If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame yet, this post will contain spoilers. So many spoilers. Spoilers everywhere.
You have been warned. Seriously. Stop reading if you don’t want to know more. I’m telling you, I’m going to spoil things right now. Right now.
Black Widow dies.
There, that band-aid has been ripped off. See? I told you there would be spoilers.
I don’t usually blog about movies but it seems fitting since it’s the first thing my writing ever got noticed for. And superhero movies are my jam. I love them, I really do. There’s very little I love more than a cheesy, blockbuster, summer superhero movie with popcorn and coke and peanut butter m&ms (sadly my local cinema chain has replaced peanut butter m&ms with caramel m&ms which are okay in their own right but not as good as their predecessor). Anyway, on with Endgame.
This is not a good movie.
It’s just not, I’m sorry. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s cathartic in some ways. But it’s not good and it’s deeply problematic, and at the end of the day: it’s bad storytelling. On a lot of fronts.
I’m not going to do that paid-for movie review thing where I explain all the plot points in order to critique them, I’m mostly going to assume that we’ve seen it and know the plot.
I have a few major issues with it, and a few minor issues with it. I’m enough of a nerd and a movie fan that I can tell the difference between being too picky and being legitimately unimpressed, and in this case I’m unimpressed. You can turn off your brain and enjoy the movie, like I said, it’s entertaining. But it’s not a good movie, and it’s not good storytelling.
Allow me to start with the minor movie making related issues:
- The score: it’s not great. Especially after the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the AMAZING soundtrack in Thor: Ragnarok. It’s a let down, musically, that could’ve better served the story.
- The length: it’s too long. We spend a lot of time on Tony that we don’t really need to spend. It’s a cathartic amount of time but it comes at the cost of everyone else’s story.
- The pacing: this is part of why it’s too long. It’s long and it feels long. It’s only 20 mins longer than Infinity War, but it feels like a lot more than that.
- The writing: it’s meh. Part of this is because there are stories that weren’t developed enough in earlier movies so the pay-off isn’t what it should be. Part of it is that it cheapens Infinity War by basically undoing or rendering moot a lot of development that happened in that film. And there’s some major writing problems I’ll get into later.
- The effects: look cheap. Especially Thor.
I’ll add in the good things:
- The acting is superb.
- It’s nostalgic, which is nice for a movie franchise that we’ve been enjoying for a decade.
- It gives closure to a lot of things, which is also nice.
- Seriously, the fact that these actors did such great work with this is pretty impressive.
My nerdy wtf points:
- Why are people suddenly able to hold Infinity Stones? We get a whole movie about how the Guardians of the Galaxy nearly die holding one after the dance off to save the world but now everyone can just grab one and run with it?
- We make time travel work by just saying that everything people think they know about time travel is wrong and then don’t actually explain it in a way that makes sense and so we’re just going with “Nobody understands how it works so we’re gonna make it work the way we want it to and nobody ask questions okay?”
- Look, I’m all for Cap being able to pick up Mjölnir and swing it around, maybe even throw it and have it come back to him. But how the fuck is he shooting lightning bolts? Ragnarok already established that Thor is not God of Hammers, that it only channeled his power? I mean, the inscription does say “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor” which was also established in the MCU, but then we got the whole “You don’t need a hammer, it’s just a hammer” thing in Ragnarok and now apparently Cap can have the power of Thor, even while Thor still has the power of Thor?
- I’ve had a bone to pick about MCU Black Widow for a while now. For one, she’s the fucking glue. For two, the MCU never bothered to actually explore how Black Widow is a superhero and not just a talented spy. You see, in the comics, Black Widow has actually been given the Russian variant of the Super Soldier serum, yes the same one that Bucky has. She’s got super strength and speed just like Steve Rogers and she’s resistant to aging. She has technological enhancements on top of that. Without all these things, in the MCU, she’s just a really good fighter who keeps showing up, which is fine, but makes you wonder why maybe Tony never took a weekend to build her a suit or something.
We’re just gonna erase all the character progress that Gamora made?! Yeah?! Cause…
- We brought past Gamora forward even though apparently the Soul Stone demands a price that cannot be refunded and even though we’re time hopping all over the place we can’t go back in time and grab Nat and bring her forward too? Even though we did that for Gamora? Or because now, in the new timeline, Thanos never went to Vormir – and therefore never sacrificed Gamora – it’s okay for her to live on but we can’t bend the rules for Black Widow? Who knows? Cause we never get an explanation.
- Is this nanotech that makes Tony’s suit operated by its own consciousness or just Tony’s ideas? Because I’m telling you, his brain works real fast and he has a lot of thoughts and if it’s based off just what he thinks he’d be transforming into a lot more stuff a lot of the time just because he’d be thinking of burgers one moment and a BBQ would pop out of his backside. But apparently the computer programming of nanotech is able to also be aware of all the situations around it, or Tony has just managed to pre-program configurations into the suit that would work for every need he could imagine – which is also possible, but again, an explanation would be great.
Okay, those are all my minor nerdy issues, the things that I’m willing to accept because it’s a movie and science is complicated and we all just want to be entertained. It’s fine. There are other things that are not fine.
Avengers: Endgame wastes women
Black Widow has been the glue for the Avengers storylines forever. She has her own movie coming out, except now we know she dies so that movie has a different meaning for us now. She’s a narrative tool that literally weaves the web between everyone’s story. She consistently, and constantly, does the work, pulling along billionaires and superheroes and helping them with all their personal issues when everything indicates that she’s been through more shit than all of them combined, but apparently it’s not important enough for us to know what that shit might be.
Her death is beautiful, sacrificial, poignant, and a complete waste of her character. She does amazing work with that scene, and Jeremy Renner’s emotional connection to her is fantastic. As my husband said though: I guess it’s a good thing they sent those two to Vormir and not, I dunno, Nebula and Rhodie, because what would they do when asked to sacrifice someone they love? Hang around and make out til they developed a relationship? Because that’s what was established right? It’s not just someone sacrificing themselves, it’s someone sacrificing that which they love – someone else’s soul.
A brief funeral and a mention that her sacrifice will not be in vain and it’s back to business as usual. In seven movies we never bothered to spend enough time on Nat for her death to have the emotional weight it needs to have to carry through the rest of the movie. In fact, it was probably the most consistent thing story-telling wise about this movie within this franchise. She was a tool, has always been a tool, her death was a tool, even mourning her was a tool.
Aside from a cool moment where Captain Marvel fights Thanos, and the fact that she brings Tony back, and how she flies through a big space ship, what does she even do in this movie? Captain Marvel’s appeal isn’t just her ridiculous superpowers, it’s her character, her judgment, her logic, HER. It’s her that makes a superhero, and she’s used like a bowling ball in this movie.
People, the king of Wakanda has disappeared. What the fuck is happening in Wakanda for 5 years? We know there’s a way things are done in Wakanda when it comes to ruling, leadership and lineage. What is happening? Did Okoye stage a coup? Are the Dora Milaje holding power? Is M’Baku king in T’Challa’s absence? The fact that we don’t even bother to address these things makes it all the more heartbreaking when the Wakandan army shows up in the end scene. Their survival wasn’t worth even a sentence, or a thought, but here they are to lay down their lives in service to the white patriarchal storyline of Tony and Cap.
Seriously. What is this? Just erase it all and whatever? Okay.
At least we finally get some acknowledgement that something happened to Pepper in IronMan 3 and something can be done with that power? Oh and thanks for building her a suit, Tony. Honestly, the fact that Pepper recognized that Tony was a hero, was always a hero, and could never stop being a hero was probably the closest thing to character development in a forward direction in this movie.
The Girl Power Moment
Captain Marvel grabs the gauntlet and the female characters rally to escort her through Thanos’ army. It looks cool, for a brief moment. Then it’s just over and it’s basically a nod to feminism and representation, but with the mistreatment and sidelining of women throughout the movie, it feels hollow. Here we see women banding together to get the job done, women we haven’t bothered to write lines for or think about in a 3 hour movie that manages to make time for Tony to have a masturbatory conversation with his dad. It’s a nod to the fact that we just dropped Black Widow off a cliff. A symbolic moment, echoing how women are out here doing the work every day and rarely get called heroes. It’s a cheap girl-power moment that we’re so desperate to have that we gobble it up, and we’re hungry again a few seconds later.
Thor’s Arc is Problematic in So Many Ways
For one, Fat Thor jokes abound, and it’s straight up trash. It’s 90’s frat-boy humor. Honestly, I’m thoroughly impressed by Chris Hemsworth’s acting in all this. The flexibility with which he drops his shield and shows vulnerability is amazing. In fact, I found his portrayal of PTSD, his actual emotional process, deep and lovely and just – fantastic work.
Chris Hemsworth is largely responsible for the turn-around Thor has had since the blah-ness of Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron. He sat out Civil War and went for a meeting with Kevin Feige, he’s the one who said that the tone was all wrong and we needed to wipe the slate clean. Thor losing his girlfriend, his cape, his hammer, his home, his friends, that was all Hemsworth’s idea. And he’s the person who insisted it had to be funnier, more unpredictable. Hemsworth is the person who stood up and said “this character isn’t working and it needs to be better” and Taika Waititi is the person who shaped that into Thor: Ragnarok, which was all agree is fucking brilliant. Avengers: Endgame wastes all of that. It trades it for bad jokes and bad storytelling.
I have to take a moment to say: the fat suit, the fat CGI, the fat jokes, are all deeply problematic.
For one: fat people are not a punchline.
Just stop. It’s old. We’ve all seen The Nutty Professor. Get a new hobby. Why is anyone still laughing at fat jokes? It’s cruel, it’s not funny. And the association between trauma and disordered eating is not something that should be mocked for laughs because “oops we forgot to be better storytellers and we need some comic relief”. Seriously, his mother tells him to eat a salad at one point. It’s horrible.
For two: mental health is not a goddamned punchline.
Sure, Thanos wiped out half of all life with a snap of his fingers. But he still left Thor with 50% of his friends, and you’re telling me those assholes just let him walk away in the shape he was in the moment after he chopped off Thanos’ head? And no one bothered to check in on him until they wanted his lightning powers? That’s what you’re telling me?
Thor has been one of the most emotionally available Avengers since Ragnarok, where he starts telling the Hulk about losing his hammer before Hulk smashes his face in. Thor is open, caring, vulnerable and look how quickly he opens up to his mom in Endgame. You know what that tells me? In 5 years no one bothered to fucking talk to him AT ALL, and that’s why he became what he was. There’s a scene in Ragnarok where he tells the Hulk “You’re being a really bad friend right now” and you know what? Everyone was a bad fucking friend to Thor in this movie. Five years. I can’t believe anyone would leave their friend for five years like that, it’s appalling.
Given the fact that a solid third of Infinity War is about Thor, Endgame is bad storytelling. Thor getting Stormbreaker, Thor dealing with losing Loki, Thor almost killing himself to make it all happen. Groot sacrificing an arm to save Thor. Rocket coming to respect and maybe love Thor. That whole film had two major hero things weaving through it: Thor becoming something more than he was before, and Tony failing. The entire building up of Thor, thrown away for some Cheez-whiz jokes. Honestly there are a million ways this could’ve been done better. In fact I would prefer it if they’d seen the state Thor was in and then left him the fuck alone, since they’d been doing that for 5 years anyway. If you’re just going to toss him aside anyway, then do it and don’t drag out the bad storytelling.
Banner-Hulk straight up says he’s going to help him and then doesn’t do a damn thing. It got to the point where I figured maybe Scott Lang would be the only one human enough to sit down with Thor for a five minute scene and talk to him like a fucking person.
Endgame Does 2 Things Well at the Expense of Everything Else
This is a goodbye to Iron Man and Captain America. That’s what this movie is about and that’s what it does. It does so at the expense of every other character we’ve come to love. You’ll feel good about those two endings, and maybe that’s enough for you. I just happen to be of the opinion that an Avengers movie could’ve better served the Avengers, rather than just two of them.