Taking a macro view, Avengers : Endgame is a thrilling and heartfelt celebration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and represents the end of the Infinity Saga, which began with Iron Man (2008).
There is so much to love about Endgame, for both hardcore and casual fans – from the epic Marvel CGI-enabled spectacle to the trademarked wacky humour to the deep emotional beats that resonate amongst these fan-favourite characters. The sacrifice of key characters certainly brought forth many lump-in-throats moments.
It’s impossible not to be swept away by its ambition, its scope and even its vaunted fan-service that has been built up – not only from over a decade of the MCU but over 50 years of comic books.
However, if one takes a closer look at the plot of Endgame, then it fails scrutiny. For better or worse, Endgame employed that most troublesome of scifi/superhero tropes – time travel.
The problem with time travel stories has always been with its rules. The dilemma of the time paradox – what happens if you change the events of the past or even encounter your past (or future) self? Does the present (or the future) then also change? Would an alternate timeline/reality be created?
Avengers : Endgame has a problem with obeying its own time travel rules as the movie contradicts itself numerous times, which makes the plot severely confusing and ultimately resulting in a multitude of plot holes.
Before the Avengers embark on their time travel mission, they are routinely warned about not encountering their past selves (or providing any information to the same) and yet believe that nothing which has been changed in the past could affect the present (or future)! Which is it?
Not only that but there are instances of very convenient plot points that inevitably bring on the dreaded loss of the suspension of disbelief.
One key moment, occurs when the Avengers first travel to the past. For some reason – which is not exactly made clear – the Nebula of the past (2014) involuntarily projects a concurrent memory of the present Nebula – which alerts Thanos to the Avengers time traveling machinations.
While it’s obvious that this was necessary to bring Thanos back into the picture as the antagonist-in-chief – the Mad Titan is beheaded by Thor early in the movie – 2014 Nebula’s malfunction makes no sense and serves as a necessary plot point though illogical.
When the 2014 Nebula returns with the other Avengers back to the present, she then sets into motion a plan to bring Thanos and company into the present – their future – but how is this even possible, without Thanos utilising the Pym particles – which the present Nebula only had a single dose of? Another convenient plot point borne out of necessity, though illogical.
Yet another plot hole relates to the Hulk’s snap to bring back everyone who had been dusted by Thanos. Now, the present timeline of the Avengers happens to be five years in our future (!) with Tony and Pepper now married with one daughter, Morgan.
Does Hulk’s snap bring back the dusted but not reverse time? Then, how does one account for the fact that Peter Parker’s friend Ned has not aged at all in the closing sequence of the movie. And yet, Morgan Stark still exists and Scott Lang’s daughter remains a teenager? And if not, then is the MCU now set in 2022 – five years after the events in Infinity War (2018)? None of this confusion is cleared up by the movie’s end.
And there’s more – Steve Rogers going back to the past to live his life with Peggy Carter and therefore becoming an elderly man in the present day.
Now, here’s the paradox, did his exploits as Captain America not happen at all after returning to the past and changing history? And if that’s not how time works – i.e. nothing is changed – then why does Cap go back to return the various infinity stones then? Like I said, very very confused.
Ironically, there is a scene, when a few Avengers make fun of Back to the Future, as if its entire premise is silly (and inaccurate) but that movie makes more sense and at least obeys its own rules unlike Endgame, which is a mess, in this respect.
While these time travel plot flaws do not for the most part, ruin the enjoyment of a well-crafted classic superhero movie, it does require shutting down one’s brains for the duration of the movie, when the the time travel plan is executed.
Nothing’s perfect, I guess, in the final run. It must be recognised that putting together a movie like Avengers : Endgame is a difficult task and for the most part, Marvel succeeded wildly.
Now streaming on Disney+.
… still there’s more …