You might be aware that I am a huge MCU fan, and I wrote a rather scathing review of Infinity War which can be found here: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/peruseandmuse.blog/657. I ended that review by saying the writers had a chance to redeem many of their issues with the introduction of time travel in Endgame, but that I wasn’t expecting them to use it to its full effect. I’m glad I didn’t hold my breath. Obviously spoilers abound, so don’t read on if you don’t want major plot points revealed.
Lest it seem I hold both Avengers movies with equal contempt, let me point out I enjoyed Endgame loads more than Infinity War. Infinity War left me feeling ambivalent at best and angry at worst. Endgame left me feeling mostly satisfied with the plot and character arcs. I mean, who has not been eagerly anticipating Cap wielding Mjolnir? It’s an iconic comic book moment, and I’m ecstatic it made its way into the cinematic universe.
But as with most movies or books that tackle time travel, there is always room for colossal plot holes and paradoxes to emerge, and Endgame is no exception. It boggles my mind that writers and directors being paid millions of dollars don’t seem to realize the paradoxes in their script, yet unpublished writers can spot them within seconds of viewing the movie. It seems to me if you’re being paid that much, you should be able to produce a clean, error-filled script. But what do I know? I’m not part of the Hollywood echelon.
So let’s start with explaining this universe’s rules for time travel: When you go back in time, you can’t change the past, you can only create a new alternate/parallel universe. For instance, when the 2014 version of Thanos decides to travel to present MCU time (whatever that is: 2022 maybe?) he creates a new universe with the exact same characters as our main universe. This is why Nebula can kill her past self. Because it isn’t really her past self. It’s the past self of an alternate Nebula. With me so far?
Throughout the movie, three different universes are inadvertently formed: 1. Loki takes the Tesseract in 2012 and goes off who knows where to presumably create the Loki TV show universe. 2. 2014 Thanos, Nebula, et al travel to the present and get destroyed, meaning there is now an alternate 2014-present timeline where Thanos doesn’t exist, as well as the current MCU timeline where he is dead. 3. Steve goes back to the 1940’s/1950’s and settles down with Peggy, which creates an alternate universe.
But this is where Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely drop the ball. Once Cap diverges from the current timeline, which is the one where Peggy marries a different guy, has a couple of kids, dies, and young Cap buries her, he shouldn’t be able to return to the current timeline. He is now living out his life in an alternate universe. He no longer exists in the current MCU. Yet, he shows up in the current MCU at the end as an old man to pass on his parallel universe shield to Falcon without any explanation of how he did it. Maybe alternate Tony Stark made a universe jumping machine, but we the viewers don’t know that. As it stands, it’s a gaping plot hole in an otherwise pretty seamless time-travel tale, and it sticks out like that pesky Elephant in the room.
Speaking of lack of explanation, the writers completely ignore how Steve managed to return all of the infinity stones to their original spots in the timeline without getting caught. Considering mass chaos erupted last time when all the remaining Avengers attempted to do it, it seems very unlikely that Cap could manage it all on his own. Don’t get me wrong, I love Captain America very much, but he’s not God. But Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely give us no explanation as they hurry to reach the emotional end that they want.
This was a complaint I had with Infinity War. When you toss plot or character development aside just so you can get to the ending you desire, you’re doing something wrong. Everything should pay off in the end because everything FITS. The characters should just naturally arrive at their destination, nothing shoehorned. And while Endgame is miles away better when it comes to this, it is not without its weak spots.
The weakest spot for me was the Thor story line. Continuing Thor’s decline established in Infinity War, Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely now make the god of thunder a drunken has-been who is overcome with grief at the lost of “some people.” That’s right. Not Loki. Not Odin. “People.” The name Odin is never uttered in the movie, though Frigga gets a well-deserved send-up. And as for Thor’s brother: the death of Loki is also never mentioned as a huge reason for Thor’s descent into despair. Yet anybody with a brain knows that. Thor loved Loki more than anybody else did. Part of the tragedy of these two brothers is that Loki always wanted accommodation and praise from his father, never realizing that all the love and acceptance he needed could be found in Thor. Yet, for whatever inexplicable reason, Thor is not allowed to grieve for Loki or his father. Instead, he’s grieving for “some people,” as Rocket dismissively says.
It’s another Elephant in the room made even more awkward by Loki stealing the Tesserect in the past. Nobody comments on it. Nobody points out, “Gee, Loki just about destroyed New York and now is gone with the Tesseract. Should we do anything about it?” The only one showing any concern that the Tesseract is missing is Ant-man, and he doesn’t even know what Loki is capable of. It feels very much like Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely, (who have been trying to kill Loki since Thor: Dark World) were told by their superior Kevin Fiege to include an out for Loki, so that he’s alive in another universe. And they did so begrudgingly with the most rushed bit of the story line in the whole movie.
It sadly doesn’t surprise me given how much I hated what they did with Thor and Loki in the previous outing. But it seems to me that if you’re hoping to continue making Marvel movies, you might not want to alienate fans by pissing on their favorite characters. But hey, what do I know? I’m not living the dream in Hollywood. I just write blogs about writing.
3 thoughts on “Ignoring the Elephants in the Room: A Review of Avengers Endgame”
I personally found Avengers: Infinity War much more satisfying than Endgame (and I am free to have that conversation if need be). That having been said, all the questions and issues you brought up were ones that ran through my mind as I watched the film. I definitely don’t think this will be one of my favorite installments in the universe, but it was well worth the watch just to have a full packed theater experience. Excellently written post!
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I happened to find Infinity War poorly conceived and very much a “bridge” movie, just holding the audience over until the main attraction of Endgame. But I still love the series. I just get very annoyed when published writers can’t be bothered to make their stories plot-hole free. Seriously, it’s not that hard!
I’ve come to the conclusion that by now the consumer might be able to write better screenplays.