Opinion: Almost my Fourth – Anthony reacts to Avengers: Endgame

The Story Geeks blogger Anthony Holdier responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – reacting to “Avengers: Endgame.” Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!

To my memory, I’ve cried in three movie theaters.

One was near the beginning of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, sometime just before the opening crawl (it was hearing the SW theme in a theater that got me, I think). A second was The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, when either Aragorn or Theoden charges out ahead of his allies to confront the armies of Sauron (both characters do this, I just can’t now recall which one initially broke me). But the third, I can remember with pinpoint accuracy: 1 hour, 52 minutes, and 14 seconds into the first Avengers movie as the music swelled and the camera wrapped around the unified team, bits of exploded leviathan raining down around them – that was the scene I had been waiting to see on screen since I was eight years old.

Since the MCU was born in 2008, I’ve sat in more theaters in at least three different states at all hours of the day with more friends than I could name; I’ve eaten more popcorn than could possibly be healthy, lost more sleep than I know is good for me, and talked my way out of at least one speeding ticket that I completely deserved (I was late for…Iron Man 3, I think?). I’ll never forget the moment in 2012 when Thanos was first revealed in the post-credits stinger of The Avengers – I literally jumped out of my seat in surprise.

Perhaps, then, it goes without saying that I had high expectations for Avengers: Endgame…and I’m thrilled to say that this movie delivered on an eleven year promise. Here’s a few reasons why I loved this absolute beast of a film (OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS TO FOLLOW GOOD GRIEF HOW COULD THERE NOT BE):

Genuine Surprises

A lot of people expected Thanos to die before Endgame was over – I don’t know of anyone (certainly not me) who predicted that Thanos would die twice with the first time being within the first ten minutes of the film! For me and anyone else who spent the post-Infinity War year splicing together bizarre theories about what leaked set images might mean, that immediately threw me off my game in the best possible way – I was able to stop picking apart the movie and just enjoy it as it came.

The time travel element was not a big surprise, but the tripartite nature of its deployment was wonderful – particularly because it allowed for several unexpected cameos (Rene Russo? Natalie Portman?! Robert Redford?!?). And the writers clearly relished subverting our expectations – I was initially excited for Elevator Battle 2.0, but I couldn’t help but laugh at Cap’s cleverness in saving a lot of time and energy (with another nice nod to the books as well).

And I really wasn’t expecting Tony Stark to die. As I’ve said elsewhere with the Story Geeks, I was predicting that Cap would be the one to sacrifice himself at the end (thereby reuniting him with Peggy in death) – little did I know that Cap would be reunited in life while everyone else had to say goodbye to Iron Man. Impressive twist.

The Time Travel Mechanic

I’m a sucker for time-travel stories (I mean, I recently wrote a 6000-word paper on the topic where I argued that tales where the past cannot be changed are necessarily superior to those where it can). So, once it was clear that Endgame was going to twist up the timeline, I was ready to pick that apart.

I’m here to say – with one caveat – that I actually think the time travel mechanics of Endgame are NOT as contradictory as some people complain. That is to say: if you make one little assumption, I think that there really aren’t any plot holes to worry about.

Because, technically speaking, it’s a time-travel story combined with an alternate universe story – as the Hulk’s conversation with the Ancient One lays out, removing the Infinity Stones from the timeline would cause unstable branches to shoot off from the primary timeline (hence the need for Cap to return all the stones at the end – the primary timeline would have been safe, but all those other timelines created by the Time Heist would have been left in danger). So, the fact that Loki got away with the Tesseract is actually not a problem for the prime MCUniverse: Escaped-Loki’s timeline was re-stabilized when Cap returned the stones.

So here’s what you have to grant: somehow, Captain America figured out a way to travel across universes so that he could return to the prime MCUniverse for that final scene with Sam. Given the many magical and technologically advanced beings and civilizations already established to exist within the MCU, this hardly seems like an unlikely possibility.

Come to think of it, I suppose I’ll need to update that time-travel essay.

The References and Cameos

“I can do this all day.” “On your left.” “I AM IRON MAN” (that one almost made Endgame #4 on my cry-list). Ant-Man’s original helmet. Star-Lord’s dance on Morag. Howard Stark. Camp Leigh. The Arc Reactor. Cheeseburgers.

It’s not unusual for television programs to have “clip shows” late in a season (or a series) that would recap the events leading up to that point. Movies don’t really do this, mainly because – prior to the MCU – the idea that one string of movies would be long enough to be able to do it was unheard of. But the fact that Endgame not only functions as a slideshow of memories for the whole of the MCU, but manages to do so while still telling its own captivating story is impressive indeed.

And I almost fell out of my chair when James D’Arcy’s OG Jarvis showed up!

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

Words really can’t do this scene justice. Was it completely over-the-top huge? Yes. Did it have more than a couple of beats or lines that were obviously contrived fan-service? Definitely. Was it exactly what I wanted the final Avengers movie to be like? Abso-freaking-lutely.

And Cap finally said the line (WHILE HOLDING MJOLNIR YESSSS).

Watching this movie was an oddly satisfying experience – I had fun, yes, but it very much felt like the end of a song when a dissonant chord resolves into proper harmony: everything just feels right when it’s finished. 

That’s not to say it was a perfect movie or couldn’t have been improved – but I’m easy to please when it comes to the MCU (and, honestly, if this were the last Marvel film to ever be made, I would find that perfectly fitting).

So, no, I didn’t cry the first time I saw Avengers: Endgame – I was too busy having the time of my life. This is not the best movie in the MCU canon (I’ll still defend The Winter Soldier on that front), but it was – without question – the most entertaining movie on the list (and, possibly, the most entertaining movie I’ve ever seen in a theater).

Like so many other people, I loved it 3000.

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