Guardians of the Galaxy

Morag, 2014

Meanwhile, over on Morag we have two teams splitting up. Black Widow and Hawkeye drop off Nebula and War Machine to pick up the Power Stone before Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) steals it, just as he did in the opening sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy. The scene allows for the use of “Come and Get Your Love” all over again, and it gives us a different perspective on that song and dance sequence as Nebula and Rhodes watch Star-Lord dance like no one’s watching.

Their attempt to get the Power Stone seems like it might be the easiest to pull off, but then we are reminded that this is 2014, and this timeline’s Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Nebula are also after the stone. We’re also reminded that besides Thanos’ calm but determined attitude about his plan to balance the universe and fulfill his destiny comes from a place of madness and brutality. When Thanos appears for the first time in this 2014 sequence, his armor, face, and double-bladed weapon are covered in alien blood. It’s a nice reminder that this guy is more than a villain. He’s a monster. He thinks what he’s doing is the only way to save the universe. He’s like the dark side of The Avengers, and that’s what makes him so dangerous.

This is what gets Thanos back on the path of The Avengers, with which he’s only tangentially crossed paths with after Loki lost the battle of New York to them (losing him two Infinity Stones in the process). The manner in which Thanos learns this is kind of ingenious as Nebula’s cybernetic mind starts saving a parallel memory from her future self, thus alerting Thanos and his henchman Ebony Maw to the time heist happening in their cosmic backyard. It’s one of several plot devices that pulls from the past of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it makes everything feel like it fits together in such a meticulously crafted package. It makes one wonder just how long this complex story has been planned, and if Kevin Feige knew they’d be coming back here when Guardians of the Galaxy was being filmed in the preceding years.

On a more sentimental note, it also allows two characters to have a small bonding moment as Nebula and Rhodey have both had their bodies modified by technology and have been forced to survive like this. Nebula feels insecure about her cybernetic enhancements, saying, “I wasn’t always like this.” And Rhodey says, “Neither was I. But we do the best with what we got.” It’s a brief but nice moment between two characters who you’d never think would have something that ties them together.

Avengers Endgame - Hawkeye and Black Widow

Vormir, 2014

On the other hand, Hawkeye and Black Widow have been linked for years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’ve been partners since their days working for SHIELD, so of course they’re the ones sent to retrieve the Soul Stone, which can only be obtained one way. And that gives us the first absolutely heart-wrenching moment of this time heist, and really the whole movie.

These two have such a strong bond. Clint and Natasha accept each other for who they are, despite all the things they’ve done throughout their dangerous and ethically questionable careers. And neither is ready to let the other one give up their life in order to get the Soul Stone.

What’s impressive about Avengers: Endgame is that it sets up the tension and desperation of this scene for those who may not be familiar with their long history. If you only saw Avengers: Endgame, you’d still understand the closeness these two have between them. Whether it’s the tears Natasha sheds when she hears the dark path that Clint has gone on, or the shameful look Clint has on his face when Natasha comes to find him in the middle of one of his killing sprees, there’s plenty to latch onto in this movie alone. That includes a quick reference to that mission in Budapest that was first mentioned in The Avengers back in 2012.

All of this makes the final resolution of this scene that much harder to swallow. After a tense face-off where Clint and Natasha try to stop each from sacrificing themselves, Natasha is the one who falls to her death and gives Clint possession of the Soul Stone. Now Clint has lost those who were the closest to him, and that makes it hard to celebrate when he gets back to Avengers headquarters in the present day.

Avengers Endgame Spoilers

New Jersey, 1970

But before we get back to present day, we have to back even further to the past in order so Captain America and Tony Stark can retrieve the Tesseract and also get more Pym Particles in order to allow them to travel back to the future. And it’s back in Captain America’s old millitary base in New Jersey in 1970 that we get two more worthwhile character payoffs fueled by the previous installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They also happen to be payoffs that make the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War feel that much more satisfying.

First up, while getting his hands on the Tesseract, Tony Stark runs into the man who has been researching it for years: his father, Howard Stark. The result is an amusingly awkward meet-cute where Tony Stark can resolve some of the animosity that he had with his father before his untimely death at the hands of The Winter Soldier. He gets to find out that Howard Stark not only wanted his forthcoming son to turn out better than himself, but that he was regretfully self-aware of his shortcomings. The relationship that Stark had (or rather didn’t have) with his father doesn’t give Tony any bad blood any longer. Instead, he knows that his father did the best with what he could, but he was just as flawed as Tony used to be. In a way, Tony’s success is a result of his father’s failure. And again we get to see that our greatest successes and ambitions come from our most harrowing failures.

Elsewhere on the military base, Captain America has his own encounter with a familiar face from the past. While hiding from being found out as a trespasser, he ducks into a random office. Then he suddenly sees a blast from the past, a photo of himself as a scrawny kid from Brooklyn before he was injected with the super serum that turned him into Captain America. That picture just so happens to be sitting on the desk of Peggy Carter, whom Cap spots in the next office over. He takes a moment to longingly look after her, clearly lamenting the fact that he missed out on that dance he promised her so many years ago.

But there’s only so much time for sentiment before they need to get back to the present. With their mission complete, it’s time to set things right.

Continue Reading Avengers: Endgame >>

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