Ladies, gentlemen, humans, and non-humanoid gelatinous blob beings alike, what just happened? Marvel has spent the last 11 years constructing a complex, interconnected web of stories, and in the process, built an entire universe for us to enjoy. Now, they give us what is essentially their grand finale! 22 individual films have all led up to this moment. “Avengers: Infinity War”, which is essentially part 1 of this story, set the table. Metaphorically speaking, it is game 7 of the World Series, the bottom of the 9th inning and Marvel needs 4 runs to win it all. “Infinity War” just loaded the bases, and now it is time for “Endgame” to make history. But did it come through and be a hero like the plethora of colorful figures in its story, or like the mighty Casey before it, did it strike out in the biggest moment?
While I normally keep my reviews spoiler-free, that would not be appropriate with this film. To adequately discuss it, I need the freedom to dive into specifics of the plot. Considering all that went into making it, it is only fair that I am as thorough as possible. And, let’s be real here, I waited until Monday to write this. The film has already grossed $1.2 BILLION. It appears no one is still waiting to see this, and if you are waiting for some reason, I am willing to bet you are not all that invested in it anyway, so I do not respect you as a person. You lack conviction. But, to be fair…
*** SPOILER WARNING! ***
This movie is damn near perfect. There it is. I said it. It cannot be unsaid. It is a fact. Read the Bible losers.
Every time a friend or someone who thinks they are my friend but are really just a pretty good acquaintance asks me my thoughts on the film, I simply respond: “The status quo has changed”. I say that to be as cryptic as possible, thus avoiding being the one to spoil anything for someone while simultaneously being deep and edgy, but now I no longer carry that burden so let us discuss what I mean by that.
The plot of the film begins with the world and the team coming to grips with Thanos (Josh Brolin) wiping out half of all life in the universe. The team gathers to find Thanos and get the Infinity Stones from him to undo what he has done, but when they find him, he reveals he had destroyed the stones so that his plan could never be undone. In his words: “I am inevitable”. After five years passes and life moves on, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) returns from the Quantum Realm, revealing there may be a way to go back in time and collect the Infinity Stones from the past to undo the decimation. So, the team organizes into several different groups to retrieve the stones from their various locations throughout the history of MCU, and thus create a story composed of Marvel’s Greatest Hits revisited.
Content-wise, Marvel will never be the same again. There is usually a changing dynamic of characters that come from one of their films, but “Endgame” turns that up to 11. The biggest and most important changes start with our core Avengers, who are (for those of you heathens who still do not know) Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). These six were the original team members and the ones who have anchored the franchise since the very beginning.
Black Widow deserved better than what she got. Not only has she yet to star in her own film, but she sacrifices herself on Vormir, despite Hawkeye’s best efforts to do it instead of her, in order for the team to retrieve the Soul Stone. It is a touching moment, where she connects with Hawkeye, her oldest and closest friend, one last time, but this moment happening as relatively early as it did means she was not there for the final battle. Not only that but because of the timing of her sacrifice, it feels as though there is not enough time to really appreciate what she did and the momentous act she committed to save everyone else.
Hawkeye, who was under house arrest and presumably retired during the events of “Infinity War”, returned for “Endgame”, and he is noticeably different. Hawkeye, also known as Clint Barton, lost his entire family to Thanos and went somewhat off the deep end. He became a vigilante named Ronin, who has no issue killing his victims with a sword. Clint is a character with nothing to lose anymore, which is a major change from the snarky sharpshooter we used to know.
Hulk learned to combined the brains of Bruce Banner and the body of the Hulk to create Professor Hulk, which appears to be a permanent change. This was a welcomed move and created many funny moments with the character, and signified the completion of a major character arc that had taken 3 films to complete.
Thor blames himself for letting Thanos complete his mission in the previous film, as most of the heroes do. He takes his failures to heart and becomes a fat drunk, which is funny at first, but after the first few scenes with it, you really wish he would take himself seriously again. Unfortunately, he never does, and even in the final fight when he has his game-face on, he is still chunky, which feels like a joke that ran its course but that one kid in class is still bringing it up every day because it was their proudest moment. Thor is a god. If he just snapped his fingers and became absolutely shredded again in a second, would anyone really call bullshit? We’ve seen a lot of crazy things, I am confident we, as an audience, can suspend our disbelief there if necessary. In fact, if he were to have done that, it would have visually signaled the emotional growth he undergoes in the film much better than it did. But, honestly, this is only a minor issue that takes away virtually nothing from the film.
Captain America, who was ironically an American Fugitive before everyone died in “Infinity War”, has some of the single most badass moments in film history in this movie. He is his usual optimistic leader for the first 2 and a half hours of the movie, which is cool and all, but he really shines when Thanos travels through time to attack Earth. Our heroes had just reversed the decimation with their own infinity gauntlet, but Thanos from an alternate timeline seeks it out to redo what was just undone. Prediabetic Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America take on Thanos 3 vs 1, and when it looks like Thanos is about to kill the porky Asgardian, Cap summons Mjolnir, Thor’s magical hammer that can only be lifted by those it deems as worthy. The theater erupted in cheers at this moment. People were jumping out of their seats, hugging each other, and even rolling on the floor in excitement (It was me. I rolled on the floor. I am disgusting). But that’s not all! Call now and you’ll even get a scene where every living hero in the MCU appears to fight Thanos’s army and Cap says the most subtle yet hardcore “Avengers…Assemble” our puny mortal minds could conceive of. When it is all said and done, Captain America is given a second chance to live the life he sacrificed in his debut movie, and thus ends the film a retired old man. I find this a fitting end to a character who had to sacrifice everything his entire life, that after the ultimate victory, he is given a happy ending.
But this film is Tony Stark’s film. Iron Man steals the show. Being undoubtedly the godfather of the MCU, without whom there would be no “Avengers: Endgame”, everyone knew that his role would be massive. While the entire film shows a considerable amount of growth for him, including the introduction of his daughter that he and his long-time love Pepper Pots give birth to during the 5 years after Thanos’s decimation, Tony’s story has always been about proving he would be the one willing to put it all on the line for others. And boy does he do that. When their backs are against the ropes, and Thanos has re-obtained the gathered Infinity Stones, Tony jumps in and steals them right back, sacrifices his life to destroy Thanos and his army, letting out one last triumphant “I am Iron Man” in the process. Tony may have died, while Cap got to live his life in the past, but Tony was the ultimate hero. His arc from an obnoxious egomaniacal billionaire, to a paranoid warrior, to ultimate hero, is the greatest in the franchise. It is only fitting that he was the one to deliver the knockout blow in Marvel’s Swan Song.
There is just so much content in this film, it would be impossible to cover everything in a succinct enough manner to keep your attention long enough, so here are my abridged character notes outside of the core players: Every character onscreen plays their roles perfectly. Karan Gillan as Thanos’s abused daughter, Nebula, was the surprising breakthrough star in the film. She has already been an entertaining, albeit relatively one-dimensional character in past films, but now she was a fleshed-out, versatile person with heart. I am very excited to see what she does with the Guardians of the Galaxy squad in the future.
Thanos feels different in this film compared to “Infinity War”. Whereas in the previous film, he was mildly sympathetic, portraying a man burdened with the responsibility to do terrible things for the greater good, he now seems more threatening because he seems to take joy from being the villain. Maybe it is because he already knew he succeeded or maybe it is because he was really frustrated that he was being met with as much resistance as he was, but Thanos’s eagerness to destroy makes him somehow even more imposing than in his previous outing.
I also feel like they used Captain Marvel just the right amount. She is present while not being dominating. She is powerful, but still gets smacked around by Thanos to bring her back down from unbeatable status. She does enough to make us believe she is part of the team without it feeling forced. These were all issues I worried about because it seemed like they were rushing her character in order to set up future movies quicker.
The final fight scene against Thanos’s army is possibly the greatest action scenes in movie history. Cap is already wielding Thor’s Hammer and every major hero joins the fight. It is a momentous scene that shows virtually every character working together to defeat the ultimate villain that they have all been opposing for almost a decade. Your heart will race so hard that it will make the heart palpitations that you were experiencing at the Darth Vader scene in “Rogue One” seem like the hiccups.
And while it can make your heart race, it will most certainly make your heart break. Tony Stark’s sacrifice was as tear-inducing as it was triumphant. Watching him give everything to save the universe was powerful but watching him say goodbye to Peter Parker and his wife, Pepper, tug at your heart strings so hard. Then to watch Tony’s young daughter talk with Happy Hogan about cheeseburgers will make even the most stoic cry. We all love Tony 3000! And that is perhaps the most amazing thing about a film with a scale as large as the entire universe; it is so intimate. There are so many small personal stories of growth and sacrifice that could easily have been overshadowed for something far more grandiose. But the film never forgets that we love it because of the characters.
Overall, this film will excite you and have you on the edge of your seat, but that is not consistent throughout the entire film. The first third of the movie is very somber, which makes sense because the world is living with the hopelessness of the decimation and no real ability to fix it. It is fitting for a realistic feeling, but compared to the rest of the film, the slow start exists in stark contrast. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the film is so goddamn long that by the time it ends, there will have been 2 hours of uninterrupted action and badassery that you will most likely not even remember if it was slow in the beginning. And that is not even saying the slow parts are bad, they are just slower than the action at the end.
So, the film is not perfect, but it is really, really close. It is the grand slam home run I used in my earlier analogy. Marvel came through and delivered a film that is more than anyone could have asked for. The untouchable legend for superhero films has been “The Dark Knight” since 2008, and I have been on record as saying that film would likely never be usurped as the champion, but has that changed? I have been asked this question too many times to count in the past few days (It’s like six or seven times) if this film is better than “The Dark Knight” and to that, I say “I do not know”.
But let us really revel in the fact that this is a question we are asking. To be put in the same category as a film that I ranked #2 on my All-Time Movie List is telling of the quality of the film we have before us now. “Avengers: Endgame”, more so than “The Dark Knight”, will likely never be replicated. Not only is this a film of immense quality, but it only exists because of the 11 years of supplementary films that built up to this. The emotional connections to these characters are as special as they are because we have grown with them and they represent real aspects of our lives. You cannot just make a film that connects to the viewers the way this one does. Whether that means it will age poorly as newer viewers watch it without the same investment is yet to be seen, but it does signify that the film is a unique creature.
Even if those same circumstances were to matched by a different film in the future, having the buildup is no guarantee of success. Just because the bases were loaded does not mean a home run was assured. I will be the first one to admit I openly did not have faith in Marvel Studios and Disney to create quality productions of “Infinity War” and “Endgame”. I believed there was just too many characters and stories that there would be no way a story could be compelling while balancing everything. And this film very easily could have been a mess. They took the most difficult science fiction plot device, time travel, and wrote a story that was simple enough to follow, yet complicated enough to appear smart. They took a CGI villain and made him seem like a real person. They took superhumans, gods, titans, and kings, and made a compelling story about all of them doing things that make them greater than the individual people they are. Everything they did had an obvious warning sign that they were taking a risk. And yet, they delivered on the biggest stage.
I will give “Avengers: Endgame” an unbelievable 9.8 out of 10
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Karan Gillan, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Brolin
Runtime: 3 Hours and 1 Minute