There’s no question that Avengers: Endgame is a massive success for Marvel and Disney, one that will be hard to replicate. It’s an emotional story filled with plenty of glorious Easter eggs that MCU fans will appreciate. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: Avengers 4 is basically a giant Easter egg made for all the people who followed the interconnected stories that led us here. The 22nd film in the Infinity Saga is a blast, and it’s nearly perfect.
The story packs plenty of controversial decisions, and all of them can be easily explained. We have looked at potential plot holes that can be addressed with ease, while the directors and writers have already explained some of them as well. I’m about to show you what could easily be the biggest “plot hole” in the film, but one that you’ll have a hard time spotting. It’s so subtle that you might notice it only after you’ve seen the movie a few times. At the same time, the entire thing does have a few potential explanations that work great, so it doesn’t really ruin the movie.
The only way
The entire Endgame plot makes sense, especially because Marvel crafted a super trump card for Avengers 4. This is the only way they win. In hindsight, Doctor Strange’s explicit mention of their chances, 1 in 14,000,605, is also a trick that allows Marvel to arrange the story in a specific way, and deal with criticism with ease. Unhappy that Tony Stark chose not to erase the five years following the snap? It was the only way they would win. Wait, is Spider-Man in high school alongside most of his buddies in Far From Home? It was the only way. You don’t like the fact that the lives of billions of people were just hit by a second massive event as the vanished returned? It was the only way. It all makes perfect sense if you explain it like that.
But after watching Endgame a few times, I found an annoying issue with the plot that isn’t immediately noticeable. And it’s a pretty serious as well, at first, as it influences everything that happens in the film. It’ll seem so small and inconsequential, which explains why it’s so easy to miss, But the more you think about it, the more you realize it’s a real mistake. It’s not exactly a plot hole, however, because the more you think about it, the easier it is to “fix” it.
The “plot hole”
It’s Bruce Banner promising The Ancient One that their plan will succeed and they will return the Time Stones, along with every other Infinity Stone they’re about to steal from various timelines. Banner promises the Sorcerer Supreme they’ll bring back the Stones at the exact times they were taken to prevent any nasty timeline branches.
This decision is so significant that it directly impacts the entire battle against 2014 Thanos in the third act of the movie. Hulk insists they bring the Stones to the past, so they make that massive football-like play to defend Stark’s gauntlet so that they can send it to the past. That’s why Thanos gets his hands on the gauntlet and why Tony ends up sacrificing his life to destroy Thanos. Ultimately, it’s this promise that sends Captain America on what’s probably a long and tedious journey through time to return the artifacts to their proper locations.
But guess what, when they planned this heist, the Avengers never wanted to return the stolen Infinity Stones in the first place. It’s likely they didn’t even consider the possibility that their actions might create alternate realities. Even if they did, they stressed a bunch of times they only had Pym particles for one round trip each. That implies there never was a plan to return the Stones back to their place in the universe after they undid the snap.
Yes, Tony’s blunder in 2012 forced them to improvise, which meant he and Steve had to go back to 1970 to grab the Tesseract and more Pym particles. I’ve already explained this should have been their first play, getting more Pym particles. But when they planned the time heist, they didn’t intend to return any of the Stones back to where they belonged.
This detail put Banner’s promise to The Ancient One in a different light. It all falls under the “whatever it takes” mantra. Regardless of what needs to be sacrificed, these flawed heroes want to make things right in their own timeline. That includes Banner having to lie to The Ancient One to get the Time Stone.
The problem is that we’re never under the impression that Bruce lies to the Ancient One. He seems genuine about wanting to return the Stones in spite of knowing they don’t have the means to do it. But let’s not forget that he came to the Sanctum in New York to take the Time Stone at all costs. He never expected to have to explain himself, which means he would have done whatever he needed to do to grab it.
The easy way out
Let’s remember that when Banner’s astral projection talks to The Ancient One, he’s unaware of what happens back at Stark Tower, where Tony and Scott are about to lose or have just lost the Space Stone. Therefore, he’s unaware that they’re going back to 1970 to get more Pym particles.
Hulk arrived at the Sanctum while the sorcerer was still fighting Chitauri on the roof, and there’s no telling how long they’ve been discussing the whole matter. Meanwhile, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Scott Lang needed to wait for the Battle of New York to be over before attempting to steal the Mind and Space Stones from inside the Stark Tower. There’s nothing to support the idea that, at any time, Banner would have been informed of their setback with the Tesseract.
Given everything he’d experienced in his life so far, Banner must have had reason to believe that they would either win, resurrect Hank Pym, and create more of his particles, or they’d find a way to create new particles themselves regardless of what happened. Short of him dying, he’d have a chance to actually keep his hastily made promise and return the Stones to their timelines.
That said, it doesn’t change the fact that Hulk/Banner did do whatever was necessary for them to win, and we nearly missed it. Ultimately, he proved that he was also willing to do whatever it took to return the Stones, even if that meant having to accept what happened on the battlefield, Tony Stark’s death included. Because after all, everything that happens during the battle from the moment the vanished returned to life was about keeping the Stones away from Thanos, and then sending them back to their correct timelines.