Warning: Major spoilers from the ending of Avengers: Endgame are ahead. Very, very big SPOILERS.
You thought one universe-shaking snap was bad in Avengers: Infinity War? The sequel and final film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Three, Avengers: Endgame, took that one snap from Thanos (Josh Brolin) and multiplied it by four. That’s right, you read that correctly: four more snaps happened in Avengers: Endgame with three of them in the very end of the movie, but here’s why the snaps didn’t bring about the end of the world (again) for all the Avengers and actually managed to save the day.
The First Endgame Gauntlet Snap
Where: Thanos' Farm
When: Pretty early on in the film near the beginning, the remaining Avengers who hadn’t been dusted join up with Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) to Thanos at his
retirement village interstellar space farm. The team, including Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow/Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), find a now weakened Thanos who can barely fight them off.
Why: He used his Infinity Gauntlet containing all the Infinity Stones to snap once more and it took a toll on him, but that second snap didn’t dust the remaining half of the universe’s population again. Instead, he used the power of the Stones to snap to erase the Stones from existence, thereby destroying the last chance of hope the Avengers had of undoing that first universe-shaking snap since they had been trying to locate the Infinity Gauntlet to essentially undo the first snap.
How It Changed Everything: It took all hope from the Avengers of undoing the dusting from Infinity War. Luckily, Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) was brought back from the Quantum Realm and figured out that the Quantum Realm could be used as a time machine of to acquire the Infinity Stones from other points in time. So the Avengers assembled once more, this time with Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), to orchestrate a “time heist” and travel back to three separate points in time to specific places where they knew the Infinity Stones existed, steal them, bring them back to the present and make their own Infinity Gauntlet. That way, they can snap and bring everyone back.
The Second Endgame "Undusting" Snap
Who: Hulk/Banner. Bruce and Tony work together to make their an Iron Infinity Gauntlet, and Hulk says he is the only one strong enough to survive snapping the Gauntlet.
Where: Avengers HQ
When: Present day, with birds singing
Why: Um, to undust everyone that was lost. You know, the point of the whole movie.
How Hulk Made The Snap Work: But how can the Infinity Gauntlet do the exact opposite of what Thanos had already used it for? Essentially, the Avengers wanted to use it like an undo button, and there’s actual proof in the comics that support their plan. The Infinity Gauntlet grants its wearer absolute power, and you can rewrite reality using it in any way you can imagine. It can do whatever the wearer wants it to do.
It’s literally so powerful that it can do anything, like take away half the population or bring them all back. It can transform matter. It can create entirely new universes. It can push realities apart. Its powers are endless. And in the comics, Iron Man becomes the first human to wield the Infinity Gauntlet containing all six Infinity Stones, just as he does in Endgame, albeit with much more fatal and heartbreaking results in the movie.
When Hulk put it on in Endgame and snapped, it wasn't clear if it worked. But then Thanos (from the past, who had hijacked the Avengers’ time machine) bombed their compound and the battle to end all battles began. And it turned out that Bruce’s snap actually did work, but everyone was brought back at the place they had vanished so they all came back to life in Wakanda where the Infinity War battle had taken place. In Endgame, a bunch of sorcerer’s like Stephen Strange opened time circles to allow the Wakandans and Avengers arrive to the new battle, giving Captain America, Iron Man and Thor the assist they needed.
Why The Snap Didn't Undo Other Deaths: Bruce’s snap didn’t revive Black Widow and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) return as well? The same reason why Vision (Paul Bettany), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) because their lives weren’t lost in the Thanos snap of Infinity War. Bruce’s snap was literally just an undo button for Thanos’ first snap, so he replaced the 50 percent of living things who were lost.
The Third Endgame Failed Snap
Who: Thanos, who got his hands on the new Infinity Gauntlet
Where: On the final battlefield
When: After Captain Marvel destroyed his warship
Why Thanos Snapped Again: Thanos intended for this snap to erase everyone and everything in the universe from existence so he could rebuild a new universe with no memory of what had come before, therefore no Avengers would be left to oppose his vision. It would really be the end of the everything.
Why Thanos' Third Snap Doesn't Work: Thanks to a last-minute save from Captain Marvel with help from literally every single female Marvel hero from the past 11 years (ahhhh the girl power!), Tony had the head start he needed to take all the Infinity Stones off of the Gauntlet and put them on his own Iron Man suit glove, so Thanos’ third snap did nothing but make a really anticlimactic snapping noise.
The Fourth Endgame Winning Snap
Who: Tony Stark
When: At the lost possible minute.
Where: On the battlefield, right in front of Thanos.
Why Only The Villains Get Dusted: Thanos is the last to fade away and the fighting finally ends. Where Bruce’s snap from before hit the undo button because that’s what he was focusing on while wearing the Gauntlet, Tony’s snap was something else entirely. He was focusing on ending the war with Thanos and wanted the antagonists to disappear, so they did.
Why The Snap Killed Tony Stark: With great power comes great responsibility, and the energy used to bring that wish to fruition ended up killing Tony; he is only a human and couldn’t withstand the power it took from him. Now, the MCU will never be the same.