AVENGERS: ENDGAME

I know I’m in the very small minority that didn’t really care for Avengers: Infinity War, but to be honest, I was actually pretty hyped up for this conclusion. While Infinity War didn’t fully work for me, I was interested to see how it would resolve that story, but also this large, overarching story and universe that’s been built over the past 11 years. The original Iron Man is one of my favorite comic book films, but for the most part, I found the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to just be decent, with only a few films reaching the excellent territory for me. So, while I wasn’t expecting to be wowed here, I was still excited to see how a franchise I had some mild investment in would be wrapped up.

Avengers: Endgame takes place 5 years after Avengers: Infinity War, where the world is still reeling from the events of “The Snap”, where half of the world’s population just vanished into dust. This was of course due to the Avengers’ failure to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin), who completed his goal of “bringing balance to the world.” Well, thanks to Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), the surviving Avengers deduce they can travel back in time to gather the Infinity Stones before Thanos does, preventing The Snap completely. Of course, time travel comes with its own host of issues as the Avengers travel through time and find themselves pursued by a version of Thanos in the past. It’s a literal race against time, as the Avengers try to prevent Thanos from reaching his goal again.

The biggest thing holding me back from truly liking Infinity War was that I felt it didn’t juggle the various plotlines and characters very well. I think it’s poorly paced and structured and I never really got a sense of scale or time with it all. It felt disjointed and I was so satisfied that Endgame rectified all of those issues. Now that all of the set-up from the last movie is out of the way, the narrative is much more streamlined and consistent, telling a much more cohesive story. This is essentially a time travel movie for the majority of it, with different teams of Avengers going back to various timelines in order to gather their respective McGuffins. Time travel was obviously going to be an element for the characters to change what happened, but the way they played around with it was loads of fun and made for some very entertaining sequences. The characters travelling to old events, like The Battle of New York from The Avengers, almost made it feel like a celebration of the series. There are loads of references and little twists and turns. The thing is, after all of this buildup, all of this fan service feels earned, while also being well used and timed. 

If you really think about the time travel, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and creates some paradoxes, but that’s not the point. It’s about going on the journey with the characters and it’s a rollicking journey. While the MCU has mostly had its ups and downs for me, the consistent element that I loved across the board was the cast. Every actor is simply perfect for their respective characters, each one truly defining them, where you can’t imagine anyone else in the role. They all have terrifically natural chemistry and a rapport with each other that feels like it’s been genuinely built up over the years. I’m sure this is because the actors had to have grown very close over this franchise and it shows in every scene, especially the emotional ones. Just like every other film they’re in, the actors are stellar across the board, with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans getting to do all of the dramatic heavy lifting. This is the first reunion between Iron Man and Captain America since Captain America: Civil War, so it was satisfying and somewhat cathartic to see them team back up again for the greater good. 

A big criticism of the MCU, and this isn’t just from me, is the over-reliance on humor. They’re practically comedy films at this point, with the heroes constantly cracking jokes and bantering with each other. The constant humor usually got on my nerves in many of the films, mostly because the make the stakes feel lower and suck all of the emotional energy out of a dramatic scene. That’s thankfully not really an issue here. There are some jokes that miss the mark, but 95% of the time, they’re perfectly timed and delivered. The dramatic moments were actually allowed to be dramatic and I was genuinely emotional during them. There were loads of risks taken in the story department, with some twists I truly didn’t expect. It subverts your expectations, yet gives you something even better. Sure, some of the bigger plot elements were predictable, especially when you’re invested in all of the behind the scenes politics like me, but they felt appropriate for the story, that I didn’t mind at all.

The story and characters definitely delivered this time around, but what about the action? That’s always been a consistent high point of the series and the action here is the most impressive and exciting of the whole series. As expected, it’s incredibly large scale, with our dozens of heroes introduced over the years finally coming together to fight Thanos and his obligatory league of faceless monsters. The final battle scene is epic in scale and scope, and the best part, it never once got confusing. There were CGI explosions and lasers all over the place, but it was so well staged and so smoothly edited, I always knew what’s going on. I sure wish director Anthony and Joe Russo just saturated all that color just a bit. These are high budget films that mostly look pretty great, but when Captain America’s suit is just a drab shade of blue because of some de-saturation to add some sort of “grit”, it just looks dull. For such fun comic book flicks, I wish they were a bit more colorful. The CGI is at least stellar across the board, except for that part of the board that is Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk. The Hulk here is a mix between him and Bruce Banner, giving him Banner’s intelligence, while maintaining the giant green physique. You could see too much of Mark Ruffalo in the face and I found it very distracting, leading into the uncanny valley. It was even more distracting since they digitally deepened his voice, making him sound like Ray Romano.

Every character, and I mean every single one from Iron Man to Valkyrie, get a moment to shine and show off their cool moves. It feels like they really took care to craft the story and action around these characters, so they can all get their moment in the spotlight. If you’re a fan of even the most obscure Marvel character, you’ll get to see them do something awesome here. There are loads of surprising, crowd pleasing moments, all of them feeling earned over the decade of build-up. It’s really impressive when you think about everything producer Kevin Feige has crafted over the years to bring us to this point, especially since it doesn’t every feel confusing or bloated. This is the longest film in the franchise, clocking in at 180 minutes, but I never felt a second of that runtime. It totally flew by and it was all because of that consistent narrative and the fact that it wasn’t a bunch of setup for another movie. It felt like a conclusion where everybody involved was actually working towards something.

Avengers: Endgame hasn’t made me feel this way about an MCU film since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was five years ago. That’s one of my favorite films in the franchise and now this one has jumped into the echelon with that, Iron Man, and The Avengers, in what I consider the truly great films of the franchise. This is just an excellent blockbuster that hits all of the right notes with the story and characters, and is filled with nothing but exciting moments and fun character interactions. Above all, it’s a more than satisfying conclusion to the 21 films that preceded it and while the series had it’s ups and downs, they totally stuck the landing. With a project as vast as this, that’s really all that matters. This is the new Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

9/10

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