This is a short and disjointed stream-of-consciousness note on Avengers: Endgame, with SPOILERS.
I have been a long-time Marvel nerd since I was a child, but even I have felt the burnout of superhero movies and their dominance over theaters, news cycles and the national imagination. Not all of the 22 films in this long-form series have been good. Some have left me with a sense of wasted time and something akin to a sugar coma – too much greenscreen and rapid superhero action and absolutely no mental nutrition, only a clawing need for the completionism of having seen it.
And some have been superb, hitting emotional notes, story beats, entertainment and relevancy in the bullseye. Avengers, Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, Infinity War, Ragnarok – these have been among the best.
Endgame is meant to be a conclusion to a film cycle that started in 2008. I forget which online magazine pointed out that this story began during the Bush administration. And it ends in this one. That is depressing; as that same article noted, the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are all about our post 9/11 world. From the war on terror porn of the first Iron Man films, the continuing story evolves into something on the edge of a critique (Age of Ultron) to perhaps, the presentation of polar opposite radical politics as the bad guy (Infinity War.) That brings me to…
HEAVY SPOILERS FOR ENDGAME
whales on the Hudson River side of Manhattan.
Endgame, which jumps around in time and space, sets up a five-year period following the Thanos finger snap. We got drastically little by way of how this world looks. What nations were left? What chaos ensued immediately afterwards? Who took advantage of the vacuum? We know only that the remaining Avengers are generally responding to crises as they can, restaurants are still open, no survivor stepped up to start a garbage disposal service in Ant-Man‘s town.
And, as Captain America points out, there are now whales on the Hudson River side of Manhattan.
I can only imagine our world would be cleaner, pollution would be drastically reduced, and global warming would be solved. But every scene set in this period of space/time is dirty and grey looking, with a brighter and sunnier atmosphere only at the film’s denouement where the status quo is restored.
You also have the obligation and emotion of parenthood looming large. Tony Stark now has a daughter in the post-snap world, and that makes him balk at trying to restore the fallen half of the universe. His paternal feelings for a young Peter Parker, though, get him to reconsider. Hawkeye becomes a murderous vigilante to deal with the grief of losing his children, and Ant Man is doubly driven to defy physics and time paradoxes.
Black Widow can have no biological children, and all the family bond she has ever had in her nebulous, mystery shrouded spy-past were the Avengers. Was she the perfect sacrifice? Where was her tearful funeral? is the rumored Back Widow movie happening at all?
The movie’s sense of time travel rules is very good. It resolves the problem of paradox and opens up possibilities in a much more elegant way than the X-Men franchise did. We may be getting a Black Widow movie.
The moving tribute to Tony Stark, and Robert Downey, Jr. himself, was well deserved. I am giving this movie a hard rewatch. Let’s see what mood strikes me.