I read an article some time ago that stated that the superhero movie craze was nearing its end. For a time I disagreed with this assessment, as there is nearly an endless well of source material to draw from, with countless new entries each year. While this remains true I must admit that after witnessing the finale to Marvel’s Infinity Saga, Endgame much like its name implies, could easily serve as an end to the Superhero movie genre. While I’m sure there will be detractors to this film and my opinion on the matter, there has never truly been a Superhero film quite like Avengers Endgame.
While I’m almost certain there are studios with lofty goals of emulating Endgame, it’s highly doubtful we’ll see anything quite like this film again, making the prospect of continuing the genre as a whole, rather daunting. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. This was not a perfect film. There are elements of this film that I did not personally agree with, nor do I appreciate the months of the Russo brothers essentially lying to its fanbase. I found that the closure that was given to Steve Rogers was narratively flawed when weighed against the developments we’ve witnessed through the last four films. Avoiding spoilers as best I can, I found the death of one of the main characters within the second act rather questionable when weighed against the established cinematic canon provided in Infinity War. I also found the use of exposition instead of visible representation to explain the change in one major character rather odd, when we’ve already committed to a three-hour film. Yes, there are things about the film I did not like, most notably being the resolution to restore the universe back to a semblance of its previous state rather deus ex machina, and oddly self-serving when weighed against the consequences of said action. It goes without question that I’ve barely tapped the well of what other viewers could potentially gripe about, however, this movie remains uncontested when viewed not solely for what it is, but rather the sum of all its parts.
The machinations of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (and the Russos) borders on the insane, while somehow remaining genius when weighed against similar modern motion picture spectacles. The ability to string together plots and seemingly unrelated connective fibers throughout five films is a herculean feat onto its own, but to also hold our attention and empathy for all of the MCU characters, borders on godly. When Infinity War released, people questioned the reasoning for excluding Hawkeye. Fans flocked to message boards and blogs fervently to voice their disapproval of his absence. If there had been any doubt about how impactful the Russos had been to the MCU, that doubt died with the backlash. While the films before their arrival were entertaining, the Russos made each character within the ensemble matter. This became even more evident by the emotional toll Avengers: Infinity War took on fans. The loss of characters we’d barely gotten to know along with seeing the death of fan favorites was enough to ruin most of our days. It also made the long march to Endgame all the more meaningful. Again, we cared and they knew it. One of the biggest complaints levied against the MCU is that the stakes were never that high. Never have we seen true peril for our characters until watching half of our heroes die in Infinity War. They listened.
Key moments in the history of almost all the major characters are revisited in some fashion or another. Endgame, while serving as an end to the current roster of Avengers, is also a love letter to fans, who have remained loyal to the MCU brand from the very start. Understanding that Endgame is essentially a long goodbye to fans, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely saw fit to craft a story that will almost satisfy everyone.
The movie picks up shortly after the end of Infinity War, with most our surviving heroes back at Avengers headquarters. We get to witness the visible toll their loss to Thanos (Josh Brolin) has taken on them, while the world comes to grips with the irreversible changes. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillian) remain marooned in space, with the hope of rescue dwindling with each passing day. It is here that we continue to see the character growth of Nebula, which ultimately ends in her true redemption by the close of the film. From here the movie initially takes off at a feverish pace. I do not envy anyone who elected to miss the first fifteen minutes of the movie, as it’s within this time that the Russos provide the audience hope that the next three hours would become an all-out war with Thanos, only for the Russos to bestow them a heaping bowl of pathos. The brothers have no intention of rushing us through their finale, relishing instead in their ability to show us a world in which our heroes lost.
I appreciate the journey we took through a post-snap, as well as reconnecting with our surviving heroes. I also appreciated how Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) didn’t seem as sure of himself as he did in previous films. This was reflected even down to his style of dress, wearing darker colors, as if still in mourning. The theme of mourning continues throughout the first act of the film. To avoid spoilers I won’t mention how but will say that the impact of the Thanos’ snap isn’t quickly swept away. The second act of the film sees our heroes split up in order to carry out the main mission for the film. It is here that I found my first problem with the movie, as the pairing of two of our heroes, immediately spelled the end for one of them. It also exposed the first logical lapse of the film. The consequence of their success was never shared by a key member of the “New” Avengers, making their mission essentially a suicide run. I feel that perhaps the fallen Avenger wished to exit the franchise but think this could have been achieved in a different way. There were some very clear throwbacks to not only previous Marvel films but also key moments from Marvel Comics history, repurposed in rather creative ways. By the time we reach the two-hour mark, the stakes have never been as high, with the fates of just about all of the Avengers seemingly being anyone’s guess. This works to support the Russos injection of uncertainty into their films, and it has never worked as well as what we see in the films extended finale. For some, there will be tears. For others, there will be understanding. Ultimately the film ends on a bittersweet note, with the balance of the MCU being forever changed. I suppose it is a matter of time before we find out how receptive to these changes Marvel fans truly are.
Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) delivers a gut-wrenching performance as Clint Barton. Fans of the character will be happy to see his turn as Ronin for Endgame but may leave a little disappointed in just how long we get to see him in this role. My hope is that his arc as Ronin extends to a Disney Plus series, as I feel there are more stories to tell of a darker archer.
We find Captain America living in a world untethered from everything he knew. With the loss of Bucky (Sebastian Stan) in Infinity War, and Peggy Carter (Haylee Atwell) in Civil War, Steve Rogers is now not only a man out of time, but a man truly alone. Coupling the loss of his only remaining connection to his previous time, Steve also carries the burden of the Avengers failure, while clinging tightly to a glimmer of hope that somehow they can turn things around. I found the arc of Steve to be interesting, as well as perplexing. Although the Russos established a growing connection with Sharon Carter (Emily Vancamp), she isn’t even mentioned, nor does she factor into Steve’s final decision in the film. If we are being fair, the decision the Russos make almost places our favorite star-spangled man with a plan into uncharted creepy territory. I understand what the Russos were going for, and also respect that Chris Evans wished to exit the franchise, but I feel that it didn’t quite stick the mark, and didn’t account for those affected by his decision.
Iron Man (RDJ) has truly reached the final level of his characters maturation. Having resolved his marooning in space, Tony has moved on with his life, while attempting to live a simpler one with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Although a clear resolution to their conflict is never fully presented, it is implied that Steve and Tony have found civility from where we left them back in 2016 (Civil War). We are presented with a Tony that recognizes the failure of The Avengers but has found something new to live for and protect. While the stakes of the world have never been higher, the prospect of losing what he’s cultivated is even important to Tony, leading us to one of the more questionable decisions Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely made for this film. Without revealing the nature of this decision to avoid spoilers, I can safely state that a decision was made to preserve an element of the world post-Thanos snap while attempting to resolve the unfortunate outcome and loss sustained in the previous outing. Although many of these decisions will no doubt be revisited in future installments, the heavy toll that results from these decisions will resonate with fans for years to come.
One of the more perplexing arcs in the film was that of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). While her character has never been depicted as the leadership type, Black Widow really rose to the challenge in Endgame, becoming one of the only remaining members of The Avengers to make an earnest attempt at moving on, while remaining dedicated to the preservation of peace for all who remained. I enjoyed watching her debrief other members of the “team” from the rather empty Avengers base, and drew hope for her future development within the franchise. This all seemingly disappeared after the decision was made to unite the retired members of the team, and was barely even a memory once the overarching plot of the movie settled in. I’m truly disappointed at the decisions they made with her character, and with inconsistent reports about her upcoming solo outing circulating, I’ve begun to lose hope that many of the themes we saw with her early on in the film, ever being revisited.
Due to many promotional leaks, many knew that we would be getting a very different Hulk in this film. In many ways, Hulk ( Mark Ruffalo) stole the show. After several experiments, Hulk and Banner have found peace with one another, resulting in the most balanced version of the character we’ve ever seen on film. Fans of comics from the 90s won’t find much surprising about his development here, but what is equally surprising and annoying is not being able to witness Banners’ journey. Essentially all of his developments are given to us in one scene, choked full of exposition. With a movie clocking in just over three hours, I remain perplexed that exposition is all the screenwriters and The Russos could muster.
The last character I’ll touch upon here is Thor. The burden of failure has not suited our God of thunder well, nor has the endless series of loss that has befallen him. Having lost his mother, Jane Foster, his father and home (not to mention his eye), the assumed failure at his hands is too much for him to bear. In many ways, this movie serves as not the end of Thors’ (Chris Hemsworth) arc, but rather a new beginning, as he begins to redefine who he truly is. Much of the humor in this film rests solely on a running gag at his expense, but after everything else he’s lost, Thor seems to be able to shoulder it well. I look forward to seeing the next iteration of Thor Odinson, hopefully in phase 4.
Thanos (Josh Brolin) remains as intimidating as he was in the previous film, yet manages to inject his portrayal with an extra level of stoic sadism. Cold, calculating and patient, the Thanos we get here is driven by a sense of destiny, making him feel even more dangerous from when we initially were introduced to him in Infinity War. Josh Brolin manages to place weight into his words and motion capture, that I feel even The Hulk would struggle to lift. If you enjoyed him in the previous film, while despising his actions, you’ll love him here, as well as finding his arcs’ conclusion rather cathartic.
Essentially everyone else in the film does a stellar job in their roles, and although we may never see some of the cast again, they truly delivered on this final outing.
While the movie has quite a few faults, and some gags overstay their welcome, Endgame is a solid film, truly worthy of its praise. My suggestion would be to not over think some of the deeper complexities of the movie, and simply enjoy it for what it is. A love letter to fans, with many bittersweet moments. For any shortcomings, it has, the previous films in the franchise more than make up for them, when you choose to look at Endgame as a symphonic finale to 11 years of Marvel movie magic. What are these shortcomings I keep referencing? We can discuss that in my full spoiler breakdown of the film. That’s however not why we’re here today. Today we are here to share a cinematic moment in history we’ll likely never see again of this scope. Go see Endgame, and tell me if you don’t leave the theater a “True Believer”.