SPOILERS. And for those of you who might have missed it, SPOILERS.
Please, for the love of Pete, don’t continue reading if you haven’t seen Endgame yet. Even if you don’t want to join the nerd hordes rushing to theaters to see it, even if you’ve only seen a handful of Marvel movies here and there, I still think you deserve to see it as it was meant to be seen: on the screen. No, not this screen. The big screen. With popcorn in your lap and a Coke on standby.
Because believe me, this movie is worth it.
Holy smokes. Where to begin? There’s just so much in this movie. And rightly so, with such a star-studded cast that Elton John’s sequin pants would have trouble pulling off the level of flare Endgame reaches.
I’ll start with something that struck a personal cord with me in this movie: the women. For the most part (minus Captain Marvel) women have played supporting roles in our Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hope backs up Scott. Pepper backs up Tony. Gamora backs up Peter. They’re valuable characters, absolutely, but the leading man is the one we’re focused on. It’s about his struggles, his goals, his triumphs. I’m not bashing that–those characters have wonderful story arcs that men and women alike can resonate with. But in Endgame, I feel as if the women in the MCU take center stage in a unique way: through their small victories.
Now, I don’t intend to write this from a soapbox. I’m not here to make men feel bad. In fact, I hope you men out there like what I have to say about the heroines in this movie. I just want to talk about how I enjoyed how the women were represented in the movie.
Take Nebula, for example. We have a minor character in the Guardians franchise stepping up in a big way for Endgame. Not only is she one of the two Guardians left, but her assistance, quite frankly, nabs the Avengers the win at the end of the day.
And we see her character growth in such a wonderfully cinematic way: in this movie, she’s a protagonist and and antagonist. The time heist shows Nebula after she’s liberated herself from a violent and traumatic past and the Nebula still feeling the pressure of living in Gamora’s shadow and under Thanos’ boot. We see where she came from and where she ended up. And her fight to preserve the good changes she fought so hard to achieve.
Which, for me, was such a surprising (definitely a pleasant) twist: to make Nebula the crux of their plan. Sure, Scott pitched the quantum time heist, but Nebula knew about Thanos’ retirement plan. And she knew where the Soul Stone was. The Russo brothers took a minor character and gave her a major impact on the plot.
Which I think is a powerful statement. That a secondary character (heck, an argument could be made that she didn’t even nab a secondary character status in the Guardians movies) rises when needed. That she might not be the Thor or the Captain America in terms of heroic superiority, that she’s passed over as a favorite, and that she’s definitely harboring some baggage. But that, nevertheless, she’s invaluable.
She has her moment to shine. To prove the depth of her changed character. It isn’t as overblown, with an epic fight or final showdown, as Iron Man or the others, but it’s vital nonetheless. And it just goes to show that even quiet victories, the ones that don’t take center stage but happen in the wings, are just as important.
A point, I feel, the Russo brothers deliver again with Black Widow.
We see Natasha’s change throughout the MCU. In Iron Man 2, she’s the ultimate spy. No character background, no motivations, no explanations are given about Natasha–she just shows up at Fury’s orders to monitor and assist Tony, which she does so with breathtaking efficiency and skill. It isn’t until we see her in Avengers that we start to understand her as a person, rather than a profession.
Like Nebula, she grows. In Avengers, she expresses her desire to atone for the sins of her past. And in Age of Ultron, we see her fear of never having a family played out after Scarlet Witch whammies her with some mind melting. But she perseveres. She grows, adapts, and we, the audience, see her character continually develop, not only as a hero but as a person too. Despite the difficulties, despite her growth largely happening outside center-stage, Natasha becomes a hero.
And even though many of the people who helped mold her into that hero were snapped away, she continues on in their place. She’s the strongest advocate in trying to correct Thanos’ snap once Scott proposes it. She’s the one monitoring the others, watching over everyone to ensure nothing as traumatic as the snap happens again, her hair a visual reminder of her refusal to let go of the lessons learned in her past. And she’s the one, in the end, who makes the ultimate sacrifice to achieve their goal.
What really stuck with me about her death was how it was less about getting the Soul Stone and more about rescuing Clint. They both knew the stakes, both understood the need to achieve their objective, but for Natasha, it went beyond that. Her battle was to save Clint’s family, and quite frankly, there’s nothing more heroic than that. It’s a quiet battle, a small one in the grand scheme of things, but again, it’s the little victories that matter most.
Both women display small victories, and as a woman, those resonated strongly with me. Yeah, I loved the big fights. I loved the nods to past movies, the Easter eggs, the cameos and mentions. But at the end of the day, I’m still thinking about small victories, small changes, and marveling at the ripples those little triumphs make.
Plus. That scene in the battle with the women all coming together? Perfect.