Everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has led to this. The Avengers and their allies stood up to Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and were found wanting. Now it’s up to the survivors to pick up the pieces and try to, well… avenge. This is the end of an era, except, you know, for Spider-Man: Far From Home being an epilogue to Phase Three and all that. MCU March is almost over, so let’s get straight to it!
The film opens with Hawkeye, AKA Sir Not-Appearing-In-The-Last-Film, as his entire family gets dusted by Thanos’ snap while his back is turned. Iron Man and Nebula avoid dying in space thanks to the timely arrival of Captain Marvel, who met the rest of the Avengers at the end of Captain Marvel. While Tony has a temper tantrum and a nap, the surviving active heroes hunt down Thanos on a farm planet, only to find that he destroyed the Infinity Stones. With no way of undoing his snap and fully realizing that they’ve lost, Thor decapitates Thanos, the action he regrets not taking in Wakanda.
Then we jump to 5 years later when a freak accident releases Ant-Man from the Quantum Realm, where he’d been trapped since the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp. Rushing home he is shocked to find an older Cassie #2 (Ms. Emma Fuhrmann) and realizes that from his perspective only 5 hours had passed, mean time really works differently in the Quantum Realm. He goes to Captain America and Black Widow about maybe using the Realm as a sort of time machine to get the Infinity Stones before Thanos gathered them, and they go see a very retired Tony Stark, his wife Pepper, and their daughter Morgan (Lexi Rabe). He wants nothing to do with anything that could hurt his family so they try Bruce next, who between movies has worked things out with the Hulk to the point that he’s big, green, and still smart. But Tony’s brain won’t stop so he figures out how to safely time travel not undo him and Pepper having a kid. Rocket, Nebula, and War Machine join quickly, but a fat and poorly coping Thor takes more convincing, as does the now ninja assassin Clint. Then it’s time for a time heist for the Infinity Stones! Cap, Tony, Hulk, and Scott head to New York in 2012 (The Avengers) to grab Space (Tesseract), Mind (Loki’s scepter), and Time (Eye of Agamotto) Stones; Thor and Rocket head to Asgard in 2013 (Thor: The Dark World) to get the Aether (Reality) out of Jane; and Rhodey, Nebula, Clint, and Natasha head to the planet Morag in 2014 (Guardians of the Galaxy) and split up, with Rhodey and Nebula going after Power and Clint and Nat going to Vormir for Soul.
There are, of course, complications. Hulk runs into the not-dead-yet Ancient One who explains the dangers of not returning the Stones to their proper timeline after using them. Cap has to pretend to be Hydra to not-dead-yet Rumlow and Sitwell to get Loki’s scepter, but a not-dead-yet Loki steals the Tesseract and teleports away (to be continued in the upcoming Loki series). Needing more Pym Particles and a replacement Tesseract, Steve and Tony head to New Jersey in 1970 to a SHIELD facility, running into Howard Stark (the John Slattery version) as well as a Jarvis cameo (James D’Arcy), confirming that Agent Carter is still canon. On Asgard, Thor has a panic attack and is found by his mother, a not-dead-yet Frigga. He gets a pep talk and picks up a not-destroyed-yet Mjolnir, confirming he’s still worthy. On Vormir, Natasha sacrifices herself so that Clint can get the Soul Stone, a death that cannot be undone (just like Gamora’s). And Nebula accidentally connects with her past self, alerting a not-dead-yet Thanos to their plan. That last one becomes quite the issue…
The Avengers meet back up, minus Natasha and not aware that the Nebula in their midst is an agent of Thanos. While Hulk nearly kills himself wielding the Infinity Gauntlet and brining back everyone who disappeared (albeit it 5 years after they got dusted), Nebula uses the time machine to bring 2014 Thanos to the present. He bombs the Avengers complex and almost takes the stones, but the returned heroes join the fight. We get some great moments like Captain America wielding Mjolnir, the ladies of the MCU working together, and 2014 Gamora helping 2024 Nebula, but in the end it comes down to Iron Man versus Thanos. Tony gets the Stones and snaps Thanos and his army away, dying in the process. His funeral is well attended, even including Harley from Iron Man 3! Clint and Wanda mourn Natasha and Vision (to be continued in WandaVision), while sending Steve back in time to return the stones doesn’t go as intended. He comes back an old man, having lived a life with Peggy Carter, and gives his shield to Sam (to be continued in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier).
There’s no post-credits scene, but after the credits you can hear the sound of Tony Stark building his first suit of armor in a cave (with a box of scraps!) in the first Iron Man, signaling his story is truly over. Again, except for the epilogue in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
So the time travel aspect of this is… a little weird. Granted, time travel stories make up rules all the time, but there was a lot of confusion about how things went down after this movie came out. Old Man Cap doesn’t appear when the time machine was supposed to bring him back, instead revealing he was sitting on a bench nearby. Kind of seems like his lived life was actually in this timeline, right? And that he was Peggy’s never seen husband? Well… no. The Russo Brothers have gone on record–several times–saying that Cap’s married life was in an alternate timeline. Then how did he get back? I truly believe that they lost track of their own time travel rules and had to make up something after the fact. If so, oops!
So I mentioned this in the Captain Marvel post, but this film has the first overtly gay character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! And his name is… uh… hang on, I seem to have forgotten it for some reason. Let me check IMDB… Ah, right! The iconic “Grieving Man,” everyone’s favorite queer character! It was a big deal when it happened–in part because the role went to co-writer/co-director Joe Russo–but a lot of people responded with questions like, “Why are you making such a big deal about a nameless character?” The answer is because in 11 years of these movies, this is the FUCKING FIRST TIME we got an overtly gay character. Scrapper 142 (AKA Valkyrie) was supposed to be overtly bisexual but they cut that scene from Thor: Ragnarok, so it’s down to Grieving Man. Thor: Love and Thunder is supposedly fixing that by giving her a queen, and Eternals will have a gay couple–with one the actors actually being played by a gay man!–but don’t expect me to be happy sitting here with my crumbs of representation in the meantime.
COMIC BOOK FUN FACT! This post is part 2 to Avengers: Infinity War, so the Comic Book Fun Fact is the last half of the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries (1991)! The surviving heroes attack Thanos, but even with his power levels voluntarily reduced it’s still a bloodbath. The cosmic forces in the Marvel universe–beings like Galactus and Eternity (the manifestation of the Marvel Universe reality)–try next but are similarly defeated, allowing Thanos to transcend his body and become one with all of reality. But his unguarded body still has the Infinity Gauntlet, allowing Nebula to steal it! Too bad she’s not equipped to handle its power. She resets everything to right before Thanos’ snap, but Adam Warlock uses his connection to the Soul Gem to wrest the Gauntlet away from Nebula. Thanos seemingly dies, but really he retires to a farm planet until the next time a writer wanted him as a villain.
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