Avengers Endgame is out in wide release, with this weekend sure to set records in attendance. I’ll give you about this far to realize this is full of spoilers so you can move away until you’ve seen it. It’s a lot of fun in its heisty moments, and some of the jokes are terrific. But it utterly destroys the character of Steve Rogers.
When you get into comics, you often find a community of like-minded folks. One of the first things my community told me was ‘follow writers, not characters. No matter how much you identify with one, a new writer will make you hate them eventually.’ This isn’t an opinion; this is a fact. I try to honor that and allow characters to grow and change as new people take the reins. However, when a character behaves erratically within the confines of its own run – and let’s call Captain America: The First Avenger through Avengers: Endgame one run, I find that frustrating. Here we have writers behaving like squirrels in the highway, trying to correct for a couple plot points they couldn’t land previously. This diminishes Cap’s character from ‘what would Cap do?’ to ‘what does Cap think he deserves?’
Let’s talk about the good stuff first!
There’s a complex heist, involving Scott Lang (Ant-Man). Scott Lang should really change his name to Heist-Man, because that’s what he’s about. There’s some cool computer modelling graphics. There’s some fantastic jokes about butts. And the CGI stands up better than most Marvel movies. And the best Cap suit, the Strike suit, makes a return!
I’m not going to re-explain the movie. At this stage you either saw it, or you don’t want to see it, because you wouldn’t be in here so fearlessly otherwise. My problems kick in after Thanos’ death in the first 30 minutes.
At this point, everyone quits the hero game except Natasha. Clint’s out living a Punisher fantasy, Tony’s raising a kid, Steve is modelling Dad Fashions and giving pep talks at the VA. Thor’s discovering a newly lowered tolerance for beer and settling a small number of Asgardians in a fishing village – and driving a bummer amount of fat jokes, and Banner… Well Banner is a self-help guru and inspirational speaker, as far as I can tell. (If you read comics, he’s Professor Hulk: all green, all brains, all at once.) Natasha is effectively the Man on the Wall, trying to help coordinate global defense and peace. We don’t really get an indication if she’s succeeding, but we do know she’s unhappy.
It’s been five years and … people are sad, but they are moving on. Steve hosts a counseling session, Sam-style, at the VA. A Token Gay Character, played by Joe Russo in a real victory for representation, says he went out on a date and he cried, and the other man on date cried. Everyone bites their lip, and Steve talks about moving on after the ice. So everyone there knows he’s Cap – and no one there asks ‘why aren’t you working on fixing this?’
At no point in this movie does any non-Avenger press for a ‘fix.’ Everything that happens from the point that Scott Lang comes back is from, and for, the Avengers only. They even say as much ‘we owe it to everyone not in this room’ – that’s only hero-adjacent folks. And that’s just on Earth! Maybe Tony was right, back in Civil War. These folks are out of touch with the people.
Steve Rogers is alive at the end of Endgame, but as a hero, he’s dead. And I don’t mean that the world at large believes Steve is dead. I mean that his actions are so selfish that you either need to assume the writers are bad narrators who give up everything they’ve done with this guy for a twist, OR, that the message all along was that Tony Stark is right, and Steve Rogers has been a selfish piece of shit from day one.
At the end of the Endgame, the writers have tried to have everything. For no other reason than giving Tony a family so he’ll have some growth and depth, and a narrative reason not to undo the snap, we’ve woken half the universe from death and placed them back where they were at the moment of the snap. The other half? Has seen some shit in the last five years.
Natasha, humanity’s Watcher on the Wall, is dead. Tony is dead. Earth has lost her best defender. Steve has gotten everything he wants, but he isn’t going to stick around to bear the weight of his actions.
Is there food production for twice as many people? Will newly returned husbands absolutely murder the wives who had found new partners? Yeah that number is going to be pretty far above zero. Nations have probably redrawn borders. Governments have peacefully (and not) changed hands. Housing has been abandoned and left to rot – we saw it on Scott Lang’s street! There will be emergency situations all over the globe. Millions of people have been replaced at work and will have no income. Reintegration training will be a boom industry, though. Steve has sentenced half of everyone in the universe to go through what he went through – a world that had moved on. And he’s not staying to help.
Unwilling to see Pepper raise Tony’s daughter without Tony and avoidant of painful memories of Natasha (for whom he doesn’t even arrange a funeral), he just books it into the past – a past he’s idealized as jazzy records, slow dances and victory curls. It’s a place where he can avoid cameras and most of the people in the country won’t have had the money to go look at his image in the museum, so it’s pretty safe, although one wonders how he’ll avoid Howard Stark. A fucking six-year-old spotted him in Winter Soldier.
Steve risks the free will of everyone on earth in that movie to turn his best friend back from HYDRA’s brainwashing, and then refuses to let Bucky live on his own, albeit hunted terms in Civil War. He splits the Avengers and risks the security of an entire nation, Wakanda, for Bucky. When Bucky falls to ash in Infinity War, Steve is devastated.
When Bucky is safe once more at the end of Endgame, Steve leaves him again. At least he has the courtesy to tell Bucky what’s coming, as you can tell from Bucky’s hug and pained goodbye. Stan looks like he’s chewing a lemon the whole scene, so I’d like to think Bucky told Steve that it was a dick move. It is a dick move. He’s willing to abandon Bucky, a man out of time with few friends and a world that hates him, to a future that’s less stable than it has ever been. Tony warned him: if you mess with time it bites back. Your problem now, Buck. Your problem now, Sam. Hopefully doing what Steve did, just slower, won’t involve being so selfish.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe more or less maps to ours. Staying on the DL for 70 yrs means doing nothing to little during the Civil Rights era, and more than one ethnic cleansing. It also means sitting down to Sunday dinner and thinking ‘I wonder if they’re hauling my best friend out of cryo, torturing him, and selling his services to the highest bidder today? Does JFK die this week? Worth it, this roast and that pussy are delicious.’
By leaving, it’s clear Steve doesn’t care about Bucky; it’s never about getting his friends back. It’s 100 percent about not taking that L.
Or does he act? He’s already messed up once, and we’ve been warned that their failure to perfectly execute the earlier plan will sew chaos in the timeline. Will he just ramble through history sewing more?
And just as bad, is the romantic ending.
Steve goes and interrupts the life of a woman who has moved past him. We know from the Agent Carter series the Peggy Carter goes on to find new love and new purpose in life. She remains inspired by Steve Rogers but she is, more than a love interest. But some folks may never have seen the series. Will it still be a problem? Yes.
In this movie, Peggy Carter is so little more than an emotional Fleshlight that she literally has no lines. Her signature to date has been that she will speak her mind, she will not take a backseat to men. And here, her life matters so little we don’t even get to hear her voice when she’s arguing in the next room. His re-entry into her life is the evaporation of agency. She doesn’t get to say hello. Or yes. She doesn’t get to speak. Maybe that’s why she’s crying in the last frame.
These are the same writers who set up and tried to land Sharon Carter as a love interest in Winter Soldier and Civil War. It crabbed so awkwardly that apparently, they Chuck Cunninghammed her.
It feels like the real problem here, which made the writers backtrack on Sharon and shoehorn in this clod of a scene, is the Stucky fans. Yeah, you know, the shippers who ship not Steve and some Carter, but Steve and Bucky. This came up early in CA: TFA, and caught fire in Winter Soldier. It’s the number one reason Sharon, Steve’s 10-yr relationship in the comics, couldn’t catch – not Peggy. But how gross was that, a flirtation with Peggy’s niece right outside her funeral? So bad. So clumsy.
Do you think Steve tells Peggy at Sharon’s christening ‘by the way I got up on that at your funeral?’ Does Sharon get a christening? Perhaps she’s only born if Peggy can introduce her husband’s brother to a coworker. Steve doesn’t care.
Steve balances saving the world with saving Bucky more than once. People found that kinda love sweet, inspirational and, guess what, representational of things they never see represented directly in the Marvel movies. At one point the Russo brothers said they would never shut down that line of thinking for fans, and yet, they and Markus and McFeely have attempted to do nothing but shut it down since Winter Soldier landed. No emotional reunions for our best friends, inseparable on schoolyard and battlefield, at least not on screen. They stuck Bucky back on ice at the end of CW rather than let people think Steve and Bucky might have had some alone time before the events of Infinity War, although Bucky is out and essentially whole when IW begins. Fans found it frustrating then, and they find this ending frustrating now. Because it doesn’t feel authentic. It was hammered throughout this movie, but we saw all the movies.
So they erase Peggy’s hard-won life and attempt again to slam that door. Honestly the only way to win this was not to play. Leave all the doors open. Let people project what they need. Steve didn’t need a marriage, he needed an ending. Hamfisted no-homo plots just make the team look bad.
The movie overall has lots of problems with women. I know some people are going to like the women coming together on the battlefield, but it was a pretty un-earned moment of ‘Ladies, get in formation’ and it thudded pretty hard for me. And why does Black Widow have to die? Apparently for the same reason she hates herself in Ultron: because she can’t forge a successful romantic bond and provide a man with a family.
But that’s another piece entirely. This one is about the tarnishing of an inspiring character in the defense of… What? If the writers actually cared about Captain America, they’d have let Steve Rogers die on the battlefield.
Steve Rogers: Lived a hero, died a coward. Steve Rogers: born a small man, died a small soul. Steve Rogers: America’s asshole.
Saw the trailer for the new Spider-Man movie, where Peter is sad because the Dad Of 15 Minutes of His Life, Tony, died. And more importantly where Nick Fury, the guy with no floor to his actions, is press-ganging Peter into full-time superhero status when the guy is trying to catch up on 5 yrs of missed homework.
Because they’re short-handed on heroes! Because the non-Earth based ones are not on Earth and, unsaid, Steve fucking Rogers zapped himself back to 1945 to hide from life. My dislike for Steve Rogers is rising daily.