Friday, May 31, 2019

What Happened To The Art Of Movie Poster Design: Terminator: Dark Fate

Sigh... Another day, another putrid movie poster. Seems like there's been a veritable plague of awful designs lately. Case in point: This poster for the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate, the latest attempt to ruin the franchise.

Someone please explain to me what the hell's going on with the perspective in this poster. It appears that Grandma Connor's walking down a desert road, which recedes to the vanishing point behind her. So far so good, as that's how it should look.

But then it looks like there's a second road rising up in the extreme foreground, which has little or nothing to do with the rest of the design. I guess maybe it's supposed to look like Old Lady Sarah's walking behind a slight rise in the road. Unfortunately that's not how hills work.

The sickly urine yellow color scheme is a nice touch as well.

This can't possibly be a real poster released by a major movie studio. It's got to be a first year design student's project, right? It's the only explanation.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

It Came From The Cineplex: Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directed by the Russo Brothers (Anthony & Joe).

The four of them have become something of a well-oiled machine at Marvel Studios, turning out some of their biggest and most profitable films.

Markus and McFeely are working partners who previously wrote The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The WardrobeThe Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince CaspianThe Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn TreaderCaptain America: The First AvengerPain & Gain (eh, you can't hit a home run every time at bat), Thor: The Dark WorldCaptain America: The Winter SoldierCaptain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. If there's a colon in the title of a film, odds are they wrote it. 

The Russos previously directed PiecesWelcome To CollinwoodYou, Me And DupreeCaptain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. They also directed many episodes of Arrested Development and Community.

Endgame is the TWENTY SECOND movie in the MCU, and, as you might have guessed from the title, it brings the first era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a close in spectacular fashion. 

Eleven years ago, Marvel Studios president Kevin Fiege started a bold and unprecedented experiment. In what has to be a Hollywood first, he produced a series of superhero films that were interconnected, and all took place in the same world. Even more amazing, he did so with care and patience, slowly and carefully building a cast of characters and a cinematic universe never before seen on the silver screen.

Marvel's patience paid off in spades, as every one of their movies has been a box office success. Heck, a whopping eight of the twenty two have grossed over ONE BILLION DOLLARS!

Many other studios have rushed to ape Marvel's massive success by starting up their own cinematic universes (I'm lookin' at you, Universal and Sony). Without fail, every one of them has crashed and burned on takeoff. Everyone wants to be the next Marvel Studios and start raking in those sweet piles of cash now, without understanding that they've got to put in similar time and effort. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Endgame is of course the second part of the story begun last year in Avengers: Infinity WarSadly, like most conclusions, it's not quite as good as its setup. Where Infinity War featured a simple, straightforward narrative, Endgame's is messy, confusing and oft-times convoluted.

That's not to say it's terrible, or without value by any means. It's packed full of amazing setpieces, crowd-pleasing moments and surprisingly emotional story beats. You'll definitely get your money's worth and leave the theater satisfied.

Endgame is also the conclusion to a story that began with Iron Man wayyyy back in 2008, as each of the twenty two films has been part of an ongoing, overarching narrative. So many plot elements are wrapped up and storylines concluded that it really does feel like the end.

To be honest, I wouldn't be at all upset if this really was the last ever MCU movie. They've ended things here on a pretty high note, so honestly there's nowhere to go but down! Artistically this would be the perfect place to stop. 

We're talking about Disney here though, so I know that'll never happen. They'll milk this franchise till it's dry and then sell its desiccated corpse!

Endgame's success is nothing short of phenomenal. In its very first day, it grossed a whopping $643 million dollars (worldwide). That's just short of what DC's Justice League film made ($657 million) in its entire seventeen week run! Amazing! Well, amazing for Marvel Studios. Shameful for Warner Bros. and DC!

It then made an astonishing $1.2 BILLION worldwide in its first weekend, and almost $2 BILLION in its first week! It's currently sitting at a little over $2.6 billion, which is just shy of Avatar's record-shattering $2.7 billion gross. I think Endgame will eventually end up passing Avatar slightly before it's all over.


The Plot:
Buckle up, it's a long one!

Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) enjoys a picnic with his wife Laura and their family. At one point he teaches his daughter Lila how to properly use a bow. She makes a bullseye, and he beams proudly as he retrieves the arrow from the target. He hears and odd sound, and when he turns he sees his entire family has disappeared, victims of Thanos' snap.

Somewhere in deep space. Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) and Nebula are adrift in the Benatar, Star-Lord's space ship. Tony records a message to his wife Pepper Potts, telling her it's been three weeks since the Snap, and they have twenty four hours of life support left. He says he hopes she somehow finds the message, and tells her he expects her to move on.

Tony passes out, and Nebula sets him in the pilot seat. Suddenly a bright light fills the cockpit, causing a groggy Tony opens his eyes. He looks out and sees Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, floating in space in front of the ship.

Cut to Earth, where Captain Marvel carries the Benatar to Avengers HQ and carefully sets it on the front lawn. The surviving heroes— Steve Rogers (aka Captain America), Thor, Natasha Romanov (aka Black Widow), Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk), James Rhodes (aka War Machine) and Rocket (of the Guardians Of The Galaxy), along with Pepper, run out to meet the ship. They rush Tony to the infirmary. Rocket takes Nebula's hand, and the two grieve over their fallen "family."

Sometime later, Steve asks Tony if he has any clues as to Thanos' whereabouts. An angry Tony says that Thanos was just the kind of threat he was trying to protect the Earth from, and says they could have defeated him if not for the Sokovia Accords that Steve championed. Overcome with exhaustion, Tony collapses and passes out.

Captain Marvel says she'll reach out to other planets to try and find Thanos' location. Nebula tells her not to bother, as they'll find her father in "The Garden"— an idyllic planet Thanos often mentioned. Unfortunately she doesn't know where it is. Rocket pulls up a map of the galaxy and says when Thanos activated the Infinity Stones, they sent out a massive pulse of energy. He says a similar pulse was detected two days ago on a planet in a remote section of the galaxy. The Avengers assume they'll find Thanos there.

Steve says now that they know where to find Thanos, they can battle him again, retrieve the Infinity Stones and undo the Snap.

Leaving Tony behind with Pepper, the Avengers, Rocket, Nebula and Captain Marvel blast off in the Benatar. They arrive at The Garden, and Captain Marvel flies out and does some quick reconnaissance. She finds no armies, satellites or anything.

On the surface, Thanos goes about his daily routine, gathering vegetables and cooking dinner. He's still wearing the Infinity Gauntlet, but it's badly damaged and the entire left side of his body's been horrifically burned. Suddenly the heroes burst in and pin Thanos down. Thor uses his mystic axe Stormbreaker to sever Thanos' left arm so he can't use the Gauntlet.

The heroes examine the Gauntlet and see the Infinity Stones are missing. They demand to know what Thanos did with them. He says the Stones were a constant temptation, so he used their infinite power to destroy them. This means the Snap can never be undone. They accuse him of lying, but Nebula says her father may be many things, but a liar he's not. Enraged, Thor decapitates Thanos, quipping that this time he "went for the head."

Five Years Later...

It's now 2023, and the world is having a hard time moving on, as the population struggles to cope and basic human services begin breaking down. Captain America now runs a support group for survivors of the Snap. Black Widow spends her days in Avengers HQ, sending out the surviving heroes to deal with man-made and natural disasters. 
She gets regular reports from Rocket & Nebula, Okoye of Wakanda, Captain Marvel and War Machine, who are spread out over the world  and the galaxy.

War Machine tells Black Widow that he heard about a Mexican drug cartel that was brutally murdered, and suspects that Hawkeye, who's now calling himself Ronin, was responsible.

Meanwhile, Tony Stark is now living in a remote cabin with Pepper and their young daughter Morgan. Of all the Avengers, Tony seems to be the only one who's made peace with their new world.

In San Francisco, we see Luis' van
— which still contains the portable Quantum Realm tunnel— sitting in a storage facility, where it's been sitting the past five years. A rat crawls across the dashboard, accidentally hitting a switch that activates the portal. Suddenly Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) emerges from the Quantum Realm, where he's been floating around since the events of Ant-Man And The Wasp.

Scott, who has no idea what happened out in the real world, wanders the half-empty and run-down city. He comes to a large memorial, commemorating the names of "The Vanished." He frantically searches the monuments, hoping against hope that his daughter Cassie's name isn't listed. He's relieved when he sees her name's not listed, but shocked to see his is! He frantically makes his way to his ex-wife's home, where he sees Cassie— now five years older. She's amazed to see her father after believing he died in the Snap.

Scott makes his way to Avengers HQ in New York, where he tells Cap and Black Widow about the Quantum Realm. He says time and space work differently there, as he was only in it for five hours, while five years passed in the outside world. He says the Realm could be the key to going back in time and undoing the Snap. Cap and Widow realize that's an idea so crazy it just might work.

Cap, Widow and Ant-Man travel to Tony Stark's cabin, where they tell him about their plan. He dismisses the idea, saying that messing with time is too dangerous, as they could accidentally wipe themselves out of existence. He refuses to help them.

The three then meet with Bruce Banner, who at some point in the past five years has discovered how to balance himself with his monstrous alter-ego. He now has the physical appearance of the Hulk, but with Banner's intellect. He agrees to help them try and figure out a way to use the Quantum Realm.

Meanwhile, Tony broods in his cabin and stares at a photo of himself with Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man), who vanished in the Snap. He begins tinkering with equations, and comes up with a way to navigate the Quantum Realm and use it to travel through time. He then discusses the discovery with Pepper. He says the two of them were lucky— they avoided the Snap and have had an amazing five years together. Should he lock up his discovery, or use it to undo the horrors Thanos brought on the world? Pepper says she knows he'll make the right decision.

Back at Avengers HQ, the team tries to harness time travel without Tony. They attempt to send Ant-Man back in time, but instead of travelling into the past, his body is randomly affected. He becomes a teen, an old man and finally a baby before returning to normal. As they try to understand what went wrong, Tony Stark drives up. He tells Cap he's figured out time travel, but is agreeing to help on the condition that they only undo the Snap and don't wipe out his daughter. Cap agrees, and the two heroes finally bury the hatchet.

Rocket and Nebula return to Avengers HQ from space. Hulk and Rocket then travel to the former town of Tonsberg, Norway, which is now "New Asgard." They meet Valkyrie, who assumes they're there to see Thor. She points out his house, and warns them he's changed since they last saw him.

Hulk and Rocket enter the house, where they see Thor's sunk into a deep depression after failing to kill Thanos. He's overweight, alcoholic and addicted to videogames, which he plays with his alien friends Korg and Miek. When Hulk tells him their plan, Thor wants nothing to do with it, as he doesn't want to re-experience all the heartache and guilt. Eventually they're able to convince him to rejoin the team and help.

In Tokyo, Ronin wipes out a nest of Yakuza members. He's then approached by Black Widow, who tells him they're attempting to undo the Snap. Having nothing to lose, he agrees to help.

At Avengers HQ, Tony and Hulk finish their prototype Quantum Realm Time Gate. Hawkeye volunteers to test it out, and is sent into the Realm. For no good reason he emerges at his house five years in the past, before the Snap. He sees his wife and daughter, but before he can call to them he's yanked back to the present. The Avengers congratulate themselves, as for the first time in a long time they finally have hope.

War Machine asks why they don't just go way back in time, kill Thanos when he was a baby and get it over with. Hulk explains that when you travel to the past, it becomes your present and therefore can't be changed (wha...?). Therefore any change they make in the past will just create an alternate timeline. They decide to collect the Infinity Stones from the past and bring them to the present so they can undo the Snap.

Ant-Man reminds them that the Quantum Tunnel is powered by Pym Particles— the same ones that allow him to shrink and grow. He points out that they have a limited amount of Particles left, as Hank Pym was snapped and won't be creating more any time soon. This means they only have enough for one round trip each, so they have to be smart about it. They discuss where the six Stones are, and the best way to collect them.

They realize the Time, Space and Mind Stones are all in New York in 2012. Iron Man, Cap, Ant-Man and Hulk will retrieve those three. The Reality Stone is in Asgard in 2013, so Thor and Rocket will go there. The Power Stone is on Morag in 2014, and War Machine and Nebula will go after it. That leaves the Soul Stone on Vormir, which Black Widow and Hawkeye will nab.

The Avengers enter their modified Time Tunnel and wish each other luck. They shrink and enter the Quantum Realm. Hulk ends up at the Sanctum Sanctorum during the Battle Of New York, where the Ancient One is protecting the building from the Chitauri invasion (as seen in The Avengers). Hulk explains what they're trying to do and asks her for the Time Stone, but she refuses to hand it over. She says removing any of the Stones will create a branching timeline, and negatively affect the original.

When Hulk mentions Dr. Strange, the Ancient One realizes that he willingly gave the Time Stone to Thanos, knowing it was the key to ultimately defeating him. This makes her change her mind and give him the Stone. Hulk promises to bring it back when he's done with it. That was easy!

Meanwhile, Iron Man & Ant-Man arrive in Stark Tower just after the Avengers captured Loki during the Battle Of New York. A group of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrive and take the Tesseract (containing the Space Stone) out of the building, along with Loki. Ant-Man causes 2012 Iron Man's arc reactor to short out, creating a diversion. Before Current Iron Man can retrieve the Tesseract, Loki sees his chance. He grabs it and uses it to teleport away in the confusion. Whoops!

Cap attempts to collect Loki's scepter, which contains the Mind Stone. Unfortunately it's grabbed up by Jasper Sitwell and Brock Rumlow, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who are secretly working for HYDRA (as seen in Captain America: Winter Soldier). Cap tells the two he's been ordered to take the scepter, but they refuse to hand it over. Just when it seems like a battle's gonna to break out, Cap whispers, "Hail HYDRA" into Sitwell's ear. He's so completely flummoxed by this that he hands the scepter over to Cap.

Everyone returns to their meeting place, where Iron Man and Ant-Man admit they lost the Tesseract. Cap says there's another option for finding it, along with more Pym Particles— at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ in 1970. Cap and Iron Man then use the last of their particles to head there. If their plan doesn't work, they'll be stuck in 1970!

Elsewhere (or when), Thor and Rocket arrive in 2013 Asgard. There they look for Jane Foster, in order to extract the Aether (aka the Reality Stone) from her body. Rocket spots Jane and heads for her room. Thor's distracted by his mother Frigga, realizing she's going to be killed the very next day.

Frigga sees Thor, and immediately realizes he comes from the future. She gives him words of encouragement, and refuses to heed his warnings about her fate, saying she's ready for whatever will come. Thor's grateful for this extra time with his late mother. Rocket retrieves the Aether, and tells Thor it's time to go. Before they leave, he summons his hammer Mjolnir, which still exists in this time. He and Rocket then return to the future.

War Machine and Nebula appear on Morag in 2014. They see Star-Lord dancing through the harsh landscape, on his way to retrieve the Power Stone. Once he enters the temple, Nebula knocks him out and grabs the Stone from its altar.

Meanwhile, 2014 Thanos is aboard his massive ship Sanctuary II, plotting his retrieval of the Infinity Stones. 2014 Gamora (who's still loyal to her father at this point) is there, along with her sister 2014 Nebula. Suddenly 2014 Nebula begins glitching, as her cybernetic implants begin picking up signals from her future self. Thanos uses Nebula to see images of himself successfully collecting the Infinity Stones in 2018 and snapping half the universe out of existence. 

Thanos then sees that the Avengers have come to the past to collect all the Stones. By gathering them all in once place, they've done all the hard work for him. All he has to do now is travel to 2023 and take the Stones away from them. When 2014 Gamora hears his insane scheme, she begins second guessing her devotion to her father.

2014 Nebula swears her loyalty to Thanos, so he uses her to set up his plan. He sends her to Morag, where War Machine and 2023 Nebula prepare to return to the future after acquiring the Power Stone. War Machine enters the Quantum Tunnel, but Nebula is left behind. 2014 Nebula then knocks her out, takes her time bracelet and travels to 2023, where she impersonates her future self (confused yet?).

Black Widow and Hawkeye arrive on Vormir at some point in the past to get the Soul Stone. They're greeted by the ghost of Red Skull, who tells them the only way to get the Stone is for one of them to sacrifice something they love— a soul for a soul. Hey, exactly like in the previous film! Black Widow and Hawkeye then begin arguing over who'll throw themselves off the cliff, actually fighting over the right to die.

Hawkeye jumps off the cliff, but Widow catches him. Somehow they maneuver themselves so that he's holding onto her. She tells him he needs to survive for his family, and to let her go. After much crying and gnashing of teeth, he eventually lets go, and she falls to her death. Hawkeye gets the Soul Stone and returns to Avengers HQ.

Cap and Iron Man arrive in 1970. Cap goes off to find the Pym Particles (so they can return to the future), while Iron Man looks for the Tesseract. He's interrupted by his father Howard Stark, and the two strike up a conversation. Howard mentions he and his wife are expecting their first child (!), and he wonders if he'll be a good father. Tony assures him he'll do fine. In their brief time together, Tony gets to know his father and sees him in a whole new light. Howard gives the Tesseract to Tony.

Meanwhile, Cap sneaks into a lab and steals several vials of Pym Particles. Before he leaves, he spots his old flame Peggy Carter in the next room. He stops a while just to listen to her voice. Eventually he and Tony meet up and enter the Quantum Tunnel.

The Avengers all return to their HQ with the Infinity Stones. Hawkeye informs them that Black Widow didn't make it. They're upset of course, but realize the time for mourning is later. Tony, Hulk and Rocket use their know-how to create a new Gauntlet to hold the Stones. Now all they need to do is figure out who will wield it. 

Thor volunteers, as he's the strongest. Hulk says the Stones will unleash a lethal burst of gamma radiation when used, which is new info. Since he was created by gamma radiation, he argues that he's the only one with a chance of survival. The others reluctantly agree.

Hulk puts the Gauntlet on, and is racked with agony as the energy from the Stones courses through his body. The radiation begins burning his right side, but he manages to power through the pain and snap his fingers, restoring the population. As the Avengers wonder if it worked, Hawkeye gets a call from his wife Laura. Hooray!

While everyone's celebrating, 2014 Nebula sneaks into the lab and activates the Quantum Tunnel. This allows 2014 Thanos to bring his ships and armies to 2023. He orders his ship Sanctuary II to fire on Avengers HQ. The heroes are taken completely by surprise as the building's destroyed. Thanos then unleashes armies of Chitauri, Outriders and more, all led by 2014 versions of Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, Corvus Glaive and Cull Obsidian.

Inside Sanctuary II, the imprisoned 2023 Nebula tells 2014 Gamora that they've managed to work through their mutual hostility and become true sisters. Gamora's skeptical at first, but eventually believes her. She frees her future sister.

The Avengers dig themselves out of the rubble and regroup. Hawkeye finds the new Gauntlet and does his best to keep the Outriders from getting it. As they catch up to him, he tosses it to Nebula, not realizing she's an impostor. 2014 Nebula is then confronted by 2014 Gamora and 2023 Nebula. They try to convince her that she's better than this, and doesn't have to obey Thanos. She rejects their pleas, so 2023 Nebula shoots her in the chest, killing her. Since 2023 Nebula's from a branching timeline, she doesn't immediately vanish after killing her "past self." Sure, why not?

Iron Man, Cap and Thor then confront Thanos, who's beamed down onto the battlefield. He begins monologuing, saying he's seen that his plan to wipe out half the universe was wrong, as the survivors are too obsessed with what was lost to forget and move on. He says once he gets the Gauntlet, he'll erase the ENTIRE universe this time, and repopulate it with beings ignorant of what went on before.

The three Avengers attack Thanos, but even without the Gauntlet he's much stronger than they are. Thor fights with both Mjolnir and his axe Stormbreaker, but Thanos manages to knock him for a loop. He drops both his weapons, as Thanos pins him to the ground. He picks up Stormbreaker and raises it above his head, ready to bring it down on Thor. 

Suddenly, in the most crowd-pleasing moment of the entire movie, Captain America picks up Mjolnir, having become worthy enough to wield the mystic hammer. He bashes Thanos with it, but he easily deflects the blow and throws Cap into the rubble.

Thanos taunts Cap, who manages to painfully rise to his feet. Suddenly dozens of portals open up all around the battlefield, and Cap hears "On your left!" as the restored Falcon flies through one. He then sees Black Panther, Shuri and Okoye emerge from another portal. Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, the Guardians Of The Galaxy, Wasp, Bucky and Doctor Strange all appear as well. Even Pepper, wearing Iron Man armor, lands in the traditional superhero pose.

But that's not all! The entire Wakandan army appears, led by M'Baku. Valkyrie flies through a portal on her winged horse, leading an army of Asgardians that somehow survived the explosion of their refugee ship. Wong leads an army of sorcerers, and a squad of Ravagers appear as well.

Cap takes a good long look at these armies, then faces Thanos as he finally gets to say, "Avengers Assemble!" The two armies then clash in a massive and lengthy CGI battle. 

During the battle, Star-Lord sees Gamora's apparently been resurrected, not realizing she's the 2014 version. He tries to hug her, but since she's never seen him before she knees him in the groin, leaving him in pain and very confused. 

Captain Marvel makes another brief appearance, blasting Thanos' army and destroying Sanctuary II. She grabs the fallen Gauntlet and flies off with it, but she's attacked by Thanos, who grabs the Gauntlet from her. He puts it on, and grimaces as the power courses through his body. Captain Marvel tries to take the Gauntlet from his hand, but he pulls off the Power Stone and punches her with it, knocking her out (I guess?). 

Iron Man crawls though the rubble and spots Doctor Strange on the battlefield. He nods to Iron Man, who realizes THIS is the one scenario out of the 14,000,605 he saw in which they actually win.

Iron Man attacks Thanos, who easily throws him off. Thanos then raises his gauntleted hand and snaps his fingers. Nothing happens. Confused, he looks around and sees that Iron Man somehow pulled the Stones off the Gauntlet during their tussle. His nanotech armor than forms a new Gauntlet on his arm, incorporating the Infinity Stones into it. Tony glares at Thanos, says, "I am Iron Man" and snaps his fingers.

Thanos looks wildly around the battlefield as his entire army is dusted. Realizing he's beaten, he slowly sits down and hangs his head. Thanos himself then turns to dust.

Tony collapses, as the power and radiation from the Stones were too much for him to handle. War Machine helps him lie down, as Spider-Man appears and tearfully tells him that they won. Pepper flies over, and tells Tony he can finally rest. She assures him she and their daughter Morgan will be OK. Tony lies back and dies.

Cut to Tony's funeral, which is attended by the surviving Avengers, Black Panther and his entourage, the Guardians and Captain Marvel. Nick Fury and General Thaddeus Ross are there as well, along with May Parker and even Harley Keener (the kid from the execrable Iron Man 3 who no one remembers). Later Hawkeye and Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch) comfort one another over their respective losses. Hawkeye says he wishes Black Widow could know they won. Wanda says she's sure she knows, and Vision does as well

Thor appoints Valkyrie as ruler of New Asgard, saying he's leaving Earth. On the Benatar, Star-Lord looks wistfully at a readout of Gamora, wondering if she's still out there somewhere. Thor then seemingly joins the Guardians, much to Star-Lord's dismay.

Hulk builds a new time portal in order to return the Infinity Stones to their proper eras. For no good reason, they decide Cap will take them all back alone, instead of splitting into teams again. Hulk explains that it may take days for Cap to return all the Stones, but to them he'll only be gone for five seconds. Cap climbs onto the platform, bids farewell to Bucky and Falcon and disappears.

Hulk counts to five, but Cap doesn't return. He fiddles with the controls, trying to figure out what went wrong. Falcon spots an old man sitting on a nearby bench. He and Bucky go over to investigate, and see it's Cap, now well over a hundred years old. He says he returned the Stones to their rightful places, then "decided to stay a while." He gives his shield to Falcon and tells him he's Captain America now.

Cap smiles, as we see a flashback of him reuniting with Peggy Carter in the 1940s, and living out a full life with her. He finally got to have his dance with her.


Avengers: Endgame is a VERY different movie than its predecessor. Infinity War wasted absolutely no time as it started in the middle of a story already in progress. Endgame takes its sweet time, meandering through a surprisingly slow first hour before the action finally kicks in. Mind you I'm not complaining, as I have no problem with slow burn movies. I'm just surprised at how differently the two films are structured.

Additionally, Infinity War was a relatively simple film with a straightforward, linear narrative. Endgame features a complicated plot involving time travel, alternate universes and multiple versions of various characters. There were moments where I was honestly scratching my head in confusion.

• Sadly, Tony Stark dies at the end of the film, sacrificing his life to save the universe. Anyone who was surprised by this shocking turn of events just wasn't paying attention, as it was HEAVILY foreshadowed in the opening minutes of the previous film.

In fact I predicted Tony's death in my review of Infinity War. For the record, I said:
When we first see Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, they're enjoying a sunny day in Central Park (I think). Tony tells Pepper about a dream he had, in which she was pregnant. For anyone who's ever seen a movie before, this is some heavy duty foreshadowing. The two characters might as well have stopped, looked directly into the camera and winked.
I fully expect Pepper to announce she's pregnant in Avengers 4 (whatever it ends up being titled). Which of course will make it all the more tragic when Tony sacrifices himself to save the universe.
That's pretty darned close! OK, so Pepper didn't announce she was pregnant in Endgame, but she and Tony DID have a kid. Tony's dream all but guaranteed that would happen.

Plus the second Tony talked about starting a family, he was a Dead Man Walkin.' It's Writing 101— any time things start to look up for a character and they plan for the future, it's a sure sign they're gonna die. They do the same thing in virtually every episode over on The Walking Dead.

• Full disclosure: I was underwhelmed by the Captain Marvel movie and the character herself. Nor can I stand actress Brie Larson, who plays her. Now before all you feminists and SJWs reach for your pitchforks, I'd just like to remind you all that it's entirely possible to dislike a thing because it's simply bad, and this doesn't make you racist, anti-feminist or against diversity. People like what they like and hate what they don't. There's nothing more to it than that.

All that said, oddly enough I didn't mind Captain Marvel's presence in Endgame! Go figure! 

Actually this happens quite a bit when I watch Marvel movies I felt Black Panther was one of the most overrated movies in film history. Yet I liked him and all his trappings in Infinity War and in this film. Same with Doctor Strange. I thought his own movie was meh, but I loved the character in Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War and Endgame. I don't quite understand it, but there you go.

One reason I probably didn't mind Captain Marvel's presence here is because it was so mercifully brief! She's onscreen for less than five minutes in three hour film!

As soon as I found out she was going to be in the movie, I worried that she'd pop up, shove the Avengers out of the way and defeat Thanos single handedly. That would have been awful, as her character hasn't been around anywhere near long enough to earn the right to do something like that. Fortunately the Russos didn't allow that to happen.

I kind of get the feeling that the Russos didn't actually want her in their picture, but Marvel Studios insisted they shoehorn her in. I'm betting she originally played a much larger role in the film, but the Russos kept quietly cutting them until she barely shows up at all.

Considering the fact that Endgame wraps up Phase 3 of the MCU, they really should have waited until Phase 4 started up to introduce an ultra powerful character like Captain Marvel. She really does feel out of place here.

• Speaking of Captain Marvel and her screentime, her appearance here generates quite a few questions. Her own film took place in 1995, and she flew off into space at the end of it. So where's she been since then?

This is actually addressed in Endgame, as War Machine asks her that very question. She replies, "There're a lot of planets in the universe," which I guess implies she's been policing them all. It's an unsatisfying answer that's hand-waved away as quickly as possible.

At the end of her movie, she gave Nick Fury a cosmic pager and told him to give her a call if there was an emergency. Why'd he wait till now to call her? Was the Battle Of New York not an emergency? How about Ultron's attack on Sokovia? Or any of the events of the other twenty or so MCU movies?

• In addition to all the callbacks, a large number of actors make surprising return appearances in Endgame as well.

Rene Russo returns as Friga, John Slattery as Howard Stark, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne, William Hurt as General Ross, Maximiliano Hernandez as Jasper Sitwell, Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow (aka Crossbones), Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, Robert Redford (!) as Alexander Pierce and Natalie Portman as Jane Foster.

Those last three are particularly notable. I was surprised to see Tilda Swinton return, mainly because she likely had to shave her head again to play The Ancient One (unless they scalped her with CGI?). 

Robert Redford was a bit of a shock as well, as he announced he was retiring from acting in 2018. Apparently the Russos got him to change his mind. This is also the first time in Redford's career that he's played the same character more than once.

The most unexpected return was definitely Natalie Portman. In the past she hasn't been shy about voicing her disdain for Marvel Studios and the way it treats its directors, so I was surprised to see her return here.

Turns out she didn't actually come back. Her brief scenes in Endgame were created with deleted scenes and B-roll from Thor: The Dark World. So there you go.

Portman did attend the premiere of Avengers: Endgame though, so maybe whatever beef she had with Marvel is over.

• Since this is a Russo brothers film, it's state law that it feature cameos by actors from Community (the Russos produced the series and directed several episodes).  Yvette Nicole Brown (who played Shirley) shows up briefly as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, while Ken Jeong (who played Chang) appears as a security guard.

They join Danny Pudi (aks Abed) who appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Jim Rash (aka Dean Pelton) who appeared in Captain America: Civil War.

Note that Brie Larson, aka Captain Marvel, guest starred in a couple of episodes of Community as well (!).

• In previous Avengers films, much was made of the fact that Captain America never curses. Apparently he's changed his policy on that, because he swears up a storm in Endgame.

• The Avengers track down Thanos to The Garden. Once there, Thor disarms and eventually decapitates Thanos! WOW! I was definitely not expecting that! Talk about subverting expectations!

• Although I enjoyed this film quite a bit, there's one part of it that I reeeeally don't like. In fact I might go so far as to say I LOATHE it. What am I prattling about? The Five Year Time Jump.

Story-wise I understand why the writers put it in— they wanted to give Tony a brief taste of family life with Pepper and their daughter Morgan before he sacrificed himself. There was simply no other way to accomplish that without the jump.

So the jump allowed Tony a well-earned happy ending, but at what cost? Jumping ahead five years causes all sorts of unforeseen problems for the MCU. Here are just a few of them:

— With a couple of exceptions, the Marvel films all seem to be happening in real time. Infinity War took place in 2018, and Endgame begins immediately afterward. There's then a five year gap, which means that the bulk of the film takes place in 2023.

I'm sure there's no way that could ever possibly cause any continuity problems with subsequent Marvel films! That was, I say, that was sarcasm, son!

— The jump might have worked out for Tony, but it felt extremely unsatisfying for everyone else. Basically it forces the rest of the characters to sit around moping about their loss for half a decade! Sure, with the Stones destroyed and Thanos dead, there was little they could do about the situation. But it felt like they all just gave up. I guess that was probably the point, but I dunno... it just didn't seem very heroic.

— When the Hulk undoes the Snap, he restores everyone to the exact moment in which they were dusted. We know this because near the end of Endgame Spider-Man says to Tony, "You remember when we were in space, and I got all dusty? I must have passed out, because I woke up and you were gone." That implies that he didn't age any in the past five years.

If Endgame took place just a month or two after Infinity War, this wouldn't be a big deal. But because of the jump, it opens up a HUGE can of worms. For one thing, half the universe is now five years younger than the other half! Think about all the problems that's gonna cause!

 Imagine a husband's wife was dusted. He grieved for a year, then moved on. He met another woman, fell in love and married her. Suddenly his original wife reappears out of the blue! Now what the hell do they do?

— Because of the jump, a lot of resurrected people will return to find their loved ones died at some point in the last five years. Their children will now be five years older too! In both cases, they were robbed of precious moments with their families.

— Many of the dusted will return to find their jobs have been filled by someone else, and they're now unemployed.

— Some will return to their homes and apartments, only to find they're now occupied by someone else!

— Dusted high school students will return to find their classsmates have graduated without them! This is going to be a major problem for Peter Parker from this point forward. Based on the trailers for Spider-Man: Far From Home, it appears that Peter and his classmates Ned Leeds, MJ and Flash Thompson are all still in high school together. This obviously means that the entire cast of that film was coincidentally dusted!

— The world's food supply and economy likely won't be able to handle the sudden reappearance of half the population.

As I said, the jump probably seemed like a good idea to the writers at the time, but it's obvious they never sat down and thought about all the ramifications and how it would affect the populace.

• Even though I think the five year jump made the surviving Avengers look mopey and un-heroic, I did appreciate the way they channeled their feelings of failure and loss. 

Black Widow threw herself into her work, desperately trying to save the world against overwhelming odds. Captain America started a support group for survivors of the Snap (no doubt inspired by his pal Falcon, who lead a similar group). Bruce Banner did some soul searching and found a way to make peace with the Hulk. Thor descended into a deep depression and turned to food and alcohol for comfort. And Hawkeye channeled his anger into revenge. Well done, writers!

• Speaking of Hawkeye... after losing his entire family to the Snap, he becomes a violent vigilante who calls himself Ronin. He then travels the world, ruthlessly killing criminals instead of bringing them to justice. 

This is straight out of the comics, where after the events of the Civil War storyline, Hawkeye became Ronin in order to save a fellow superhero named Echo. 

Also, Black Widow and the rest of the Avengers apparently decided to give Hawkeye a pass for his brutal kill-spree. I guess he must have given them the True Lies defense— "Yes, I killed a lot of people, but they were all bad!"

• There are a couple of noteworthy cameos in Cap's support group.

Co-director Joe Russo makes a brief appearance as a man struggling to return to a normal life after the Snap.

The media made a huge deal over the fact that Russo played "the first ever gay character in the MCU." Eh... I dunno. I'm betting that when LGBT groups demanded representation in the Marvel movies, they meant a MAJOR character, not a guy who makes a "blink and you'll miss him" appearance.

Comic book artist and writer Jim Starlin also makes a very brief appearance in the support group. Starlin famously created Thanos back in 1973, and without his contribution we wouldn't be here.

Starlin's also notorious for feuding with Marvel Comics over the years, quitting the company and returning many times. A couple years ago he ranted against Marvel Studios, claiming they were making billions off his work while refusing to compensate him (apparently Mr. Starlin's unfamiliar with the concept of "work for hire").

Based on his appearance here, apparently all's been forgiven. It's amazing how a truckload full of money back up to one's front door can completely change one's attitude.

• By the way, the Russo Brothers are not related to actress Rene Russo, who plays Thor's mom Frigga. 

• Of all the characters I expected to see in Endgame, "Professor Hulk" was way down on the list. His appearance was an unexpected but welcome surprise. The version seen here was obviously based on the "Smart Hulk," who was part of the comics back in the 1990s.

That said, I have a few problems with Smart Hulk and the way he was depicted. First of all, I'm not a fan of the fact that he came into being between films. A fundamental change like this shouldn't happen offscreen, and really begs to be seen.

Secondly, Smart Hulk's voice should have been processed to sound a bit lower. It was weird to hear Mark Ruffalo's normal voice to come out of a nine foot tall giant.

Lastly, the Hulk should have had a rematch against Thanos, to make up for his humiliating defeat in the opening minutes of Infinity War. The audience was expecting it, and the character deserved it.

I suppose technically the Hulk ended up symbolically defeating Thanos, as he was the one who undid the Snap. It wasn't a very satisfying victory though.

• By the way, kudos to the FX team for bringing Smart Hulk to life. He was a perfect cross between actor Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk, and never once looked fake or uncanny valley-ish. It's even more impressive when you realize he was in the whole movie, and not just a couple of scenes.

• Of course the one, true hero of Engame is the rat that crawls across a console in Luis' van, which activates the Quantum Tunnel located in the back. If it hadn't been for that rat, Ant-Man would never have escaped from the Quantum Realm. Then he'd never have come up with the idea of using the Realm to time travel, and the Avengers would have never defeated Thanos. Well done, rat!

In the previous film, Doctor Strange said he looked into the future and saw 14,000,605 possible timelines, and in only one of them did the heroes defeat Thanos. Obviously the winning timeline was the one in which the rat stepped on the appropriate button.

I wonder how many timelines there were where the rat stepped on the wrong button, or none at all?

• Speaking of Luis' van, considering it's been sitting in a storage locker for the past five years, it's safe to assume he was Snapped. That's too bad, as I really wish he'd had a small part in the movie.

By the way, that Quantum Tunnel in his van must have some power source. It sat idle for five years and still worked!

• Once Ant-Man's freed from the Quantum Realm, he discovers five years have passed in the real world. He immediately seeks out his daughter Cassie, who's now a teen!

Is this possible, based on her pre-time jump age? In Ant-Man & The Wasp, Cassie appeared to be about nine years old, ten tops. That means she'd be around fifteen after the jump. Actress Emma Furhmann (who plays older Cassie) is currently seventeen, so I guess that's fairly close.

By the way, this is another unpleasant consequence of the time jump. Actress Abby Ryder Fortson, who played young Cassie, was the cutest thing on two legs and a highlight of the Ant-Man movies. Now because of this stupid jump we'll never get to see her again. Feh.

• After the time jump, Thor founds the town of New Asgard in a remote section of Norway. He lives there with Valkyrie and the other surviving Asgardians.

I am very, VERY confused by all this. New Asgard looks like it has quite a few inhabitants. Are they all Asgardians? If so, where the hell'd they come from?

At the end of Thor: Ragnarok, the giant demon destroyed the planet Asgard. The surviving Asgardians, including Thor, then escaped on a mid-sized spaceship. It looked like the entire planetary population had been reduced to a hundred or so people.

At the beginning of Infinity War, Thanos and his "children" board the ship and wipe out half the Asgardians before the movie even starts. As proof of this, we see Ebony Maw monologuing as he carefully steps over the scattered bodies of dozens of dead Asgardians.

Thanos & Co. then teleport back to their ship. As a parting gift, they fire on the Asgardian escape craft and blow it up real good.

Later on the Guardians Of The Galaxy run into Thor (literally!), who's floating in space. They bring him aboard and revive him. Never once does he suggest they rescue any of his people, which implies HE'S the only Asgardian who can survive the vacuum of space. Which means he's the last of his race.

Annnnnd then we see a whole town of Asgardians in Endgame.

So who the hell are all these people populating New Asgard? Are they really Asgardians, or are they Norwegian locals who decided to move in? If they are Asgardians, where'd they all come from? Was there another refugee ship that we didn't see?

Apparently SOME of them must have survived SOMEHOW. During the epic battle at the end of the movie, Valkyrie leads an army of horn-helmeted Asgardians through one of Doctor Strange's portals! Just don't ask me where they came from.

• Filled with guilt after failing to kill Thanos in Infinity War, Thor falls into a deep depression and lets himself go. He turns to food for comfort, gaining a hundred pounds or so.

Since our nation is currently in a constant state of offense, naturally there were many complaints about "Fat Thor" and the fact that his weight was played for laughs. Sigh...

By the way, during the final battle I fully expected a lightning bolt to strike Thor and instantly transform him into his old muscular self. Imagine my surprise when that didn't happen, and he kept his excess weight throughout the movie. Expectations subverted again!

• Several times in the film, Tony Stark's daughter Morgan tells him, "I love you 3,000." It's a cute line, and sounds like something a kid would really say. 

That's because it is! Actor Robert Downey Jr. (who plays Tony Stark) told the Russo brothers that one of his children used to say the line to him. They liked it so much they put it in the movie!

• At one point the Hulk tries to explain the way time travel works to the other Avengers. He says, "Think about it: If you travel to the past, that past becomes your future. And your former present becomes the past. Which can't now be changed by your new future!"

I can't believe I'm saying this, but that almost makes sense!

Whenever the Avengers visit to the past, they're actually traveling to an alternate timeline that's completely removed from their own. This works out well for the MCU, as it means the characters can screw around in the past all they want, and they can't alter or overwrite any of the previous films!

• Man, CGI is getting scary good these days. Supposedly the red & white "time suits" worn by the surviving Avengers were 100% CGI (!).

So why spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions pasting digital suits on the actors instead of just dressing them in real costumes? According to visual effects supervisor Stuart Penn, they shot both Infinity War and Endgame at the same time. Because of this, they hadn't yet decided what the suits would look like when they filmed the scene. So they just put everyone in mo-cap pajamas and decided to figure it out later.

It worked! The suits looked 100% real to me, and I had no idea I was looking at digital costumes.

• Welp, I've put it off long enough— let's discuss Endgame's confusing and convoluted alternate timelines.

According to the Hulk, any time the Avengers go travel to the past, it creates an alternate timeline. As near as I can tell, there are at least six of these timelines in the film, and possibly even more.

Here are the various timelines in the film:

Prime Timeline: This is where the entire MCU has taken place up to this point. In this timeline, Thanos snapped his fingers and wiped out half the universe. As a result of this, Earth became a grim and miserable hellhole. The surviving Avengers then traveled to his retirement planet and killed him.

New York 2012 Timeline: Iron Man, Cap, Hulk and Ant-Man create this timeline when they travel back to the period of the first Avengers movie. Hulk collects the Time Stone, while Cap gets the Mind Stone. Iron Man and Ant-Man flub their chance to get the Space Stone (aka the Tesseract), as Loki ends up stealing it.

S.H.I.E.L.D. 1970 Timeline: Iron Man and Cap then travel back farther to 1970, where they finally get their hands on an earlier version of the Space Stone/Tesseract.

Asgard 2013 Timeline: Thor and Rocket create this timeline, where they pick up the Reality Stone by siphoning the Aether from Jane Foster. 

Note that before Thor returns to the present, he summons the mystic hammer Mjolnir to him, replacing the one that was destroyed by Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. This means he just stole the hammer from the version of Thor who's native to this timeline!!!

Vormir Timeline: Black Widow and Hawkeye create this timeline when they travel to some point before 2018. Sadly, Black Widow dies on Vormir in this timeline.

Morag 2014 Timeline: War Machine and Nebula create this timeline, which is the most important one in the movie. This is the alternate timeline in which Thanos detects 2018 Nebula, and through her finds out that the Avengers are gathering the Infinity Stones to defeat him before he possesses them himself.

The Thanos who brings his entire army to Earth and is ultimately killed by Tony Stark is from the Morag Timeline.

Old Cap Timeline: At the end of the film, Cap travels to the past to return the Infinity Stones to the various timelines from which they came. 

He then most likely creates yet another timeline when he decides to travel to the 1940s, where he reunites with Peggy Carter and the two of them live their lives together.

• Cap travels to 2012, just after the Battle Of New York. As mentioned in the plot description, he boards and elevator with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Jasper Sitwell and Brock Rumlow, who are transporting Loki's scepter (which contains the Mind Stone). A couple things here:

First of all, this scene starts out virtually identical to the one in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which Cap battles a group of secret HYDRA agents inside a moving elevator. Obviously that's what the Russos were going for here, but this scene ends up playing out quite differently. 

Secondly, Cap convinces Sitwell to hand over the scepter by whispering "Hail HYDRA" into his ear.

This references the fact that Sitwell's secretly working for HYDRA, a fact Cap now knows through the magic of time travel.

It's also a shoutout to the recent Secret Empire storyline in the comics, in which Captain America was revealed to have been working for HYDRA since WWII (don't ask). 

• When Tony Stark travels back to 1970, he runs into his father Howard and his chauffeur Jarvis. This is the same Jarvis, played by James D'Arcy, who was a regular on the Agent Carter TV series!

This is the very first time an MCU movie has ever used or even recognized a character created for one of the Marvel TV shows! In effect, Endgame just retroactively made Agent Carter a canonical part of the MCU!

• Endgame features a ton of callbacks to previous films, as well as resolutions to many old plotlines. Here are a few of the ones I noticed:

— In Iron Man, Tony Stark poses for a photo with a soldier and says, "I better not see this on your MySpace page!"

When Tony's marooned in the Benatar in Endgame, he uses his helmet to record a farewell message to Pepper. At one point he tells her, "If you find this recording, don't post it on social media."

Note they were wise enough this time to use the generic term "social media," which shouldn't age as poorly as "MySpace" did!

— At the end of Infinity War, Thor fails to kill Thanos, who taunts him by saying, "You should have gone for the head." 

In the first act of Endgame, Thor decapitates Thanos. When Rocket asks what he just did, Thor replies, "I went for the head."

— After traveling to the past, Cap meets his 2012 self, and the two engage in a brawl. 2012 Cap knocks Present Cap on his ass, and quips, "I can do this all day."

This echoes Captain America: The First Avenger, in which Bucky whups Steve Rogers, who wobbles to his feet and says, "I can do this all day!"

— During the Battle Of Earth, Thanos has Cap on the ropes. Suddenly Cap hears Falcon say, "On your left" in his earpiece, alerting him that reinforcements are on the way.

This is a callback to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which Cap kept lapping Falcon while jogging and giving him an "On your left" warning.

— Infinity War ends with a victorious Thanos sitting down and enjoying the sunset.

During Endgame's Battle Of Earth, Thanos' forces are decimated. Weary and defeated, he sits down, this time facing away from the sunset.

— At the end of the first Iron Man movie, Tony Stark gives a press conference in which he pauses and then blurts out, "I'm Iron Man!"

After stealing the Infinity Stones from Thanos and incorporating them into his own gauntlet, Tony pauses and says, "I am Iron Man" before snapping his fingers and destroying Thanos.

— In Iron Man, Tony Stark builds a primitive arc reactor in a cave in order to save his life. Once he's back in the States, he builds a more advanced version. Pepper then commemorates the original reactor by placing it in a box with the inscription, "Proof That Tony Stark Has A Heart."

During Tony's funeral in Endgame, Pepper and Morgan send the original reactor on a wreath and send it floating out into a lake.

— When Tony Stark returns to America in Iron Man, the first thing he asks for is a cheeseburger.

After Tony's funeral, Happy comforts Morgan by asking her what she'd like to eat. She says she wants a cheeseburger.

— In Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky goes off to war and tells Steve Rogers not to do anything stupid while he's gone. Steve replies, "How can I? You're taking all the stupid with you."

When Cap prepares to return the Stones to their proper times, the two have the exact same exchange.

 The absolute best moment in the film: When Doctor Strange appeared on the battlefield and opened dozens of magical portals, letting the various armies pour through them.

That scene was so amazing it actually gave me chills! It was the perfect culmination of the previous twenty one films and felt completely earned.

• All that said, I have one tiny complaint about the final battle. I know that Kevin Feige doesn't give two hoots about the Marvel TV shows, and has gone so far as to say they're not officially part of the MCU.

Still, how cool would it have been if Phil Coulson and the rest of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. had stepped through one of those portals? Same goes for Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the Punisher?

They wouldn't have even had to say anything! Just a quick five or ten second shot of them all jumping through and striking heroic poses would have been enough!

 By far the most satisfying moment in the film was when Captain America wielded Mjolnir, signifying that he was worthy. I'm not ashamed to say I let out a whoop during that scene!

If you'll recall, Avengers: Age Of Ultron gave us a quick shot of Cap moving Thor's mystic hammer ever so slightly as the heroes relaxed during a party. I assumed that meant Cap wasn't quite worthy back then, but became so during his selfless attempt to save the universe in Endgame.

Unfortunately the Russos disagree. According to them, Cap has ALWAYS been worthy apparently ever since he was born. They claim that he could have picked up Mjolnir in Age Of Ultron, but didn't so as not to hurt Thor's feelings.

I dunno... I guess they ought to know, but I have to say I am not a fan of that idea. It completely undercuts the big moment in which he finally wields the hammer in the final battle. Feh.

• As the various heroic armies gather on the battlefield, Captain America looks around and takes stock of them. He then faces Thanos and yells, "Avenger, Assemble!"

FINALLY! We've been waiting for him to say his comic book catchphrase since the first Avengers movie back in 2012. He alllllllmost said it at the very end of Age Of Ultron, but the film smash cut to black before he could finish.

• During the awesome final battle we see Valkyrie riding her Pegasus into the fray. Where the hell did THAT come from? As I said above, the Asgardian refugee ship was destroyed by Thanos at the beginning of Infinity War. Not only should Valkyrie be dead, so should any horse that was traveling with her. 

Was the horse chilling out in another one of the Nine Realms, and she called it to her?

 At one point in the Battle, the various female characters team up to help Captain Marvel get the Infinity Gauntlet past Thanos' army.

I was surprised to see many fans denounce this scene and call it "cheesy." For the record I loved it! I am by no means a feminist or an SJW, but I thought it was awesome. I like all these characters (well, with one red & blue-garbed exception) and thought it was cool to see just how many female heroes there are in the MCU. More than I realized!

 Howard The Duck makes a very brief, blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo during the Battle. You can spot him just to the right of Wasp after she exits one of the portals.

Howard first showed up in a post credits scene in Guardians Of The Galaxy.

• Eventually the battle boils down to Iron Man vs. Thanos for the fate of the universe.

The idea of Thanos being Iron Man's archenemy isn't new, as it comes directly from the comics. Thanos made his first appearance in Iron Man #55, way back in 1973.

• Near the end of Infinity War, Doctor Strange willingly handed the Time Stone over to Thanos, knowing this would allow Thanos to defeat the heroes.

At the time Strange's actions made no sense, but Endgame finally explains his motive. When Doctor Strange took a peek at the 14,000,605 possible futures, there was only one in which Thanos was defeated. The future in which Tony Stark used the Infinity Stones against him.

THAT'S why Strange handed over the Time Stone— to save Tony so he could kill Thanos five years later. It all makes sense now!

• At the end of the movie, it appears Thor may be joining the Guardians. He even quips, "ASGARDians Of The Galaxy, back together again!"

This is likely a reference to the Marvel comic of the same name, which debuted in 2018. I'd be totally onboard with Thor actually joining the team, especially now that he's finally become an interesting character. Not sure what James Gunn thinks of the idea though. Time will tell.

• After the Battle Of Earth, Cap goes back in time to return all the Infinity Stones to their rightful places. 

Even though we don't see it onscreen, this means that at some point he traveled to Vormir to return the Soul Stone. Which was guarded by the "ghost" of the Red Skull. Cap's archenemy!

I bet that was an awkward exchange!

Also, note that Cap takes Mjolnir back to the Asgard 2013 Timeline. No doubt the Thor of that particular universe is frantically searching for it.

• Many fans were confused by the appearance of Old Cap at the end, saying his presence in the Prime Timeline was impossible. I don't see a problem with it, as I thought it made perfect sense, given the movie's time travel rules:

— Cap travels to the past, returning the Stones to the various alternate timelines.

— He then makes an extra trip to the 1940s, where he reconnects with Peggy Carter. They presumably get married and live out their lives together. 

— Presumably Peggy dies before Cap. He then makes one final trip, returning to the present in the Prime Timeline.

It all feels pretty cut & dried to me. I don't see the problem.

• So how'd they make Captain America look like he was over a hundred years old at the end? Prosthetic makeup or CGI?

I'm assuming they aged Cap much the same way they made actor Chris Evans look like a 98 pound weakling in Captain America: The First AvengerIf you take a look at the end credits, there's a Patrick Gorman listed as "Old Steve Rogers Double." I bet they filmed footage of an actual elderly man, then used CGI to map Chris Evan's features to him, resulting in a blend of the two of them.

• Back in Infinity War, Thanos' goal was to save the universe by wiping out half of it. In fact his catchphrase was, "Perfectly balanced. As all things should be." 

Turns out Thanos was ultimately victorious after all. Of the six original Avengers, only three are left (Thor, Hulk and Hawkeye) at the end of the film!

• When I saw the film in the theater, there was a chorus of sobs and sniffles coming from the row behind me during Tony Stark's funeral. Once again, it did my cold black heart good to see how much the general public (and not just comic book fans) have embraced these characters and become invested in them. See guys? For decades we comic book geeks tried to tell you all how cool these characters and their adventures are. You could have been reading them along with us all this time!

For the record, the funeral's attended by Pepper & Morgan, Happy Hogan, War Machine, Cap, Spider-Man & Aunt May, Hulk (in a suit!) & Thor, Doctor Strange and Wong (also in suits!), Ant-Man & Wasp, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, Star-Lord, Rocket, Drax (who actually put on a shirt!), Teen Groot, Mantis & Nebula, Black Panther, Okoye and Shuri, Hawkeye, his wife Laura and their three kids, Scarlet Witch, Bucky and Falcon, Maria Hill and General Thaddeus Ross, Captain Marvel and Nick Fury.

There's also a mysterious teen boy near the back, whose identity flew over the heads of most audience members (mine included). He's Harley Keener, the kid who helped out Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. No wonder I didn't recognize him! I hate that film so much I've only seen it the one time. Anyway, apparently Harley's a teen now, and got an invite to the funeral.

• During the end credits, the main cast's names are shown next to their signatures for some reason. The exact same thing happened in the end credits of Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Coincidence, or some kind of weird shoutout to that film?

Avengers: Endgame brings the first era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a close, and even though it's not quite as good as its predecessor, it's still a worthwhile entry in the franchise. 

Endgame also brings many of the MCU's plot threads full circle, and it utilizes fan service in a way that's welcome and natural never forced. And boy does it deliver the feels! You'd have to be a robot not to be affected by the death of Tony Stark and his subsequent funeral!

Story-wise it deserves a B-, but I'm bumping it up to a good solid just because.

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