In a world where a handful of people can defeat an army, surely superbrains and supercomputers exist, too? If a glowing superheroine can blow up an alien warship in an instant, does it not make sense that a superintelligence could solve an impossibly difficult scientific problem in a second? Handled well, by maintaining the world’s internal logic, staying true to the themes of the story, and respecting the audience, it would work.
But Avengers: Endgame botched it, and rewarded a year’s worth of waiting with lazy writing and more gods out of the machine than you can throw Mjolnirs at. A collection of funny scenes and some admittedly dramatic moments isn’t enough.
The great shining hole in Endgame is how it treats the Thanos issue and time travel. The movie’s view on solving timetravel is this:
One guy jumps out of the quantum realm and makes a claim.
Another guy says to a computer, “that can’t be true lol.”
The computer says in less than a minute, “yes it is lol.”
I know, I know, sometimes good movies are based on ridiculous or non-existent plots. Sometimes we as the viewers don’t even know what it’s all about: Alfred Hithcock called it a MacGuffin. Its function is to get things going and have the characters doing what they do in the movie. Think of Pulp Fiction with its suitcase whose contents are never revealed.
But this isn’t the start of a story. It’s the middle of one, and the critical turning point of it. Morever, the time travel solution isn’t the only deus ex machina in Endgame. The whole feature starts out with Tony Stark and Nebula lost in deep space. It’s a pretty bleak beginning and one wonders how will they ever get away from THAT? By having a super-superpowered character enter the scene with no explanation – a deus… ex spaaaaaace.
Admittedly, it is advisable to start off with something that lays the foundation for your whole story. As such, if the whole plot is based on dei ex machinis, there’s some perverted honesty in kicking off with one. At least you’re telling your audience that you’re not taking this seriously at all and you’re giving the year’s worth of wait all the attention I give to a particular piece of toilet paper.
Snarkiness aside, it’s weird how the situation develops. Thanos is killed and the Avengers are defeated. The universe is half of what it was. For five whole years, nobody does anything. Some carry on, some can’t move on, the world is kinda depressing, but Epic Games has been able to keep Fortnite going. Superbrain, supermuscle Hulk is concentrated on being a celebrity.
After five stagnant years, a tiny glimmer of hope appears in the back of a minivan. Then the heroes get curious and snap, the truth is revealed, and a plan is formed. Some characters feel hesitant but none of it feels real, and the way they got over it felt rushed.
Imagine an alternative.
Let’s say that Banner/Hulk had spent less time keeping dabbing alive and had used his superbrain to try and resolve the situation. Maybe he could’ve gotten funding from Tony Stark who concentrated more on his family. The public mission of the Stark Smash Bros Ultimate Foundation would probably have been practical and humanitarian, but covertly it would have used a lot of resources to solve this Thanos thing. Or at least Hulk would’ve. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, and he was wasting his time and the resources they could use to actually rebuild the world.
Imagine his nervousness and despair – a sort of a good guy mad scientist. He’d have used his brain and a dedicated community of brilliant scientists to solve the issue, but to no avail. Then imagine the look on his face when Scott Lang appears.
That would have built drama and established a reasonably solid foundation (lazy pun intended) for the scientific breakthrough. Scott Lang would have been a missing piece to the puzzle.
As it stands, it’s like Tony’s computer already had all the secrets. It just had to be asked.
It feels as anticlimactic as it would have if the whole epic climactic fight had been resolved with Captain Marvel flying to the scene and taking off Thanos’s head with the flick of her finger. Literal finger, not the infinity gauntlet. A build-up needs a proper resolution. I wouldn’t accept a three-hour movie that promises me an epic climax and falls flat without so much as a heated word; so I also don’t accept this hasty non-resolution to an epic cliffhanger of a movie a full year ago that was also referenced in two other movies.
When you promise something to an audience, you need to deliver on that promise.
This is why I feel that Endgame’s script is sorely lacking. Good writing isn’t just thinking up jokes and entertaining or impressive scenes – those, I admit, Endgame has quite a few. Few American movies offer delightful wit as well as the MCU do at their best. But as anyone who’s ever tried writing anything longer than a scene knows, you also need to transition from one good bit to the next. The audience deserves a plausible narrative.
With Endgame, it feels especially lazy and almost offensive, because Infinity War’s ending was impossibly dramatic. You can’t write a cliffhanger like that and then just resolve it with a deus ex machina. The whole deal feels like they wanted to write a killer ending to one movie without having any ideas how to resolve it in the next. Worse yet, it feels like it was just an excuse to drown the audience in fan service.
I hope I missed something essential from the movie and it is better on the second viewing, but I’m not very optimistic about it.