[Spoilers] Avengers: Endgame – 20 Great Character MomentsApril 28, 2019
[Spoilers abound! You’ve been warned. Read this article only after you’ve seen Avengers: Endgame! #DontSpoilTheEndgame]
11 years, 22 movies. We’ve followed these characters since 2008 when Tony Stark first put on the suit and declared “I am Iron Man”. At the time it was a fun superhero movie that my grade 8 teacher said she “really enjoyed, and would probably see again if they make another one”. Well Ms. Carbery, I hope you meant that, because we can safely say that there has never been anything like Avengers: Endgame in cinema history, and being a part of it feels incredibly special.
We can also safely say that every screening this weekend had that one person very loudly sobbing in the theatre. I salute you, person who forgot to bring tissues. We feel your pain.
Rather than try to get through a full on review, I’ve decided to spotlight 20 of my favourite callbacks, character moments and realizations from Endgame. From heartbreaking character arcs (the ‘big one’ is at the end of the article) to those perfect comic book moments. Yes, I’m going to yell quite a bit.
1. Hey, I’m Peter Parker
Most of us knew the folks who got dusted in the snapture would make it back, but there was still a collective sigh of relief when Spidey swung back into action during the final battle. It was heroic, it was relieving, it was magnificent. And then in the most Peter Parker way imaginable, Spidey proceeds to jump around the battlefield fighting and introducing himself to his newly met allies with his regular name. Because of course he does. He also finally gets that hug from Tony Stark and if that didn’t just break my heart…
2. We won, Mr. Stark
Yeah, I’m going straight to this too, because it HURT. From the team that brought you “Mr. Stark I don’t feel so good, I don’t want to go”, get ready for “we won Mr. Stark, we did it sir”. This was just rude honestly. An emotional attack. We were already crying, Russos, was this REALLY NECESSARY?
3. God is a Woman and Her Name is Valkyrie
Look, I don’t know where Valkyrie found a pegasus, but I also don’t care. I was so worried she was just going to be a little cameo. While she didn’t get too much screen time, it was still enough for me to cry about it later. She got her flying steed and her classic spear and she took down a Leviathan and now she’s king of Asgard. My girl got her day and I’m here for it.
4. Your Mother Never Wears Anything I Get Her
Earlier in the film Tony jokes to his daughter that Pepper never wears anything he gets her. It’s a cute little ‘married life’ joke. Until she shows up in the final battle wearing the Rescue suit he made her, and suddenly it ain’t a cute little joke anymore it’s ABOUT TO GO DOWN. The Iron Man / Rescue team up made me choke on my drink. Well played.
5. “I can do this all day”
Captain America fighting his past self was a comic book moment just waiting to happen, but this line and future Cap’s dismissal of it made it hilarious – the man is tired. Imagine running into the version of yourself from over 10 years ago? I’d be embarrassed too Cap, my fashion sense alone…
I don’t even know what to say about this moment just “yes good this is excellent do that again, but more”. The female Avengers leading a collective charge to push through the battle was incredible, and got a huge reaction from our crowd. Plus, Marvel displaying just how many women it has available on its roster right now means they better get to showcasing them a LOT more soon. We’ve seen the A-Force. We know you have the team. Let’s GO.
7. A Suit of Armour Around the World
Tony Stark is gone, but his hero legacy lives on – a suit of armour around the world, just not in the way he thought. That suit isn’t one he built from metal, it’s the Avengers, all of which are present at his funeral. And in the very back is Fury overlooking the whole scene. I cried at this moment too, because all I could think about was the first thing Nick Fury ever said to Tony Stark in 2008: “‘I am Iron Man’. You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”
Listen don’t even LOOK at me I cried through that entire funeral. The callbacks to the Iron Man films were so good, and really made sure you remembered that this isn’t just a film in its own right, but the end of an 11 year story arc that Tony was a part of from the beginning. Seeing Tony’s first arc reactor with the “proof that Tony Stark has a heart” engraving from Pepper? And having Harley Keener (the boy from Iron Man 3) there? And Happy offering Tony’s daughter cheeseburgers of all things? I’M CRYING AGAIN.
8. Localized Line?
This is just a hunch that I’m hoping some people can help me figure out. There is a line where Black Widow says something like “wait, Dr. Strange lived in New York?” and there are many replies including Tony saying “where did you think he lived, Toronto?” I’m Canadian, I saw the film in Toronto. I’m taking a guess here that this line may be different for a few regions or countries, since the shot is overhead and could easily be ADR’d to say any city. Much like how Steve’s list had some different words on it for different countries in The Winter Soldier. Either I’m right about the hunch or Toronto just got to feel veeeeeery special for that moment.
9. What Would Sam Wilson Do?
I have a lot of feelings about Sam Wilson getting the shield. Circling back to the “Five Years Later”, Steve is seen speaking to others who lost people in the snap. I teared up here, not because of the story Anthony Russo’s character tells, but because it sort of addresses a scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When Steve visits Sam Wilson at work, he says he doesn’t know what he would do if he quit the superhero life. Sam also tells him about how he lost his partner and from then on “had a really hard time finding a reason to be over there”. So when the fight is lost, and Steve’s friends are gone, and he isn’t Cap, he does the first thing he can think of. He does what Sam Wilson would do and runs a trauma support group. I wasn’t sure if they would make Sam or Bucky the next Cap, but I love the idea that Steve sees in Sam the same selfless streak that Captain America needs. Being the captain takes its toll, but he knows Sam is ready and willing to carry the shield for him.
10. Thor Trying Desperately to Recap Thor: The Dark World
Okay, I liked Thor 2, but I know a lot of folks consider it one of the uh… less memorable Marvel movies. We’ve all either had that friend or been that friend who didn’t watch it or has since forgotten it. So seeing Thor stumble through explaining the plot of that film to his friends was… strangely accurate.
11. Hail HYDRA
This was probably the most rewarding time travel moment for me, and so incredibly clever. Cap gets into the elevator with the strike team that we know is HYDRA. The Russos set us up visually to think “this is just like that Winter Soldier scene, but this time Cap is going to initiate the fight”. We’re ready for Cap to fight it out like he always does, but instead he does something even harder and whispers the Nazi code phrase “Hail HYDRA”. This was such a great bait and switch that we all had to applaud in the theatre.
Nebula gets a pretty decent arc in this one, and has come a long way from the angry henchwoman we were introduced to her as. The first moments with Nebula and Tony on the ship are incredibly wholesome and a great way to show that she was always more than her programming. Her little “I had fun” got me – I mean come on, in her entire life has anyone ever just played a game with her and admitted defeat when she won fairly? She even goes so far as to kill her past self, though I wish she got to kill Thanos instead.
13. Hawkeye Gets His Day
I’ve been a big Hawkeye fan since day one so I was so glad to see him get the screen time he deserved in this movie. My boy has been through a lot and woefully underused. Even he clearly sees himself as the expendable Avenger, volunteering for both the quantum trial run and the soul stone sacrifice. But he really does get some great moments in this film. Unfortunately it’s mainly at the expense of Natasha.
Look, they did Black Widow dirty from pretty early in the MCU. They don’t even seem to have a funeral for her here, but the way she probably sees it, Hawkeye was supposed to kill her back when they first met anyways. Instead she got the beginnings of redemption and a found family. Now she makes a sacrifice for him. Yes I’m reaching, but I have got to find a way to make this mean more, for my own peace of mind. And hopefully the peace of mind of the woman who was sitting next to me openly bawling in that moment. Sorry, girl.
14. Infinity Gauntlet Relay
In which the gauntlet becomes the hot potato and we get the coolest relay race of all time between the likes of Hawkeye, Spider-man, Black Panther, Valkyrie, Rescue and others. I also appreciate that Black Panther runs up to Hawkeye first and calls out to him, considering the last and only time these two encountered each other was on the Civil War battlefield, where Clint introduced himself by name and T’Challa let him know that he could not have cared less.
15. Whosoever Holds This Hammer, If He Be Worthy…
When I tell you the theatre absolutely exploded in cheers at this moment. Not only did we have dual-wielding Thor, but Cap wielding Mjolnir was everything, as he becomes a one man army against Thanos. He even single-handedly uses that vibranium shield shockwave combo move that he and Thor have done in the past. And then he SUMMONS LIGHTNING? Unbelievable. It also makes a certain moment in Age of Ultron even better, where Cap had tried to lift the hammer and it budged, much to Thor’s panic. Could he really not lift it at the time? Or did he realize he could and decide he didn’t want to find out what happens if he does?
16. “So, he’s an idiot.”
After Infinity War, we were all pretty pissed at Star-Lord. So it is incredibly satisfying to see him get called an idiot, punched in the face by Nebula, and kneed in the balls (twice) by Gamora. He also presumably has to spend the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie being intimidated by Thor’s presence while looking for his girlfriend who no longer remembers him. Nice.
17. Avengers Assemble
Are there even words to describe the feelings this entire scene gave us? All of our little comic book loving hearts burst the minute it all started going down. The crackle over Cap’s comms, that first portal opening up in the distance to the sound of Falcon’s “on your left”, Black Panther and Shuri and Okoye stepping through, Spidey swinging in, the Wakandans and Ravagers and Asgardians and Sorcerers, the full lineup of heroes… I know I’m just describing what happened but WHAT ELSE AM I SUPPOSED TO SAY? YOU TRY EXPLAINING THAT FEELING WITHOUT RESORTING TO JUST YELLING. AHHHHHHH!!! ANT-MAN PUNCHES A LEVIATHAN!!! AHHHHHH!!! AVENGERS!!! ASSEMBLE!!! (If you want to relive that scene over and over again here is the music “Portals” by Alan Silvestri, which plays from the moment the first portal opens until the battle starts).
If I’m not mistaken, this is also the first time we ever hear Cap say “Avengers Assemble”, as he is cut off halfway through at the end of Age of Ultron. I love that it was him against Thanos’ entire army before the cavalry breaks through. The shot of him standing alone against the dark horde was visually very reminiscent of the Valkyries shot in Thor: Ragnarok.
18. Special Guests
Including the Ancient One was an excellent addition that I hadn’t even considered. I was most surprised by the appearance of Howard Stark’s butler from the Agent Carter TV series, Edwin Jarvis (played by James D’Arcy). Despite being connected, the MCU films never truly acknowledge anything from the shows, so this was a delightful surprise.
19. “Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone”
I thought I would get tired of the callbacks to quotes from the old films but nope, still just heartbreaking. Bucky saying goodbye to Steve at the end using the same line Steve sent Bucky to World War 2 with was a lot to handle. Realizing that Bucky definitely figured out that Steve wasn’t coming back is even worse. Some Bucky/Steve shippers in my audience were really breaking down, but hey folks, it was a lovely sentiment. Bucky would absolutely want Steve to go live his life, he never even wanted him to go to war in the first place.
20. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers – I Am Iron Man vs. Avengers Assemble
Alright here it is, the big one. I’ve seen a few people who seem upset about the end of Tony and Steve’s stories. I get it, we’ve been with these characters for so long and you want a fitting end for them. But honestly, this was the most fitting end they could both have. It was set up so that one of them had to go. If it had been Steve dying rather than Tony, it just wouldn’t feel right. Tony could probably never live with himself after, never rest. And Steve dying in battle would feel like he fought his whole life just to be a weapon that meets an inevitable end.
Tony and Steve are reflections of each other, in a way. They are selfishness vs. selflessness. Now “selfish” isn’t bad here – perhaps I mean self-serving a bit more. I just mean the quality of thinking of oneself before others. Put simply, Tony’s entire MCU character arc from start to finish is about going from being a self-serving person to acting selfless. Steve’s is about being entirely selfless to learning to be more self-serving. It’s reiterated in this film, where Tony wants to be ‘selfish’ and live the quiet happy life that he has found with his family, and Steve wants to be selfless Captain America and throw himself into the fight one more time for the good of everyone. They make a compromise – they’ll go back in time, risk their lives and save the world (selfless) but they won’t alter the timeline, just bring everyone back to the future (self-serving).
And then, by the end, they fulfill this character development. Tony gets to reconcile with his father, have 5 good years with his family, redeem his past and save his friends (especially Peter Parker, whom he feels responsible for). In the end he sacrifices himself to save everyone, but it is a satisfying completion of the arc. Steve on the other hand, realizes he has a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something for himself, to go home and live a long happy life without the shield*. The ending we get is beautiful closure, even though it’s bittersweet and heartbreaking.
*I could go on an entire tangent about the old man Steve thing, but thankfully most of my thoughts are pretty much reflected in Laura Sirikul’s great article about how Steve returning at the end makes sense.