‘Avengers: Endgame’ review: So bittersweet, but emotionally satisfying

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post, at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Avengers: Endgame review in a nutshell

An emotional, satisfying conclusion full of fan service to the 1st 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Infinity Saga.

Click here or scroll below for where to watch Avengers: Endgame.

Movie synopsis

The remaining Avengers who were left behind after Thanos snapped half the universe out of existence figure out a way to defeat him once and for all in this grand finale to the 22-film Infinity Saga.

Avengers: Endgame review/recap (with ALL THE SPOILERS)

I recap THE ENTIRE MOVIE with some personal commentary. You’ve been warned!

Avengers: Endgame ends so bittersweetly and fittingly for the finale of a saga. Some Avengers die, some stay dead, some “come back” in different ways, many long-gone characters reappear. My heart pangs for the end of this Infinity Stones storyline that we’ve lived with for so many years, and the original six Avengers together.

Avengers: Endgame review | Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame

The movie dives right into it, first showing what happened to Clint and his family during the Snap, and then three weeks after the Snap. Captain Marvel, who met Cap and gang in the end credits of Captain Marvel, rescues Tony and Nebula drifting in outer space; but back on earth, Tony gets mad at Cap for going against his suggestion of a worldwide defense system in Avengers: Age of Ultron and rages until he faints from exhaustion. The remaining Avengers — minus Clint, Scott Lang and Tony — track down Thanos and kill him. But it’s too late — he’s destroyed the Infinity Stones and there’s no way to undo his actions.

This was the Age of Ultron argument Tony was referring to in his tirade against Cap. Cap said they would face the threats of extinction together and Tony said they’d lose. And Cap said “Then we’ll do that together too.” Which of course they didn’t, since everyone was scattered after the events of Civil War.

“I said ‘we’ll lose’. You said ‘we’ll do that together too’. Well guess what Cap. We lost. And you weren’t there.” ?

Cut to Five. Years. Later. With. The. Words. Taking. Forever. To. Appear. (Probably as a visual symbol of how long these years have felt to the survivors.)

Ken Jeong — who used to be on Community, which Anthony and Joe Russo directed episodes of — cameos as a security guard in a storage facility where Scott Lang’s quantum ice-cream van(?) has been parked. A mouse runs over some buttons, and poof! He’s expelled from the quantum realm where it’s been only five *hours* since he went in there. He goes out into the world, is shocked at what he sees, and desperately looks for his daughter Cassie, who miraculously survived the Snap, and is a full-grown teenager now. (No word on his ex-wife though…)

Cap heads a support group for survivors trying to move on with their lives. (Director Joe Russo has a cameo, just like he did in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War!) In the meantime, Natasha is back at headquarters con-calling the other Avengers scattered across the galaxy, trying to do what the Avengers used to do — spot threats and vanquish them. Captain Marvel gives notice that she’ll be away for most of the movie cause she’s tending to the rest of the galaxy which also suffered from Thanos’ Snap.

Nat receives word from Rhodey that Clint has been going around being a ruthless vigilante. She’s obviously upset about it, but told Rhodey to leave him be, and when Rhodey hangs up the con-call, barely has time to be miserable before Cap shows up and she puts on a brave face for him again. (This is when Cap says: “Some people move on. But not us.”)

Scott shows up at the front gate, to Cap and Nat’s huge surprise. He explains the quantum realm to them (kind of, he’s not great at it), which apparently gives people the ability to travel back in time for plot purposes. So who has the ability to help them use the quantum realm as a time machine?

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man showing up at the front gate of the Avengers compound after years of absence
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man showing up at the front gate of the Avengers compound in Avengers: Endgame

Cut to Tony, who now has a daughter with Pepper and is living a quiet life by a lake. Cap, Nat and Scott show up at his house and propose their idea of going back in time to retrieve the Infinity Stones. Tony refuses, because it is risky and impossible and he has much more to lose now. But at night, he looks at a picture of him with Peter Parker whom he couldn’t save, and he plays around with an idea. To his surprise, it works! (Which he shows exaggeratedly, or no one will know otherwise, cause he’s using hand-wavy science.)

Meanwhile, after being turned down, Cap, Nat and Scott go to find Bruce, who has found a way to merge with the Hulk for a “perfect”(ly creepy) combination of brains and brawn. He’s unsure that he can make this quantum time travel thing possible, and for good reason, because Scott undergoes some alarming but hilarious transformations as their guinea pig. Cap is disheartened, but at this very moment, Tony drives up to the Avengers compound, and tells him all is forgiven, he has figured it out, and asks if they’re putting together a team. Cap says they’re working on it.

Rhodey, Nebula and Rocket arrive from parts unknown (giving Scott a shock as they touch down on the lawn). Bruce and Rocket travel to some small isolated hamlet (in Norway?) where the remaining Asgardians are living now, including Valkyrie. (Still no explanation for how these people got off the ship before Thanos came and slaughtered them at the start of Infinity War. Nevertheless, I’m glad to see they’re alive!)

They came to find Thor, who’s been guilt-ridden for the past five years for not killing Thanos properly before he turned half the universe into dust, and has let himself go completely. And by let himself go, I mean grown fat, with a HUGE pot belly from the enormous amounts of beer he’s been chugging. (This was one of the biggest surprises in the movie — or ever — and the furthest cry from the literal god he was in Infinity War!) He has lost all motivation, and is only enticed to go with Bruce and Rocket by the prospect of beer on the ship home.

Thor being a literal GOD in Infinity War

Thor being, um, whatever the opposite of a god is in Endgame

Nat goes to Tokyo to bring back Clint, who has been assassinating all the baddies of the underworld in the past five years in a twisted form of vengeance for the fact that these people got to live while his family didn’t. Nat and Clint were really close in the first Avengers, but we saw less of that in the subsequent movies, so I’m glad to see their relationship at the forefront again!

Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye)
Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye) in Avengers: Endgame

Clint takes one of the Pym particles for a test drive, and successfully travels into the past. The Avengers then go over the specifics of the “Time Heist” — what are the Infinity Stones, and when to find them. It gets a little complicated, but in the end, Cap, Tony, Scott and Bruce go back to the Battle of New York in 2012 (during The Avengers) when the Mind, Space and Time Stones were in New York; Thor and Rocket travel to Asgard in 2013 (during the events of Thor: The Dark World) for the Reality Stone; Rhodey and Nebula to Morag in 2014 for the Power Stone (re: the opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy), and Nat and Clint go to Vormir for the Soul Stone in 2014.

This is the part in the Endgame trailer where the remaining Avengers walk out to the Quantum Time Machine platform. The filmmakers carefully left out fat Thor and Bruce/Hulk so as not to spoil the surprise!
This is the part in the Endgame trailer where the remaining Avengers walk out with their new costumes. The filmmakers carefully left out fat Thor and Bruce/Hulk so as not to spoil the surprise.

Cap, Tony, Scott and Bruce in The Battle of New York in 2012

It was fun seeing all the events in the past from a different perspective. We see what happened after the scene of all the Avengers facing a defeated Loki in Stark Tower (hey Loki, we meet again!)

Basically this scene from another angle.

Basically, the STRIKE team in Captain America: The Winter Soldier — revealed in that movie to be HYDRA operatives — came to do cleanup and they took the Mind Stone with them. (More familiar faces!) Cap intercepts them when they’re in the lift down, and they’re suspicious, because they thought Cap was with the other Avengers. I really thought they were about to reenact the elevator fight scene in Winter Soldier. The framing of the scene was almost exactly the same! But then Cap turns to Agent Sitwell and whispers the magic words: “Hail HYDRA”. And they let him go without a word! ?

Elevator fight scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Elevator fight averted in Avengers: Endgame ?

Tony and gang from 2012 are intercepted at the lobby by — another surprise return! — Alexander Pierce (the World Security Council Secretary and master villain in Winter Soldier) and his men, who try to take custody of Loki and the Tesseract. Scott goes into 2012 Tony’s arc reactor and causes him to have a seizure, which provides distraction for Present/Future Tony to steal the briefcase with the Tesseract. Unfortunately, Present/Future Tony is knocked down by a disgruntled 2012 Hulk who had been forced to take the stairs down, and he loses hold of the briefcase. The Tesseract flies out, right by an unguarded Loki’s feet, and Loki seizes the chance to pick it up and disappear. Oops.

Of course, it has to be at this moment that Present/Future Cap meets 2012 Cap, who thinks he’s Loki in disguise, and they fight. Present/Future Cap only manages to win by distracting 2012 Cap with “Bucky is alive” and knocks him out with the Mind Stone. (2012 Cap’s costume may be my least favourite, but it sure shows off “America’s ass”!)

Meanwhile, Bruce meets Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One (hi again!), who is very reluctant to give him the Time Stone based only on a promise to bring it back, for fear of creating alternate, terrible realities if the Avengers are defeated and never get to return the Stone. (At least from what I can gather. This whole time travel business still makes me very confused.) Until she finds out that Doctor Strange gave up the Time Stone to Thanos voluntarily. Then she realises that Doctor Strange must have seen some possibility in this future and she gives it to Bruce without further argument.

Now that they’ve lost the Tesseract, Cap and Tony have to go further back in time to where they can get it and more Pym particles (because they only had enough for one round trip). That apparently was 1970 at SHIELD headquarters in Camp Lehigh. (They managed to squeeze in a cameo with Stan Lee! I wonder how many more of such there is. I wish he could have seen Endgame. ?)

They’re successful in obtaining the Tesseract and Pym particles, but not before Tony meets his father Howard Stark (a few weeks before baby Tony entered his life) and gets to tell him some things that he wished he had the chance to. Cap also sees Peggy (then Director of SHIELD) from behind a window, and looks at her with longing in his eyes. (Yvette Nicole Brown, another Community alum, also cameos! Now half of the Community study group have cameo-ed in a Marvel movie. Danny Pudi did it in Winter Soldier and Donald Glover was Miles Morales’ uncle Aaron Davis in Spider-Man: Homecoming.)

Thor and Rocket in Asgard in 2013

Meanwhile, Thor and Rocket are in Asgard on the fateful day when his mother Frigga was killed. We also see a brief glimpse of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman making a brief appearance to close out her chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe… or maybe not, since she’s coming back in Thor: Love and Thunder). Thor being depressed, fat and slovenly is prone to panic attacks and self-worth issues, and is pretty much useless in this trip to the past to get the Reality Stone. Rocket did all the legwork.

However, Thor did get a final heart-to-heart talk and goodbye with his mother — one he didn’t get in Thor: The Dark World. He also summons Mjolnir — which if you recall, was shattered in Thor: Ragnarok by his evil sister Hela — to see if he’s still worthy, and brings it back into the future with him.

Clint and Nat in Vormir in 2014

Having seen Infinity War, you can guess what must happen in Vormir to get the Soul Stone. Why didn’t Nebula warn them that someone was going to have to be sacrificed? Both Clint and Nat vie to be the one to die to spare the other, but in the end Nat won. ? “Whatever it takes.”

(So I suppose the upcoming Black Widow movie is a trip into the past then. Clint made another reference to Budapest on the way to Vormir. Maybe we’ll get to see it in this movie?)

Clint and Nat’s “Budapest” reference in The Avengers

Rhodey and Nebula in Morag in 2014

Rhodey and Nebula wait for Peter Quill to come/dance along and then knock him out. (There’s a lot of knocking people out in this movie.) But this trip into the past comes with the most complications, because for plot purposes, Past Nebula and Present/Future Nebula’s “network” is linked, which alerts 2014 Thanos (and Gamora, we meet again!) to their presence. What’s more, Thanos can see all of Present/Future Nebula’s memories through this very convenient networking plot device. So once more, Thanos becomes the major threat.

Rhodey travels back to the future with the Power Stone, but Present/Future Nebula’s wires are crossed and she realises Thanos knows their whole plan. Unfortunately, she’s unable to warn the other Avengers before she’s captured by Past Nebula — one still loyal to and desperate for Thanos’ approval — who impersonates her and travels back into the future.

Back to the future

Everyone reappears at the quantum machine platform, only to find out they’ve lost Nat. (And with a spy in their midst, but they don’t know it yet.) They grieve, and though Thor voices out what the audience must be thinking — that with all the Infinity Stones, surely they can bring Nat back — for plot purposes, Nat is gone for good, because the Red Skull said so on Vormir. (Don’t ask me why: I don’t understand this time travel/Infinity Stones business either.)

Cap tears up over Nat's death
This is the part where Cap tears up in the trailer ?

So with all the Infinity Stones, and a gauntlet that Tony, Bruce and Rocket have made, Bruce is elected to wear it, because it’s so full of gamma radiation that everyone else will die. Bruce barely survives it, but he does, and *Snap!* Birds start singing, text messages start arriving, and Clint receives a call from his wife Laura (on a mobile plan that’s still active after 5 years??? ?). IT WORKED!

But KABOOM! This moment of victory is short-lived, because Past Nebula the spy has been fiddling with the quantum machine and brought 2014 Thanos’ ship to the present/future! In the next second, everything explodes into fire and rubble as Thanos’ ship rains missiles down on the Avengers compound and destroys it completely. He then sits in the middle of the destruction and waits for Past Nebula to bring him the new Infinity Gauntlet, and for challengers to appear.

Rhodey, Rocket and Hulk are trapped deep beneath the wreckage and near drowning, but Scott is there too, so they’ll be fine.

Clint lands in a pipe shaft along with the Gauntlet. Seconds later, he’s chased by a whole bunch of Thanos’ monsters, so off he goes.

Hawkeye escaping from Thanos' horde of creatures in Avengers: Endgame
Hawkeye escaping from Thanos’ horde of creatures in Avengers: Endgame

Tony, Cap and Thor have landed above ground and are relatively unscathed. They face off with Thanos, who tells them that his new plan is to wipe out the whole universe and repopulate it with people who won’t remember what he did, so no one will fight against it anymore.

Showdown! Tony, Cap and Thor battle Thanos, but even with two hammers, way more firepower, and a Thanos with no Infinity Stones, somehow they’re *still* not strong enough. Thanos is about to carve Stormbreaker into Thor’s heart when miracle of miracles, Cap summons Mjolnir and throws it at Thanos, hurling him away from Thor!

I tell you, the quarter of the people in my theatre who knew what Cap picking up Mjolnir means started screaming and shouting and clapping. (Me included, though I only did the screaming.) When I saw Mjolnir levitating, I had an inkling what was about to happen, because there was no one else around that had the power to wield Mjolnir unless it had achieved sentience in that moment when Thor was in dire straits, which of course it didn’t. And I was right!

Same in my theatre. ?

So was Thor, who grinned and said “I knew it!”

Though what Thor knew, I have no clue. Unless he already guessed that Cap could lift his hammer back in this Age of Ultron scene, but had only chosen not to.

There have been rumours since last year that Cap would wield Mjolnir in Endgame, but I successfully avoided/disregarded all of them, so it made this moment so much more enjoyable when it happened.

Even so, after the initial joy of seeing Cap spinning Mjolnir around, it still isn’t enough. Thanos beats him and breaks his “unbreakable” shield, Thor and Tony remain down, and even worse, Thanos summons his entire horde of creatures from outer space. It’s like the Battle of New York all over again, except with more monsters, and Cap — bruised and beaten but still determined to get up, even if he barely has the strength to do so — is the lone man standing.

And then! A voice through his earpiece. “Cap?” (At first I thought it was Scott.) But then the voice comes again. “Cap? This is Sam. On your left.” And then one of Doctor Strange’s portals open up, and out of that bright golden wormhole comes T’Challa, Shuri and Okoye, with their army behind them. Wakanda forever! :’D

(This moment reminds me of when all hope seems lost in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and then the Rohirrim appear.)

And then more portals start appearing in the air. And out of them step ALL the Disappeared Avengers. Sam Wilson/Falcon flies in with Valkyrie on her winged horse, Doctor Strange and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch float in, Spidey swings in, the Guardians jump out, so does Bucky, so do Wong and the other Sanctum Sanctorum disciples, Hope van Dyne, even Pepper in the suit of armour Tony made for her! Everyone in my theatre is shouting and cheering at this point. Scott emerges out of the ground as Giant-Man with Hulk, Rhodey and Rocket in his palm. Tony and Thor get up and join Cap, whose look of newfound hope makes my heart ache. And finally, he utters the long-awaited phrase: “Avengers… assemble.”

And everybody SCREAMED. ?

And then comes the battle we’ve been waiting for — the one with ALL the Avengers together fighting against Thanos and his entire army.

Backtracking a little, Clint got out of the shaft safely, carrying the new Infinity Gauntlet. He’s tricked into lowering his guard and nearly killed by Past Nebula, but was saved in time by Present/Future Nebula and Gamora working together. Unfortunately, Past Nebula was too stubborn to be saved (because she hadn’t gone through the learning journey of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2) and Present/Future Nebula killed her.

(Also, Winston Duke is credited in the end credits, but I didn’t see M’Baku anywhere. Anyone spotted him?) Update: Spotted him on a rewatch running towards Thanos’ army with the rest of the Avengers!

I won’t bother going into the details of the final battle because I can’t do justice to it, but know that Captain Marvel comes back from outer space at one point, and there’s also an amazing powerful moment with all the female Avengers together. ?

However, because of plot purposes for tension and climax reasons, despite all the might of the Avengers, Thanos manages to get his hands on the new Infinity Gauntlet. When that happens, Doctor Strange shares a look with Tony as a subtle reminder that there’s only one out of the 14,000,605 possible futures that he saw in which they win. And that’s when we all knew Tony would probably have to die for the “greater good”. ?

Still, I think we all hoped it wouldn’t have to be so. We see Tony struggling to get the gauntlet off Thanos’ hands, but he’s flung away. Then Thanos snaps his fingers again, and we’re all in shock that he’s allowed to win, again! But nothing happens!

Then we see that Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet has no Stones on it. Cut to Tony who has all the Stones on his hand. “I am Iron Man,” he says, and he snaps his fingers. This time, it’s all of Thanos’ army turns to dust, including him.

Even as we’re celebrating though, we see that Tony is too badly injured to be saved. The people closest to him in the movies — best friend Rhodey, protege Peter Parker and wife Pepper — are given a chance to say goodbye in his final moments. “We’re going to be ok,” Pepper smiles and tells him. And then breaks down after he dies.

Cut to the epilogue. Clint goes home to his family. Tony gives a last message through hologram, and all the heroes and everyone in the MCU who knew him personally attends a touching funeral service where the framed arc reactor Pepper gave him in the very first Iron Man — “Proof that Tony Stark has a Heart” — is shown floating away on a wreath of flowers. (Even the kid in Iron Man 3, Harley Keener, was there! I didn’t recognise him though because he’s so grown now. Only when I saw his name in the credits then I realised it was him.)

Happy Hogan (Tony’s former chauffeur) asks Tony’s daughter what she would like, and she says cheeseburgers — just like Tony did when he first got home from Afghanistan. Happy got choked up hearing it (and so did I).

Cheeseburger scene in Iron Man

Cheeseburger scene in Endgame

Thor (still fat) gives up his kingship to Valkyrie and decides to travel the galaxy with the Guardians. Gamora has disappeared, so Star-Lord’s next mission is to find her. Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne play Happy Families with teenage Cassie.

As for Cap? He undertakes the mission to return all the Infinity Stones (and Mjolnir) back to when they came from, but he doesn’t return on time. Bruce and Sam are panicking when Bucky points out a man sitting on a bench nearby. Then we see it’s Cap, as a very old man. He had decided to do all the living in the past that he didn’t get to do, and returned to pass on the mantle of Captain America to Sam, who in the comics, does become Captain America after Cap dies. He has a ring on his finger, but he declines to tell Sam about his wife.

Then we cut back to the past — I think the ’50s? — where an old song is playing in a house, and it’s revealed that Steve is dancing with Peggy. He finally got his dance. :’)

The End. No end credit scenes.

I HAVE SO MANY THOUGHTS.

This is such a bittersweet and beautiful ending. While we knew that everyone who turned into dust the last movie would come back, we also knew that not all the Avengers could survive unscathed. (And true enough, Loki, Gamora and Vision remain dead from the last movie. Though Gamora is in Endgame, it isn’t the same her. Star-Lord will have to woo her all over again. But at least he gets a second chance!) And now only three of the original six Avengers are left.

Because Chris Evans has been open about the fact that he doesn’t want to play Captain America forever, many fans thought that Cap would die, but Tony could live a happy life of retirement with Pepper and his kid. In the end it was the other way round. And yet it fits. This “Infinity Saga” started with Iron Man and Tony Stark — it makes sense that it would end with him and his final sacrifice.

(I didn’t think Nat would die too, cause she has the Black Widow movie coming up, but I guess they released news of that movie early partly to throw us off the scent.)

And Steve passing on the mantle after living a full and happy life with the love of his life! Is there any more graceful way to leave the MCU than this? I’m glad he was able to get his happy ending with Peggy! My only many questions is are:

Didn’t anyone ever question who Peggy was married to? And why he looked like Captain America? And where he was at her funeral? Back in Winter Soldier, Peggy said that Steve saved a whole bunch of men in 1943, including the man who would become her future husband. Was she hiding this secret all these years, even from Steve after he awoke from the ice and visited her in her nursing home? Did Kevin Feige and the Russos already plan this from the beginning when they left out revealing who Peggy’s husband was? Notice old Peggy doesn’t have pictures of her husband at her bedside table though she has pictures of her children! Do her children know their father is Captain America? In fact, where are Peggy’s children? How did Steve not mess up time by meeting people who knew him? Didn’t he feel tempted to mess in world events? How does time travel actually work in this movie?!

Cap meets old Peggy in Winter Soldier

Even if Cap goes back in time to put back the Stones at the time they were taken, which Bruce tells the Ancient One would erase the split timelines, the New York timeline is definitely changed, since the Hydra operatives think Cap is Hydra, and Loki disappeared with the Tesseract. So no matter what, I don’t see how the MCU won’t have parallel universes. ?

The only thing I understood — because they say so explicitly — is that it doesn’t work the same way it does as in all other time travel movies. Other than that, I’m going to need more knowledgeable people (aka the Russo brothers/Kevin Feige) to explain it to me, and I need them to explain it without contradicting other people who worked on the exact same movie.

Now I know why there’s going to be a Disney+ series on Falcon & Winter Soldier. (Not sure about WandaVision, cause Vision is still dead…) I wish Bucky had a longer goodbye with Steve though. :S There are two entire movies about Steve’s devotion to Bucky! They deserve a longer farewell. Though since Steve didn’t keel over and die immediately after giving the shield to Sam, I suppose we can imagine they had a long talk offscreen.

When Steve said “Don’t do anything stupid when I’m gone” and Bucky said “How can I? You’re taking all the stupid with you”, it’s a direct reference to what Steve told Bucky in Captain America: The First Avenger when Bucky was going off to war. :’)

There are no end credit scenes for the first time in a Marvel movie, but it’s fitting. We want to close out this saga properly, not eagerly start promoting the next one. It isn’t like everybody doesn’t know there’re going to be more Marvel movies in future.

And the end credits! The original six Avengers get special end cards spotlighting them with their signature on it. Robert Downey Jr. gets the last one of course.

It hurts to say goodbye, but my heart is full now. :’)

Where to watch Avengers: Endgame

Streaming services: Avengers: Endgame is on Disney+ only, and not on Netflix Singapore or US, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon (with bonus features), Vudu, FandangoNOW, Microsoft

Share this:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on reddit
Share on whatsapp
Share on telegram
Share on email