Avengers: Endgame debuted this weekend, breaking box-office records and speeding to a staggering $1.2 billion weekend take. It’s Marvel’s biggest movie ever, and at the current rate of ticket sales, it might just wind up as the biggest movie of all time. It’s hard to discuss Endgame as a single film, or even as the second half of the two-part story that started with Avengers: Infinity War, given how heavily it relies on the buildup of the other previous 20 films in Marvel Studios’ decade-plus of filmmaking. Forget smaller, more character-focused films like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther, or even Captain Marvel. Endgame is here to throw everything Marvel has at the audience, in one huge, spectacle-filled hurrah.
Naturally, there’s a lot to digest in this movie. So we sat down to discuss how Marvel got to this point, consider Endgame’s nagging issues, and figure out what the film’s ending means for Marvel’s future.
Spoiler alert: This is a full-spoiler, no-holds-barred discussion. You’ve been warned.
How well did Marvel cap the Infinity Saga?
Megan: I realize that so much of this movie was pandering to Marvel fans, but you know what I learned? I wanted that. Pander to me. I’m getting soft as I get older.
But really, this movie feels like it’s lovingly woven from every in-joke, fan hope, and much-hyped moment you could ask for. It leaves no stone unturned, whether it’s finding ways to poke fun at hokier moments (like Captain America declaring, “I could do this all day!”), callbacks to Marvel’s first film in this long, crazy run, or another hero finally wielding Thor’s hammer. It really does throw everything at the wall, but so much of it manages to stick. These moments feel earned because we’ve spent so much time watching these characters fight and hurt and even lose. The stakes are real, because we all know this is the end.
Chaim: Agreed. I’m still not sure whether Endgame is even a good movie, viewed on its own, but I have no way to gauge that, as someone who’s been watching and enjoying this franchise since high school. As a climax to this series (for whatever that’s worth in Hollywood these days), this was absolutely the blow-out extravaganza I would have asked for. I spent basically the entire movie gasping and saying “Hell yeah,” which is a pretty great way to spend a movie by my standards.
What did you think of the opening place setting?
Megan: Really loved Marvel’s The Leftovers.
Chaim: Hawkeye’s family disappearing is a downer, but given the ending of Infinity War, I think it was absolutely the right move to spend a fair amount of time seeing how bad things were — even if the Russos probably could have gone harder in showing the results of a post-snap world. I mean, Fortnite is still around, so how bad could the apocalypse have really been?
Megan: Yeah, I agree. Obviously our faves have suffered a great loss, but I also think there’s something here about what happens to heroes when they have no clear battle to fight anymore. Being Avengers gave Natasha and Cap purpose. And others, like Tony, were able to carve out a new life, but it’s still tragic to see some of Earth’s mightiest heroes succumb to feelings of hopelessness and despair, without a clear way forward.
Chaim: The scene where Okoye has to remind Natasha that they can’t stop an underwater earthquake really drove that home for me — Tony found a way to move on, but everyone else is just stuck with the fact that they lost, and there’s nothing they can do about it, and the mundane battles ahead are kind of meaningless compared to the one they can’t recover from.
Time Heist: thumbs up or thumbs down?
Chaim: I’ve got mixed feelings on the Time Heist. On the one hand, I really liked the greatest-hits style revisiting of the original Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. (Although if you’d told me going into Endgame that Thor: The Dark World was important preparatory viewing, I’d have called you a liar.) But parts of the sequence just dragged, and in a movie this long, I’d have preferred to get back to the action a bit sooner.
Also good god, I just have no idea at all how this time travel works. They can break the past? They can’t? Anyone?
Megan: My biggest question: If future Nebula shot herself in the past, shouldn’t she be… I don’t know, vaporized? Or does the Ancient One’s lecture about alternate timelines come into play here and this isn’t actual time travel? This is all a headache, but when I stop trying to apply any sort of logic to magical space-time travel in a fictional film, I’d say overall I enjoyed the execution of the heist. There’s a sense of camaraderie and urgency to their mission that feels almost video game-y. It’s a lot more fun than it has any right to be, given that it’s a sequel to a film where half of all life was dusted.
Did I love the idea that time travel fixes everything? No. But I do love that Captain America had the chance to fully scope out his own ass. Who among us wouldn’t want that?
Chaim: It truly is America’s ass.
Which emotional moments worked for you? Which fell flat?
Megan: I would guess that Clint and Natasha getting shipped off together to Vormir, with tragic results, wasn’t a shock to anyone, but bless the Russo brothers’ hearts for trying? I get that Nat and Clint’s tussle was supposed to act as a testament to their love for each other and their bravery, but I wound up holding back giggles right up until the bitter end. It’s the will-they-won’t-they of suicides: Who will jump off the cliff first?
I think that moment would have had more impact for me if the film wasn’t so busy trying to obscure who was going to die. Nat’s choice is tragic and beautiful: she believes so much in her friends succeeding that she’s willing to bet her own life on it. Just let me have that moment!
Chaim: I cannot believe Hawkeye survived yet another Avengers movie.
Megan: Excuse me, he’s Ronin now. He got a full sleeve tattoo that also landed him that Disney show, I guess.
Chaim: The power of the Infinity Stones cannot defeat the corporate demands of the Walt Disney corporation. I’m still annoyed that Natasha ended up dying there, though, given that Hawkeye sacrificing himself to save his family would have been a really fitting end to his murder-spree arc in that film. But I guess that would have come a little too close to Tony’s far more impactful sacrifice at the end, which did actually hit hard.
Megan. They did. My girl. Dirty.
Chaim: Also, when Cap finally says “Avengers… assemble,” that had a solid emotional impact.
Megan: Cap had a lot of really excellent moments in this movie. Long live the “America’s ass” gag. And also, long live my love for Captain America, who over the years unexpectedly turned into my favorite male Avenger. There was so much speculation that Endgame (or Infinity War before it) would kill Cap in a dramatic way. I’m thrilled they gave him the chance at some semblance of happiness. I think old Cap was one of my favorite sequences in the whole film — it’s really bittersweet to see him return to his friends after finally having lived a life. I’m just so happy for my pure, sweet boy!
Did the ending(s) work for you?
Megan: Everything wrapped up so neatly that I can’t say there’s much else I would have wanted. The scale of that final battle, complete with Infinity Gauntlet football, is so bombastic that when things finally do slow down, it feels like a much-needed rest. For the original Avengers we’ve followed from the beginning, their stories feel complete.
Chaim: I wasn’t checking my watch, but Endgame felt like it had a nearly Return of the King-level number of endings. The final battle, Tony’s goodbye, his funeral, Thor joining the Guardians, Cap handing off the shield, Cap’s slow dance — any of these moments could have really ended the film. That is to say, the pile-on of wrap-ups was a bit self-indulgent. But we’ve had 21 movies of Marvel pointedly not ending its stories, in order to set up the dominos for the next one. So I guess they’ve earned it.
What do you want a post-Endgame Marvel universe to explore next?
Megan: Is it a cop-out to say I’m not ready to think about it yet? Because I’m not ready to think about it yet. Marvel’s future is exciting to me, with Sam taking over Cap’s title, while I’m dreaming about more Shuri screen time. Still, this was the end of a chapter that’s lasted a third of my life. I want to savor it a little longer.
Chaim: It’s oddly peaceful. Part of me is aware that there will be an endless stream of these movies as long as they keep making money. We’re literally weeks away from the next one! But Endgame… its ending feels pretty conclusive, kind of like when the last Harry Potter book came out.
Will I watch more Marvel movies? Sure, and it’s easy to see where things are going next. But it doesn’t feel as urgent as it has been, now that things are finally wrapped up.