Analysis of Avengers: Endgame.
All spoilers on this page are left unmarked. You Have Been Warned!
The story of the Infinity Saga underlines the strength of sacrifices for the greater good, but in different ways:
In Infinity War, Thanos came out on top because he was willing and able to sacrifice anything - even his own daughter - to win. Meanwhile, the Avengers flatly refused to sacrifice their comrade, Vision, believing that trading any life for a victory is no victory at all.
Thanos proved his mettle and showed that his will was absolute in the pursuit of his goals. And the Avengers could only crumble before his unshakable determination.
However, the Avengers actually learn from this, and they find a balance between their beliefs and their necessities through their own sacrifice — self-sacrifice.
This is what allows them to truly defeat Thanos in the end.
Thanos' triumph proved to only be temporary because his sacrifice was ultimately selfish; he always asked others to die for him, believing that he and his cause were synonymous. While Avengers like Natasha and Tony proved that their will was greater than his by looking beyond themselves and making the selfless act; giving your own life to save others.
This is what gives them the lasting victory.
Not only do they reverse Thanos' snap, but they also thoroughly trounce his final legacy by demonstrating the one solution to The Needs of the Many that he was clearly too self-centered to ever considered.
As already mentioned on the main page, second chances is the main theme of Avengers: Endgame, that exists in every choice or decision, moment or character arc conclusion present since the very beginning of the film. And the main message of the film is that, whether it means taking back what you've lost, or building something new out of what you have, you should always take a second chance when it comes around. For better or for worse, Avengers: Endgame wields its theme how Captain America wields his shield: as something to make him stronger, that he'll never give up.
Second chances are present since the very beginning with Tony and Nebula, where Tony tells her re: paper football, "we are now one apiece" and Nebula replies "I would like to try again". It's such a throwaway line, but something that sets the tone for the entire movie to come. We get back on earth, and we see that the Avengers are forming a plan to take back what they lost - a second chance to defeat Thanos. After Tony collapses to the floor, they leave for Titan-II. But Thanos isn't even worried when they arrive, and they soon see why: he destroyed the stones, the only possibility for a second chance to restore everything. Closing off the first act in a poetic way, Thanos remarks that "perhaps [he] treated [her] too harshly"...
Thanos and his complete failure to understand the meaning of a second chance is something that comes up a lot in the film. But, for now, there's the second act.
FIVE YEARS LATER
The Avengers have all moved on from the snap, to varying degrees, and all of them have changed. Tony has taken it as a second chance to start a family with Pepper Potts, and Bruce has taken it as a second chance to merge with the Hulk to become Professor Hulk. Steve and Natasha are desperately trying to stay as they were - Captain America, the inspiring symbol of the nation; and Black Widow, the mysterious agent who works in the shadows. Meanwhile, Thor and Clint have actually regressed into themselves, reverting back to jovial yet fierce warrior and hardened assassin respectively. Nat and Steve even have a talk about how she's "still trying to be better" while Steve says that they "both need to get a life". And then... enter Scott Lang.
It makes sense that Scott is the one to come up with the grand Time Heist - after all, his movies are about getting a second chance to become the hero in his daughter's eyes. And, together, they generate the Time Heist, during which they get to live through their lives a second time, but this time at different points in their stories, and with different motivations:
To bring them all home. Whatever it takes.
Trauma is a symptom of an event that makes going forward untenable for a person. It stops growth and continually forces you to look backwards to the traumatic event without finding a way to use it properly. Each of the heroes was traumatized in their own way, though for some, they found different ways to appropriate or face that trauma. Tony reinvented himself as a father. Steve held fast to council others in need. Heroes like Nebula, Rocket, Captain Marvel and War Machine threw themselves into their work to get a handle on that trauma in order to find meaning through their survival. Bruce used the trauma to become something greater than he was before by combining his 2 halves into one.
And for others, the trauma became a wound they couldn't heal. Clint losing his family sets this metaphor in motion for the movie, and his descent into harsh, villainous action was his less healthy response to that trauma. Thor retreated into himself because he couldn't fix his big mistake despite "going for the head" properly the 2nd time.
The Time Heist then is like an operatic way of sending everyone through therapy. They literally go back into the past in order to find new material for the future. Tony gets closure with his father, finally healing the wound on his soul and seeing that despite his flaws, Howard was a man that can be emulated without guilt. Steve sees a possibility for the future in the past, which shows that he never truly belonged in the future, showing a path forward for his time displacement trauma. Clint and Thor, in going for their stones, are given new material to work from in their self journeys. Clint shown a mirror for what he did long ago in seeing a path back to normalcy from his oldest friend choosing to sacrifice herself. Thor given a new paradigm for his life in not living up to expections by just being authentic. And being shown by the universe that he is still a worthy man.
And so, through this final battle and using the stones, the trauma is faced, and in doing so, a new story is created for the survivors. Whether in sacrifice, learning to care for oneself, honoring the legacy of the fallen, or even just remembering all the good in ones life, the trauma of the snap will begin healing through the blip, ending the Infinity Saga on a note of hope for the future.
This was challenged during her many years. Challenged by Loki in saying her actions will never taken away what she's done in the past. Challenged by HYDRA pulling the rug out from underneath her by revealing she was working for evil even after all that. Challenged by Ultron in reiterating her past issues, and how much they defined her. Challenged by the civil war, where Captain America spoke about standing by principle rather than by groups. Challenged by Thanos, whose snap destroyed her work, and who left her with a dead end job, still hoping to serve the world the only way she knew how.
But through all this, there were also others that pushed her to change. Banner, who challenged her sincerity and made her become part of something bigger. Steve, who after punching out HYDRA, affirmed that he would trust her with his life. And who as a friend, had her choose principle over service, forcing the hand of others to put her into exile. Yet in it all, she began to understand that she wanted others to accept her. And the Avengers did. They became her true family, and so, when the call for salvation is offered by Ant Man, she steps forth as an advocate of hope and belief. In Scott, in Bruce, in being able to fix it.
And thus the punctuation on her story is in sacrifice. For the mission, for the greater good, and for Hawkeye. To give him a chance to see the other side of it all. To finally balance the scales of her deaths by providing the means of life for billions. To see things through Whatever it Takes. So with a sincere, "It's okay", Black Widow died for the Time Heist, and found peace knowing she'd die for a good cause.
And though the Snap didn't effect him as personally as many of the others, he was still deeply hurt by their failure. Feeling that both Banner and Hulk failed twice, and blaming himself for it all. So, in the 5 year time skip, Bruce created a penance and a solution. Merging himself and Hulk together. A living monument to his failure, but also a sign of success in finally making peace with the beast he lived with.
But with Ant Man's call, Hulk could find a way to finish his journey and do right by the team to fix his failures. Though he wasn't the final solution to many parts of the heist, his smarts allowed for side work, and his rational self gave him insight into fixing the multiverse issue with the Time Stone.
The punctuation of his story then is in having the strength to do what others couldn't. As he noted, the stones radiate a lot of gamma energy, so it was almost as if he was meant to wield the stones the 2nd time. And though holding the power of the universe severely burned the hulk, with will and strength, Bruce snapped, brought back the armies, and lived to see his work fulfilled. He was the solid support pillar that carried the team through, and though his scars are great, his impact, and continued help will be undeniable in the saved earth.
This is the Thor that his best friends (bruce and rocket) found in self exile. Unwilling to lead his people after their diminishing against Thanos and Hela. Closed off and bitter. Coaxed into helping due to material promises rather than idealism like so many others.
But in his mission to the past, he has 2 important talks with Rocket and his mom. Rocket talked through that everyone had pain, and he had the power to help ease others. But what Frigga gave Thor was a new path forward for his life. Thor was a man living to the expectations placed on him. But with his failure, Frigga gave a new paradigm for him to understand this pain with. "Everyone fails at being who they're suppose to be. The measure of a man, of a hero, is how well they can be who they are." And after picking up his hammer in the past, Thor was told by the universe, you are still worthy.
And so Thor fought for the universe. And though his grief dictated his actions immediately after the heist due to losing Natasha, eventually he confronted his pain together with his friends. And though he lost someone in the fight, he emerged with his people partially restored, and a new outlook on life.
The punctuation of his story is in self actualization. That in seeing how flippant he became in the pinch for Asgard, he turns it over to Valkyrie. And seeing how he can now be who he truly is, he decides to begin soul searching with a new team. Joining Rocket and his returned Guardians of the Galaxy as a journeying hero, to better learn more about who he wants to be. Not as a God, a King or even an Avenger. But just as Thor.
And so the final punctuation of Tony Stark's story is in true self sacrifice. He was just another man who wanted an easy path out of all situations. But then he was given an indication by a "prophet" of sorts that what he was about to do would be a definitive victory. And so, he took the stones, and ended Thanos's threat once and for all. Giving his life for the future of the universe.
After the events of Infinity War and killing Thanos, Steve was alone again with Sam and Bucky dying in the Snap and Tony bitter and angry at Steve believing he didn't come to help. Face with either retirement or being pressed into service on Ross' command under the Accords, Steve decided to choose retirement and acted as a counselor for those affected by the snap and for the first time living a "peaceful" life until Scott arrives to tell them they can undo the Snap and undo as much damage as possible. Securing the Scepter but not the Tesseract, both Tony and Steve made the decision to go back in time to recover the particles and the Space Stone and Steve finally makes the final decision on what he was going to do to find happiness; to go back in time and stay with the ones he love until reuniting with Sam on the bench and finally hanging up the Shield for good.