okoye, and Wanda. This, on the other hand, felt like Captain Marvel had a “women unite” button that would attract everyone without the Y-chromosome around her. Even though the shot looked really cool, it felt like a free feminism brownie points.
It’s moments like these that really overstay their welcome and plague my enjoyment of this one-hour sequence. This is where the fan service has the relevancy of fan fiction, meaning there’s no build-up or any lead to go off of to get to the big and money shots. Often times Marvel movies have this under control. Usually, the context serves the shot like the Avengers preparing to fight in the Battle of New York; an earlier introduced story beat comes back to pay-off like Bucky killing the Starks in Civil War.
For a good majority of the runtime, Avengers: Endgame has this under control, which makes it that much more bothersome when they resort to it in the last hour. Especially that the final battle took a decade to build up. I won’t say the whole one hour was a letdown or a disappointment — we’ll get to the major flaws of the movie. It’s just that they hindered an otherwise critical moment within the history of this cinematic universe.
I don’t want less of these moments. I want them as long as their execution works or doesn’t cheapen the effect of the greater story.
Tony got his noble ending that leaves you with an appreciation for Iron Man as much as the franchise. People will look back on these films with families and friends. The Infinity Saga — as these first three phases have been coined — comes to a close with Alan Silvestri’s wonderful score to elevate it at the funeral. That scene is the perfect summary of the loss, love, legacy, we’ve endured with our heroes. For the few, it’s the end of a journey. For others, more tales await.
I’m most excited to see where Thor will go with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Their interactions were one of the highlights in Infinity War and prove to make me laugh yet again. As for the remaining characters, I’m satisfied with where they’re at now with the one exception: Steve Rogers.
I’m not here to attack the time travel — it’s not necessary to point out that it makes no sense. Rather, I’d like to focus on something more important, something that instead ruins a character. Giving Steve a life with Peggy is an ending he deserves. However, Avengers: Endgame throws everything out the window to get an ending that feels satisfying instead of a one that is satisfying.
Knowing he’s living in with an alternate reality version of Peggy and not the original one leaves a poor taste in my mouth. Unless she’s from the main timeline, it doesn’t feel right. His choice as a whole makes Steve come off more as a selfish man, desperate to cling to his deep desires. The other problem is the decision is an escape from the responsibilities by leaving everyone behind. I don’t think the Russos intended for that.
I’m aware I said he deserves a life with Peggy, but he does for the same reason that he can’t be with her. That’s what makes Captain America such a fascinating character. His life is a tragedy. Not to mention this goes against all his values. The minute he follows through on the temptation he loses what made him so righteous int he first place. I think you can give Steve a happy ending in this movie, maybe even with Peggy, that doesn’t go against his character. The problem is the writers put themselves in a tough spot where they can’t put Rogers in a truly satisfying position without neglecting the time travel rules they’ve established.
Not to mention he bailed on Sharon Carter. The woman that’s likely hunted by the government by helping him in Civil War. With time travel, that would now make Steve the uncle to the woman he once made out with. Someone, please explain how this guy was worthy enough to lift Mjölnir!
I am not giving Captain America a break today. Steve Rogers returns to his present and gives his friends a final goodbye (or not?). He ends up giving the Falcon his vibranium shield because…no one knows. It’s only a decision that again feels satisfying, but really isn’t.
No one within the Marvel Universe is as noble of heart as Steve. Passing on his mantle to Sam or Bucky doesn’t mean anything because neither carries what it means to be Captain America. Although Steve’s trip to the past sure brings his values under question, the shield means something. In Marvel’s storytelling, these weapons are symbols. They become synonymous to the character they were handed to. Thor has his hammers, Tony had his arc reactor and suits. Handing the shield down to either of these two side characters that don’t possess venerable ideals of their own, let alone ones that rival Steve’s, is wrong.
I’ve already seen Avengers: Endgame two times, and I’ll be happy to see it again. The movie was everything I wanted it to be until its last hour. After a decade long wait I witnessed a solid close that I was hoping for, and right at its end, it partially falls apart. If only the last act didn’t force itself, Christmas Day would’ve come early for me this year.
All these ideas in the third act probably sound awesome on paper. It’s when you connect them together that they end up contradicting with who these characters are or start to brush past crucial details.
But who’s to say I’m not going to come back to Avengers: Endgame one day and find myself not bothered by these mistakes. I watched Infinity War twice a year ago and it wasn’t until the third time in preparation for Avengers: Endgame that I felt truly immersed in the movie. Maybe a year from now I’ll grow to love this one and all these issues I have today won’t end up mattering as much. I doubt it, but it’s possible, even if just for an alternative timeline version of me.
Only time will tell.
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