<<<<Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead>>>>
This is literally a personal ranking of the top 25 impactful moments from Avengers: Endgame. If you have not seen the film, stop reading now because this list will utterly destroy your experience.
People who have seen the film are nerding out and love discussing it, and this list is for them and I to share in the experience.
Last warning – this is just a list of spoilers from here on out.
25. Back to the Future – Literally everything about them working out time travel
“So Back to the Future is a bunch of bullshit?”
Natasha Romanoff has not given up on making things right in the universe (more on that later) and works with a few of the others to find something, anything that can right the ship. Stark, Banner, Thor, and even Rogers have moved on to varying degrees, but she remains dedicated.
So when Scott Lang shows up one day and explains that the quantum realm might provide time travel opportunities, several of the Avengers eagerly sign on to formulating a plan. Well, in a general sense. As with the audience they only understand time travel in the context of fiction and begin referring to all of the cinematic examples of time travel as evidence for why their plan has a chance.
When Stark throws cold water on the idea from a scientific perspective, Lang appears stunned by the idea that the concepts of time travel in Back to the Future aren’t exactly sound.
Then, of course, Banner utters the memorable, meta line that when dealing with time travel, “Either none of it’s a joke or all of it is.”
When they proceed to send Lang on a test run, he returns to the lab at various stages of his life from old man to infant, discouraging Rogers on the prospects of the plan but causing Banner* to exclaim, “Time travel! What? I see this as an absolute win.”
Lang chimes in, “Somebody peed my pants. Not sure if it was the baby me or the old me. Or was it just me me?”
24. You Didn’t Have Me – Danvers shows us that she is the strongest Avenger
During the climactic final battle, Thanos’ ship begins to bombard the field with fire and it takes a toll on the heroes. As they struggle to keep the infinity gauntlet away from him, the blasts knock heroes off balance and pin them down to positions.
Enter Captain Marvel, who promptly levels the entire ship as we saw her do to the battle crafts in her standalone movie. Once on the ground, she goes toe-to-toe with Thanos and overwhelms him. Thanos throws a massive headbutt that does not even register with Danvers before she delivers a painful blow back.
Only by extracting the Power Stone from the gauntlet is Thanos able to deliver a punch that knocks her off balance.
Of course, that means Thanos is left standing with an incomplete infinity gauntlet….
23. Hello, Sir! – Peter Parker and Tony Stark re-unite
This one is simple and mostly expected, but it was beautiful all the same.
As the snapped heroes return to the battlefield, we get a moment between Peter Parker and Tony Stark (who finally gives Peter the hug he so desperately wanted – which is itself more profound for reasons we’ll get to in a bit).
The loss of Peter is what compels Tony to assist with the time travel and plan to retrieve the stones. When he first returns to Avengers HQ after his time adrift in space, the brokenhearted Tony says explicitly to Rogers, “I lost the kid.” Having Peter turn to dust in his arms affected Tony more profoundly than just about anything in the MCU.
So this little moment where Peter returns:
Peter Parker: Hey! Holy cow! You will not believe what’s been going on. Do you remember when we were in space? And I got all dusty? And I must’ve passed out because I woke up and you were gone. But Doctor Strange was there, right? And he said ‘It’s been five years. Come on, they need us.’ And he started doing the yellow sparkly thing that he does. Anyway…
[Tony hugs Peter in relief]
Peter Parker: This is nice.
22. I Can Do This All Day – Captain America fights…himself
While venturing back to the past, Captain America retrieves the tesseract in rather peaceful fashion* and begins to make his way to the lobby. Smooth, Cap. Nobody does it better.
Except, time-travel Rogers runs square into present-day Captain America who believes he is Loki in disguise attempting to escape, forcing Cap to do battle with himself.
Present-day Cap gives time-travel Cap quite the battle before he’s able to put him on the ground, but he’s soon back on his feet uttering the familiar, “I can do this all day.” It prompts the time-travelling Rogers to eye roll and say, “I know” before putting him down again and using the sceptre to put present-day Cap to sleep, proclaiming as he leaves, “That is America’s ass” in reference to comments about his original Avengers costume not flattering his posterior as it should have.
21. Rescue – Pepper Potts appears as Rescue
I boosted this one up the list a bit because it remained as a question in my mind following Iron Man 3. The movie concludes with Tony helping to solve Pepper’s Extremis problem, which we had seen in the final battle imbue her with special powers. I was only vaguely familiar with some of the source material, but I did know that Pepper became a hero in her own right – Rescue. The character, like Tony, did not have powers, per se, but fought in a technologically enhanced suit like Tony’s.
Was this the MCU version of Rescue though? Did Tony’s fix put an end to those powers or was Pepper simply more in control of them and still technically Rescue?
Endgame answered that by showing that she did not still have those powers, but while they never explicitly refer to her as Rescue in the film we do see her doing battle in a suit designed just for her and kicking some ass alongside her friends.
20. Hell Hath No Fury – Scarlet Witch gets her shot at Thanos
Endgame did not see the return of Vision, who along with Heimdall died before the snap and then had no other means of returning (more on this in a moment). We did, however, see Scarlet Witch return to the fight and one scene lands her squarely at the feet of Thanos – the being who forced her to kill the man she loved to protect the universe, reversed time so he could retrieve the Mind Stone, and then brutally killed him again before wiping out half of everything else.
One has to feel for Maximoff. She enters the MCU on the loss of her family at the hands of Stark tech, and then, seeing what the Avengers fight against, sides with them against Ultron who is trying to destroy the planet. That decision winds up causing her the loss of her brother at the hands of Ultron – so she understandably rages out, destroys multiple Ultron bots, and then rips out Ultron’s mechanical heart while asking how he thinks it felt to lose Pietro.
Coming off this new, perhaps even more painful loss, she warns Thanos that he took everything from her before unleashing her full power and delivering him a nice beating. It was a hugely cathartic moment for her character.
19. Strange Plan – Yep, Doctor Strange was pulling strings the whole time
We had a lot of theories about Doctor Strange heading into Endgame. He makes his position on the Time Stone quite clear to Tony Stark and warns him that he will let anyone die if it means protecting the stone. That theme gets repeated a few times in Infinity War: “We don’t trade lives.”
So it comes as a shock to everyone at the end of Infinity War when Doctor Strange stops Thanos from killing Tony Stark, offering the Time Stone in exchange for his life. This gives Thanos all but the one stone and virtually guarantees that he will complete his mission, causing Stark to ask why.
Strange responds, “We’re in the endgame now,” and right before turning to dust himself adds, “Tony, it was the only way.”
Earlier in the movie, Strange had stepped aside and used the Time Stone to glimpse into possible futures, seeing millions and only one that resulted in the Avengers defeating Thanos. The logical conclusion for audience members then was, “Any decision Strange makes after that point must be in pursuit of that one outcome. He must have known giving up the stone was the only way to ensure it, which is why he says it was the only way.”
Endgame confirms that. We see it first addressed explicitly when Banner attempts to retrieve the Time Stone from the Ancient One, who, like Strange, refuses on the grounds that her job is to protect the stone. Even if the Avengers use it effectively, it has repercussions that will affect the fabric of reality for others. Only when Banner reveals that Strange (who the Ancient One describes as “meant to be the best of [the guardians]”) surrendered the Time Stone does she conclude that she must be mistaken and allows Banner to take it.
Another key is that Lang is only in the quantum realm at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp for a few moments – or meant to be. Had things gone well, Hank, Janet, and Hope would have extracted Scott moments after he collected the material from the realm, but could not because they disappeared in the snap. Lang himself is on the list of snap victims, leading everyone to the conclusion that he, too, would have died had he not been in the quantum realm.
This leads to the theory that not only did Strange know he had to surrender the Time Stone, he knew precisely when because he also had to ensure that Thanos snapped while Lang was trapped in the quantum realm. That left the tiny window open for Lang to return, initiate the time heist plan, and reverse the events.
So it seems that Strange was manipulating things towards the Endgame all along.
18. The “Mighty” Thor – We get an overweight and alcoholic Thor
The evolution of Thor’s character is one of my favourites in the MCU, and that is a testament to Chris Hemsworth. The Thor was saw in the original movie was okay. He kicks some ass in Avengers, but again pales next to the personalities of his teammates and the deceitful Loki. In Thor: Dark World he improves again, but is still perhaps the most DCEU of all the Marvel characters in tone.
But Thor: Dark World also shifts his character dramatically with the death of his mother*. We see Thor mature as a leader but also adopt an increasingly humorous tone. It’s on display somewhat in Age of Ultron, and then on full display in Thor: Ragnarok, which is easily one of the best films in the whole of the MCU.
By the time we get to the Thor of Infinity War, I am 100% emotionally invested. His mother is dead. His friends killed by Hela, along with most of Asgard’s residents and Asgard itself. Thanos defeats Thor in a truncated battle, then murders Heimdall and Loki. Thor is at his most powerful and most raw form in Infinity War, and watching him sacrifice to create Stormbreaker alongside Rocket and Groot was intense.
It was not nearly as intense as Thor arriving on the battlefield to turn the tide of the fight, bellowing “Bring me Thanos” before decimating the enemy forces. Banner’s cry of “You’re all screwed now!” was felt by all.
Then, right as Thanos seems poised to win, Thor launches Stormbreaker and brings him to a knee. He walks slowly up to Thanos and drives the weapon deeper, and anyone in that moment who didn’t feel a strong sense of, “Damn right, Thor. Put the SOB in his place” is dead inside.
So when Thanos responds that he should have gone for the head and snaps half the universe out of existence, it’s even more brutal.
Thor gets another crack at Thanos early in Endgame, but it provides none of the catharsis that the Stormbreaker throw at the end of Infinity War did. It’s hollow, and we all know it.
So when we see Thor again, this time with the Avengers prepared to reset the whole game, it’s a complete surprise to see Thor has fallen into such a pit of depression that he is grossly overweight and drinking excessively. Then, he does not snap out of it at the promise of a plan. Thor limps through most of the movie still out of shape and drunk until the final fight.
17. God of Mischief – Loki escapes with the Teserract
Loki dies at the beginning of Infinity War along with Heimdall. They are pre-snap victims, like Gamora and Vision later in the film, which Thanos presents to us as rather final. “No resurrections this time.”
The time heist plan of the Avengers creates some unique context though. Loki at the time of Endgame is indeed dead, but the Avengers travel back to the invasion of New York and present-day Loki is, of course, alive and wreaking havoc. The Avengers defeat him and capture him, leading him out of the building with the sceptre for Thor to transport him back to Asgard for justice – yada yada yada, we all know those events.
Endgame changes it in that Rogers, Stark, and Lang have travelled back to retrieve the Tesserract so they can recreate the gauntlet. Lang causes the present-day Stark to have an arrhythmia while they quarrel over jurisdiction, and kicks the stone away.
Unfortunately, Hulk has been making his way down stairs while all of this was happening. The rest of the gang took the elevator and informed the not-so-jolly green giant that they could accommodate neither his size nor weight. By the time he reaches the lobby, Hulk is irate and throws a characteristic temper tantrum, but it causes the Tesserract to bounce free. Loki grabs the Space Stone and escapes.
Loki escaped the space, but what happened to time? Captain America concludes the film by returning the stones to their designated places, but that remains a bit murky. Did the Loki from Avengers escape the fate of Loki from Infinity War and live to deceive another day?
16. Marvellous – Captain Marvel rescues Tony and Nebula
The trailers for Endgame revealed something that we all knew to be true, but still it felt weird to see in the trailer. Tony Stark is adrift in space with Nebula and on the brink of death as they run out of resources, the next being their oxygen supply.
Does this occur at the end of the movie? Seemed unlikely, unless the time travel brought them back there. This is where we left them at the end of Infinity War. So we know that Stark won’t die there, and in other trailers we see that he clearly returns home. The question remained – how?
I imagine many people, like me, saw the end credits scene in Captain Marvel where she responds to Fury’s message and assumed that would be an eventual scene in Endgame. Turns out, that scene was a prequel to Endgame, and Danvers was already working with the surviving Avengers to help the universe in the chaos of the snap.
As Tony begins to draw his final breath, we see an increasingly bright light on his face and know that salvation arrived. The film teases it for a few minutes before revealing that Captain Marvel herself found the ship, and she carries it back safely to Avengers HQ so Tony can recover.
15. The Mad Titan’s Daughter – Gamora returns
Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos, who we stole from her world while exterminating half of her people. He trained her to be a warrior and she even helps him with his quest to find the infinity stones before reforming, teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and working to stop him.
When the time comes for Thanos to retrieve the Soul Stone, Red Skull (who was condemned to guard it) informs him that he must sacrifice a soul in exchange for the stone, and that it must be someone he loves. Gamora initially assumes she is in the clear because he’s a heartless wretch, but we learn that Thanos does care for Gamora and he kills her. Pre-snap. Dead and gone like Loki and Heimdall.
Like Loki though, the time heist plan of the Avengers creates a situation in which Thanos and Gamora from 2004 discover their plan and also time travel to the present, to Endgame, to stop the Avengers.
Fortunately for the heroes, modern Nebula, herself reformed, intercepts Gamora to inform her of everything that happens to her from Guardians of the Galaxy to Infinity War and convinces her to turn on Thanos again. She teams with Nebula to save Hawkeye from the older Nebula, and then helps to rescue Star-Lord during the final battle.
Quill, of course, remembers everything and approaches the woman he loves, who promptly delivers a pair of blows to his nether regions (“You missed them both on the first one, but got them both on the second,” he whimpers before collapsing. “This guy?” Gamora doubts to Nebula, who informs her that her choice was between Quill and a tree.)
Like with Loki, we’re left somewhat uncertain about what the time travel means for the character. As the Guardians depart, Quill attempts to locate Gamora in the galaxy and cannot find her, but we aren’t sure if that’s because she’s gone or, more likely, simply “off the radar” because of her time travel, waiting for the Guardians to find her and re-kindle their relationships.
14. She Who Is Worthy – Thor names Valkyrie the ruler of New Asgard
Valkyrie was not present in Infinity War, but the Russos assured us that she survived the snap and was off protecting other surviving Asgardians somewhere. They delivered on that promise, and we meet her as the de facto ruler of New Asgard early in the film while depressed Thor remains in hiding.
After helping the rest of the heroes to defeat Thanos in the final battle, Valkyrie returns to New Asgard with Thor who informs her that he does not intend to stay. Knowing that they need a ruler, Thor transfers those powers to the very worthy Valkyrie before setting off with the Guardians of the Galaxy (or Asgardians of the Galaxy, as Thor re-names them).
13. She’s Got Help – The remaining* women of Marvel line up for a fight
I felt conflicted about this moment at first because it felt too much like pandering. It wasn’t quite natural enough to have the impact I expected, but ultimately I think the message was important.
Danvers discovers Peter Parker hunkered down for cover and clutching the infinity gauntlet, asking that he hand it over so she can get the gauntlet away from Thanos. Parker leaps to his feet and turns it over, but looks to the crowded battlefield and feels concern for her having to get across it.
“Don’t worry,” replies Scarlet Witch, showing up with her.
“She’s got help,” Okoye adds, being joined by Shuri, Wasp, Rescue, Gamora, Nebula, Mantis, and Valkyrie*.
Marvel, like most franchises, faces regular criticism. On one hand, do the women have presence, agency, contribution of substance? On the other hand, a bunch of misogynists hate Brie Larsen and Captain Marvel. (Briefly aside, I especially hate those who view Captain Marvel as “too powerful” when my entire life of superhero experience has been overshadowed by Superman – the personification of “too powerful”. This “she’s a Mary Sue” thing, that also seems to plague Maisie Williams on Game of Thrones – I don’t watch – is insulting).
So this moment where Marvel lines up the women as if to say, “All of these women and, yes, they’ve got this shit” was brilliant.
12. Frigga – Thor and his mother share a moment
As already discussed, Thor suffers immensely from Thor to Infinity War and loses everyone who was important to him at the start of the journey: Frigga, Odin, Heimdall, Loki, his friends….
Endgame sets up what should be a reunion between Thor and Jane Foster, who we do see briefly, but the scene gets stolen by Thor running into his mother Frigga on the day in Thor: Dark World that she dies. Frigga is a particularly painful loss as his mother, the first of the losses, and a pre-snap death that their plan cannot correct.
Rocket cautions a distraught Thor before their meeting that he cannot save Frigga because she’s completely gone, but that he can help save a whole lot of people who are only kind of gone if he keeps his focus.
Frigga reiterates this, reminding Thor that he is there to save his future and not hers, revealing that she understands the fate before her. She comforts her son one last time and leaves him with the parting advice:
Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.
11. Howard – Tony and his father share a moment
Another recurring theme in the MCU is Tony’s relationship with his father. From Iron Man we understand that the relationship is cold and strained. He sees some reprieve in Iron Man 2 when his father reveals through recordings that his greatest gift to the world was Tony*, but that comes after Howard died and not in person.
This becomes all the more evident in Avengers when Tony meets Steve Rogers. Captain America. The guy about whom his father would not stop talking. The guy who represented something ideologically different than Tony, and who was best friends with the guy who actually murdered both of his parents (i.e. Civil War). We also see in the B.A.R.F. scene from Civil War the unresolved conflict Tony still feels with his father because they did not reconcile in person.
When Stark, Rogers, and Lang fail to secure what they need in New York, Tony and Steve agree to use their remaining time jump to go back to the 1970s, to Steve’s old army base in New Jersey where SHIELD was working, alongside HYDRA, undercover to steal both the stone and more Pym particles to keep time hopping.
While Rogers secures the Pym particles and catches a brief glimpse of Peggy*, Tony gets confronted in the labs by a Howard Stark who does not recognise this older employee as the time-travelling version of the son his wife was currently carrying.
They bond for a bit and Howard reveals his fears about fatherhood to Tony, expressing all of the love Tony wanted to hear from him but never did. Before leaving, Howard admits that, although scared, he would “do anything for that kid” and Tony gives him a hug in a gorgeous moment of vindication (and one that makes the Stark-Parker reunion that much more emotional).
10. Professor – We catch up with Bruce Banner and he’s…Professor Hulk
Tony Stark refuses to help the team with time travel. In a very intense scene early in the movie, Stark returns to Avengers HQ (thanks to Danvers) and meets the team. Rogers wants Tony to recover, but they have the time travel plan and he’s also eager to move forward with it, asking Tony if he has any intel that will guide them forward.
Tony starts to offer a rambling response and Steve asks him to focus because that’s what they need. Stark fires back:
I needed you, as in past tense. That trumps what you need. It’s too late, buddy. Sorry. You know what I need? You know what I need? I need a shave. I don’t believe I ever remember telling you this…What we needed was a suit of armour around the world! Remember that? Whether it impacted our precious freedoms or not, that’s what we needed!…I said we’d lose. You said, “we’ll do that together too.” Guess what, Cap? We lost, and you weren’t there. But that’s what we do, right? Our best work after the fact? We’re the A-vengers? Not the Pre-vengers, right?
I digress a bit, but the scene is powerful and it explains why the team desperately needed Banner. Bruce did not have the knowledge of the subject that Tony possessed, but clearly Tony was done and they needed something – Banner was the next best option.
Hulk smash cut to a diner where the team meets up with Banner for the first time since Infinity War and….he’s Professor Hulk! The two sides are no longer feuding but have agreed to co-exist, with Banner bringing his intelligence and Hulk bringing his physical strength. It was delightful fan service, but also an elevation of the character because he know possessed Banner’s wit and Hulk’s confidence.
The film shows it off to us first in an interaction with some children who want Hulk’s autograph. He messes around with them, takes selfies, and even dabs. Plus there is the whole interaction with Ant-Man, who the kids don’t know but Hulk encourages them to take a pity photo with Lang.
9. Ronin – Barton’s family dies in the snap and he loses it
A prominent theory going into Endgame based on the trailers was that we see Hawkeye, sporting his usual smile and haircut, teaching his daughter to shoot, and then a new-do Hawkeye looking enraged and kicking ass. That new-do Hawkeye must be his other ego, Ronin, and this probably comes about because he loses his family in the snap.
The film opens on that confirmation. While sharing a heartfelt moment with his entire family, he turns around the discover that his daughter vanished. When he looks back to his wife to ask where she went, he discovers his wife and sons also gone in the snap.
Then Ronin snaps. He goes on a murderous rampage taking out criminals around the world, furious that they survived the snap when his family did not.
Romanoff tracks him down and brings him back to the team, enlisting his help to recover the infinity stones and reverse the snap*.
8. Hail, HYDRA – Captain America pledges new allegiance
I did not read the comic, but I do read the news. I was aware a few years ago when they revealed Captain America to be an embedded HYDRA agent and the comic world went crazy.
I also loved Winter Soldier and the iconic elevator fight.
Enter Endgame. Rogers, armed with the knowledge of everything that happened post Avengers, boards an elevator in New York to retrieve Loki’s sceptre. On the elevator is a crowd of SHIELD agents, who we all recognise as secret HYDRA operatives (including Crossbones and others from the original elevator fight).
Rather than the iconic, “Before we begin – does anyone want to get off?” of the original scene, Rogers leans forward and whispers, “Hail, HYDRA”. A team of bemused agents hand over the sceptre to their powerful friend and let him walk away without another word.
7. On Your Left – The cavalry arrives to fight Thanos
We knew the snap victims would not stay lost. At some point in Endgame, those people are all coming back onto the field and Thanos is f***ed. Storytelling demanded that and we all knew it. But how would they go about it exactly?
Perfectly, as it were. A battered Captain America* stands on the battlefield alone, staring down the full force of Thanos and his legions.
“Here it comes,” I thought, “The last stand of Captain America. They are going to kill him off right here as a catalyst to the rest of them.”
We hear a little static and then Sam’s voice, “On your left.” The recurring line from Winter Soldier where Rogers meets Wilson, and then again at the end of the film to solidify their friendship. It’s the “As you wish” of the MCU. It means, “You don’t have to worry – your support is right here.”
Indeed it was. Cap double checks his earpiece to make sure he is not imagining, then turns to his left to see a portal open and reveal Okoye, Black Panther, and Shuri. Other portals begin to open and we get one triumphant return after another – not of groggy people coming out of a stupor but of readied warriors who are here for some revenge.
Even though Thanos is standing with his own army, one cannot help but feel they are outmatched by the heroes that just appeared.
Oh, and the quick exchange between Doctor Strange (who apparently organised the party) and Wong where he asks if everyone is present and Wong responds, on behalf of Marvel Studios, “What, you wanted more?”
6. Cheeseburgers – Morgan Stark
I know, Happy telling Morgan that her dad liked cheeseburgers and he would get her all the cheeseburgers she wanted made everyone in the theatre cry, and you probably want this higher on the list. It was a tough call, and I’m pulling it back slightly because it’s not about that one moment.
I’m viewing the existence of Morgan Stark as a whole and what it represents in the film. Infinity War had a scene where Tony tells Pepper he had a dream that she was pregnant, and in Civil War when Stark pauses while talking about the state of things between he and Pepper Rogers chimes in, “Expecting?” So Marvel teased the idea of Tony having a child in the MCU at some point.
We get that upon his return from space. Tony resolves that he is done and everyone now has to find a way to move on in the post-snap universe. He settles down with Pepper. They have Morgan. He loves her 3,000. It’s perfect and exactly the life Tony eventually wanted.
Except he still feels guilt about Peter. Like other members of the team, the gnawing idea that he has not done everything possible to save him pushes him forward. It echoes his reaction to finding out about the boy they accidentally killed while fighting in Sokovia.
It comes at a price though. Tony knows upon discovering how to make the time travel work that he’s going back in time to change things, and that may not bring him back to this happy life with Pepper and Morgan. He tells Pepper specifically, “I can put a pin in this right now,” drop all the time travel research into the ocean and resume living their quiet lives.
Pepper knows he can’t though. Tony will not be at peace with that on his mind. She tells him to go do it and Tony delivers*, leaving us with that heartfelt moment between Happy and Morgan at the end of the film.
5. I Knew It! – Captain America wields Mjolnir
From the sad end of the spectrum to the positive though, the “f*** yeah!” moment of the film occurred as Thor was battling Thanos. The Mad Titan had the upper hand and things looked bleak, but then Mjolnir (recovered during the time travel back to the events of Dark World) begins to move.
(I confess, part of me thought this was Vision someone returned and marking the entrance of all the other heroes at first.)
Suddenly we see Captain America wielding Mjolnir just as Thor did, using it in conjunction with his shield, firing lightning, and unleashing punishing blows against Thanos. Thor lets out a mighty, “I knew it!” as the action unfolds, calling back to the scene in Age of Ultron where Cap moves it slightly and Thor stares in disbelief, leaving us to wonder if perhaps Captain America was worthy and simply sparing Thor’s feelings.
Besides, Thor has Stormbreaker now, so Cap is more than welcome to the tiny hammer.
4. Off with His Head – The surviving Avengers track down and kill Thanos…minutes into the film
I heard rumblings before the film that what we saw in the trailer mostly occurred within the first thirty minutes of the film. In fact, I think most of it occurs within the first ten minutes. That made sense – show too much from late in the film and what surprises are left? It’s like a comedy that puts all of the jokes in the trailer.
What I did not expect is that a team of Avengers, including Captain Marvel, would locate Thanos merely minutes into the film, confront him, and discover he’d used the gauntlet a second time to destroy the stones and remove temptation, leaving him on the brink of death himself.
It sucked the hope from the Avengers who had hoped to interrogate Thanos and find a way to undo things. No stones, no hope.
So Thor did the only thing left – he removed Thanos’ head with Stormbreaker and ends the interrogation
Now, even knowing that time travel would likely be the direction for the rest of the film, I think it’s fair to say that the reaction of most of the audience (definitely my reaction) was, “Holy s***. Did they just kill Thanos?” My mind immediately began racing to get ahead of the film – “Does this mean we are getting a new villain? Perhaps Nebula is not as reformed as we hoped and she takes up the gauntlet like in the comics. Maybe Warlock appears after all. Maybe they go back and encounter several of the villains again. What the f*** is happening!?”
Of course, then the rest of the film occurs and we know what happens (at least, you do now – I warned you this was literally a list of spoilers).
3. It’s Yours – Rogers chooses Wilson as the new Captain America
The film takes a nuanced approach with time travel, and we get a pivotal scene between Banner and the Ancient One where she explains that be removing an infinity stone from its place at one point in time, it creates branches in the flow of time that would not contain their weapon against the forces of darkness, and therefore they would be overrun by evil. That is, the time heist plan might save the reality of the post-snap beings, but it would doom everyone else.
Banner explains that they understand the branches she described, and while they cannot prevent those branches they can erase them by time travelling again and returning the stones in those time lines to the moment it was stolen, so in that flow of time they never vanished.
Got it? It doesn’t matter – if you want to know why, read this. The password is “spoilers” for that one, too.
So Endgame happens and the heroes win. Captain America becomes the responsible party for then taking the stones and returning them to avoid the crisis that the Ancient One described. Banner, Barnes, and Wilson are all present for him to take off on the journey, and Banner explains that Rogers will have all the time he needs to complete the mission, but for the three of them it will take just a moment.
Rogers disappears into the quantum realm, Banner counts a few seconds, and initiates the return. No Cap.
As they start to panic, Barnes notices and old man sitting on a bench nearby and gestures to Wilson. Sam walks over to discover an elderly Rogers who confirms that he completed the mission, but obviously decided not to time travel back. On his hand is a conspicuous wedding band, about which Sam inquires, and Steve says that he’s going to keep that story to himself.
A bittersweet Sam tells him that he’s going to miss a world without Captain America in it, which prompts Steve to pull out his shield and ask Sam to try it. Sam does and says it feels a little weird, to which Steve replies that it shouldn’t because it’s his.
It’s the moment that Steve anoints Sam Wilson as the new Captain America, which is not unprecedented. In the comics, both Sam and Bucky become Captain America and we all knew (assumed) that Steve would hand over the shield (or die) in Endgame, so a new Captain America was not a surprise.
Given the events of Winter Soldier and Civil War though, it did come as a surprise that he went with Sam Wilson over Bucky Barnes. “To the end of the line.” Sam and Steve fought loyally together, but the degree to which Steve stuck out his neck for Bucky was incredible. Surely he would be the one Steve chose.
As with the next item on the list though, this decision makes perfect sense. Steve loves them both, but in this universe Sam is the new Captain America. He stood by Bucky as his friend, but the fact is that Bucky did some stuff. That rather tarnishes the whole Captain America identity. That’s why it was so refreshing when Bucky in particular gave a confirming nod to Sam that the shield was his.
2. Widowed – Black Widow sacrifices herself to retrieve the Soul Stone
Let’s jump right to the scene. Black Widow and Hawkeye arrive in Voromir to retrieve the Soul Stone and meet Red Skull. We’ve all been here – soul for a soul, Gamora gets killed, Thanos leaves. We get it. Shut up, Red Skull.
Now we have tension because one of two things will happen. One of our heroes will die in a sacrifice to get the Soul Stone or the writers will invent some ludicrous reason why they can get the stone without a sacrifice. Marvel doesn’t do lazy. Someone has to die.
Both Black Widow and Hawkeye realise it and both resolve to be the one who sacrifices. A fight ensues. They pin one another down and grapple to gain position – eventually Barton breaks free and tries to jump. Romanoff stops him. She goes to jump. Barton uses an arrow to stop her. He actually jumps. Romanoff dives after him and catches him, leaving herself dangling from his hand.
“It’s okay,” she whispers, before kicking off and falling to her death.
Losing Black Widow is itself heartbreaking. We cared for Nat. Even worse, this scene all goes down with Hawkeye. Barton and Romanoff were fighting together long before the Avengers became a thing. They have a history and partnership that predates everyone else, and both have lost so much at this point that watching either of them say goodbye is brutal.
I learned just today that the script called for Barton to die in this scene, and it was Johansson who went to the Russo brothers and said, “Don’t you dare take this away from her.” It made sense, especially in the context of the film. Abused, brain-washed, and manipulated into a killer – all that red in her ledger. Nat’s arc has been one of trying to redeem herself since Iron Man 2, and the Avengers are her family.
Clint has a family that would come back once they reversed the snap. She was sacrificing for her family in part so that Clint could be with his. So that Lang could be with his. So that Tony would get back Peter. That was her moment, and it was sad and beautiful.
I hope we’re still getting that Black Widow solo film.
1. I Am Iron Man – Stark sacrifices himself to defeat Thanos
Originally, Thanos says “I am destiny” and Tony just snaps his fingers. They went back in re-shoots to add the iconic, “And I am Iron Man.” Full circle – 22 films and 11 years, the arc complete and Tony can, as Pepper says in her tearful goodbye, finally rest.
It’s not underselling to say that the MCU does not happen without Robert Downey, Jr. We had Spider-man movies. We had Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and so many others – none of which, for their varying levels of success, could sustain what happened on the heels of Iron Man. He sold us hard in 2008, and when Nick Fury appeared in the post credits to discuss the Avengers initiative we all signed on for this journey. No one cared about anything in particular except getting to this point. We could overlook any misstep along the way, as long as they delivered on the MCU as a whole.
I take this back to the earlier item about Doctor Strange and then the entire concept of Endgame. Every little moment had significance – things could have gone one of a million different ways at any point, but they went this way.
“Is this the one we win?” Stark asks Strange during the battle.
“If I tell you what happens, it won’t happen.”
We know every little detail of the MCU is building to a single moment, and all evidence says, “It’s going to be Tony. Strange specifically needed Stark alive for this one outcome where they win.”
Thanos retrieves the gauntlet again, this time intent on using it against everyone because the survivors refuse to let go of the past. Captain Marvel gives him a fight, and Thanos has to remove the Power Stone to shake her loose. He takes it in his other hand and throws a punch to knock her away.
Strange looks at Tony and gestures with one finger. We all know what it means. “This is it Tony. This is the one scenario where we win. You know what you have to do here.”
Stark launches himself at Thanos and grabs the gauntlet, but Thanos swats him away. He holds up the gauntlet and boasts, “I am destiny” before snapping…with no effect.
Then we see it. Stark used his tech to reverse things and now has the stones on his gauntlet. “And I am Iron Man.” Good night, Thanos.
We lose Tony as a result of the snap, and no amount of expectation quite prepares us for watching him die, watching Parker have to bear it, watching Pepper have to say goodbye, or watching Happy comfort Morgan at the funeral. They leave us with some words of comfort from Tony and the hope of seeing everyone else who survived poised to live happily, and while it’s sad to see Tony go it was a beautiful send off to this generation of the MCU and a fresh start for the next.
“An earthquake under the ocean, we handle it by not handling it,” Okoye says at one point.
Did anyone else see that as a reference to Namor the Sub-Mariner?