‘Avengers: Endgame’ Is A Love Letter To The Entire Marvel Cinematic Universe

It's a magnificent conclusion to 11 years of Marvel films.

Kevin Feige interview Marvel Cinematic Universe

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It’s hard to think of a film which has so aggressively and comprehensively hyped itself more than Avengers: Endgame.

Twenty-one films came before Endgame, and each helped craft the huge and complicated story of the MCU — and every single one of those movies helped prep us for this final chapter. Sometimes in ways we didn’t even expect until now.

Throughout each of these films, we’ve slowly been inching towards this one huge confrontation, with hints and clues and characters and story arcs foreshadowing it.

You could say that every single film in the MCU to date has been a story of the Infinity Stones and all the people who have used them for various shenanigans. I mean, you probably shouldn’t, but you could!

With all this hype and pressure, it’s almost a surprise that Avengers: Endgame actually managed to create such an epic finale, on a scale we’ve never really seen — and also achieved a hugely satisfying conclusion. Satisfying! In this economy?

But what’s really impressive is the way the film achieved this: though writing a passionate, sensitive, nostalgic, and proud love letter to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe that preceded it.

And it’s almost perfect.

*Eh, I’m spoilin’ here! Lots of spoilers! Tons!*

Timey Wimey

Obviously the main conceit of this film is to use time travel to go back and grab the Infinity Stones in the past, before Thanos could get his chunky purple mitts on them.

But before we get to this plan, we spend some time wallowing in the consequences of the snap at the end of Infinity War, a good five years after the event. It’s real gloomy yet necessary viewing, because we genuinely realise that Ant-Man’s farfetched plan to use the Quantum Realm to go back in time is literally the last hope. They would have thought of something else, otherwise.

I cannot stress how terrified I was when I discovered Endgame would be using time travel as a primary narrative mechanism — there are few storytelling devices that have as much potential for misuse. They can sometimes be overly confusing, or wildly lazy, erasing all sense of stakes and purpose.

But not this time! (lol)

Instead, we were treated to a kind of literal trip down memory lane, as our characters went back and inserted themselves into a bunch of the big events from past movies: notably the battle for New York in the first Avengers film, the beginning of the first Guardians Of The Galaxy, and back to the early days of the newly founded S.H.I.E.L.D, helmed by Peggy Carter of Agent Carter fame.

Honestly, their minds! What better way to show us the reverence and importance they still place on those early films than to give us those films again? What better way to set Endgame up as the loving ending to this chapter than to set it DURING the entire timeline of MCU films.

Nostalgia is damn powerful on its own — but when you wrap it up with an actually important narrative, it becomes so compelling.

I loved every single call back to earlier films.

Scenes, Old And New

But, Endgame doesn’t just stop there at time travel — they throw back to famous scenes from previous films too.

They’re harnessing the same wild power of nostalgia, but this time purely to give a wink to the audience. It’s not a subtle wink, it’s a big slow wink, so they make sure we don’t miss it.

A great example would be the much lauded elevator fight scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In Endgame, when Cap goes back to the aftermath of the Battle of New York in 2012 to find Loki’s sceptre, he gets on to the elevator with the same group of S.H.I.E.L.D cum HYDRA agents who he would chronologically later fight in The Winter Soldier.

It’s tense! It would mean very little to anybody who hadn’t seen The Winter Soldier, which I love.

Or how about in the final battle when Valkyrie appears on her pegasus, throwing back to one specific and beautiful scene in Thor: Ragnarok? I fucking cheered.

We gave Carly Rae a sword, they gave Valkyrie a Pegasus.

There’s plenty of echoes like this throughout the film, and it all fulfils the same function — forming a kind of moving, breathing homage to the films that helped us get here.

Say Hello To Your Celebrity Mother For Me

A big part of Endgame‘s success with this sort of strategy is that they were able to get a HUGE and SURPRISING amount of cast back.

Not only did we have just a bumper amount of main characters, but everywhere you looked there were little cameos from beloved Marvel characters throughout time and across film and TV. Some might call it fan-service, but getting to see Michelle Pfeiffer who had about four lines in Ant-Man and the Wasp standing up the back of a funeral gave me a bizarre thrill.

Or like, why did I cheer when I got to see Natalie Portman thrillingly WAKE up somewhere in Asgard? I didn’t even like Thor 2? Truly baffling.

From even seeing the Chitari horde on Earth again to Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One, we’re given a wealth of cameos. The crowd at my screening particularly loved seeing Taika Waititi’s Korg again.

But once again, this love letter is not gratuitous. Can you possibly deny the importance and heartbreaking catharsis of having Tony Stark have a nice chat with his dad in the past (while characters from the cruelly cancelled Agent Carter watch on)? Not if you know anything about Iron Man you can’t.

Or, like, genuinely can we just let the perfect ending of Captain America’s love story with Peggy Carter seep into our skin and make us feel revitalised and alive again and ready to love?

Seems like it wasn’t just Steve Rogers that was trapped in ice — it was my heart, before this happened.

A Perfect Circle

A cinematic universe the scope and size of the MCU is basically unprecedented.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Endgame is received by critics who have studiously tried to remain separated from MCU lore, and have a kind of stubborn, persistent belief that films should be able to stand alone.

Endgame not only doesn’t make a lick of sense on its own, it glories in standing on a stacked pile of 21 other films. It is absolutely the longest final episode in the world’s longest TV series.

Furthermore, it also goes off when bringing in a bunch of comic book references — probably more than I could catch — but some notable gasp moments include Captain America wielding Mjolnir, or pretending to be a HYDRA agent.

The film knows that the MCU’s foundation is the comic lore, and part of their ode includes referencing that.

Sometimes Letters Are Weird I Guess?

Statistically, a film this long has to have a couple of weird clanger moments. It’s just maths!

I so thoroughly enjoyed this film that I was probably sadder than I would normally be at the scenes that didn’t hit.

Thor’s fat-suit was a… choice, that even if we move past the ethical dubiousness of it all (surely we can agree that fatness is not short term for funny?) was absolutely a dead horse that was whipped for too long.

Thor is quite a complex character, who didn’t deserve to be treated as comic relief for the majority of this film.

It’s surprising that his scene with his mother was somehow still moving.

Although, very quickly, I gotta say it was a relief that the trademarked wit and humour of the Avengers franchise still pulled through in this film — could have been three hours of grimdark sad melodrama. Instead we get little moments of Scott Lang having his taco blown away, and it’s appreciated.

Or what about that bizarre moment in the final battle when suddenly every woman on the field spontaneously congregated for a choreographed minute of female empowerment? On the one hand, I guess misogynist trolls are such a ridiculous problem in Marvel (as evidenced from the ludicrous response to Captain Marvel) that a slightly heavy-handed show of solidarity could be appreciated?

I guess Marvel is very clearly shitting on the faces of the angry MRA pissbabies who seem so entitled to their films, and you know what, that’s a thing of beauty. Who cares if it was weird and overt, I’m here for it!

But on the other hand, this film already fought that battle simply by all of the best characters being women and kicking ass.

I cannot stress this enough: they gave Valkyrie a PEGASUS.

This Is The End

I honestly can’t believe this movie was that bitch — every chance they had to go hard and big and epic, they took. There are moments which are just insanely cool.

I can’t stop thinking about Ant-Man punching one of those big Chitari flying fish things. It was just… great. It’s what I wanted to see.

This movie was a triumph, and just had so much going against it — even as a big fan of this whole blasted franchise, I was surprised at how well they succeeded.

I was surprised that as well as the almost literal fist-pumping (I’m too dignified and repressed to express emotion in a film), I genuinely was ruined by the emotional moments. I thought I was ready for the deaths — I wasn’t.

I thought I was ready for the surprises — weirdly, they surprised me.

I thought I was ready for this chapter of the MCU to end — turns out I was a goddamn idiot. What a film.

Avengers: Endgame is in cinemas now.

Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.