I’ve now seen Avengers: Endgame twice. I genuinely like it. It has heart. It has gravitas. It has the kind of compelling storytelling that makes you want to believe that, yes, in some parallel universe, maybe it’s not so far-fetched that the characters we’ve grown to love over the years could confront the evils of our day. But it also has clumsy and sappy moments that lumber along to remind us the comics genre initially targeted teenage boys.
Cinematic perfection is nearly impossible, especially in a 3 hour, 1 minute long movie that deals with a massive ensemble cast, disparate storylines, time travel science(!!!) and peak viewer expectation. Marvel’s goals were ambitious, and considering the scale of the job, Endgame is a triumph that’s clobbered the box office to become the No. 2 movie of all time. However, the film’s unignorable, groan-inducing WTF moments jostled the plot enough to distract me from an otherwise sweeping epic.
Before you aim your Infinity Gauntlet at my jugular, let me tell you where I’m coming from. I’m a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but not a superfan. I read Watchmen, V for Vendetta and anything Neil Gaiman ever wrote, but Marvel comics weren’t on my teenage radar. When Iron Man burst onto the scene in 2008, I was hooked. In Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr’.s breezy Tony Stark was a sassy, genius superhero who felt like a product of our times, not the Golden Age of comics.
But 21 movies and too many episodes of Agents of Shield later, I, like my colleague Roger Cheng, am ready for a steadier, more intimate Phase 4 to begin. I have my favorite MCU films (Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy), but I’ve also been struck by superhero fatigue. It takes a lot more to impress me than it did 11 years ago.
Maybe that’s why some of the cringiest moments of Avengers: Endgame stuck out like they did. Maybe going into the next phase, Marvel will perfect its already formidable storytelling chops with a little more nuance and finesse.
Here are the plot points that bugged me most, in chronological order.
WARNING: Major Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead. Turn back now if you haven’t seen the film, or if you idolize Marvel and have a thin skin. You’ve been warned.
Hawkeye’s mohawk-mulleted Ronin is totally unnecessary
Avengers: Endgame opens with Clint Barton coaching his daughter Lila in archery, his alter ego Hawkeye’s weapon of choice. It’s a tender, touching scene made even more poignant when Barton turns his head and turns back moments after Lila, his two sons and his wife Laura turn to dust after Thanos’ deadly snap, which wiped out half of Earth’s population.
The next time you see Hawkeye, he’s covered head-to-toe in black, wielding a sword (not a bow) and slaughtering random baddies. This is supposed to be his Ronin phase. Unmasked, he has a thickly inked sleeve tattoo and a mulleted mohawk straight off of some 1980s Brat Pack B-lister. That’s it, I’m officially calling him Mohawkeye.
Hawkeye’s vengeful transformation is all so dramatic. It also feels like a forced nod to Marvel fans familiar with Hawkeye’s Ronin story arc. But it isn’t necessary to drive Endgame’s plot. In fact, it’s so devoid of narrative support, it’s distracting, and it isn’t entirely clear how Ronin/Hawkeye (Hawknin? Rohawk?) strayed from his fellow Avengers’ stick-together philosophy.
There is no way Thor would ever ‘eat a salad’
The first time you saw Thor’s new beer belly, you were supposed to laugh. Me, I rolled my eyes. The joke is all too clear. Normally muscle-bound Thor has a gut, swills beer and plays Fortnite all day with his best buds Korg and Miek. The Norse God of Thunder is so morose after the Snap, he’s all but abdicated his duties to New Asgard to become an unkempt drunk. Hilarious!
At one point, chubby Thor time-travels back to Asgard (the ‘time heist’ is, after all, Endgame’s driving plot point) and sees his mother, Frigga, who easily deduces he’s from the future and, after giving him a pep talk and a big hug, shoots out one more nugget of advice. ‘And eat a salad,’ she quips. The theater erupts in laughter.
Let’s just think about this for a second: Do gods eat salad? Would gods even joke about eating salad? Do gods even need to eat to survive, or is food meant for pleasure only? A god, we’ve seen, can die in extreme circumstances — but, please, not of gluttony or malnutrition. The bodies of gods and other supreme beings can take a lot of abuse.
Thor even reminds us in Endgame that he has literal lightning flowing through his veins. And we’re supposed to accept that mowing down a Casear is going to reinstate him to his washboard physique? Please.
And this beer that Thor’s such a fan of. As the scene in New Asgard opens, the camera very briefly rests on barrels of ‘Asgardian’ beer as Valkyrie tells Hulk and Rocket that Thor only emerges once a month to pick up supplies. Blink and you’ll miss that detail.
However, it’s an important distinction. The first Thor movie and Avengers: Age of Ultron make it clear that the booze of mere mortals doesn’t affect the God of Thunder in the slightest. Hence, it doesn’t make sense for Thor to let Rocket lure him on the Avengers’ latest quest with the promise of suds: ‘There’s beer on the ship,’ Rocket says. ‘What kind?’ asks Thor thirstily.
Maybe I’m overthinking it, but where are all these barrels of beer coming from anyway? Asgard is gone, and with it, most of its population. It’s doubtful that New Asgard — on Earth — has the fancy space ingredients to produce quantities of the potent spirit, unless some witch or warlock magicked them up.
C’mon, everyone knew about the Soul Stone’s required sacrifice
The Avengers travel back in time to steal the Infinity Stones so they can bring back The Vanished, the 50% of the population that dissolved into ashes after Thanos’ ‘snap’ in Avengers: Infinity War. Natasha and Hawkeye wind up on Vormir, the barren planet where Thanos sacrificed Gamora in order to obtain the Soul Stone, one of six he needed to become all-powerful.
Natasha and Hawkeye seem to be unaware of the Stone’s toll. ‘In order to take the stone, you must lose that which you love,’ Red Skull, the stone’s keeper, intones. Natasha and Hawkeye seem oddly cool with this, then fight over who gets to toss themselves off the mountain to their death for the greater good.
A few things bother me about this. First, there’s the level of love required to make the spell work. Natasha, who has unrequited feelings for Hawkeye, is the obvious candidate since she has more love and therefore more to lose. Barton, who kills out of grief for his vanished family, tearfully reunites with them later on in the film.
If Clint were to chuck himself over the edge without deep love in his heart for Nat, would he meet the terms of the Soul Stone’s stipulation? The bloodthirsty stone demands terrible sacrifice, not just any soul for a soul.
The bigger problem is that Nat and Hawkeye should have known the stakes. They all should have. Modern-day Nebula, Thanos’ less-loved daughter and Gamora’s sister, makes it clear that she knows the score when she tries to convince 2014’s Gamora to help her after that timeline’s Thanos captures her (it gets a little confusing).
‘Nice Nebula’ would surely have given her new teammates a heads up that sending two people to retrieve the Soul Stone would probably result in only one coming back.
Uh, guys. Did anybody realize Nebula was gone?
Speaking of Nebula, her disappearance went completely unnoticed. After successfully grabbing the Power Stone on Morag, her mission partner, Rhodey, time travels back to Avengers HQ a moment before Nebula is gripped by paralyzing pain. She’s captured by that timeline’s Thanos shortly thereafter, and confronts her earlier, more hateful self.
All the time-traveling Avengers pop back into headquarters together, except for Natasha and Nebula. ‘Clint, where’s Nat?’ Professor Hulk asks. Nobody asks about Nebula, or even seems to notice her absence at all.
The next time an Avenger interacts with her is during the battle, when 2014’s Nebula imposter encounters Hawkeye clutching the Infinity-stone filled gauntlet. ‘I know you,’ he says, handing it over.
We are Marvel women, hear us roar
I’m not the first to groan over the cheesiness of amassing the women of Marvel in one swelling scene during the film’s megabattle. The miraculous grouping occurs when Peter Parker’s Spider-Man asks Captain Marvel how she’s going to get the Infinity Stones to Ant-Man’s time machine.
If it weren’t ridiculous enough that the cowering teenager — who just attempted this very thing — is questioning one of the most powerful beings in the universe, take heart in the collection of female characters who seem to stop all this badass fighting they’re doing to congregate behind the glowing Captain Marvel while nobody attacks them.
I’m all for girl power, but that was a little much.
You can’t. Beat. Thanos. One at a time
Early on in Endgame, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel leaves Avengers HQ to go kill Thanos, until a bunch of other Avengers convince her to take them along on the ambush. Catching an injured Thanos unawares, they work together to restrain him before Thor whacks off his head.
Yet in the film’s climactic battle, the Avengers & Friends fall back on the same tactic that led to their defeat in Infinity War: taking on Thanos one at a time. Captain America. Thor. Iron Man. The Scarlet Witch. Captain Marvel. Guys, you’re killing me.
The living had five years to workshop a coordinated plan. The Vanished Avengers, who seemed to have just been chilling in limbo with Doctor Strange until the moment was right, also had time to strategize.
Instead — and obviously for dramatic effect — they rushed the super villain one by one, appearing to be a bunch of rash hotheads rather than a group of superpowered geniuses desperate to win the day before Thanos shreds Earth down to its last molecule.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Did it strike anyone else as odd that The Vanished seemed to be aware that they were wiped off the face of the Earth for five years? The grateful hugs between Spidey and Ned, his Guy in the Chair; the tender reunion between Hawkeye and his family; the grateful glances among Scott Lang (Ant-Man), Hope (Wasp) and Lang’s daughter Cassie. (Uh, whatever happened to ex-wife Maggie? Did he even check to see if she had survived?)
Earlier in the movie, Thanos declared everyone gone forever. When you turn to dust, it would make sense for your entire consciousness to go with it. Marvel’s suggestion otherwise — at least in this particular case — flirts with religious belief. Without establishing more context within the MCU, the revelation just feels out of step.
You need 6 people to recover the Infinity stones, but only 1 to return them. Sure
Time travel is messy business, which is why all the Infinity Stones that the Avengers gathered must be returned at their exact point and time of extraction. For some reason, Cap is the one to do this. This is likely because they’re all running low on the Pym Particles needed to make the ‘time heist’ work, so they can’t send everyone back. And also likely because of Cap’s ulterior motive to rewind time and seek out Peggy Carter, his long lost love.
Still, considering the team’s penchant for stumbling into trouble when they collected the stones in the first place, it’s a pretty big leap to assume that one dude on his own will complete the task perfectly, six different times. How is he even getting from place to place, especially if the Pym Particles that enable quantum time travel are in short supply? How does one return the Soul Stone to Vormir?
If Captain America didn’t take the Infinity Stone in the first place, how would he really know the precise moment in the timeline that he needs to drop in? He doesn’t.
Cap-pily ever after
Much has been said about Cap’s happy ending. After returning the Infinity Stones to their rightful place, he goes back for Peggy and they grow old together, making it as though Steve Rogers was never cryogenically frozen for 70 years. Presumably, he’s now lived life in his own timeline (is he living both timelines at once?) instead of popping back into 2023 on a platform the Hulk created for this last time-traveling adventure. We see Cap on a bench right next to this site, 5 seconds after he ‘left’.
In the final scene, Captain Rogers and Peggy dance in a quiet house on a quiet street, a tidy, satisfying ending for Cap fans that’s more of a head-scratcher for people like me who are wondering why Rogers would risk altering the past or present of a world he’s taken great pains to help restore.
Cap and his entourage may have gotten lucky with quantum time travel, but Mr. Values seems like the last person to claim he understands it, or of the possibility that the consequences of his actions could diverge Earth’s timelines forever.
A few more messy Endgame moments to leave you with:
- Tony Stark sent his daughter, Morgan, to bed after eating a juice pop, without having her brush her teeth. What will the tabloids say?!
- Why would Cap ever compliment his own butt? Yes, jaded present-day Cap curses more, but agreeing he has ‘America’s ass’ is so gratuitously un-Cap.
- Tony’s death scene with Pepper. Of course she’s fighting by his side… but their house seems pretty remote. Who’s watching little Morgan? This seems like something Tony would ask, given the effort he’s put into protecting his ‘second chance’.