More than a decade has passed since Iron Man launched Marvel’s experimental cinematic universe. Like the Harry Potter franchise, many fans have grown up with these films, and the story has reflected the passage of time, steadily maturing through the years, climaxing in Endgame, the most dramatic Avengers film yet.
The film begins with Hawkeye, a once underwhelming character, whose absence from Infinity War was resolved with a decent amount of screen time. Watching Hawkeye’s family cruelly disappear puts the Snap in a more grounded, civilian context, highlighting the horrific implication of Thanos’ actions. Tony Stark, meanwhile, has given up, accepting that he is going to die a failure, drifting through space. However, the arrival of Captain Marvel, a godlike figure, proves that he will love to help undo the mess that Thanos has left behind.
The Avengers, once reunited, head to Thanos’ “garden” which is an oddly adorable retirement plan that he created for himself. Thanos has become strangely passive now that he has accomplished his mission, and does not care whether he lives or dies. Thor, having learnt his lesson, goes for the head, leaving Thanos to die under the illusion that he was indeed the saviour of the universe.
Their combined reclamation is first suggested by Ant-Man, having emerged from the Quantum Realm due to a rat scuttling over the correct buttons. This rat is the most important character in the Marvel Universe, who returns Ant-Man at precisely the right time. Of course, time travel was often assumed as the Endgame solution - there was no other possible way to fix the catastrophe of Infinity War. However, Tony has since carved out a peaceful life for himself, as a loving husband to Pepper Potts and protective father to Morgan Stark; changing the past might mean that he must sacrifice his present. Still, his obsessive need to fix his mistakes prompts him to invent time travel, with nothing more than a vague theory from Ant-Man involving Hank’s “Pym Particles”.
Bruce Banner has greatly improved. Bruce has always been seen as the comic side-character in the Marvel franchise and his development often occurred off screen. After gaining and losing control of the Hulk, Bruce has finally found a way to balance his two opposing personalities, combining them both. Although it is an amusing new spin of the character, we see that whoever the Hulk was seems to have disappeared forever. Bruce is where the other characters need to be, having accepted his worst side, his violent, misguided past. Thor has lost more than anyone, the Snap came after the slaughter of his family and the displacement of his people. The God of Thunder withdrawals to beer and video games, which is desperately sad. However, Valkyrie’s drinking problem has evaporated having found her place in the New Asgard but Thor does not quite have a place in this small town, despite being the king. He has lost his purpose, his energy, his warrior physique.
Tony Stark may only be mortal, but his mind is shown as the most powerful in the universe. He puts Wakandian and Alien technology to disgrace. Therefore, with the door of the past now open, the team has the chance to repair what Thanos has broken. The consequences of their failures are profoundly felt, and the scale of their losses are captivated.
The Infinity Stones offer them a way to confront their past selves, literally. The rules of time travel are, as always, confusing - changing the past does not seem to affect the present, except when it does. It is a golden ticket out of the mess created. It is a way for the characters to fix what was broken without losing a thing. In addition, time travel is more than a plot device - it serves as a way to examine the history of the MCU, an emotional reflection on the journey these films have taken us. Each character reaches their own conclusion infinitely and as they delve into the past iconic scenes from the franchise are referenced and subverted, the stand out surely being Captain America’s elevator scene, where Steve reckons that faking dictatorship is preferable to a fistfight. Nevertheless, he cannot escape his old self, full of American optimism and loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D.
Sacrifice has always been what separates the Avengers from their enemies. Infinity War repeatedly highlighted that the difference between Thanos and our heroes, is a willingness to sacrifice. Thanos is happy to sacrifice anyone - his daughter, half the life in the universe, for the greater good. Nevertheless, the Avengers are perfectly willing to sacrifice themselves. This is best displayed by Hawkeye and Black Widow’s desperate battle over who gets to sacrifice their life for the universe. Natasha believes that Hawkeye should be able to see his family again who await for him in the future. Thus, Natasha's story ends heroically, but her journey has been particularly tragic, never really finding a place in the world, no family beyond the Avengers.
Tony Stark makes the most memorable sacrifice in this story. With the Infinity Stones secured, Tony is able to forge a new Infinity Gauntlet. He incorporates the ability to control the Stones inside his Iron Man suit, a feat that defines him as far superior to Thanos, who has invented nothing. Tony is the one who takes the final action to defeat Thanos, which is prompted by a cue from Doctor Strange. The raised finger signals that this is indeed the singular chance for success, and Tony does not hesitate to seize it. The Stark Snap evaporates every enemy, and Thanos sits to ponder his defeat, before becoming nothing but ash. Steve Rogers is granted a happier conclusion as he is able to fulfil his lifelong desire of settling down with his love Peggy Carter. It is a beautiful ending for an inspirational character. Thor is granted a new beginning, joining the (As)Guardians of the Galaxy. The development of the Avengers and the goal to protect the Earth from Thanos was achieved.