Abomination To Return In “She-Hulk” Series!

Even apart from official confirmation that Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany will indeed be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in the upcoming Disney+ She-Hulk series – despite her insistent, and very convincing, claims to the contrary over the past few months –  there were several other reveals about the series that have me even more excited to see Maslany transform into the lovable, seven-foot tall, bright green bodybuilder: and prove once and for all that she is not simply a gender-swapped version of the Hulk, as some like to claim, but a unique and fascinating character in her own right, with an abundance of new stories to tell.

She-Hulk
She-Hulk | comicbookinvest.com

For one thing, the series will not gloss over Walters’ day job as a lawyer and activist for both societal reform on a widespread level, and individual superheroes. Marvel president Kevin Feige strongly implied that a couple of familiar MCU characters – both heroes and villains – might wind up in court before Walters, and that she might be placed in increasingly more tricky (and potentially dangerous) predicaments depending on who she’s either representing or trying to place behind bars. Heroes who might show up include Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop, most of whom are already fugitives from the law. But they likely won’t end up in prison, or if they do, it won’t be for long. Villains, on the other hand…that’s where this gets interesting.

The MCU has long had a habit of discarding potentially interesting villains after a single film appearance, without ever actually killing them off – which was just lazy storytelling during Phases 1 through 3, but turns out to be a blessing-in-disguise heading into Phase 4: because now, with the Infinity Saga finally completed, we have time to go back and address all the unresolved storylines of these various antagonists. And there’s long been speculation that, as in the comics, a multitude of these long-forgotten villains will assemble their own version of the Avengers called the Thunderbolts, under the leadership of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, an anti-superhero watchdog (who, ironically, is secretly able to transform into the Red Hulk). With no specific Thunderbolts series or movie announced during the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, I believe She-Hulk will act as the Phase 4 set-up to an eventual Thunderbolts series or movie during Phase 5.

Think about it for a moment. Currently, the MCU has dozens of villains whose fates are still unknown, and a few who have yet to show up but probably won’t be killed in the near future: and all of these villains have committed more than enough heinous crimes to deserve high-profile court trials. Let’s go over a few. Justin Hammer, Tony Stark’s wannabe copycat in Iron Man 2, quietly dropped off the grid after unleashing a small army of heavily-armed robots on New York City; Ghost, the quantum-phasing antagonist of Ant-Man And The Wasp, never received the healing particles she was supposed to get from Scott Lang, and has likely regressed back into self-loathing and hyper-aggression; Yelena Belova, who is set to appear in both Hawkeye and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, probably won’t stop being a violent super-assassin anytime soon; Baron Zemo, the big bad of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, is far too ingenious to stay locked up for long (he’s already escaped one high-security prison); and Madame Masque, whom Vera Farmiga will likely play in the Hawkeye series, is just a really cool character. There are a bunch of others who could fill out the team roster, but the one that we need to focus on is Abomination.

She-Hulk
Abomination | cinemablend.com

First introduced in The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Emil Blonsky (better known as the horribly mutated, grotesque titan Abomination) has only been referenced in-universe once or twice since his debut: back in 2013, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that he was being held in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, in a cryo-cell in Alaska. Since then, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA and been almost entirely disassembled from the inside, but there’s been no mention of Abomination since. Until now. She-Hulk will officially feature the return of the old villain, with Tim Roth reprising the role after over a decade – and hopefully getting a new and improved, comics-accurate, design. The fact that Roth’s involvement has already been announced suggests that Abomination plays a key role in She-Hulk…and what do you know, he also has connections to Thaddeus Ross, and thus to the Thunderbolts team.

So what’s my theory? I believe, based on everything we know so far, that Jennifer Walters’ work as a prosecutor will place her directly in Thaddeus Ross’ line of fire, as he tries to secretly unite various villains and keep them out of prison, even while Walters fights to incarcerate them. In the MCU, it may be agents working for Ross who give Walters the gunshot wounds that almost kill her, leading to Bruce Banner having to save her life with an emergency blood transfusion – which in turn leads to her becoming the She-Hulk, and gaining the extra brawn she’ll need to take the fight straight to Ross. And when she comes face to face with him (probably in the season finale, after figuring out how deeply the corruption goes), that’s when Ross will reveal his own alter ego, the Red Hulk, and engage her in an epic duel. Sounds pretty good to me.

She-Hulk
Red She-Hulk | wallpapersafari.com

As an additional bonus, Tim Roth’s MCU return means we could see other characters from The Incredible Hulk pop up in She-Hulk: including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross (herself a Hulk variant in the comics, the fearsome antiheroine Red She-Hulk). Tyler’s return is something that’s been rumored, and that fans have especially been hoping to see – and of course, I’m always up for a Lord Of The Rings star coming into the MCU, even though, in Tyler’s case, she’s been there for a while; just not getting the recognition and screentime she deserves.

So what do you think? What are you looking forward to from She-Hulk, and how do you want Tim Roth’s Abomination to feature in the series? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Tatiana Maslany Cast As Marvel’s “She-Hulk”!

Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany has become the second member of Marvel’s growing Hulk family, as she has – according to Deadline – signed on to play Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in a highly-anticipated Disney+ series which will follow the fan favorite character on her journey to becoming the indomitable, bright green superheroine. Maslany, whose career highlights include prominent roles on BBC’s Orphan Black and HBO’s Perry Mason, is an unexpected but refreshing choice to play the character, whose casting has been a topic of debate in the Marvel fandom for months.

She-Hulk
theverge.com

Jennifer Walters, the heroine at the heart of the upcoming She-Hulk series, is a character with a lot of heart and humor, and the fancasts for her have primarily been actresses with a background in comedy, such as Alison Brie (who was rumored to be the type of actress Marvel was looking for), Aubrey Plaza and Stephanie Beatriz. My personal favorite fancast was always Aladdin’s Naomi Scott, but clearly that was just me. Anyway, the casting of Maslany might indicate that Marvel has something a little different in mind: Maslany isn’t a stranger to comedy, but her talents are definitely best showcased in her wide range of dramatic performances, from her role(s) on Orphan Black as Sarah Manning and over a dozen clones, to her recent appearance as Sister Alice McKeegan (based on the real life evangelist Aimee McPherson) on Perry Mason. Taking all that into consideration, I’m willing to make a guess that Marvel’s She-Hulk will be just as much a dramatic character as a comedic one, something that I’m relishing the chance to see. Jennifer Walters’ story lends itself to a dramatic telling.

For those unaware of She-Hulk’s origins (and those who mistakenly still think she’s just a Hulk rip-off without her own personality or backstory), here’s a little refresher on where she comes from: in the comics, she starts out as ordinary Jennifer Walters, the cousin of Bruce Banner (who, by then, is already the Hulk). After her father angers a homicidal crime lord, she gets caught in the crossfire and has to be rushed to the hospital, where Bruce Banner gives her an emergency blood transfusion to save her life. The gamma radiation in his blood transmits to her and gives her nearly identical powers, but with a few interesting differences: firstly, when she transforms into her She-Hulk persona, she retains her human intellect and emotions, allowing her greater control over her actions and ensuring she never turns quite as destructive as her cousin; secondly, she doesn’t become a monster…instead, she just turns big, muscular and green, with (typically) an iconic purple and white costume and a mane of 80’s curls that has her at the top of my list of best superhero hairdos. When she’s not fighting crime with her fists, she’s fighting it in the courtroom as a lawyer who represents both civilians (particularly minorities and members of marginalized communities) and superheroes. I have a feeling her backstory will be slightly updated to have her first take legal action against the crime lords, who will then later retaliate and intentionally try to kill her, prompting her into a bit of a crisis as she has to try and figure out whether to go after them as a superpowered vigilante or as a prosecutor backed by the justice system. There’s a lot of potential for drama there.

She-Hulk
usatoday.com

But, as in the comics, there’s also plenty of room for humor. I kind of doubt that the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of She-Hulk will ever directly break the fourth wall as she does in the comics, but that doesn’t mean she still can’t be every bit as funny and sassy as her comics counterpart. A lot of it will depend on surrounding her with a great supporting cast who can act as foils to her: there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner will appear (I mean, he probably has to for her origin story to work), most likely in his newest form as the cool, self-confident Professor Hulk, unless the series takes place prior to the events of Avengers: Endgame. There’s also rumors that a number of other Hulk and Hulk-related characters could show up, including Red Hulk, and maybe even Hulk’s former love interest, Betty Ross (hopefully, as rumored, with Liv Tyler reprising the role).

Kat Coiro, who will direct the She-Hulk pilot and several more episodes in the show, and Jessica Gao, who is the head writer of the series, both also come from the comedy genre and will likely keep things light-hearted (I mean, as much as possible when you’re dealing with a character whose powers literally derive from a nearly fatal shooting).

She-Hulk
nerdist.com

Since the question will eventually come up…no, I really don’t expect the 5′ 4″ Maslany to play She-Hulk in her actual Hulk form: in other words, while she’ll still do the voice and presumably motion-capture, I presume the She-Hulk persona will be realized through CGI. This is a little bit disappointing, especially since no one wants to see special-effects budget limitations possibly hinder how often She-Hulk will be onscreen, but it can’t be helped: Hulk was a fully CGI character too, and no one complained (up until Avengers: Endgame, and then everyone complained). And the Disney+ shows have big enough budgets that She-Hulk’s design should look pretty good, no matter what.

On the other hand, if Tatiana Maslany wants to try and convince me that she’s a towering green woman with the physique of a professional bodybuilder through sheer force of acting, I think I’d buy it. She’s that good an actress.

What do you think of the casting? Are you excited to see She-Hulk make her MCU debut on Disney+? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has (in)famously had a hard time establishing romantic relationships between its characters: even the few love stories that have helped to define the overarching story have sometimes gone through ups and downs, or simply collided headfirst with a brick wall and died (looking at you, Thor & Jane). And yet they keep trying to master the same old boy-meets-girl (or Norse-god-meets-girl, or boy-meets-alien, or computer-program-meets-girl) formula. That’s why, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’ve set myself a challenge: trying to find the ten most romantic, endearing, adorable couples in the MCU and ranking them.

Disclaimer: “ships” or non-canon pairings aren’t being considered on this list because that would be cheating – most MCU “ships” are at least ten times better than the majority of actual onscreen pairings. It’s simply not fair to compare.

10: Thor & Jane Foster.

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked! 1
hollywoodreporter.com

These two had something that looked like potential – I mean, if you squinted really hard. From the moment that Thor, the Norse God of Thunder and rightful heir to the throne of Asgard, crash-landed in the American Southwest, upsetting one of Jane Foster’s pseudo-scientific experiments, Marvel tried to convince audiences that a grand and glorious epic love-story for the ages was brewing – but all the magic (or “what your ancestors call magic”) words in the Marvel mythos couldn’t force Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman to look more than remotely disinterested in each other. And after Thor: The Dark World failed to turn up the heat, or really do anything at all, Portman had finally had enough: she quit the MCU, and Jane Foster was subsequently written out of the story. In Thor: Ragnarok, it was briefly mentioned that she broke up with the Thunder God offscreen – an uncomfortably awkward conclusion to what was supposed to be a cornerstone of Thor’s entire arc.

9: Stephen Strange & Christine Palmer.

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marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com

I’m actually tempted to move this couple ever so slightly further up the list, because while they’re not exactly memorable, they’re also probably not as bad and/or boring as you remembered. Dr. Stephen Strange, a snobbish, arrogant surgeon, wasn’t just the on-and-off boyfriend of Dr. Christine Palmer – he was also her work-partner, and it was mentioned (though never really elaborated on) that the two had even pioneered an important new surgical technique, making the couple basically equal. And after Strange’s run-in with karma, it was Palmer who tried to help him recover his strength and rebuild his life: their heated argument about Strange’s future is the most powerful scene in the Doctor Strange movie, and carries a lot of emotional weight. Unfortunately, Rachel McAdams’ character basically fades into the background after that, and apart from being privy to a battle on the astral plane and trying (unsuccessfully) to save the Ancient One’s life, she really has nothing more to do in the story. And she’s not returning for the sequel, so I guess that’s the end of that.

8: Peter Quill & Gamora.

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screencrush.com

I don’t really like either Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord, an interstellar pirate armed with braggadocio, semi-Celestial powers that have proved to be entirely inconsequential outside of his own movies, and an impressive playlist of golden oldies), or Gamora (a.k.a. The Most Dangerous Woman In The Galaxy, who never actually lived up to that title before her untimely death at the hands of male screenwriters who didn’t know what else to do with her her own father, Thanos): nonetheless, I have to admit they had a spark of chemistry in both Guardians Of The Galaxy movies – and their interactions in Avengers: Infinity War, during which Gamora nearly convinced Quill to kill her (long story), are pretty emotional. There was something there! It wasn’t much, maybe, but it also wasn’t not there – much to the dismay of Thor & Peter Quill shippers everywhere. But in the end, Quill failed (because doesn’t he always?), Gamora got tossed off a cliff, and here we are with nothing left of their relationship but a sad trail of bubbles.

7: Natasha Romanoff & Bruce Banner.

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thedigitalwise.com

I like Avengers: Age Of Ultron. I know it’s unpopular to say this, but it’s honestly the best Avengers movie – not only because it references the events of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but also because it successfully balances almost all of the main characters while still being able to add a couple new ones to the mix. There’s a cohesive plot, the stakes are raised, and the Avengers get to interact with each other on a more personal, intimate level than ever before. And then there’s Natasha Romanoff’s random relationship with Bruce Banner – while it’s not a bad idea, and they make a cute couple, the basis for their coupling up is based on the problematic idea that they’re both “monsters”: Bruce, because he transforms into a giant green killing machine; Natasha, because she’s…infertile? The messaging is weird and kind of sexist, especially since it would have been way easier to make Natasha’s murderous past with the KGB the reason for her guilt and self-loathing. It’s a shame, because Natasha actually did have better interactions with Bruce than she ever had with her former love interest, Clint Barton, but for better or worse their story arc was completely abandoned in Avengers: Infinity War.

6: T’Challa & Nakia.

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While there’s certainly an argument to be made that T’Challa, the catsuit-wearing guardian of the African nation of Wakanda, is slightly more low-key and subdued than many of his co-stars in Black Panther (let’s face it, he doesn’t have Okoye’s fiery energy, Killmonger’s smoldering charisma, or M’Baku’s macabre humor), there can be no denying that his relationship with Wakandan secret agent/humanitarian Nakia is super cute. The two are a power couple, with both characters having genuine hero moments – Nakia even briefly diverts the main focus of the film away from T’Challa, and considers becoming the Black Panther herself. By the end of the film, she’s also working around the world to help extend Wakandan aid to those in need. And when they’re onscreen together, they’re presented as a healthy, sturdy relationship that doesn’t have to rely on drama, troubling gender dynamics, or sarcastic banter to be interesting. They’re basically #CoupleGoals, and I love them.

5: Wanda Maximoff & The Vision.

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polygon.com

Ah, the tragic story of the computer program who became a man…once, for no apparent reason, and never did so again. The Vision, a sentient computer program outfitted with a cool new body (that, unfortunately for him, came along with the Mind Stone, one of the most coveted objects in the galaxy), didn’t really show any signs of attraction to the troubled witch, Wanda Maximoff, until Captain America: Civil War, but when their romance finally kicked into gear, and the two began to bond over spicy food, things got good – and then immediately got weird again, when Wanda blasted Vision through a floor, before suddenly…ending up on the run with him in Scotland? Where Vision was suddenly able to turn into a human man, but only did so once, for reasons that were never explained? Yeah, so there’s some serious gaps in what we actually know about their relationship, but at least it ended on a strong note, with Wanda having to brutally murder her lover in an attempt to destroy the Mind Stone before Thanos could get to it, only to watch Thanos use the Time Stone to reverse all her hard work, murder Vision again, and use the Stones to wipe out half the galaxy, including Wanda herself. If it’s any consolation, the upcoming WandaVision series on Disney+ will feature Wanda resurrecting her dead partner, only to have him presumably die once again when her entire reality inevitably comes crashing down around her. Cheerful, am I right?

4: Scott Lang & Hope Van Dyne.

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hollywoodreporter.com

Technically, there have been two canon MCU power couples that call themselves Ant-Man and The Wasp: Hope Van Dyne’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, and then Hope herself and her partner, reformed burglar/single father/world’s best grandma, Scott Lang. But the latter couple has the edge on its predecessor, mostly because Janet doesn’t actually show up until the end of the second Ant-Man film, and most of her flashbacks with Hank were cut out of the movie anyway. Scott and Hope share the spotlight (and the title-card) in Ant-Man And The Wasp, which focuses almost entirely on their relationship – and their exchanges of playful, witty banter, coupled with their fidelity and focus on family, make them one of the most endearing couples in the MCU.

3: Steve Rogers & Peggy Carter.

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themarysue.com

Specifically, their relationship in the first three Captain America films, before Avengers: Endgame happened. In the beginning, scrawny new recruit Steve Rogers and fast-talking, no-nonsense commanding officer Peggy Carter were actually quite a sweet pairing: they both had character arcs, and agency in their own stories. There was a quaint little 1940’s love story between them, but Peggy, by virtue of being in the military, wasn’t forced to play the damsel-in-distress or grieving-girlfriend-on-the-home-front roles: and in the post-war era, after Steve went down in the frigid Antarctic Ocean and was lost, she picked up her life and moved on, founding S.H.I.E.L.D. and starting a family. Her relationship with Steve after his resurrection from the ice was deeply emotional and interesting, and it was tragic when she passed away. But then to essentially reverse all the complexities of their post-The First Avenger relationship by having Steve go back in time and start all over with her, making her essentially a consolation prize for Steve after he failed to move on with his life, thus preventing her from moving on with hers? No, just no.

2: Tony Stark & Virginia “Pepper” Potts.

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appocalypse.co

They’re the MCU’s original duo: how could they not come in near the top of the list? Tony was a sarcastic, cynical mess of a human being; a war-profiteer who didn’t care one iota about the countless people killed daily by his weapons of mass destruction; Pepper was the very opposite, a cool, collected woman with savvy business skills and a friendly disposition. It’s a trope, and a tired one at that. But their relationship evolved into so much more than that – Tony became Iron Man, and Pepper took over as CEO of Stark Industries. They constructed the Avengers Tower in New York City. In the five years after Avengers: Infinity War, they got married and had a daughter. In Avengers: Endgame, where they even got to fight in battle alongside each other, their decade-long relationship came to an end with Tony Stark’s tragic death. In that final moment, as the former “Merchant of Death” gave up his life to save the world, Pepper stayed beside him and her face was the last thing he ever saw. I’m not crying: you’re crying.

1: Leopold Fitz & Jemma Simmons.

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cinemablend.com

Yes, I cheated! Fitz and Simmons, or “Fitzsimmons” as they’re more commonly known among the fandom, are not technically members of the MCU: they come from the Marvel TV division, where they made their debut on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and have endured through six grueling, torturous seasons of hardship, personal loss, tragedy and pure, wholesome romance. While they started out as the team’s two bumbling, socially-awkward scientists, it didn’t take long before the universe’s vendetta against them resulted in them standing up for S.H.I.E.L.D., and for each other, in incredible ways. Their tense, frantic struggle to figure their way out of an airtight box at the bottom of the ocean (long story) was one of the highlights of Season 1, as it showed just how powerful the two are as a team – so of course they were then split up. Jemma became an undercover spy, got eaten by a space monolith, was transported to another planet and had to survive on her own, fell in love with an astronaut who turned into an evil alien god, was possessed by the Kree, was possibly hinted to be bisexual (come on, we all know she had a thing for Daisy), and even met and defeated the demonic personification of her self-doubt: Leo lost his ability to communicate for a long period of time and became delusional, was possibly hinted to be bisexual (come on, we all know he had a thing for Mac), became a dashing secret agent, met his evil HYDRA doppelganger, fell in love with HYDRA’s cyborg overlord, and then got stuck in two different time-periods at once, which resulted in him dying but still being alive and yet somehow a space pirate in both timelines…it’s a wacky and confusing series, but their love for each other, which persists even against all odds, has always been at the heart of the story, and I would be lying if I didn’t say they’re the most romantic couple in what used to technically be part of (or at least adjacent to) the MCU.

So what do you think of my top ten, and would you have chosen differently? Did I leave your favorite couple off my list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“Avengers: Endgame” Spoilers! Everything That Happened!

Well, this is going to be much easier to write than my non-spoiler review! Avengers: Endgame has so many twists, surprises, reveals and gasp-out-loud moments that it’s simply impossible not to talk about. So you, casual reader, have been warned! If you haven’t seen the movie yet – stop reading, leave, go see Avengers: Endgame and then come back.

So we’re just going to talk about the general plot, which has been, of course, a closely-guarded secret: I’ll probably have many other theories and interesting bits of news to share as more details about the movie come out, but for right now I think I should do my best just to explain everything that happened. It’s a very complex movie!

Endgame opens on the day of Thanos’ infamous Snap, with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) forced to witness his entire family get turned to dust, along with half of the world’s population. Then, the movie leaves him there, heartbroken and confused, so it can return to the really important stuff.

Did that sound unnaturally harsh to Hawkeye? Yes, intentionally so. He wasn’t my favorite character in this film, I can tell you.

So anyway, then we continue on, shortly after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and the murderous blue assassin Nebula (Karen Gillan) both stranded in space, getting along pretty well. Within a few minutes, they are rescued by Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who carries their spaceship to earth, where Tony is reunited with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Together, the remaining Avengers put together their master plan to defeat Thanos and resurrect the Vanished. Everything goes smoothly: they quickly figure out where Thanos is hiding, on a planet called The Garden. Energy signatures suggest that Thanos has in fact used the Infinity Stones he collected in Infinity War again, but no one knows why. Therefore, the Avengers head off into outer space to find and defeat Thanos once and for all.

They find him on The Garden, an undefended paradise planet where the Mad Titan has taken up gardening and cooking as his chief hobbies. The Avengers blow up his house and hold him captive, demanding to know where the Infinity Stones are. The maimed and injured Thanos informs them that he destroyed the Stones not long ago, to prevent any chance of ever undoing the Snap. (This raises some important questions, such as: how does the universe survive without these apparently crucial elements of its existence?, but these questions aren’t answered).

Horrified by this answer, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) promptly beheads the Titan and leaves the house, striding away in silhouette.

This, of course, all happens in the first act of the movie, and then the screen fades to black, and the ominous words FIVE YEARS LATER slowly appear. That’s right, the rumors of a huge time gap between Infinity War and Endgame were correct: five years of grief and despair set in on the planet Earth, splitting up the Avengers once again and causing some bizarre stuff to happen. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) rather randomly merges himself with the Hulk, combining his brains and the Hulk’s brawn to create Professor Hulk, a somewhat unusual character who might have needed just a little more CGI magic; Thor gains weight and becomes an alcoholic living in a fishing village in Norway with the last refugees of Asgard – including Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who unfortunately has far too little to do in this movie, and Korg (voiced by Taika Waititi), who has even less to do. Conveniently, it’s never once explained how either of these characters got off the besieged spacecraft where we last saw them in Thor: Ragnarok, or how they got to Earth. Hawkeye gets a mohawk and tattoos, and decides to pursue a life of crime in the streets of Tokyo under the name of Ronin. This is honestly so irrelevant, but it’s worth mentioning because…scratch that, it’s just irrelevant. Captain Marvel heads off into space for unknown reasons. Tony Stark gets married to Pepper and has a daughter named Morgan, and the whole family settles down somewhere by a lake. Captain America (Chris Evans) joins a therapy group, which also happens to be attended by Joe Russo, Avengers: Endgame director, who makes a cameo here as a man struggling to find love in this bleak and hopeless world.

And at this moment, when all seems lost, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shows up, saved by a stray rat. Having been trapped in the Quantum Realm for five years, Ant-Man knows nothing about Thanos, the Infinity Stones, the Snap – or the fate of his own daughter, Cassie. She turns out to be alive, in fact, but she’s now a teenager, nothing like the chirpy child that Ant-Man last knew in Ant-Man And The Wasp. His reunion with Cassie is one of the movie’s first truly emotional scenes, and sets the stage for what’s about to go down. He arrives at Avengers HQ with a new hope for the future: time travel is possible, but only by using the power of the Quantum Realm. His message revitalizes the Avengers in their darkest hour, and Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) start rounding up all their friends, seeking to reverse the Snap by going into the past and getting each of the Infinity Stones before Thanos.

Naturally, things don’t go exactly as planned. Tony Stark and Captain America don’t ever fully forgive each other for the Civil War they caused, which is one of the great tragedies of Endgame: Stark is unwilling to go back and reverse the Snap because he doesn’t want to lose everything he has now; his wife and daughter. Black Widow goes to Tokyo to find Hawkeye (or Ronin, or Irrelevant, or whatever you want to call him), and enlists him, while Professor Hulk manages to stir Thor from his drunken stupor in Norway long enough to get him back to Avengers HQ.

At this point in the movie, things are looking pretty terrifying: literally, as well as figuratively – Hawkeye looks awful in a mohawk, and Thor is not exactly the tall and muscular Norse God he once was. Tony’s hair is graying, and Black Widow’s hair is so many colors I’ve lost count.

But finally, after much trial and error (and Ant-Man getting turned into a baby, and some brief discussion about murdering a baby), the plan is ready to go. It’s best to just ignore how the time travel in this movie works – something about how changing an event in the past doesn’t actually change the future, but instead causes an alternate reality, which is itself dangerous, but not as dangerous as, say, accidentally murdering yourself in the past (a real concern of Nebula’s, as it turns out).

Tony Stark, Captain America, Professor Hulk and Ant-Man travel back to the Battle of New York, a crucial event in the first Avengers movie, in search of the Space Stone, Mind Stone and Time Stone. War Machine and Nebula (a bizarre pair, but rather endearing) set off to the planet Morag, where, in Guardians of the Galaxy, the Power Stone was once located. Thor and Rocket Raccoon hunt for Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who was possessed by the Reality Stone in Thor: The Dark World. And Hawkeye and Black Widow are sent by Nebula to the planet Vormir to find and win the Soul Stone.

I’ve already mentioned Portman, but it’s incredible how many actors and actresses have reprized roles from previous Marvel movies: Robert Redford shows up as the HYDRA operative Alexander Pierce from Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Frank Grillo is Crossbones once more, and has a truly fantastic encounter with his future enemy Captain America in an elevator very much like the one where, in Winter Soldier, he and his cronies beat up the Captain during the HYDRA takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. This time, however, Cap is able to escape by whispering the password “Hail Hydra”, in a clever nod to the previous movies. Tilda Swinton puts on her saffron robes and bald-cap once more to play the Ancient One, who died in Doctor Strange, but is still keeper of the Time Stone during the Battle of New York, and has a great conversation with Bruce Banner before relinquishing the Stone, entrusting him with a promise to return all the Infinity Stones to the exact time and place they were taken from after they’re used to reverse the snap – didn’t I say, just ignore the time travel science? Rene Russo also appears as Thor’s dead mother Frigga, and is able to impart some wisdom to her misguided son (including, but not limited to, “eat a salad”). Their appearances here are brilliant nostalgic callbacks to the First and Second Phases of the MCU. And you never get the sense that they’re just replaying what they did in those prior films: each of them brings something new to the table. My personal favorite, though it was the briefest, was the mostly offscreen attack on Jane Foster by everybody’s favorite trash-panda, Rocket Raccoon, who runs off with the Reality Stone just in time.

Thor and Rocket are the luckiest of the team. Captain America ends up coming face to face with himself in the past; Tony Stark gives himself cardiac arrest; and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) escapes with the Space Stone, forcing Tony and Cap to go further back in time to 1970, where they have to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters: there, Tony runs into his own father, Howard Stark (John Slattery) and gives him parenting advice, and Captain America accidentally ends up in the office of his former girlfriend Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) – plus, there’s an awesome Stan Lee cameo, and young Michael Douglas playing the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym.

Meanwhile, on the planet Vormir, Hawkeye and Black Widow’s story suddenly reaches the conclusion that nobody even knew was still coming – after all, Hawkeye and Black Widow haven’t been a couple for years, and there’s never been much of a concerted effort to get them back together, or even to hint at any shared romantic tension between them. Which is part of the reason that the following plot point falls rather flat – no pun intended, as you’ll soon see. Yes, because to get the Soul Stone, you must sacrifice that which you love – specifically, you must throw the person you love over a cliff. Hawkeye and Black Widow suddenly find themselves in an emotional mess, as both of them try desperately to commit suicide and prevent the other from also dying.

The fight that follows is actually really dramatic, and I was on the edge of my seat wondering how they were going to find a way out of the inescapable scenario. But I soon realized there was no happy ending – just as Hawkeye takes the leap, Black Widow jumps on him, and both accidentally fall off the cliff. Hawkeye just barely manages to get out his grappling hook, and they find themselves hanging in mid-air. Black Widow pleads with Hawkeye, telling him that he has a family that needs him, while she has nothing to live for. Finally, she lets go of his hand and falls to her death.

And, yeah, that’s how she dies. Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, the first (and for a while, the only) female Avenger, dropped from a cliff so she can serve as a cheap tool to move the story along. Hawkeye gets the Soul Stone, and leaves Vormir, abandoning Natasha’s broken body on the rocks – a woman deprived of a character arc for years, now suddenly is forced back into an old romance so she can get killed off at the first possible opportunity, far from her home planet, somewhere in the desolation of space where no one will ever bury her bones. It’s not just sad and shocking, it’s a death that shouldn’t have happened, and it’s already become a topic of much controversy.

It’s hard to move on from something like that, but of course Black Widow’s death is not the most significant event here: that would be too much to ask for. Her death doesn’t move the plot except to deliver the Soul Stone into Hawkeye’s hands, and the Soul Stone is just another part of the Infinity Gauntlet, which now only requires one more Infinity Stone.

We left Nebula and War Machine on the planet Morag, and here we find them again. War Machine manages to escape with the Power Stone, but Nebula is unable to get away from the planet. Turns out, she’s not the only person looking for the Stone at this time – Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula are here too. Yeah, Thanos: this is 2014, and the Mad Titan is still on his hunt for Infinity Stones. And this other Nebula is Nebula before she turned against her father. This Nebula (we’ll call her Evil Nebula) ends up revealing visions of her own future to Thanos, who thus sees everything from the Avengers’ plan to his own death. In an attempt to change his fate, Thanos abducts Good Nebula and holds her captive, while Evil Nebula disguises herself as Good Nebula (by attaching one strip of metal to her head), and travels forward in time to join the other Avengers. This time travel stuff is confusing, but it sure is exciting.

The Avengers are reassembled at their headquarters and start inserting the Stones into their new Infinity Gauntlet. I have to hand it to Mark Ruffalo here – for an entirely CGI construction, Professor Hulk manages to convey the most despairing reaction to the news of Black Widow’s death, and he is the one who picks up the Gauntlet and wields it: immediately, he is tortured with agony as he tries to snap his fingers. He just barely has the strength. While this is going on, Evil Nebula is busy messing with the controls of the time machine, which nobody notices. We hear a snap, something goes flying up from the time machine and smashes through the ceiling, and then all is silent.

Until Hawkeye’s phone starts ringing. For a fraction of a heartbeat, I thought it was somehow (impossibly) Black Widow on the line, but no, it was Hawkeye’s wife, Laura. Outside, birds start singing. But just as you thought you were out of the Soulworld –

The entire building explodes. That thing that Evil Nebula summoned through the time machine? That was Thanos’ spaceship, and he arrives in full glory, blowing up Avengers HQ and crushing everyone under rubble and debris. Far below the building, War Machine and Rocket Raccoon are frantically struggling to escape while Professor Hulk holds up the ceiling of a collapsed room. Hawkeye grabs the Infinity Gauntlet and runs, but quickly realizes he’s being chased by Thanos’ horde of alien monsters. He ends up running into Evil Nebula, who tries to take the Gauntlet from him, and there’s a confrontation in the tunnel with him, her, and also Good Nebula and Gamora herself, who has decided to betray Thanos. Evil Nebula gets shot, which (oddly) has absolutely no effect on Good Nebula, and they all get out of there safely.

Meanwhile, Tony Stark suits up as Iron Man and goes to find Thanos himself, followed by Captain America and Thor. There’s a lot I could say about the confrontation with Thanos, but I’ll keep it brief. They start fighting, obviously, and things starts going badly. Tony gets tossed aside, and Thanos grabs Thor’s own weapon, Stormbreaker, and drives it slowly but surely into Thor’s chest.

And then, suddenly, Captain America jumps in wielding – double take – the Hammer of Thor, Mjolnir, the hammer that can only be wielded by one who is worthy. Thor speaks for everyone when he yells excitedly “I knew it!”. The theater burst into applause at this moment. This is a moment that Marvel fans have been waiting for since it was teased in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and only now have we finally received the payoff. The next few moments are just a blur of lightning and thunder as Captain America goes up against the Mad Titan wielding Mjolnir and his vibranium shield – which soon gets broken to pieces by Thanos’ battle-ax. Thanos steps back and admires his handiwork, and then begins to monologue, as he always does in these types of situations, talking about how he once thought he could save the world. But, he realizes now, there is no chance of that anymore. The world – the entire universe, in fact – must be remade. Entire armies of alien monsters and the full force of the Black Order disembark from Thanos’ spaceship and march towards Captain America, who stands alone against them all.

No words can ever express my shocked, baffled joy when I heard the long-silenced voice of Falcon (Anthony Mackie) saying “On your left” to Cap, as a ring of glowing orange light suddenly opened in the air next to the lone hero. First on the battlefield are Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) representing the country of Wakanda. The Vanished are returning. Falcon appears, and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), and M’Baku (Winston Duke), and then another portal opens: and there’s Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), and Spider-man (Tom Holland). Wong (Benedict Wong) is there, and Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Valkyrie, Korg, and Pepper Potts herself. Every Marvel superhero is gathered to fight alongside Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. Ant-Man rescues the Avengers trapped under the building, and so he, War Machine, Rocket Raccoon, and Professor Hulk all join the battle as well. Hawkeye, Nebula and Gamora show up too.

The following fight is the greatest battle in a superhero movie, ever. Every character here has so much depth and so much development that’s been established over so many movies – you know each and every one of them as if they’re old friends, as they charge into the fray. The Infinity Gauntlet is the focal point of the battle, as one hero after another grabs the precious object and tries to get it away from Thanos: even Spider-man has it at one point! You’ve never seen a fight scene with this many characters, this many character arcs coming to a conclusion. There are some great moments here: an especially notable one, in my opinion, was the grand entrance of Captain Marvel herself, as she hurtled through the earth’s atmosphere and plowed through Thanos’ spaceship, before leading all of the Marvel heroines into the thick of the fight. Women were the standouts here: from Gamora’s fantastic reunion with Star-Lord (whom she doesn’t even remember), to Scarlet Witch’s encounter with Thanos, who mockingly tells her that he doesn’t even know who she is. “But you will,” she responds, as she tears away his armor and easily disarms him.

But, alas, these good things cannot last. Thanos gets the Infinity Gauntlet at last, and prepares to snap his fingers and destroy the earth. But Captain Marvel grabs his hand and holds his fingers apart with superhuman strength, as she absorbs power directly from the Gauntlet – so Thanos simply punches her with the Power Stone in his other hand, and sends her flying. The last duel is between him and Tony Stark, the rematch of their fight in Infinity War. Things seem hopeless, and Thanos isn’t oblivious to that fact: “I am inevitable,” he boasts.

Tony realizes he’s unable to get the Infinity Gauntlet off the Titan’s hand – so, using his wits, he simply grabs the Infinity Stones and fits them into his own armor. “And I am Iron Man,” he says, and snaps his fingers.

You know what happens next. You have to know. The Stones are too powerful for anybody to wield, much less a mortal. Tony lives just long enough to see that his sacrifice was not in vain, as Thanos and his minions fade away into dust and vanish. Surrounded by his friends, and with Pepper at his side, Tony Stark, who started these ten glorious years of Marvel history, slips away. The battle is won, but it cost us everything. The world has been saved, but not for Tony. The arc reactor implanted in his chest that has kept him alive all this time…goes dark.

After that, there’s really not much left to say. There’s a funeral, of course, for Tony, and all the Marvel characters are in attendance. Characters get fitting conclusions, for the most part. Thor passes on the rule of Asgard to Valkyrie, who looks particularly majestic and resplendent as she accepts his offer and becomes Queen. Thor then sets off with the Guardians of the Galaxy as they go to look for Gamora, who mysteriously disappeared during the battle. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 obviously has a lot of explaining to do. Spider-man goes back to school, which is presumably where Spider-man: Far From Home will pick up when it comes out a few months from now. Captain Marvel’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Ant-Man’s family is reunited. Hawkeye returns to his wife and children.

And as for Captain America, he gets the most bittersweet ending. He feels it’s his duty to go back in time and return all the Infinity Stones to their proper timelines, so as to avoid, you know, the destruction of the universe. He’s only gone for a few seconds, but it’s a few seconds too many. He returns as an old man, and informs his comrades, Falcon and Winter Soldier, that he was actually gone for years: he lived out the rest of his life with his old girlfriend Peggy Carter, and he finally got to dance with her – after ten years of waiting, it finally happened. Now, as an old man, he’s passing on the Captain America mantle to someone new: he chooses Falcon, Sam Wilson, to be the new Captain. And there the movie ends.

This is only a synopsis, of course, not a full review, but I hope it’s illuminated some aspects and made everything a bit clearer to understand. I’ll have more stuff to share about Avengers: Endgame probably in the coming days and weeks. The fates of each of the characters definitely deserves more attention, so I’ll be exploring that in greater detail very soon! Stay tuned!