The remaining Avengers fight to undo what Thanos did at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War”.
When I finished Avengers: Endgame last night, I knew that this morning, going into this review, was going to be one of the harder reviews I write this year. There are parts of me that loved “Endgame” for everything that it was- the huge subversion of expectations, the massive character development, and what feels like the culmination of eleven years worth of films. But then there are other parts of me that thought there was just too much of… everything.
This movie is three hours long, and it feels its length. I say that as a good and a bad thing. There is so much to like about this film, but there is also just so much of it that it almost becomes an exercise in perseverance. I know a lot of Marvel fanboys are going to scream and shout at me and tell me I’m wrong, and the movie could’ve been another hour and they still would’ve watched it; that’s fine. I’m saying for me, personally, three hours is a long time to spend in the MCU. That being said, that time is utilized really well, so again: this is a difficult review to write. All throughout the film, all through the night, and even as I’m writing this now, my rating teeters between a 3.5 and a 4 star rating. By the end of this review I’ll have decided.
Know that I do think this film is GOOD. I do not think it is GREAT. Most of my issues with this film are with the little details, not the overarching story, so I’ll avoid going into my qualms until we hit spoilers. I also know a lot of Marvel fans will completely disagree with my personal criticisms of the film. I’m going to do a spoiler free section near the top of this review and a more in depth spoilery review near the bottom. If you don’t want spoilers, don’t worry; I’ll warn you before we get into the details.
“Whatever it takes.”
So without giving anything away, this film really subverted my expectations within the first half hour, to the point that, after that first half hour, I really had no idea where the film was going to take me. That alone was fantastic. Beyond subverting my expectations for the plot, this film subverted my expectations for the character growth too.
“Infinity War” ended with Thanos (Josh Brolin, “Sicario”) snapping his fingers and obliterating half of the population of the universe, and the first hour of this film pretty much just shows our heroes reactions; how they took the loses, how they’re dealing with their pain. This movie feels 1000% more personal than “Infinity War”. If your main complaint about “Infinity War” was that there wasn’t enough character development (I still say Thanos’s character arc was good enough for me), then this film will absolutely fill that void. Each of the main characters has a little growth in their personal lives and as heroes. My favorite character changes were the more comedic ones, like with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, “Shutter Island”) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth, “Bad Times at the El Royal”), but I also enjoyed some of the darker turns as well from characters like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, “The Prestige”) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”). I was astonished that we spent a lot more time with side characters like Nebula (Karen Gillian, “Jumanji: Into The Jungle”), though I was also surprised to find her arcs to be one of the more fulfilling ones.
I think many Marvel fans will be expecting something different when they head into this movie, but the tone of “Endgame” is different than many of the MCU movies that preceded it. This film is darker, more brooding, more depressing, more grounded, and in some ways it works, and in some ways it doesn’t. This film feels closer in tone to a DC movie than it does to most Marvel films, though, somehow, they still manage to sprinkle in some of the humor that keeps the Marvel franchise fresh and fun. Do not expect a happy-go-lucky Iron Man to zip around making quips throughout the film. This is a bittersweet movie, and it really does feel like the culmination of what Marvel has been working towards.
That brings me to my next point. This film has a feeling of finality that none of the other Marvel movies have. It feels like we have a bit of closure on some of the characters that we love, while at the same time opening up options for where to go from here. The MCU is far from over, but there are some characters that look as if they have finally donned their masks for the last time. Though Kevin Feige has yet to officially announce what comes next for the MCU, his IMDb page shows eight MCU related films and four television shows in preproduction, and I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For people like me, who enjoy the Marvel Universe for what it is, but don’t live and breathe for it, this film feels like it might be one of the last ones I go out of my way to see in theaters, and for that I am grateful. I have been taken on quite an epic journey over the last eleven years, and there have been some fantastically thrilling adventures. I’m sure I’ll still see the MCU movies when they hit Netflix, but this film feels conclusive. If this were the last MCU movie I was to ever see, I would feel as if I got my time and moneys worth. I know for many people, that reason alone will easily be a 5 Star movie. I’m sure this movie will go on to break all of box office records ever; and I know the day this comes out on 4K Blu Ray I’ll probably be at Best Buy to pick it up.
For me, this was a very solid way to sort of conclude what Marvel has been working towards for years. It is not perfect, but hey, it’s a comic book movie. What do you expect? I did enjoy it, but I didn’t love it. Keep that in mind as I go over my qualms.
Okay I’m about to get into the spoilery bits. You’ve been warned.
“I am Inevitable.” “And I am Iron Man.”
Okay, so first and foremost, lets talk about the best subversion I’ve seen in a first act for quite some time. The Avengers freaking kill Thanos in the first act of this film! Thor just lops his head off after Thanos admits he destroyed all of the infinity stones, thus making it impossible to reverse his snap. “Holy crap!” Thought I, “Where do we go from here?” That subversion actually raised my expectations for this film quite a bit. I went into this film expecting to enjoy it, but not to love it, but that moment actually surprised me so much that I completely reassessed where I thought we were headed.
From there we flash forward five years and we have to reestablish our characters again. We get a sense that, of all the Avengers, the only ones who still seem dedicated to the cause are fighting simply because they don’t know what else to do with their lives. Most of the Avengers have gone their separate ways. Hulk has figured out a way to stabilize and stay big and green while maintaining control of his temper, and this results in some hysterical moments of Hulk halfheartedly smashing cars and tossing motorcycles in mock rage. Thor has become a fat, slobby drunk. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., “Captain America: Civil War”) has retired and he and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, “Shakespeare in Love”) now have a child.
After Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, “Ant-Man and the Wasp”) is brought back out of the quantum zone, having been left there accidentally when he went in at the same time Thanos’s snap, he contacts the remaining Avengers. Ant-Man tells them that he thinks they can build a kind of time machine that allows them to travel through the quantum zone back to different parts of the universe to acquire the stones before Thanos does, and then bring back the other half of the universe.
So, after about forty-five minutes we establish the plot is heading. The characters start to assemble, and were sent through time back to different timelines- all of which should be familiar to MCU viewers. A few Avengers are sent to New York in 2014 (when the events of the first “Avengers” movie climaxed), a few more are sent to Asgard (at the climax of the “Thor: Dark World”). A couple more go the planet Vormir, where, in “Infinity War”, Thanos took the Soul Stone by sacrificing his daughter Gammorah (Zoe Saldana, “Avatar”). And a couple more go to the planet where we first met Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, “Guardians of the Galaxy”). With the Avengers scattered across space and time, they must rush to reverse Thanos’s plan before the snap becomes inevitability.
Now, some of these storylines work better than others, but honestly there are a lot of moments where this movie comes dangerously close to feeling like fan service stuff. We get glimpses of dozens of our favorite places we’ve seen over the past eleven years, and the Russo brothers seem to be using that to titillate the viewer into feeling nostalgia for the old films. They drag out this nostalgia factor a bit too long in my opinion; the film already suffers from its massive length, and adding little fan-sevicey nostalgia hooks only slows the pacing more.
But, as long were talking about the pacing, it feels like it moves along at a rather quickly after that first hour and thirty minutes. That’s not to say that the first hour and thirty minutes of this movie were boring, but they were a lot slower than any of the other Avengers flicks. I actually preferred this shift in tone, but I certainly think they could’ve trimmed some scenes. I mean, most of the stuff in the middle scenes is meant to further develop characters, and that is something that Marvel really needed to do in order to elicit an emotional response from me. However, we’ve had more than twenty movies to develop these characters, I personally don’t think I need to spend a half hour with each one to see how sad they are about the snap. We get it; life sucks now. We as the viewers also know that the heroes are going to do something about the snap, so wallowing in self pity for an hour sort of puts a damper on the whole film.
Let me put it this way: when I went to see “Infinity War” on opening day in a sold out theater, people were cheering when their favorite characters came onscreen, and they applauded when awesome action happened. I saw this film in a similar way: on opening day in a sold out theater. The reactions of the audience were far more subdued. No one really cheered in this movie about anything. We watched in solemn silence as the events played out before us. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a huge tone shift from the twenty other Marvel movies I’ve seen, and as a result some of the humor doesn’t really work as well.
I have a few smaller issues as far as the logical errors and continuity errors. Like, for example when we finally get to the big battle at the end, Past-Thanos shows up with a single ship and fights our heroes for a bit. Then, all of the sudden, his armies show up out of nowhere and we go into a massive battle. Where were these hundred-thousand aliens hiding just a second before? Did they all teleport to earth the moment Thanos needed them? I would’ve thought since this movie is three hours long, we would’ve at least gotten a hint of where Thanos’s armies were hiding before this attack. There are some moments in the battle where characters will suddenly appear wherever they are needed, regardless of the fact that they might’ve been located on the other side of the battlefield just a moment before.
Another issue I have, and I know I’ll get some hate for this, is Captain Marvel (Brie Larson, “The Glass Castle”). I just recently watched “Captain Marvel” and thought the movie itself was fine, but my main complaint about it was that she’s pretty much invincible. I mean, (SPOILERS FOR “CAPTAIN MARVEL”) at the very end of “Captain Marvel” she easily beats Jude Law’s (“eXistenZ”) character, and in this film, she straight up flies through a massive-freaking space ship and destroys it by passing though it. Okay… so if Cap Marvel is unbeatable, why do we even care about the other superheroes that have ridiculously trivial powers compared to her? There’s a scene where all of the female superheroes “help” Cap Marvel move the infinity gauntlet from one side of the battlefield to the other, but really, Marvel just flies across the battlefield- the other superheroes aren’t helping at all. I know some people really like Captain Marvel (I’m friends on Facebook with a few of you, so please, don’t hate me because I don’t vibe with her character), but I feel like she is just too strong. She pretty much arm-wrestles Thanos, and if he hadn’t used trickery, she could’ve easily beaten him. Look at it in the terms of a videogame: if you level up your character to the max, they have nowhere to grow anymore. Where the heck is Captain Marvel going to grow from here? Unless she becomes the bad guy eventually, I can’t see any threat standing against her. Alright, I’m done complaining about Captain Marvel- honestly she was barely in it- but her deus ex machina appearances at both the beginning and end of this film had me shaking my head.
I did like the ending. And here I have to throw a huge warning up because I am going to spoil it all. I feel like the conclusion we were given to Iron Man’s arc was great. I kind of figured going in that Iron Man would die, but I really liked the way that they developed his character to the point that his sacrifice felt earned. I know I complained a bit about the slower pacing during the first half, when we’re doing all the character stuff, but honestly, I loved the scene between Tony and Howard Stark (John Slattery, “Spotlight”); it might’ve been my favorite scene of the whole movie. I thought the way that they handled Captain America’s (Chris Evans, “Captain America: Winter Soldier”) exit from the franchise was a great way to round off his storyline too. I don’t know why they killed off Black Widow, as they have a movie focused on her in production- so either they bring her back within one of the next few movies, or the “Black Widow” movie will end up being a prequel- and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Also, just a side note, if we flashed forward five years, why are Peter Parker (Tom Holland, “The Lost city of Z”) and his buddy Ned (Jacob Battalion, “Spider-man: Homecoming”) still in high school? Overall, however, I was satisfied with how this giant, eleven year arc ended. I honestly hope they let the fallen heroes lie; we’ve got enough other ones to focus on now.
Which leads me to my final point of this incredibly lengthy review: the future of MCU. It feels as if we have a clean slate, and I won’t say I’m eagerly anticipating the next wave of Marvel films, but I am interested to see where they lead. As I mentioned above, this will probably be one of the last MCU movies I pay to see in theaters. I’m sure I will, at one point or another, end up seeing every single movie Marvel Studios pumps out (through Netflix or Disney+ or whatever), but my need to see these movies immediately has been sated by the conclusion brought about in this film. I’m sure in the years to come I’ll end up eating those words and seeing a few more in theaters on opening day, but I’m happy that, for the first time since “Avengers”, it doesn’t feel like a requirement that I see those Marvel movies the weekend they come out so I don’t hear spoilers.
This was a rather long review, but this was a very long movie.
I enjoyed this movie. I thought it was good, but I didn’t love it. But again, I know that other people have far more invested in these characters than I. I am a casual Marvel fan, and for the casual viewer, this film is a satisfying but lengthy conclusion to a more-than decade long arc.
To hear more of our thoughts check out This Podcast Episode- we have quite a lengthy discussion.
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