The first full saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is (almost) officially over (not including Spiderman: Far From Home). With Avengers: Endgame, Disney and Marvel Studios have fulfilled the promises they first started building with the original Iron Man in 2008. Over eleven years and 22 (soon 23) films, the metanarrative of the MCU has shifted the cultural conversation and legitimacy of superhero movies to the point where once obscure characters are now among the most beloved characters in pop-culture.
Almost single-handedly, the MCU has helped alleviate the much ballyhooed “superhero fatigue” that has been talked about since Spiderman 3 came out in 2007. While it’s unclear where the superhero genre goes from here given its most celebrated current renditions of the genre are deconstructions and parodies like Logan, Deadpool, and Guardians of the Galaxy, the rabid success of perfectly sincere superhero films like Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Venom suggest this genre may be here to stay for a while longer.
So what of Avengers: Endgame? As of this moment, the box office gross has surpassed James Cameron’s Titanic as the second highest grossing film of all time and it’s possible by the end of it’s run, it may very well cross the threshold of surpassing Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time if this perpetual international hype train continues. That would be an incredible achievement for any film, let alone one that has had a decade of buildup to it.
The more interesting questions coming out of seeing the film two weeks ago are ultimately more questions of quality and the future. As the concluding chapter for what Marvel is now calling The Infinity Saga, what does this movie do for its characters? Does it do justice to all of its enormous cast of superheroes? Where does the series go from here now that three major heroes have officially died or retired? Here at Geeks Under Grace, six of our writers have sat down together to offer our opinions on the state of the MCU, its characters, and its future.
1. Did you like Avengers: Endgame?
Tyler – I provided GUG’s Avengers: Endgame review. Overall I’d say it was fun, but it’s also bloated, exhausting, and boring for long stretches. It lacks a constant narrative foundation to put its themes into and mostly lets the story arcs function via wheel spinning. That said, I didn’t hate it, and I’m happy if you enjoyed it!
Kyle – Yes.
Andrew F. – I loved Avengers Endgame. The most I see a movie in theaters is three times before getting sick of it, and I have seen it three times in its first week. Also, I would gladly see it a fourth time.
Andrew B. – Yes, but the longer I thought about it, I had a few objections. Overall, it’s a great end to the first 11 years of the MCU.
Derek – My heart loved it, but my head was much less impressed.
Tyrone: The simple answer: Yes. The Complicated answer: I honestly think Infinity War was a better movie overall, but this was certainly more emotionally satisfying. Actually, maybe Infinity War was greater in that regard as well…
2. What do you think about the deaths of Iron Man and Black Widow, as well as Steve Roger’s retirement at the end of the film?
Tyler – The death of Black Widow was underwhelming and didn’t feel necessary to the grand story beyond the convenience of addressing the previous film’s rules for retrieving the soul stone. It feels like it’s paying for a stronger relationship beat between her and Barton, but it also doesn’t feel like it is. Iron Man’s death mostly feels earned. At the very least, it feels like the logical place for his character to depart the MCU killing off the one enemy he spent years preparing for with a weapon only he could’ve created. I’m fine with Steve Roger’s departing on the terms he did. That final shot really plays off Captain America: First Avenger in the most cinematically pleasing way. Really it’s kind of weird how shy the movie was around death though. I thought Hulk, Hawkeye, or Thor would have their heads on the chopping blocks too.
Kyle – They were all given a fitting end. Rogers’ was particularly powerful, as one of the early struggles we’re introduced to in the Avengers saga is Cap being separated from his time. Seeing him get to make that right was a great way to bring closure to the story.
Andrew F. – Of all the people to die to defeat Thanos, none were more fit to do it than Tony. His decade long character arc has been about him trying to be a better man after seeing what his life had done to others, to build a better legacy. This drove him to obsession, never stopping to consider what this was doing to his relationships outside of hero work. He can never rest because he wants the world to remember his warmongering is not who he is. He can never rest while people are being terrorized by those who wish to exploit them. Thanos is there to murder billions of people; Tony can’t stand by and let it happen. He NEEDS to stop him and he was finally willing to die to ensure Thanos doesn’t win. Black Widow’s arc has been about making up for her past life. She has red in her ledger and she wants it gone. Now that she has a chance to prevent Hawkeye from throwing his life away for the stone, she can finally pay him back for what he did for her so many years ago. Her red is finally wiped out. Cap deserves his retirement. He has been serving others since he became Captain America, and has asked nothing in return. Now that he sees a chance to finally rest, he takes it. He can finally be happy.
Andrew B. – I was surprised that Tony, not Steve, died. I loved that his last words were the last line from the first Iron Man movie. I thought Black Widow got fridged a bit. I thought she should have lived over Hawkeye.
Derek – I never liked Iron Man, but this was RDJ’s best work and a proper send off. I think Captain America’s ending was fitting, except… see next line. Black Widow never got her own movie within the current times; that’s a bit frustrating particularly since she is the only original female Avenger. I liked the character and thought she deserved more.
Tyrone – I went into this movie with almost complete certainty Cap was going to die and significant confidence Iron Man would follow suit. It seems we all had our expectations thrown on their heads.
Once the plot for retrieving the stones from the past was established, we were all right to expect someone would have to lose their life again for the Soul Stone. Just didn’t expect that. In all honestly, Clint had a LOT more to lose than Natasha, so the outcome, however tragic, was the best outcome.
3. There are a ton of controversial decisions made in the movie. The only solution to undoing “the snap” involved a time travel heist…were you ok with it?
Tyler – It feels like the time travel solution is either cliche or underdeveloped. If they really wanted to do a “clip show” movie, as some have described it, I don’t know why they specifically chose scenes from Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, and the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy specifically. Short of that, if we MUST do a time travel movie, I’d have preferred it if it gave the characters more moments of self-reflection and growth.
Kyle – It was obvious at the end of Infinity War time travel was going to be the only solution. If there was a mistake made here, it was made many movies ago by writing themselves into this corner. So I didn’t have a huge problem with the way Endgame, in particular, handled it, though I’m not a fan of that kind of thing to begin with.
Andrew F. – I wasn’t a fan of time travel being the solution only because I read about it somewhere online a couple of years before the film was released. If it was a total surprise, I would have been totally cool with it. Now that this proverbial Pandora’s Box is open, I hope they don’t abuse it for convenience sake. Whenever something like this comes up, whether it’s a method of resurrection like in Naruto or time travel, a way for something permanent to be undone, it gets abused later on almost every time. If it is used sparingly, I am okay with it existing in this universe.
Andrew B. – Yes.
Derek – Time travel is always problematic, and now it’s a permanent possibility, which is annoying. They could have done something with the Soul Stone instead, or even alternate realities (but not the time travel variety). The movie acts like Cap’s ending is in the standard timeline which breaks the movie’s own rules; while the directors have since said he lived out his life in an alternate reality, I honestly think their answer is a retroactive “oh, crap, we screwed up, let’s just say this happened.” If he had come back on the platform in the suit, old, I would have bought it. Time travel needs to be permanently deleted from science fiction.
Tyrone – Friends of mine walked out of Infinity War with the words “time travel” already on their lips, so I just settled that into my expectations. Of course, there was the looming threat this would simply undermine the impact Infinity War had. Thankfully, the writers were smart enough to have the opening focus on everyone doing what they can to make do with half of all life being destroyed. A short-lived remedy, but a welcome one all the same. At the same time, it really does complicate a lot of things. The mechanics of the film establish the idea the future cannot be changed, only alternate timelines can be produced. When the idea to bring the interconnected web of comics to the silver screen was suggested, I was hoping they’d avoid the grotesque complications of multiple plots and overlapping timelines that have marred that medium. We’ll see how that goes…
4. Are you okay with Fat Thor?
Tyler – It’s a good joke about Thor, but it also feels so utterly depressing after seeing Thor’s rise to Godhood in Ragnarok and Infinity War. I love the idea of one character on the team going into denial and self-indulgence to cure his depression, but it really should’ve resolved by the end of the film. I don’t wanna see this Thor in Guardians of the Galaxy 3…
Kyle – Thor provided some much-needed comic relief throughout a very long, very intense movie. Thor has been an interesting character in that they’ve actually changed him from film to film, and I thought this was a fun way to add some more dynamism to his character.
Andrew F. – Fat Thor is great. It clearly symbolizes what has been on his mind the past five years. His mind is weighed down by his choice to not immediately kill Thanos the first time. When he does the second time they meet, he kills him out of pure rage. Knowing he could have prevented their loss the first time, and no longer having the chance to make up for it has been eating at him. Now all he can do is wallow in his regret and self-hatred. He doesn’t see any way to redeem himself. He is haunted and no longer believes he deserves to live. Only after finding out he is still worthy does he see he can be who he was once more.
Andrew B. – Yes, but it would have been nice to see some redemption for him in terms of an arc. Just a scene or two where he gets out of his rut or accepts his new physique so it seemed less like he was the fat joke.
Derek – For one movie, yes. Forever, no.
Tyrone – There are so many dimensions as to why this was one of the more satisfactory choices in the film. It made sense with his character, considering he felt like a total failure in not “going for the head.” It was laugh out loud funny and completely unexpected. I, for one, was glad they didn’t just undo that once he got back his weapons and power. I was half-expecting that. Subverted expectations are fairly abundant here, aren’t they? The more important question is whether or not Thor is going to be a standard supporting character in the Guardians movies now. With Valkyrie now operating as the de facto queen of New Asgard, what’s Thor’s agenda going to be like?
5. Are you okay with Professor Hulk?
Tyler – Good idea in concept! I’m not sure what he actually accomplishes within the body of the film itself. There is immense power to the idea of a Hulk that isn’t shunned and feared by society, but his role ends up being mostly a background role. It would’ve been nice to see Banner go through the development it took to get to this point in the five-year time jump.
Kyle – He was fine, though Hulk has always confused me a little throughout the films. He’s probably one of the lesser developed, not least because he never had his own film (aside from the Norton one, which may as well not be included in the MCU).
Andrew F. – Professor Hulk was pretty shortchanged in the grand scheme of the movie. After explaining he spent 18 months figuring out how he can have the best of both worlds, I was like okay. The movie is long enough as it is, it didn’t need to slow its pace to show him doing that stuff. If we had a short film about it on the Blu-ray, that would be cool.
Andrew B. – Yes, but I was disappointed he didn’t get to smash as well.
Derek – Not without more character development. Ruffalo has done a great job with minimal and subpar material, and Ruffalo Hulk deserves his own movie.
Tyrone – A major thread to Banner’s character arc is “making peace with himself.” His eventually figuring out a way to unite the Hulk’s strength and power with his healthy wit, intellect, and mannerisms is a sensible resolution. I was rather disappointed we really didn’t get an answer as to why Hulk refused to emerge in Infinity War last year unless I missed something there. But hey, now that the character is pretty much all CGI from here on, Ruffalo can have his go at the character for a while longer without concerns about aging and what have you. That should be fun.
6. Are you okay with Hawkeye becoming a vigilante?
Tyler – Again, like Thor, I think Hawkeye going full nihilist rogue vigilante is an interesting idea in concept. This mostly works in contrast to the amazing character work Joss Whedon did for him in Age of Ultron, which set him apart as the most “normal” and well-balanced member of the team. Seeing the bottom fall out on his life is interesting. I’m just not sure he earns his “redemption” by the end of the story. Come to think of it, the Russos have been kind of misinterpreting his character since Civil War. They don’t seem to respect the character’s “normalcy,” and just pump up his pulpier character traits and powers.
Kyle – Sure? The big problem with these mashup films is you don’t get much time with any one character. So they couldn’t develop that much. It’s hard to evaluate how well they treated the character when you see one scene with him being a vigilante and that’s it.
Andrew F. – Hawkeye has always been cool, but nobody believed it until the moment he beats the crap out of a Yakuza gang by himself. He is enraged that his family who is innocent was taken, but the criminals lived. He sees a slight against everyone and it needed to be corrected. It definitely showed how much he cared for others. He was willing to kill other people so the innocent could sleep soundly.
Andrew B. – Yes, but see my comment on Black Widow’s death.
Derek – At this point, I just really didn’t care about Hawkeye and thought he took too much time in the film. They also acted like he and Black Widow were lovers when he’s married and she had a whole multi-movie arc with Hulk. Can we please not act like the women in the OG Avengers can just be passed around?
Tyrone – I wasn’t the only one waiting for the “Ronin” persona to make an appearance in the MCU, and this was a welcome choice. Everyone handles the grief of “the snap” in radically different ways, not only because of personality differences, but also because everyone had something different to lose. Clint going rogue like that was a nice touch, however briefly we got to see it. I’m sure it’ll resurface in Disney’s further projects. Speaking of which…
7. We know Disney+ is going to feature a Falcon and Winter Soldier TV show in 2020. What are your thoughts on the Captain America title swap to Sam Wilson?
Tyler – I’m happy they’re transitioning the Captain America title like we all assumed they would. Given that Sam Wilson is more developed than Bucky at this point, I think he’s probably the better fit for the title. That said, I’m nervous about where they will take this. Obviously giving the title of America’s best man to a person of color in 2019 (2023 in the movie?) is imbued with enormous weight and meaning! Still, I’m curious as to what they’re actually going to do with this. If they’re going to borrow material from the controversial Nick Spencer (“Hail Hydra”) storylines where Sam Wilson is Captain America, they could very well be opening up a can of worms. I’m excited about this, but I’m not excited about it if the discussion goes belly up immediately. I just hope they pick the right storylines for this.
Kyle – It was a fine way to pass off the shield. I had kinda hoped Bucky would get it, but Falcon makes sense too.
Andrew F. – Sam getting the shield and becoming Cap felt like a natural evolution for Sam and his character. Bucky knows he shouldn’t be the one since he spent so much time being a terrorist. Steve wouldn’t have given him the shield if he didn’t think he wasn’t worthy.
Andrew B. – It ties it back to the comics, and I liked it.
Derek – I knew enough about the comics to know it was coming. Their relationship has hardly been developed at all since Winter Soldier; it fell flat because of that.
Tyrone – The Disney+ thing is the real central locus of consideration of the one overriding question: “What now?” I’m especially miffed about the cancellation of the stellar Marvel/Netflix shows. It seems my ire will not be settled anytime soon, as the Netflix lawyers have prohibited Disney from doing anything related to the Defenders characters for several years or until they buy back the rights. Bummer. To answer the question, I’m quite stoked for it. Both Falcon and Bucky have taken on the mantle of “Capt. America” at one point or another in the comics, but it’s Falcon’s image that has been taking the center stage lately. My only major question is whether or not Sam will take the Super Soldier serum or something like it. At present, he’s just a guy with a jetpack and a cool shield. That’s not gonna cut it.
8. What was your favorite/least favorite aspect of the film?
Tyler – I love a lot of the moments in this film. I like that it gives us the definitive fates of several characters and sets up new interesting stories for future films. The Steve Rogers Mjolnir moment was wonderful (even though I’m not sure why the movie arbitrarily decided he’s worthy NOW). Stuff like that and the final character beats were great! My least favorite aspect was just the general plot. I’d hoped for a more concise, thematically tight conclusion to the saga and the resulting film was too messy for me. Granted, I think the worst cast element ends up being Thanos. There’s a grain of an idea that the empathetic Thanos of the previous movie was just the sadistic, selfish monster presented here all along when his ideas were revealed incorrect. Still, it ends up feeling cheap watching 2014 Thanos without the history of his predecessor waltz into the story for the obligatory final battle. Also, why not bring in 2012 Thanos too since he was probably watching the Battle of New York from his pedestal?
Kyle – The very best thing about the film is in its sweeping cinematic achievement of tying together 20+ films in one epic battle scene. That’s never been done before, and I don’t think it will ever be done again. The worst part was the cringey “girl power” nod during the fight that came off more as patronizing than authentic diversity.
Andrew F. – My favorite part is when Thanos beats Cap and then you hear “Cap, on your left” as everyone comes through the portals and he finally says “Avengers Assemble!” It gives me chills every time. My least favorite part is everyone complaining about the time travel not making sense. It all makes sense if you think about it enough.
Andrew B. – My favorite was the jaw-dropping spectacle of the last battle. My least favorite was that some characters didn’t get an arc in lieu of Tony and Steve getting their final outing as Iron Man and Captain America.
Derek – I am shocked to say it, but Iron Man was my favorite part. If the Oscars would quit being an anti-popularity contest, he deserves one for this movie. He played just about every angle – angry, defeated, emaciated hero, loving father and husband, and a true, sacrificial Avenger – he nailed the entire movie. My least favorite was the time travel, of course.
Tyrone – My favorite aspect can also be considered my least favorite aspect. This was the ultimate culmination of everything the previous 21 films were leading up to. This movie literally WAS the MCU in its entirety. From the glorified clip show to the massive reunion at the end, this was our reward to sticking it out all this time. This was also the reason why this singular movie had some significant weaknesses. So many characters can make things bloated and indulgent at times. That may not be a problem for viewing, but it may be for the film. We can’t all be The Return of the King.
9. Are you done/tired with the MCU at this point, or are you excited for more movies?
Tyler – Avengers: Endgame to me sits at the position of being one of the “exhausting” MCU films. Much like Spiderman: Homecoming and Captain America: Civil War for me, it’s not bad, but it’s laid out in an emotionally unfulfilling way that makes me not want to watch more of these movies. I didn’t exit Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 exhausted. I was deeply emotionally impacted and wanted to see the third film immediately. It really just depends on what you’re going into these movies asking for. As such, I don’t know if I’m done with comic book movies, but I’m done with superheroes for the next few months at least. If the MCU wants to continue, it needs to boldly announce its plan for a new continuing overarching story sooner rather than later.
Kyle – I couldn’t see myself sitting out of Guardians 3 or some of my other favorites in the franchise, but I don’t see where they can go from here. If the franchise declines after this, we’ll still have an amazing universe the filmmakers created.
Andrew F. – I’m excited for more, but I doubt they can build this much excitement for the next huge event they have planned again. I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong, since Kevin knows what he’s doing.
Andrew B. – I might stop going opening week/end, but I’ll always Make Mine Marvel.
Derek – I would be more excited if I had enjoyed Captain Marvel more. I don’t mind Brie Larson’s feminism or politics, and I liked certain aspects of the script (world-building, female superhero that doesn’t depend on a man, unlike Wonder Woman), but she just wasn’t that good of an actress in these two movies. The character is also way too powerful. I’m not sure how psyched I am for the next “supergroup” Avengers movie, but I’m definitely excited for Asgardians of the Galaxy (GotG 3).
Tyrone – Superhero fatigue at this point is quite understandable as well as relatable. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks hearing many voices say they’re ready to move on from the MCU. It’s largely not so much an attitude of being fed up, but more to say “I’ve had my fill.” I’m largely in the same camp there for now. The story has been told. The threads have been tied. With that said, the question of what Marvel and Disney are going to do with themselves is far more interesting than the answers we’ve gotten so far.
10. Marvel currently has nine more movie slots set between 2020-2022, not including Spiderman: Far From Home. None of these films have been officially announced. What are your most/least anticipated upcoming MCU films based on what we know they’re planning to release?
Tyler – Well, we know for sure Black Widow, The Eternals, and Shang-Chi (the first Asian led MCU film) are currently being cast, which means they’re in preproduction. Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Doctor Strange 2, Captain Marvel 2, and Black Panther 2 will definitely be shooting likely for 2021 and 2022. Deadpool is definitely going to get rushed into production. A third Ant-Man film about time travel seems more than likely. That still leaves a huge number of possible films like Fantastic Four, X-Men, Silver Surfer, and Thor 4, with any future team up films undetermined. What I want are more cosmic films that explore the insane, contradictory world of the MCU from the perspective of the various alien species we’ve been introduced to. Maybe we could get a good Guardians 3000, Star Jammers, Kree-Skrull War, Galactus, or Secret Wars movie!
Kyle – Guardians 3, Dr. Strange 2.
Andrew F. – My excitement isn’t for what we know, but for what is unknown. I would love The Defenders to return in a couple of years once the Netflix contract runs out. Give us Daredevil S4 you cowards! My least favorite thing about what we don’t know yet is we have to wait to find out how they will top The Infinity Saga.
Andrew B. – Spider-man is most, partly because it’s next and this year, and will hopefully answer a few more Endgame questions. Least would probably be Eternals, because I know nothing about them and it’s not Kung-fu like Shang-Chi sounds like.
Derek – See above. GotG3 is pretty much the only hype I have at the moment. Not looking forward to five more Captain Marvel-involved movies (As I typed this, my daughter just handed me a Captain Marvel Happy Meal toy from McDonald’s. There is no escape).
Tyrone – Okay, so now that James Gunn has been rehired after that stupid fiasco, what degree of quiet resentment and/or passive aggression he’ll bring to the director’s chair for Guardians 3 will be an interesting reveal. I’ve also heard Ghost Rider might be coming back to the big screen, so I hope it’s not terrible this time. When is Moon Knight gonna get a movie? That’s what I need right now. I’m so-so about what Disney plans to do with the X-Men, though. Fox did an outstanding job with Logan, and I was actually intrigued by the New Mutants pitch. Again, the questions surrounding the future of the MCU are more interesting than the answers right now.