Review - 'Avengers: Endgame'
Spoiler warning for Avengers: Infinity War
We’re here, finally, at the end of it all. Well, sort of. Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of all 22 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, and barring a few issues that I have with it, it’s a worthy finale that knows precisely how to tug at the heartstrings.
Avengers: Endgame picks up where Infinity War left off. Half the population of all living things in the universe have vanished, and there’s no going back. Or is there? The remaining Avengers have been forced to pick up the pieces and move on, but the reappearance of someone who they thought was lost sparks hope.
To say that I’m a huge fan of almost everything Marvel Studios has done is an understatement. From their focus on strong characters to their galaxy-spanning inter-connected worlds, there is no denying that this studio knows what they are doing. On top of that, Avengers: Infinity War had me sitting in stunned silence as the credits rolled, the snap still reverberating in my eardrums after my heroes had turned to dust. Needless to say, the level of hype I felt heading in to Avengers: Endgame was astronomical, and in retrospect, maybe I was a little too excited, because I don’t think any film would have been able to pole-vault the incredibly high bar that I set. I’m not saying Avengers: Endgame is a disappointment, its actually top-tier for the genre, but it didn’t quite scratch all of the itches that Infinity War did for me.
Look, I love this film, but it has some aspects that truly had my mind doing back-flips to try and make sense of, even for a comic book film. I won’t spoil anything, but this movie has some of the largest plot holes out of any of the Marvel films yet, I’m talking GAPING holes. These grand canyon-sized rifts in logic are acknowledged to some degree, but it’s generally by means of a shrug or hand-wave telling me not to worry about it. Fortunately, the entire film is a blast to watch, and the inconsistencies really only become a problem when you stop to think about them, which I didn’t until the movie was over and I had time to catch a breath.
Another small issue with the film is the re-use of certain sequences that we’ve seen before. Endgame recycles a lot, and though it does put a different spin on things, I still occasionally got a been-there-done-that feel from a handful of scenes. That said, by the film’s very nature, these scenes have to exist and it wouldn’t work without them, it’s just hard to feel emotionally invested in something you pretty much already know the ending to.
Despite these flaws, Avengers: Endgame absolutely sticks the landing, and is filled to the brim with some of the best moments in the entire franchise. After losing half of the Avengers roster in the last film, the remaining Avengers, particularly Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye are given much more room to breathe, and the interpersonal relationships are fleshed-out and don’t feel nearly as rushed as they were in Infinity War. Whereas Infinity War was chock-full of money-shots and epic crowd-pleasing moments, Endgame, particularly in its first half, is filled with reflective quiet ruminations that emphasize the repercussions of the tragedy that occurred in the previous film. The somber, meditative tone of the first act does eventually fade and give way to a more lively and energetic second act. There’s an oftentimes comedic, touching and adventurous spirit to the lengthy midsection of this film that managed to wring out both tears of laughter and sadness.
If character-focused, less bombastic moments don’t appeal to you, panic not; The Russos still manage to pull out all of the stops and unleash hell in the final act. There are action scenes on display here that truly do look like full-on comic book splash pages, they’re glorious and beautiful and look like they took FOREVER to conceive. I do have a few quibbles with some of the moments within the battle, but none of it really detracts from the experience as a whole. Finally, the Russos save the best for last and wrap up the story with some highly emotional payoffs that seem like irreversible changes to this universe of characters as we know them. I could not have envisioned a better end.
Avengers: Endgame also marks the swan-song for a few franchise veterans, most notably Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America. The Russo’s make sure you know that this is mostly their movie from the get-go. Robert Downey Jr. absolutely owns every scene he’s in, which is no surprise. As great as he has been in all of the previous films, he finds something new here that adds so much more emotional heft to his character, which results in a very satisfying send-off and book-end to his arc. Chris Evans, who has always been the heart of the team, is also no slouch. While Downey Jr. gets the lions-share of emotional moments, Chris Evans comes in a close second and gets about the best ending you could hope for for the good Captain.
The film has some surprises up its sleeve in regards to the direction they took with both Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Their roles skew more towards the comedic side, but they each have satisfying payoffs of their own. Black Widow is also back, and while her screen time seems somewhat reduced, she gets one of the better scenes in the movie. Her relationship with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is also expanded upon, and we get a better sense of how these two work together. Speaking of Hawkeye, he gets a lot to do here, and while I still wouldn’t say I’m a fan of the character, it’s nice to see Jeremy Renner stretch his legs a bit and add some more dimension to a character that used to be oh so bland. Finally we have Thanos (Josh Brolin) who unfortunately takes a bit of a back seat for most of the film. I loved how Thanos was essentially the main character in Infinity War and we got to see what made the villain tick and actually understand why he did what he did. Well, there’s much less of that here. He’s still a formidable presence, but where once there was a twisted but fascinating figure, there is now just a nearly-unstoppable megalomaniac.
No, Avengers: Endgame is not perfect, it has warts, but these problems are easy to overlook when nearly every scene of the film is filled with both unexpected surprises and moments you’ve always dreamed of seeing but never got. For once in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is the closing of a chapter, and while some of the characters will most certainly go on to appear in other films, there are others that are definitively done. I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience this journey from beginning to end and it’s a relief that this massive, epic saga was able to come to a close in such a satisfying way.