Avengers: Endgame is a massive sprawl of a movie, with a hundred moving parts and as many characters. Your experience of Endgame will likely hinge on which characters you are personally invested in.
How do you review a movie like Avengers: Endgame without spoiling the beats that matter? I’ll speak generally and without any reveals about the plot. The film is well-made and effective: I laughed, I cried openly, I enjoyed moments of deep nostalgia that harkened back to the first Avengers. But there’s a workmanlike quality to this movie. It ticks all the boxes, yet I can’t help feeling like it’s not inspired so much as going through the requisite motions.
Opinions vary, and I predict that the great majority of people are going to enthusiastically and unequivocally enjoy Endgame. That appears to be the consensus critical reaction on social media as I write this. They’re not wrong. Most of my own issues are disagreements with how the movie deals with certain characters, especially who it chooses to anoint with attention. Those are my tastes and my favorites reflected back at me; you may not care about these choices at all.
Our Rachel Leishman also saw Endgame and asserts that it’s her favorite Marvel movie to date (she’s argued me into including .5 more of a star than I might be otherwise inclined). I hardly think it deserves “favorite Marvel movie” level of praise, but what the Russo brothers have pulled off here is impressive in terms of scope and scale.
Infinity War felt wildly uneven in the scant amount of time given to lead characters like Captain America (versus, say Thanos), and this is one area where Endgame does well. Almost all of the remaining Avengers have their time in the sun, and they get a mix of comedic, dramatic, and action-oriented scenes. There are set pieces that are entirely set up to be funny, and there are moments of deep pathos and conflict. There are many characters to encounter, some of whom work in the narrative and others that leave you wondering why some are given so much more to say than their fellows.
Sometimes life is simple, and there’s nothing more delightful than a scene of the Avengers casually lying around together reading books as they research, the fulfillment of the found family dynamic we first hoped for back in 2012. There’s an ease to their interaction forged by time and tragedy, and the closeness of the actors after so many years and movies together mirrors this.
This movie is jam-packed, and its bloated runtime is somewhat ridiculous, but I’ll say I was never bored. There’s a point where it becomes several diverging storylines, and this can be an issue in that they are not all equally involving and interesting. It’s hard not to feel like the air goes out of the room whenever we leap from the main center of action over to develop a twist somewhere else. A great deal of Endgame is spent in the set-up to later action, which has the strange result of the build-up being more intriguing than the climax, at least for me. Your mileage, of course, will vary.
It may be that I’ve spent entirely too long thinking and theorizing over this movie (speculation began immediately after last year’s Infinity War), but I don’t feel like there was anything that shocked me on the level of Infinity War‘s sudden dustings. The surprises that are in store will kick you where it hurts, however. The performances all-around are strong: unexpected standouts for me were Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and Karen Gillan as Nebula.
This is, ultimately, the Steve Rogers and Tony Stark show. We knew that going in, and if this is what you’re most looking forward to tuning in for, you are unlikely to leave disappointed. Endgame characterizes both Steve and Tony quite perfectly, lets both characters shine—and never is the movie stronger than when they’re onscreen together. The chemistry between Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. is the closest Endgame gets to romantic.
If there’s a triumph this film can claim without reserve, it’s that Endgame is the first time that Steve and Tony seem to share equal footing, and they’ve never been more confident in who they are and what they want than here.
You’ll hear a lot from me next week with deeper dives into what I loved about this movie, and the places where I think it went very wrong, with an emphasis on the people that I think it neglected. As a sign-off to an era that has been a big part of my life for nearly a decade, Endgame is essentially satisfying. It’s pretty damned epic. There is a significant chance that you will shed tears.
As for the hang-ups that I have, perhaps there’s nothing on Earth or Asgard that could have fulfilled all of my hopes and expectations. It’s a relief to know that Marvel will be beginning a new phase soon, and that so many treats are being planned for Disney+. I’m glad that Endgame won’t be the final word for many of these characters, but as a goodbye-for-now, I’ll take it.
(image: Marvel Comics)
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