So this is going to be something a little different. Instead of reviewing Avengers Endgame and telling you whether or not to go see it, I’m going to assume that most of you have already had the semi-privilege of sitting down in a dark theater for three hours and listening to the kids behind you laugh any time somebody dabbed or “Fortnite” appeared on-screen. If you happen to be one of the three people on the planet who hasn’t already seen Avengers: Endgame then I’ve got a quick little write-up for you guys that will be spoiler-free. For the rest of you, I’m going to break down the film and dissect it a little bit more than some of you may be comfortable with. This is a lengthy write-up, so feel free to read it in small and easily digestible chunks. Having said all that…
…Hold on to your butts.
So you somehow haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame. Either you’re just a busy person who’s always on the go and haven’t found the time, or you’re vehemently against all things Marvel, in which case…what are you even doing here, friend-o? The line for people who like disappointing and awful DC Films is over there.
So should you go see Avengers: Endgame or just wait for the rental?
Well, if you’ve been following along on this Marvel hype train for 11 years, I think you kind of owe it to yourself (and Marvel) to see this film. It’s the culmination of a wonderful cinematic experiment that was hand-crafted with love every step of the way. There’s a ton here for the die-hard fans that have been here since day 1, but there’s also quite a bit for the casuals who might only see the team-up movies and maybe a few of the standalone movies here and there. Almost every single one of the old Avengers gets their character arcs wrapped up in one way or another, and the movie serves as a love-letter to the actors who’ve given us 10 years of their blood, sweat, and tears.
As a standalone movie, I honestly don’t think it holds up too well though. The middle portion of the movie especially feels like unnecessary filler, but to be honest I believe that most of the film feels that way. It almost feels to me like they had a bunch of characters they wanted to give fantastic endings to, but forgot that they had to make those awesome goodbyes while still moving along the story that they’d been working so hard to establish in the first place. Thanos, the unlikely breakout star of Avengers: Infinity War, barely has any relevant screen-time in this one. There’s so much timey-wimey stuff going on that completely kills the momentum that the franchise had after the end credits had rolled on Infinity War. There’s just…a lot to be disappointed about.
But man, did they knock it out of the park in other ways. As stated before, the farewell to a lot of the Avengers was excellently done. The humor, as ever, was funny and compelling with most jokes finding their mark. There were callbacks and easter eggs galore for the long-time fans to sift through and talk about. There were even a couple of surprising twists that caught me completely off-guard, despite me having read hundreds of fan-theories over the past year.
All in all, if you’re a die-hard Marvel fan then I think you’ve already seen this film. If you’re a casual fan, it still wouldn’t hurt to at least give it a watch when it gets a physical release, though I’d say some stuff will probably already be spoiled for you by then.
And now, for the main event!
So I was kind of struggling with finding the proper way to organize my thoughts. I wanted to critique the film without coming across as too harsh, because there are a lot of things that I really liked about it. So I’ve settled on the classic “Compliment Sandwich” in which a critique gets sandwiched between two compliments, that way you both begin and end on a positive note. Except in this case, I guess we’re looking at something that might resemble a few Big Macs stacked on top of one another, because it’s going to be like…more than just three total things. Oh and this post isn’t really sponsored by McDonalds or anything. I just so happened to have a Micky D’s burger tonight and the bag is still sitting by my computer, but mostly I’m just a very lazy writer.
Compliment: Those send-offs, though!
Endgame might not have been a perfect film, but it absolutely nailed the send-offs for several of the original Avengers. A lot of people speculated before the film came out that either Tony Stark or Steve Rogers would almost certainly bite the bullet, but boy I don’t think anybody saw things playing out quite like they did.
It’s interesting to me that Tony is the one to make the sacrifice that ultimately defeats Thanos, when the very essence of Captain America’s character is doing whatever the right thing is no matter the personal sacrifice involved. Even way back in the first Avengers, Cap tells Tony that he isn’t “the guy to make the sacrifice play” which was quickly proven wrong when Tony flew the rocket through the portal in New York. But to have Tony again make the sacrifice and actually have it cost him his dream life with Pepper and his daughter? That’s absolutely stone-cold.
Instead, it’s Captain America who gets to have the dream life that he always wanted. He gets to go back in time and life a full life with Agent Carter and come back aged like a fine wine. I guess he’s been the selfless hero since day one, so it makes sense to give him a super happy ending like this. But still. Poor Tony.
And Natasha, oh boy. This was the second scene of the movie that caught me completely off guard (the first being Thanos’ hasty decapitation). After spending much of the movie telling the audience that Hawkeye has nothing to live for after his family was snapped and that he’s beyond redemption for the things that he’s done since then, the movie pulls the rug out from underneath is and kills Natasha! This was an incredibly bold choice in my opinion, especially since I was once again expecting Hawkeye to be the throwaway scapegoat like he was in the first Avengers film. The scene leading up to her death when they’re both struggling to be the one that dies is heart-breaking stuff and the big sacrifice is absolutely earned. To get the soul stone you have to sacrifice something you love, and it’s clear that Hawkeye and Widow most definitely had a platonic love for each other. This has almost always been the case, since way back in the first Avengers film with their banter about Budapest. They’ve always been the two relatively fragile human characters who are in over their heads when surrounded by aliens and super-soldiers, so watching them each struggle to sacrifice themselves to spare the other one isn’t a cop-out or anything. It almost feels set-up from the very beginning.
The other two original Avengers have interesting paths ahead of them. Bruce Banner has finally come to terms with his alter-ego Hulk, and the amalgam of “Professor Hulk” was one of the unexpected surprises of Endgame and one of its funniest. It seems that Banner’s character arc is more or less over now, because he finally has control over the monster within him. I just don’t really see where else he could go as a character, except for maybe a support role and a cameo here and there in films going forward.
But it’s a completely different story for Thor.
It almost feels like his arc is just beginning all over again, which is impressive for a character that’s been around for such a long time. We’ve seen him go from arrogant god, to humble hero, to sad but coping, to his Endgame incarnation of almost complete depression. Though it’s played for a laugh, Thor is in some very real pain…and why shouldn’t he be? He’s lost both of his parents, his brother, had to kill his sister, and didn’t land a lethal blow on Thanos which allowed him to finish The Snap and wipe out half of all life. Thor blames himself for everything, especially after he kills Thanos in the beginning of Endgame and realizes there’s no way to undo things now that the stones are gone.
It makes perfect sense to me that he turns into The Big Thor-bowski. He drowns his sorrow in alcohol and video games and loses himself in his misery.
But man, that talk with his mother did wonders. He realizes that he’s still worthy of being Thor and that being Thor means he has to get his ass in gear and save the day. He wisely leaves Valkyrie in charge of the remaining Asgardians and leaves at the end of the film to pal around with the Guardians. Things are looking up for Thor, and it seems he still has plenty of adventures ahead of him and lots of places his character could still go. After all, there’s nothing people love more than a good comeback story.
Critique: Thanos, What On Earth Did They Do to You?
There was almost universal acclaim for Josh Brolin’s performance as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. In fact, it surprised a lot of people that Marvel was actually able to make a compelling villain besides Loki because…let’s face it…the villains of most of their films have been lackluster. So Infinity War properly introduced Thanos and gave him a much needed backstory, and they even went so far as to give him a nice character arc throughout the film. Hell, some could even say the entire movie is really Thanos’ story because it more or less is. It’s his quest for the Infinity Stones that brings the Avengers together. It’s his sacrifice of Gamora that proves his intense belief in his own ideals. At the end of the film, it’s Thanos who gets to retire into the sunset after a job well done. The whole movie is just a great character arc for a compelling villain.
And then Endgame like…kills him off immediately? And replaces him with a circa 2014 Thanos who has absolutely none of that compelling development? The big fight at the end of the film isn’t against the Thanos we saw sacrifice and grow as a character in Infinity War but just Thanos like….a few years ago? When he was still mostly just an asshole? How in the hell did that get signed off on? Who thought that watching the Avengers rally to victory against a Thanos that had almost zero history with any of them would be more compelling then watching an epic battle against the Thanos that had personally wronged so many of them? I honestly just don’t understand this choice. It feels like it was made completely for the shock factor and to derail all the fan theories and preconceived notions about what Endgame would be about. And trust me when I say that things made solely for the shock factor are seldom good.
Compliment: Some of the Timey-Wimey Stuff Is Good…
Traditionally, I’m not a fan of most time-travel plots. They tend to be repetitive and lazy, and some movies don’t really establish their time-travel rules all that well and then break those rules later on anyway. Endgame does just an okay job at doing this, basically establishing that it isn’t playing by Back to the Future rules where affecting the past affects the future. Essentially, time-travel in Endgame has more in common with a multi-verse theory than traditional time-travel as we know it. Each time (ha!) somebody travels back in time, there’s a new branch of reality created which contains their presence and all of its changes. They sort of skirt around this by suggesting that if you keep things more or less unchanged, the timelines will naturally fuse back together down the line, but most of the time-travel stuff in Endgame is a bit murky at best.
Having said that, I see why they chose to lean so heavily on it. From a movie-standpoint, it isn’t that compelling. But if you look at Endgame more like a highlight reel that revisits a lot of what we know and love from the Marvel Universe, then I find that it makes a little more sense. This is supposed to be a swan song for the original Avengers, so looking back at their “Greatest Hits” collection so to speak is something that makes a lot of sense.
I think revisiting the Battle of New York was kind of fun. Seeing the new Professor Hulk half-heartedly throw some cars while trying to act like old Hulk was a great. Seeing Cap’s eye-roll at his younger and more naive version from 2012 when he says “I can do this all day” is hilarious because we know our Cap is a bit more cynical and jaded and just wants to get the job done now. Also playing off audience expectations with the whole elevator sequence was absolutely brilliant, and turning one of the biggest Marvel Comics scandals of the past few years into a clever way for Cap to avoid a fight was perfectly in character for the Cap who is getting too old for this crap.
It was also nice for Thor to get one last conversation with his mother, even if it meant revisiting quite possibly the worst Marvel movie in the whole franchise. Thor: The Dark World is easily one of the most forgettable Marvel movies (second maybe to Ed Norton’s Incredible Hulk in terms of being swept under Marvel’s rug) but it’s used wisely here for a lot of important character moments for Thor. We see him too nervous to confront Jane Foster, who used to be the love of his life. We also see his mother give him the speech that helps him get his act together and remember that he’s still worthy of wielding Mjolinir. The time-travel here makes sense, because it helps Thor’s character move forward and I think this is probably the best use of time-travel in the whole movie in terms of story development.
Critique: …But Some of the Timey-Wimey Stuff is Bad.
I know it’s supposed to be super important for Tony to meet his dad and get one last conversation in where he learns what it means to be a hero, but I think having two such moments in the film is a bit too repetitive. Thor already has almost this exact conversation with his mother, so I’m not sure why we need to see the same thing with a different character. Especially with Tony, because he’s already proven that he’s a great hero and is willing to lay his life down if it means saving the ones he cares about. This entire flashback segment just feels like filler to me, and it doesn’t really have any huge impact on Tony’s character because he already is selfless or he wouldn’t be there in the first place. He already made that choice when he decided to get involved with the time-travel plot and even Pepper recognizes that he couldn’t live with himself if he just stood by and did nothing. The directors could have just had the initial plan in New York go off without a hitch and saved themselves the trouble of this scene.
The stuff with Nebula and Thanos is also not the greatest. Somehow the two Nebulas have overlapping memory banks, so the 2014 Nebula picks up snippets of the Avengers’ plan through modern day Nebula’s eyes. There’s this huge sub-plot of trying to convince 2014 Nebula that she doesn’t have to be Thanos’ puppet and another subplot of convincing 2014 Gamora that her and modern day Nebula become sisters. It all ultimately results in…not very much, except for catching 2014 Thanos up to speed on recent events. 2014 Nebula dies anyway and 2014 Gamora goes missing by the end of the film. I guess this is good character development for modern day Nebula, but I feel like a lot of this could have been trimmed or cut to reduce that beefy 3 hour run-time.
Compliment: Hawkeye’s Ronin Persona
All the hardcore Marvel fans like myself pretty much knew this was coming, but finally getting to see Hawkeye’s Ronin persona on screen was still super awesome. I firmly believe this to be the most interesting version of Clint Barton, at least aesthetically. Who out there doesn’t like a sexy ninja?
In the comics, Ronin is a persona first adopted by a hero named Echo. When she gets captured, Clint and a few others go to Japan to rescue her and Clint adopts her persona as a badass sword-wielding ninja. I think the genius of this choice in Endgame is tying the persona to Clint’s personal loss. His entire family was taken away from him in The Snap, so in his grief he’s seeking to dispatch all traces of evil in the most ruthless way that he knows how. I think this simple little change was one of the best that Marvel’s ever made in terms of transitioning something from comics to the big screen. They turned what was basically just a cool alternate costume into a real symbol of how far Clint’s character has fallen from grace.
Critique: Wait A Second…Where’s Captain Marvel?
If you read my review of Captain Marvel a couple of months ago, you’ll know how I felt about the movie. It basically boils down to “It’s a great standalone movie, but a disappointing pre-Endgame hype movie”. It kind of exists in its own little bubble, which was weird because it was the last chance that Marvel had to get butts into seats for Endgame.
After seeing how Captain Marvel is used in Endgame though, it makes more sense. Much like how Black Panther is barely in Infinity War despite his standalone movie making ALL of the money just a couple of months before Infinity War’s release, he didn’t really play that important of a role in that movie. It seems like Marvel did the same thing here, relegating Captain Marvel to the bench extremely early on in Endgame. I understand why they had to do it (because Captain Marvel is quite possibly the strongest Avenger we’ve ever seen) but it’s still disappointing to see her used so sparingly in this movie.
The reasons they gave were also kind of weak. She can’t join in on their plan to bring HALF OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE back to life because…a couple of planets really need her? I…guess that makes sense? In my head, this is one of those “The Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few” kind of situations, so it’s odd that Captain Marvel would rather try and help a few million people (at most) on other planets rather than attempt to bring half of all life back from the dead. It was just an odd character choice and lazy writing.
Compliment: “Girl Power!” Scene
But when Captain Marvel finally came back into the film it was freaking amazing. One of her absolute best moments comes near the end when she rallies all of the female characters together for one last push with the infinity gauntlet. This has kind of become known as “The Girl Power” scene, because apparently a lot of people have a problem with all of the women gathering together for their own 30 seconds of badassery despite the dudes getting that in basically every other scene. I understand the complaints. It is just a bit forced. Most of these characters haven’t spoken a single word to each other ever before, and some of them probably hadn’t even had a line of dialogue the entire film. But still. Imagine you’re a little girl and you see all of these ladies come together and kick just as much ass as the boys. I’d much rather my future daughter look up to someone like Valkyrie or Captain Marvel than almost any pop star or reality TV persona.
Critique: The Time-skip+Everyone-is-Back-to-Life Plot Hole
Okay, so this is me being super nit-picky for what is obviously not a very realistic film. But I was reading a comment online right after I watched a movie and it brought up a really good point. If the world is barely functioning at half-capacity, what happens when you suddenly introduce everybody who was gone back into the mix?
If you think about it for even a few seconds, half of the global population either disappearing or reappearing would be enough to throw the entire planet into absolute chaos. Of course, Marvel smartly glosses over the global ramifications of The Snap by just saying “Hey five years passed and society somehow managed to half-ass reestablish itself” but still. I just don’t think Bob from accounting would care too much about going back to his old 9-5 job if his entire family disappeared right in from of him.
And let’s buy it for just a moment. Let’s somehow put aside all logic and reason and say “Okay, maybe somehow society survived it and handled it okay. They learned how to adapt and now they’re just now starting to get the hang of things again.” And then boom, all of those missing people are suddenly back. Can you even imagine? Suddenly all of the infrastructure put in place over the last five years to sustain a population of roughly 3.5 billion has to immediately go back to supporting more than 7 billion basically overnight. Come on. I can buy that a guy from a faraway planet called Asgard can be a lightning God with a magical hammer.
But you can’t mess with established economics. Society handling such a massive population outflow and then somehow establishing itself a third time after a similarly large population influx just isn’t feasible.
Shame on you, Marvel. I expect more realism in your movies about superheroes and aliens.
Compliment: That Ending Battle Scene
I really don’t even know what needs to be said, here. If the movie had already been released on Blu-ray and such, I would just link you to the YouTube video of the huge battle at the very end of the film. All of it almost speaks for itself, because man is it awesome.
We have Cap standing alone against all of Thanos’ forces and then BAM! Every Marvel character from every Marvel movie steps out of a portal and just like that we’re looking at something out of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. To this day, I still think that The Battle of Helm’s Deep from The Two Towers remains the gold standard for combat on a massive scale, but Endgame might have given it some competition. Every hero gets a moment to shine and much like The Battle of Helm’s Deep, the fight isn’t just Michael Bay style chaos. The battle is very structured and easy to follow from a narrative sense. We have the initial fight of the Avengers against Thanos. Then we have Thanos bringing in his army and the Avengers bringing in theirs. Then we have a bunch of action shots of each character getting some time in the spotlight. Then the battle moves on to transporting the Gauntlet across the battlefield. Finally, we see the battle’s resolution.
Dividing the action scene up into stages like this makes it easier to follow and easier for the audience to digest. It gives the battle its own little mini-arc, which makes for more compelling viewing than “Two armies fight and the last one with a person left alive wins”.
I really think this scene is going to be hard to top in Marvel movies going forward. I don’t understand how you go even BIGGER than this battle in the Marvel team-up movies going forward, but I’m very excited to watch Marvel try.
Critique: No After-Credits Teaser??? IN A MARVEL FILM???
Post-credits scenes have been around for a while, but usually they were just innocent little Easter-eggs. Marvel sort of turned that on its head when they decided to start teasing their upcoming movies at the very end of the one you just finished watching. It’s become kind of a staple of the Marvel brand at this point, and after every Marvel movie almost all of the audience knows to stay in their seats to find out what’s coming next.
Except this time…it didn’t happen.
Aside from one last farewell to the original Avengers in the form of character cards and autographs, there isn’t an after-credits scene in Avengers: Endgame. There’s nothing at all to tease where Marvel is going to go next, but I sort of understand why. They want Endgame to be the closing chapter in the saga of the story that they were telling. It’s the very end, and for that to mean anything, they can’t go and immediately start shilling for their next movie. I really get it.
But boy do I hate it. I would have been happy with absolutely anything. Show me the cast all eating schwarma on the last day of shooting and breaking character and crying now that it’s all over. Give me The Silver Surfer going up to Galactus and being like “I found you a new food source. It’s called….Earth.” Hell, give me Howard the freaking Duck again. I’m really not even picky.
Compliment: The Last 11 Years
This is the final compliment in the sandwich, you guys. And it’s also the most important to me, personally.
I remember watching the first Iron Man movie in theaters with my dad when I was only 16. This was way back in 2008, when MySpace still kind of semi-mattered and shared movie universes were a thing that only some campy horror movies did in the 1940’s and 50’s.
Throughout the last 11 years, I’ve changed a lot as a person. But every step of the way, there were two or more Marvel movies a year, changing with me as I aged. I’m not the same boy I was 11 years ago, just like Marvel isn’t even close to being the same company they were 11 years ago.
Comics and superheroes were a little mainstream sure, but they weren’t the kind of big-ticket events that sold out theaters on release day. On the way, Marvel has had its ups (Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy) and its downs (Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron) but for something that has spanned 22 films and countless TV Series spin-offs…I’d say things went pretty well overall. This kind of ambitious experiment really changed the game for all of us and signaled a shift in the cultural zeitgeist that might even be talked about in history books going forward. Just like the 20’s had the Charleston and the 70’s had disco, is it too crazy to imagine that the late 2000’s and the entirety of the 2010’s will be categorized as the time we were all into Marvel? As the time when we all collectively held hands and embraced our wildest fantasies? When we all closed our eyes at the same time and imagined that we were super, and that each of us could change the world if only given the chance?
It may very well be.
But whatever the future may hold for the Marvel movies and for all of us, I wish each and every one of you the best of luck. And remember, you don’t have to have superpowers to be a super person, just like you don’t have to be strong to save the world. Start small and dream big.
Anything is possible.