WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, in theaters now.
It was easy to predict that Avengers: Endgame would have some pretty bombastic battle sequences. With the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe all but guaranteed to team up, fans were looking forward to the moment when all the Avengers assembled against Thanos' forces, as well as when cosmic heavy hitter Captain Marvel threw down with the Mad Titan, believing one of these would be the film's most epic fight.
However, as amazing as these all are, Endgame flips the script and offers us one particular brawl that doesn't just end up being the film's best, it's actually the best throwdown in superhero movie history: Captain America fighting one-on-one with an armored Thanos.
After Hulk snaps the "dusted" back to life, Thanos' ship from 2014 arrives through a time portal and decimates the New Avengers compound. As he dispatches his ground troops to recover the Stark Gauntlet, he awaits the MCU trinity in the battlefield. Sadly, he takes Iron Man out and then, in a merciless onslaught, not even Thor simultaneously wielding Mjolnir and Stormbreaker is enough to counteract the warlord. However, just as Thanos is about to impale the Odinson with his own axe, we see Mjolnir being lifted off the ground and used to smack the villain away.
The camera pans to a glorious shot of the Asgardian hammer returning to Cap. What ensues is nothing short of the most perfect geek fight ever. Cap proceeds to use his mixed martial arts skills to push Thanos to his limits, fighting much more swiftly and savagely than ever before as he bangs the Mad Titan up. It's like a scene taken straight from the comics, where knee-lunges are mixed in with Steve calling down blasts of lightning in a way that would make Odin himself proud.
As Thor says, "I knew it," it becomes all too obvious Steve is indeed worthy, evidenced by how he alternates flinging the hammer and his shield into Thanos' face. The crowning moment comes when he actually uses the shield as a defector to burn the tyrant with Asgardian lightning, confirming Thanos has met his match. It's exactly why Thanos, even with his gauntlet, struggled against Steve in Wakanda in Infinity War, and also throws back to the moment in Avengers: Age of Ultron when Cap got the hammer to budge as he attempted to lift it.
We've seen some amazing comic book movie fights over the decades (the Infinity War finale, Zack Snyder's Superman versus Zod and the Watchmen ending, to name a few), but this takes the cake because no one ever expected such a fanboy moment to be pulled from the comics. It evokes memories of Fear Itself and Secret Empire, where Cap also held the hammer. But here, the Russo brothers create a dynamic action sequence where the Sentinel of Liberty gets powered up to the point that you can actually believe a man can fight the Mad Titan. The way he unloads his diverse arsenal is nothing short of a spectacle.
Interestingly enough, what adds so much more meaning is Thanos rebounds and uses his double-blade axe to beat Steve to a pulp, smashing his Vibranium shield in the process. It's a rare instance where Thanos loses his composure as Cap reminds him, in a world of gods and men, it's a human super soldier who gives him the whipping of his life. Yet even with a broken shield, Cap shows he can do this all day by standing up in the face of certain death, unflinching. It reiterates what his symbol means -- freedom from all oppression, but more so, never say die.
Ultimately, the battle is an ideal testament to Steve's character and his mantra throughout the film as he does "whatever it takes." Luckily, the brawl ends up giving him enough time for his own troops to start assembling, taking the film's finale to even greater heights and allowing this unified front one final shot at taking Thanos down once and for all.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Danai Gurira as Okoye and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Josh Brolin as Thanos.