SPOILER WARNING FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME
Eleven years and 22 movies in the making, Avengers: Endgame is a smorgasbord of fan service for audiences that have devoted themselves to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There are so many references and callbacks layered into Endgame that even a casual fan would notice one or two.
Endgame isn't just an epic movie, it's a tribute to everything that came before it. How many of these references did you pick up on?
One thing we still don't know, what the hell happened to Jaimie Alexander's Lady Sif?!
FINAL SPOILER WARNING — PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK
If you're looking for a spoiler-free Avengers: Endgame review, here's one.
First, now we know exactly how Hydra ended up with Loki's Sceptre between The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, with the secret cell making off with the weapon under the guise of inventory right after the Battle of New York.
In a direct reference to a scene from Winter Soldier, Captain America gets into the lift with the same group of Hydra operatives that would go on to give him a beating in Winter Soldier, including the now-dead Crossbones, Agent Sitwell and Jack Rollins.
This time, he was ready for them.
Also, when he whispers "Hail Hydra" to throw them off his scent, that's also a nod to the "Secret Empire" comic books run of Captain America when it's revealed Steve Rogers was secretly a Hydra agent too!
It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but when Bruce goes to recruit Thor from New Asgard, the demi-god is bunkered down playing video games with Korg (Korg!) and Meek, who obviously survived not only Thanos' raid on the Asgardian ship but also the "snapture".
The dry-witted rock alien (?) is a fan favourite from Thor: Raganarok thanks to director Taika Waititi's voice performance.
Waititi also donned a snappy two-piece pineapple romper during the Ragnarok promotional tour that pretty much made him the coolest human on Earth. So what's our friend Korg wearing in New Asgard? The same pineapple shirt!
When it comes to meta references, this is up there with the Bluth stair car the Russos brothers hid in the airport scene during Captain America: Civil War.
One of the most thrilling moments of Avengers: Endgame is when Captain America wields Thor's hammer Mjolnir in battle. If people in your cinema whooped and you don't know what that meant, it hearkens back to a scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
It's established in Thor that only those "worthy" would be able to pick up Mjolnir, and in a down-moment, the Avengers call bunkum on Thor's myth-bragging. So the demi-god challenges everyone to try their best.
Tony, Tony and Rhodey together, Clint and Bruce try but to no avail. When Cap does it, it seems like, for an almost imperceptible second, that Mjolnir jiggles. Thor looks worried. When Mjolnir doesn't move, Thor is visibly relieved.
For Cap to pick up and kick total arse with Mjolnir now is a vindication that Steve Rogers really is the most pure-hearted of our heroes. What a bloody amazing send-off.
Once again, Hawkeye and Black Widow mention Budapest during Endgame, a famed SHIELD mission that's obviously a defining experience in their relationship.
On the one hand, maybe it's a hint that the standalone Black Widow movie, which could be a prequel, will have something to do with Budapest, or it could be a callback to a line during the Battle of New York in The Avengers when Black Widow says to Hawkeye, "It's like Budapest all over again" and he replies with, "You and I remember Budapest very differently".
BACK FROM THE DEAD
Well, not so much back from the dead as still alive in their current timelines, Endgame gives audiences another chance to hang out with Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo and Tilda Swinton.
Of the three, Hiddleston's Loki is the most popular revival, especially the deliciously evil one from circa The Avengers. He also manages to abscond with the tesseract when Ant-Man and Iron Man botch the retrieval. Whether that version of Loki is now off on his own separate timeline or not is a question that breaks our brain.
More straightforward is the appearance of Russo as Frigga, Thor's mother. She immediately recognises that Thor is not her Thor (maybe because of that beer belly) and it's a beautiful moment between mother and son.
Swinton returns as The Ancient One, in a scene with Bruce Banner in which the two talk about split timelines. If scientist Bruce was going to have this conversation with anyone, it absolutely should be with the Master of the Mystic Arts. She even mentions Stephen Strange is currently performing surgery somewhere in the city and he's a few years away from the Sanctum.
One of the long-running themes of the MCU has been Tony Stark's daddy issues with his father, Howard Stark.
At various point, Tony has felt like he was living in the shadow of a great man but who as a father he thought was emotionally neglectful — it was certainly a main point of Civil War and other films.
Getting to have that moment with his father, especially now that Tony's a dad himself, is an emotional resolution for the character. Plus, we got to see John Slattery again, which is just a bonus.
Also, Camp Leigh, where the tesseract is kept, is where Steve Rogers trained for World War II in The First Avenger.
WHO WAS THAT KID?
Standing slightly off to the side at Tony Stark's funeral was a teenage boy who looked very unfamiliar, at first.
That was Harley Keener, the then-10-year-old boy who helped Tony when he was stranded in Tennessee in Iron Man 3. Tony later sent the boy inventor a swag of robotics and tech stuff, hinting that Harley is very well positioned to be the next Iron Man.
They may have said no dialogue but even appearing in Endgame got Natalie Portman, Michelle Pfeiffer, William Hurt and Marisa Tomei their own title cards at the end.
NOT SO RETIRED
Robert Redford announced his retirement last year, with his final role in The Old Man & The Gun. But here he is one last time (probably filming his role here before Old Man), reprising his role as the now-dead Alexander Pierce, SHIELD-but-secret-Hydra agent.
And he is looking pretty shifty here. Just let them have schawarma already. Jeez.
Before JARVIS was Tony Stark's AI assistant, there was Edwin Jarvis, the Stark family butler and ally.
Played by British actor James D'Arcy, human Jarvis has only previously appeared on screen before in two seasons of TV spin-off Agent Carter, during which he helped Peggy in the post-WWII, pre-SHIELD days.
With a cameo in the 1970 portion of Endgame, holding the door open for Howard Stark, it's the only time Jarvis has been seen in a MCU movie.
The last words Cap and Bucky exchange before the final time travel trip is "Don't do anything stupid until I get back" and "You're taking all the stupid with you" are the same words they said to each other in Captain America: The First Avenger.
There are two cameos from Community stars Yvette Nicole Brown (as the suspicious SHIELD agent in 1970) and Ken Jeong (as the storage facility guy who lets Ant-Man out).
The Russo brothers directed several episodes of Community before making their Marvel debut.
It's a quick one, but at one point someone suggests that they should just go back in time and kill baby Thanos. The suggestion is quickly pushed aside — killing even the baby version of a genocidal monster is considered too much.
In a deleted Deadpool 2 scene, which now also has time travel, Deadpool goes back in time and stands in a maternity ward, standing over a crib marked A. Hitler. Ultimately, he couldn't do it.
And now, thanks to the Disney-Fox merger, Deadpool could be folded into the MCU…
When Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel appears after the five-year jump, she's rocking a new haircut, one that's more in line with her comic book persona.
NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA
Cap giving his shield to Sam is something that also happened in the comics, when the man himself picked Sam to replace him in the iconic role.
LAST STAN LEE CAMEO
Endgame is the last time we'll see Stan Lee in one of his signature cameos in the MCU. He's the old man speeding past Captain America and Iron Man in 1970.
Captain America finally utters the famous "Avengers Assemble!" words, during the final battle against Thanos when the cavalry shows up. What a moment.