It is not everyday that a movie has the chief responsibility of closing eleven years worth of character arcs, plot lines and roles. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the epic conclusion to what was dubbed the “Infinity Saga”, took more than a single deliverable film. “Endgame” is the second of two movies which were produced together, but is very different from its precursor.
This movie picks up right after the events of “Infinity War”, which ended on what was arguably the cliffhanger of the decade. As a studio, you’ve got to be immensely confident in your delivery to greenlight the plot deaths of innumerable superheroes. Each of which in this case, have a highly established IP potential. I don’t think most people could’ve resisted watching the resolution to the terrible situation that was left behind by the previous film.
Endgame’s plot has a few high level excursions. The first is the beginning of the movie where we see Tony Stark being rescued from Titan, by our deus ex machina-in-chief Captain Marvel. After his rescue, we see the remaining Avengers plan the retrieval of the Infinity Stones from Thanos, so that they may reverse the deaths of half of the Universe’s population. After capturing Thanos, they realize that he’s already destroyed the stones and that there is no way to reverse the damage that has occurred. We then see the plot jump five years into the future where a random-ass Ant-Man jumps out of the Quantum Realm he was stuck in and pitch the idea of time-travel as a solution to recovering the Infinity Stones. Tony Stark applies his “big brain” to the problem and we see our entire crew go on a time-travel heist to recover said stones. As a part of this excursion, the characters also interact with people who’ve been long dead and try to gain closure on their various emotional issues. They successfully return with the rocks and revert all their ill-effects to bring back the lost lives. On their way back, one of them has a bug in her software which causes the Thanos from the past to also pop into the future along with them. This culminates in a massive and unwieldy battle for control of the Infinity Stones. Towards the end of this battle, we see the Iron Man sacrifice his life in order to vaporize Thanos’ forces. The stones are then returned to their respective places in the past albeit with slight modifications in the timelines.
While most superhero movies have become CGI infested travesties, the precursor “Infinity War” was interesting in more ways than one. It broke a few conventions, had disproportionate focus on the villain and managed to take itself seriously enough to effectively end on the intended sorrowful note. “Endgame” marks a return to the original formula that we know and love. It has a renewed focus on the heroes, their motivations and idiosyncracies. We also see a return to form in terms of slapstick, which was amazingly off-the-mark in the previous film. There are also numerous emotional peaks, which seem to be employed in lieu of serious character development.
Thematically, the script is all about “getting things right”. The surviving members of the Avengers have a renewed focus on pulling their shit together. Unlike the previous film, we see them take the battle to the foe. They’re caught off-guard only once and that too with very little consequence. There are deliberate attempts at planning missions, instead of simply winging it. And most importantly, there is realistic acknowledgement of the risks involved.
One massive risk that the movie takes is the introduction of time travel on such a grand scale. As I’ve discussed this before, messing with the concept of time requires very careful handling. There is a chance of way too many corner cases, paradoxes, doubts, plotholes and straight-up confusion. It does get a few things right, in that it tries to select a model of time-travel it subscribes to. Often movies will setup the rules of the game by showing the audience a smaller sample of the idea before continuing with the plot. But the film already runs three hours long, so it must resort to “telling” instead of “showing”. The screenplay does offset this drab exposition by making it humorous, poking fun at “Back to the Future” and other time-travel pop culture icons. It works adequately, as the target demographic is already familiar enough with the idea. It is also likely that this laziness is intentional, as there are a bunch of glaring plotholes due to the time-travel mechanic. Some of these these are worth mentioning:
- Thanos’ daughter Nebula knows that Thanos has sacrificed his other daughter Gamora at the Soul Stone altar. Even then, she does not inform the Avengers that someone else will also need to perform a sacrifice before acquiring the Orange Soul Stone. More specifically, Black Widow & Hawkeye could’ve gone into the situation with more information than they did.
- Travelling to other planets in the past requires spaceships. But travelling between planets when going back to the future does not.
- We see the bad Nebula from the past return along with the rest of the crew. It is never explained how she manages to bring back Thanos’ ship at a later point in time. Especially given that there are no more Pym particles remaining for fuel.
- If everyone who had vanished came back as they were five years ago, why are Peter Parker’s friends still in college? Wouldn’t they have moved on, while Peter would have to resume school from where he left off?
- Steve Rogers deciding to stay back in the past and growing old is okay. But it doesn’t make sense that he should also appear on a park bench in the same timeline as that of the film. Previously in the film, it is explicitly stated that this is not how time-travel works.
Most of the above don’t break the movie and can be resolved trivially; but they do leave a bad after-taste, are signs of shoddy writing and over reliance on spectacle.
Watch “Endgame” because you need to and not because you want to. It’s a good thing they split off “Infinity War” as a prequel. Otherwise we’d have one average film, instead of a good and an average one.