Marvel’s Endgame

Hello, and welcome. Did you catch the premier? I did, and I recommend you brush up on the following movies:

While watching all the movies is a great goal, most of us don’t have time for that. These five should get you to a good place, though. If you have time for one extra, you may check out Ant Man and Wasp, or just catch the end credits scene.

Right. Now what did I think?

Spoilers, obviously, after the break.

This movie was the payoff we had been looking for. Not for Infinity War,though (you can read my review of that movie in Part I and Part II). It is the payoff for the past ten years. It also effectively retires the front line of the Avengers, making room for new characters.

While there were some problems with the film in terms of plot – I’m still not sure exactly how the time paradox created can be resolved or if it even can be – the emotional resolution and through-lines are solid, and the banter was once more back to its own witty self.

I can discuss some of the things I didn’t like about the movie, but worked. Black Widow’s arc is one. Her relationship with Hawkeye should arguably have been better developed in past movies, instead of being sidelined into some weird obsession with the Hulk. That said, her final sacrifice, while disappointing, gave closure to her character. I won’t go deeply into that, mostly because I’m hopeful that Marvel will learn its lessons going forward. I’m not sure how long they can ride this train, but it is very obvious that there is a Phase II planned. Perhaps they’ll finally treat their female characters better. This movie showed promise in that regard, and also featured an out gay character on screen, one of the first times that has been seen to my knowledge in the MCU.

Which leads me to what Endgame did right.

Endgame is an ensemble movie, as all the Avengers movies are, but if there are main characters I would say that the two main characters are Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone. Nor should it be surprising that both of them take their bow at the end of this movie, but in very different ways.

The thing that Steve Rogers has looked for since he crawled out of the ice is family, specifically the love that he lost, and the thing that Tony Stark has looked for since he first showed up on screen is morals, specifically the ability to make a right choice because it is right, even if it fails him personally. At the beginning of the film, Tony has a family. He has everything he could want, materially. And Steve has his morals. He has compassion – he has continued to serve people in the wake of the catastrophe not by being a warrior, but by being kind. He has made himself into what the world needs him to be. They aren’t exactly where they started, by any means. But the difference in their situations is glaring.

By the end of the film, Tony has at last made a totally selfless choice. And Steve is finally at home with Peggy Carter. They have reached their final conclusions as characters – the film gives them dignity and closure, at last.

At the very end of the film, Steve Rogers passes on his mantle in the form of his shield – the symbol of Captain America and of everything he stands for. He gives it to Sam Wilson, his friend the Falcon. As Sam fits the straps around his arm, he says, “It feels like it belongs to someone else.”

Steve tells him, simply, “It doesn’t.”

The shield belongs to Sam just as much as it belongs to Steve. And there is an important subtext here – Sam Wilson is a black man in America. Steve Rogers is the golden, white vision of a hero who came from a time where black men weren’t even seen as worthy of being able to vote or share a lunch counter, much less become the symbol of their shared nation. When Sam says that the shield feels like it belongs to someone else, we can take that at face value, or we can look deeper. We can see the shield as a metaphor for the very nation that they both serve and symbolize.

Despite being the end of an epoch, Endgame felt like the beginning of something bright and new. I can only hope that, going forward, Marvel makes good on their promises.

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