— Warning: This story contains spoilers about Avengers: Endgame. Almost every word is a spoiler and it’s the central premise of the whole story that we’re discussing events of the movie —
While Endgame was a lot of things, simple is not one of them. In an effort to cap off eleven years of films the Russo brothers and friends had to cram a lot into the three hours of run time, including a story that resembles a roller coaster involving time travel and more than a few “turn your brain off” elements.
To that end we’ve collected a few questions about the movie that we’ve come up with after seeing it, and arranged them down below in a very rough chronological order.
Not ones to point out possible problems with solutions, we’ve also tried to answer our own questions using some meta logic and a bit of theorycrafting that, we think, fits into the rules that the MCU set out.
That being said it’s worth noting that, as explained by the Ancient One, Endgame’s version of time travel is based on alternate realities and parallel universes. This being: the original timeline and future of the MCU cannot be changed by travelling back in time, because doing so simply creates / affects another reality or universe.
If you have any time wimey problems with the plot, attribute it to that, or the realities of making a film where sacrificing some logic is usually purposeful to make events more impact, or to save time.
UPDATE: Director Joe Russo directly answered some of these questions at an event in China. You can read the translated Q&A here but, not to pat ourselves on the back, his explanations line up with ours rather well.
Question: Why wasn’t Captain Marvel on the time heist, or at the very least at the Avengers compound when the team returned? Sure, the universe is in turmoil, but what they’re doing is of utmost importance.
Answer: During a joint conference call with Black Widow, Rocket, Nebula and War Machine, Captain Marvel explains she is not planning to return to Earth anytime soon, along with not explaining how long she’ll be away for, and what her reason for being in space is.
We think this is simply a plot device from the Russo brothers to ensure that Captain Marvel can make a heroic re-entry at a crucial part of the final battle. Again: the universe is a big place in disarray after the first snap, and most planets don’t have a team of superheroes to keep things in check.
Alternatively: She’s very far away and whatever communication the team sends her would take a while to reach her. Maybe, when the time heist was originally planned, she was light years away. They could have waited for her though…
Q: Why does prime Nebula not know that past Nebula / Thanos / Ebony Maw are accessing her memories? Past Nebula is affected by the presence of future Nebula, but not vice versa.
A: The only way we can explain this away is that prime Nebula has changed her hardware over the years and this caused a problem here.
Q: When Black Widow and Hawkeye go to retrieve the soul stone they didn’t know that one of them would need to die. Surely Nebula told them this beforehand?
A: It can be argued that Nebula doesn’t know the exact conditions to retrieve the stone. She only knows that Thanos and Gamora went to retrieve it, and only Thanos returned. It’s an easy assumption that Thanos simply killed Gamora once she had served her purpose and lead Thanos to the stone.
Another sadistically funny theory is that Nebula did know and simply doesn’t care, and she knowingly suggest the two weakest and most expendable Avengers retrieve the soul stone and, if / when one of them dies, so what?
Q: Did Tony learn nothing after Iron Man 3? Thanos blows up the Avengers compound just like Mandarin did to Tony’s Malibu mansion.
A: Yip, this is probably another matter of “cool explosions versus logic” that the filmmakers chose. You can argue that Tony does activate defences when Hulk does his snap, but they are taken down after the fact. Why doesn’t the compound have active defences at all times? Maybe Nebula disabled them, maybe Thanos’ alien weapons can get through the compound’s defences regardless.
Q: After the compound is destroyed, and the good guys get the new gauntlet back, why didn’t Hulk simply put it on and dust away Thanos and his army? We know the gauntlet can morph like Tony’s new suits so putting it on the opposite hand shouldn’t be a problem.
A: This is almost certainly an intentional choice to kill off Iron Man and have him “lay on the wire” to complete his arc. Chalk this up to many superhero movie problems where most if not all of the plots don’t make a lot of sense given the ridiculous power of many of the characters and the fact that almost all conflicts could be ended in seconds.
Q: What exactly did Tony die of? The power of using the stones? Regardless, why didn’t anyone yank a stone off of the gauntlet and revive him? Surely one of them would have worked.
A: To our knowledge only the time stone has brought people back from the dead (two Fs for Vision) and, while Doctor Strange knows how to use it and is in attendance at that final battle, reversing Tony’s snap would bring Thanos and his army back. At the same time: we’ve seen the time stone work on an isolated object (the apple in Doctor Strange’s solo movie) so maybe we’re wrong here. It’s just safe to say that the strain of the snap killed Tony instantly.
Q: Why was Thanos so strong in this movie? He doesn’t have any stones but still solos Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor with two mystical hammers.
A: Firstly, let’s talk about Thor as he’s (arguably) the most powerful out of the good guy trio. He’s out of shape and unpractised in combat after so many years drinking beer and swearing at kids in Fortnite. But more importantly: it’s been shown many times in the past that his strength depends on his willpower and confidence which, in Endgame, is at all time low, even after getting Mjolnir back and seeing his mother again.
It can also be argued that the Hulk is the strongest Avenger, and Thanos beat him easily without any Infinity Stones in the opening sequence of Infinity War, so taking out the trio would not prove much more difficult. Just a note: yes, Thanos does beat Hulk without any stones. While he does have the power stone already, he never uses it in this fight.
For the rest of the combatants here time may be a big factor. The good guys are five years older and slower, and Tony is probably permanently injured by the last Thanos fight and almost starving to death. Thanos, on the other hand, is younger and presumably stronger. Alternatively: the filmmakers just wanted another awesome Thanos versus Avengers fight that blew people away in Infinity War.
Q: How did Thanos break Captain America’s shield? Isn’t vibranium supposed to be nearly indestructible?
A: Thanos has been around the galaxy. Maybe there’s a material out there that is strong enough to break vibranium. Maybe Thanos’ double sword is made out of virbanium and the two metals can destroy each other. Maybe people have been waiting to see the shield broken and the filmmakers wanted to deliver on that. It’s been done to death in the comics but is regardless, usually, a big moment when it happens in any media.
Q: Why didn’t Doctor Strange simply teleport the water somewhere else?
A: We’ve never seen those portals moves something that large, and the spectacle of Strange making a tornado out of flood water was worth a bit of logical inconstancy.
Q: It seems that Gamora is missing at the end of the movie. Where exactly did she go?
A: This is past Gamora, who doesn’t know Star-Lord or the other Guardians, and is probably freaked out by everything including the death of her father. Logic says she fled the scene and the next Guardians movie (with Thor!) will involve finding her again.
Oh, and here’s a hot take: Maybe Tony Stark snapped Gamora away by accident. While Stark does learn of Gamora when he meets Star-Lord (yes yes, “why is Gamora?” and all that) at this point in time she may still be semi-loyal to Thanos and Stark’s snapping included her.
Q: If the Pym Particle supply was so limited why wasn’t the first priority to go back in time to get more of them or even learn how to create more on their own? That would have given the Avengers unlimited “tries” to fix everything. Also. if the team uses Pym Particles they can’t go back in time and replace them, and doesn’t that mess with how this movie deals with time travel?
A: Okay this is one of those times where you have to say “ignore this part or a movie doesn’t happen”.
Q: Did Steve really live out his life with Peggy ignoring the horrors of the world like Bucky’s mind-controlled assassination adventures, Thanos coming and more? Also: would that timeline now have two Captain Americas when they find and thaw out the original one?
A: Oh boy, this one is a real can of worms. We can only assume that Steve did intervene in that timeline and do his best to stop all of the bad events happening, though it would all be a bit hollow if he was always going to return to his original timeline. As for the second Captain America, maybe he was just left in the ice. While that sounds pretty terrible it’s a bit of a mercy.
Q: What happened to Mjölnir? Cap takes it with him to return the stones to the past but when he comes back (by ageing) he doesn’t have it anymore.
A: Presumably, while Captain America was jumping through time and space returning the stones, he went and gave Mjölnir back to past Thor.
Q: Why return the stones at all then? The Ancient One does mentions that they are needed to defend the world (Doctor Strange, for example, needed it to stop Dormammu) but every reality without a full set of stones will be sparred the original snap.
A: This is the chicken and the egg / stable time loop problem: if Cap doesn’t return the stones, they won’t be there for the Avengers to collect in the first place.
Q: Steve’s mission at the end makes little sense logistically. Sending all stones at once with one Avenger is a real “eggs in a basket” play. Hank Pym is alive again and can make more Pym particles, so why not do many single-stone missions with more Avengers?
A: Steve probably planned and coerced the mission so that he could live a life with Peggy. You can also argue that the movie is already three hours long and one mission saves time, but showing many Avengers on the time machine going back and Steve being the only one that doesn’t return would have worked too.
With unlimited Pym particles, it also makes a bit of sense to just send Steve as maybe the rest of the Avengers are helping the world recover after a third snap. Bucky and Falcon are just standing on the sidelines though…