Avengers: Endgame Falls Short With Captain America’s Ending

This post will contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2019)

Avengers: Endgame has been called a worthy conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ten-year saga. The film is a critical and financial success, but it has its issues. One of which is the ultimate fate of Captain America.

After the film’s main conflict is over, Captain America is given the task of delivering the  Infinity Stones back to their original timelines to set things right. He stands on the time machine. The Hulk says he’ll bring back Captain America in five seconds. It does not happen. Instead Bucky looks at a bench in front of them. There’s an elderly Captain America sitting on it. It turns out he stayed in the past and lived out his life with Peggy. He give his shield to Sam to pass on his legacy to his sidekick.

The scene worked on one level. Captain America tragically missed out on the love of his life by being a hero. He gets what he always wanted in this ending. It’s emotionally satisfying to see him dance with Peggy and hand off his legacy to someone else.

Yet he had started a relationship with Sharon Carter in Captain America: Civil War. He had made friends in the present. His best pal, Bucky, had finally come back after he lost him again. Why was he going back to the past to retire with Peggy? It’s as if his character  lost any development he’d gained since coming out of the ice.

To add on to that, Falcon is his own man.  He was Captain America in the comics, but the MCU doesn’t have to follow that example. He should build a legacy of his own.

When I first watched the scene, I wondered why Cap didn’t stop the atrocities of the 20th and 21st centuries. I didn’t understand how time worked in the MCU. I thought Captain America had always traveled back to the past to live with Peggy. He was stuck in a time-loop. Now I have come to understand that the MCU operates on a multiverse theory. This means that there are no time loops. The past can’t be changed so Cap can’t stop those atrocities. Every time a character travel back in time, it creates a new timeline.  The Russo brothers confirmed this in an interview.

Even taking into account this clarification on time travel, this ending for Captain America still has three major problems.

Problem #1: The Cap in the Ice

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The Russo Brothers confirmed that Captain America travels to another timeline to live with Peggy. The problem with this is there is already a Captain America in that timeline. He’s trapped in the ice. The MCU Captain America would have a moral obligation to save this other Captain. (Our Captain America will be referred to as MCU Cap and the other Captain America shall be refer from here on out) He understands the pain of not getting to be with Peggy. Why would he allow his past self to go through that pain when he’s unfrozen in seventy years? He couldn’t unless he was a jerk.

How would MCU Cap explain himself to Peggy? We’re not told if he tells her the truth about who he is. If he does, how can she be okay with him leaving his timeline to chase her? Wouldn’t she want him to go back to his friends and family in the future?  Wouldn’t she want her real Steve and not the MCU Cap who is essentially a doppelganger? If MCU Cap lies to Peggy and pretends to be her Steve, that is highly immoral.

Problem #2:  Unhealthy Escapism

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My favorite episode of Batman the Animated Series is Perchance to Dream. In the episode, Bruce Wayne ends up in another reality where his parents are alive and he’s engaged to Selina Kyle. He’s not Batman. It’s a dream come true. Eventually, Bruce figures out that it’s just a dream and he’s living a life of delusion. He refuses the world of dreams, because no matter how attractive it is, it’s not reality.

In this ending, Captain America chooses to live in a dream world. The Peggy that MCU Cap knows and loves is long dead. In the year 2023 (which Endgame takes place in), she’s been dead for almost ten years. Rather than move past her death and create a new relationship with Sharon, he’s heading to another reality where things are more comfortable for him. He’d rather live in the past than continue on in the future. The messages that this scene is sending are dangerous. Don’t move on, linger on the past forever. Don’t embrace reality, be delusional.

Problem #3: Not the Time for Retirement

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After Endgame, the world is in chaos. 3.5 billion people have reappeared after five years. This could create many problems for the world. Iron Man and Black Widow are dead. During this time of chaos, Captain America who is in the prime of his life, decides it’s time to retire to the past. Why now? The world still needs him. Why would Captain America even want to retire? He’s the man who says he could do this all day. There comes a time to rest but Cap is still able bodied. He was willing to stand against Thanos’s army by himself in Endgame. How is he a man who is ready for retirement? It doesn’t fit his character.

Final Thoughts

This ending sought to wrap up Captain America’s arc with a heart-warming callback to the origins of the character. In doing so, they undid everything that Captain America has learned during his journey through the MCU and turned him into a man who can’t let go of the past. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely referred to the conclusion of his arc as him moving toward “enlightened self-interest”. That’s a very sophisticated way of saying he becomes a selfish asshole. This is not the ending that such a great character deserves.

 

Achieving the Impossible

Marvel has done the impossible. 2008 was the beginning. Iron Man managed to capture the spirit of the character and be a pretty good movie. Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark and gave a great performance. Marvel surprised me with the movie and then the after-credits scene.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury showed up after the credits. I got giddy seeing the Ultimate Version of Nick Fury come to life. I’ve dabbled in comic books here and there so I recognized what they were trying to do. I could tell that this could be the start of something incredible if it ended up right. This was a real ambitious project. Never before were comic book characters weaved together into one movie, one coherent continuity. For years whenever someone would bring up the idea in a discussion forum, they were laughed at or told that it could never happen.

The Avengers was seemingly impossible project. Marvel needed all their movies to be successful financially. None of them could bomb critically either. One failure could ruin everything.

With each movie, I feared that they would screw up and then the project would end up dead in the water. The Incredible Hulk came out later in 2008. It wasn’t the best film, but it wasn’t awful. The after credits scene with Tony Stark kept the dream alive. Marvel proved that they could make two movies that weren’t horrible about two of their properties. I kept up hope. I wanted to see them succeed.

Then Iron Man 2 came and it was pretty bad. I feel asleep while watching it in the theater. It felt jumbled and tried to do too many things at once. It was an Iron Man sequel and an Avengers prequel. The villain was also lame. It was making money so it seemed that the Avengers would happen, but I worried about the quality now. If they couldn’t handle just Iron Man, how could they handle Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and others?

The impossible mission stayed impossible. I couldn’t see how they could make both a good movie and a critical success. Hollywood is known for ruining projects. Many good scripts are ruined by the time they make it to the screen. After Iron Man 2, I thought it was over.

Thor brought me back.Tom Hiddleston was amazing as Loki. The film was better than Iron Man 2. I came out of theater interested in both a Thor sequel and the Avengers. Captain America’s quality was also above average. Now everything was in place. They had the money. They brought back nearly all the actors. But could they do it?

 

 

 

 

OH HELL YEAH!!! THEY DID IT! THE AVENGERS KICKED ASS! WHEN HULK AND THOR WERE GOING AT IT, I LOST MY MIND! I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE THAT ON THE BIG SCREEN! LOKI TAKING ON CAP! LOKI MANIPULATING! HOLY SHIT! IT WAS AMAZING!  AND THEN WHEN CAPTAIN AMERICA JUMPED IN AND COMMANDED! HAWKYE SHOOTING THOSE ARROWS! IRON MAN VS. THOR!!!

BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE EVER! GOOD LUCK THE DARK KNIGHT RISES! THE BAR HAS BEEN RAISED! I’m so glad that during my lifetime Marvel achieved the impossible.

Thank you Marvel. I haven’t had that much fun at the movies in a while.