Quick programming note: I hate the way that spoiler culture has taken over the enjoyment of movies. We’ve gotten so paranoid about that we consider anything – including the title of the movie – a spoiler. While this review will not spoil any of the twists, turns, or surprises, I do intend to delve a little bit into the plot of the movie itself beyond, “stopping the purple guy”. For more clarification, think of the movie Zombieland. If I told you Bill Murray shows up, then yes, that’s a spoiler. If I told you that the movie was about a group of people travelling the countryside looking for Twinkies: Not a spoiler.
You’ve been warned.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an amazing feat for many reasons. For one, many of these people were B-Listers back when they first started making these movies. I mean, which one would you like to see a movie about more: the guy who swings a hammer or the one who talks to ants? They also had a semi-grand vision of attempting to make this giant shared universe, slowly teased out in the first Iron Man, then in the Hulk, all the way to the Avengers. Then they almost screwed it all up without a real plan for a bit. So the fact that we’re now looking at the 22nd movie in a giant, interconnected universe of movies is not something I could have ever conceived of when I was a young nerd reading my Superman/Batman team-up comics. This was unthinkable to young me. So the stakes were high with Avengers: Endgame. Could they pull this off? Could they make this grand vision work?
The answer is a resounding: Mostly yes.
Avengers: Endgame picks up about a month after the end of Avengers: Infinity War, where Thanos used the Infinity Stones to snap away half of the Universe, with the convenient exception of the people who can do anything about it. Remember how I said I had interesting views on spoilers, and I wasn’t going to go too deeply into them. This is one of those moments where discretion is the better part of trying to spoil things. Don’t read up too much on it, it’s better if you go into it a little bit blind to what’s going on. There’s a lot of loss, there’s a lot of quips, there are some truly surprising moments, and my personal favorite, Big Lebowski references.
When in doubt: go for the Big Lebowski reference.
There’s a lot in this movie. There’s an old Simpsons joke where Krusty the Klown runs down his show and proclaims it “the tightest three hours and ten minutes on television.” One day, when we’re less worried about spoilers, we can probably do the same with this, where we proclaim this is the tightest three hours they could make this movie. At no point does it drag or feel overstuffed. In fact, I could argue that there are a lot of characters who don’t get a good amount of screentime, or the gloss over some bigger developments that should have been given more screentime. (Hulk sized developments, if you know what I’m saying.)
This movie also has a fun way of being a retrospective on the Marvel Universe, and how far it’s come as well, not just in movies but in character. We get a lot more Nebula, who, post-snap has taken on more of a role with the Avengers. It’s a nice little touch when she refers to Rhodes as “Rhodey”. Black Widow has taken up her role as the leader of the Avengers, trying to keep order in a world that has to deal with the cosmic horror that their existence can be snapped away. The movie plays with the relationships not just in the fun way that is the superhero team up, but as a reminder that they had existed separately at one point.
Most of this movie, however, is given over to Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Both of these men have been at the center of the Marvel Universe in some way. It all started with Stark, and I feel his presence has been felt in some way in most of the movies – either through appearances, references to him, or just a feeling he should be around. And Steve Rogers, who always feels like he has a duty to protect everyone, and failed spectacularly in the previous movie. This is where spoilers are tough, because I want to praise how the movie deals with these two, but I don’t want to give too much away. Let’s just say I was immensely satisfied with how the movie treated both of them, including finally having them reconcile after the events of Captain America: Civil War. (Again, since they did reconcile in the movie, but needed to fight again for narrative reasons. Ok, I’ll be good.)
While there is a lot to praise about the movie, my biggest complaint is really that it doesn’t feel like a single movie, but it feels like the end to something bigger. That’s both good and bad: we need to have endings in comic book movies and comics, otherwise you end up with Batman and Robin. But this movie is so infatuated with the idea of ending, we just sort of get half a story here. One of the strengths of Infinity War is that while it was obviously the first part of a two parter, we still got a satisfying story with Thanos. We don’t have that anchor here.
Overall, though, these are just my spoiler-free thoughts. Honestly, it’s brought more money in a weekend than some countries make in years, so chances are you’ve seen it. In a year, I’ll probably revisit Infinity War and Endgame together and look at what the movie means as an ending, and share all of my spoiler-filled thoughts. For now, I’ll tell you if you haven’t seen it, to go see it. It provides us with something a lot of franchises are afraid to provide us with: an ending.
Hamlet T. Wondercat says