Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame.
The Avengers' triumph in Avengers: Endgame has some horrible implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although Thanos won at the cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War, it was always a safe bet that Earth's Mightiest Heroes would successfully avert or undo the snap. For one thing, Marvel had far too many projects in the works featuring heroes who were snapped - most notably Spider-Man: Far From Home, long since confirmed to be set minutes after Avengers: Endgame.
The one question, then, was just how would the Avengers win in the end? They pulled it off through a thrilling "time heist" that allowed them to revisit key moments in the history of the MCU, removing Infinity Stones from the timeline before they were collected, used, and ultimately destroyed by Thanos. Although it took the Avengers five long, hopeless years to put the world to rights, they succeeded, and everyone who Thanos had killed when he snapped his fingers was restored to life. That led to a stunning final battle between Earth's restored heroes and the armies of Thanos.
While the Avengers' strategy may have worked, though, it had some serious and frankly quite horrific implications. The MCU has changed utterly as a result of the Decimation, and the Avengers have only put some of the chaos right.
Avengers: Endgame's Five-Year Time Jump Causes Chaos
It took the Avengers five years to work out how to undo the snap, and during that time the world will have begun to adjust. It's reasonable to assume that the first year or so will have been the worst, with emergency services overstressed, agriculture and food shipments disrupted, and the entire global economy crashing. Gradually, though, a new normal will have emerged. The surviving half of humanity appears to have huddled around symbols like the Statue of Liberty, building new communities where they could work through their grief and pain together. Although the Avengers were unable to move on, many people will have done so, building new lives for themselves. And then, five years later, the missing half of the world's population suddenly returned. Thanos' victims appear to have been restored in roughly the same places where they were killed (although let's assume people who were traveling by plane or boat when the Decimation happened will have appeared on the nearest land-mass, rather than popping back into existence in the middle of the air or the ocean).
It's impossible to overestimate the political, economic, and social shockwaves this would generate. Imagine a dictatorship that had been rendered leaderless by the snap, and now finds itself with two tyrants, each one supported by half the military. Even in democratic countries, there'd be chaos; in the United States, for example, there'd be a sitting President who half of the entire country had never had a chance to vote for or against. Meanwhile, in the period during the snap new political systems would have been created, some even at an international level; Wakanda appears to have been a key player in these new systems. And they'd all come crashing down again when the snap was reversed, because half the world had never been party to them in the first place.
There'd be economic problems as well. Over the five-year period, the global economy would have begun to adjust to the loss of half the world's population. That's particularly the case with agriculture, with a reduced demand leading to reduced farming and less shipments of food traveling the globe. With the population migrating to new locations, many old shipping routes would have been completely discontinued. And then, again, half the world's population return - and food supplies would be insufficient to cope with the sudden and unexpected increase in mouths to feed. Some parts of the world would inevitably find themselves struggling with famine.
Finally, there'd also be massive social implications as well. Half the people have experienced five years of grief and loss, and would be struggling with the trauma of it all. The other half would have suddenly skipped five years of their loved ones' lives. Children would materialize in towns that have now been deserted, their parents having migrated away; some people would appear to learn that parents, grandparents, siblings, even children, have died of natural causes without them getting a chance to say goodbye; some men and women will have remarried in the last five years, then their original husband or wife is back.
Surely Not EVERYBODY Came Back At The End Of Avengers: Endgame
But it gets worse. The Hulk may have reversed the Decimation, but he didn't reverse its consequences. That means not everybody will have actually returned. Imagine, for example, that as part of the Decimation a pilot in an airplane vanished. There are just under 10,000 airplanes in the sky at any one time, so this would inevitably have happened countless times across the planet when Thanos snapped his fingers. Many of those planes would have crashed, killing everybody aboard who wasn't dusted. When the Hulk snapped his fingers, that pilot would presumably reappear on the ground with half their passengers - the other half having been dead for five years.
This is the most obvious example. The reality is that there would undoubtedly have been countless deaths as a direct result of the Decimation; driverless cars crashing, killing their passengers or pedestrians; people dying on the operating table because the surgeon had disappeared during surgery; fires raging out of control because the firefighters had vanished while they were trying to get the blaze under control. Worse still, it's reasonable to assume there were major disasters as a result of the Decimation; it's hard not to envision nuclear power plants going into meltdown after their most skilled workers were snuffed out, or oil drilling platforms triggering environmental catastrophes because they were suddenly understaffed. It's impossible to calculate the total loss of life that resulted from the snap - and it wasn't undone.
The Avengers Made Matters Worse At The End Of Endgame
The curious fact is that, in Avengers: Endgame, the heroes made matters worse. Tony Stark agreed to help reverse the snap if the Avengers had a very specific aim; to bring back everyone who Thanos had killed, but to ensure everything else stayed the same. Stark's position was entirely understandable; he'd found something he wanted to keep, a family he loved, and a daughter who he treasured more than life itself. What father could actually choose to have their own daughter erased from existence for the good of countless millions of strangers?
In Avengers: Infinity War, Steve Rogers insisted that the Avengers don't trade lives. And yet the plot of Avengers: Endgame puts the heroes in a subtle position where they have no choice but to do so; where they have to choose between Morgan Stark, and the millions of lives that would have been lost as a consequence of the snap, rather than as part of it. And, just as Tony insisted, the Avengers chose Morgan. There's something quite chilling about this fact, and it makes the heroic third act of Avengers: Endgame a whole lot darker.
Curiously, Tony isn't the only one to make some morally dubious decisions in Avengers: Endgame. At the end of the film, Steve too makes a choice that has pretty disturbing implications, when he decides to travel back in time and live out his dream life with Peggy Carter. This created a whole new timeline where, to an outside observer, Steve Rogers never truly disappeared, but what does that mean for the original Captain America, Hydra or the many others ills that happened during his time in the ice?
The strange thing about Avengers: Endgame is that the film itself seems blissfully unaware of its own moral ambiguity. The film doesn't actually seem to understand the sheer scale of the impact of the snap, the havoc it would have wrought. As a result, it doesn't even appear to notice that Tony Stark is making a trade-off at all - it's as though the Hulk's second snap really did put the world to rights. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers' decision is presented as a touching fulfillment of his character arc, with viewers not expected to think about the implications. But the implications are certainly there, running all the way through Avengers: Endgame, completely unnoticed.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019