I’ve been putting off writing a review of Avengers: Endgame for a few days now because it feels a near impossible task. As a rule for our “current reviews” we generally don’t spoil anything beyond the “First Act,” wherever we determine that division falls. But Endgame doesn’t have a real first act, and not only because it’s not a movie in the traditional sense. It’s first act is maybe last year’s Infinity War, or, more accurately, all twenty-one movies that preceded it. To talk about anything past the first ten minutes of Endgame would be a spoiler. Even Marvel knew it. It’s why the trailers for Endgame focus on essentially nothing, and all that nothing happens in the first third of this movie.
I can’t make fun of people for worrying about spoilers, either. In general I’m not too spoiler-phobic. I think good movies, like say maybe the Sixth Sense (though I haven’t seen it in a long while) or Psycho work well even if you know the twist. A great twist can help a movie, but a movie can’t be great if it sustains itself exclusively off a great twist. It’s another reason Endgame is not something I’d want to spoil. As said above, I’m not sure if Endgame qualifies as a movie. It’s definitely an experience, and there are definitely scenes and drama, but it’s hard to see it as a cohesive whole. It’s frankly a mess, or maybe three or four movies packed into one? Three or four episodes? That’s fine. There’s never been anything like the MCU before, and bringing it to a conclusion might require something messier and more unwieldy than a traditional movie. If Endgame doesn’t succeed as a cohesive whole in and of itself, it’s because it acknowledges it is a part of a larger cohesive whole, and as such it’s plot mechanisms do matter more than a traditional movie, because I went in mostly wanting to know what the hell happens.
Let’s see how much we can say without giving too much away. After Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) snap half of the universe’s population has turned to dust. The Avengers are down quite a few members, with pretty much only the original team still around (and also Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), because, sure). They do have one new ally though, in the super-super powered Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). She goes to save Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) the sole survivors of the Titan scuffle. The reunited team decides to go take on Thanos again.
From there, spoilers abound. In general, the movie has all the pluses and minuses of normal Marvel-Russo fare. There are some smart choices about which characters to focus on (Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) was allowed to star in Civil War, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Vision (Paul Bettany) were wisely elevated in Infinity War, and Nebula gets her turn at obvious-but-still-glad-they-went-for-it star of Endgame). Performances are of course across the board just fantastic. I don’t know how they convinced all these actors to be in Marvel, especially when it was just getting on its feet, but they are… good. Very good. Just very good.
Weaknesses remain the same too. The action is… Marvel action, which means for the most part it is exciting because the combatants are superheroes but it still feels messy and uninspired, especially considering the combatants are superheroes. The airport fight in Civil War and the battle on Titan of Infinity War remain high water marks for the series, because it was a small number of people and we actually got to focus on how they used their powers. Even with half the universe wiped out the Avengers manage to fight a boring giant CGI army. Colors and sets have gotten, in general, a little more interesting as the heroes have become more space-faring, but remain for the most part boring – Avengers HQ, military bases, and scorched earth battle fields just don’t have anything particular to draw the eye. The camera work is also mostly functional. You capture the information, and move on.
But, at the end of the day, I’m not really assessing this like a regular movie. Like I said in my Captain Marvel review, I’m more-or-less done with trying to pick these movies apart (critique of Soul Stone notwithstanding). I don’t know what the hell they are: buddy comedies? Maybe. Action movies? Only vaguely. Dramas? Sometimes they want to be. Sci-fi/fantasy adventure flicks? Occasionally! Endgame was a movie with no set genre, or tone, or main character, or even plot, but it was also wonderfully absurd and truly off the wall bonkers (watch Iron Man and tell me this isn’t ten times weirder than you thought the MCU would get). I saw it with an audience that ate it up, and we were seeing it at 8:30 AM on a Sunday. I have a butt load of issues with it, and they’re growing the longer I sit on it, but whatever. It’s the end of the MCU (god, I hope I never trick myself into going to see another one of these movies… I might see GotG 3…). I enjoyed pretty much every minute of it.
I give Avengers: Endgame 8.5 Professor Hulks out of 10 Pegasuses.
OTHER THOUGHTS (mild spoilers):
- I am unfortunately a huge sucker for about half the jokes in these movies. Quite a few I think are impossibly dumb (“Why is Gamora?”). But the other half are just pretty funny. In general I’d give the credit to the actor’s delivery (Paul Rudd is a real MVP) but the bit where Hulk has to pretend to be Hulking out in NYC is genuinely hilarious.
- Tessa Thompson is always great.
- I think Captain America is a difficult character to play, since he’s much more straight-laced then the other Avengers, and occasionally less “fun” for that reason. Chris Evans has done a really good job with the role. In fact, all of the original Avengers prove they’re just, as I said above… very very good actors. So much of all these movies, especially the emotional work, is left to them entirely.
- We’ll discuss more spoiler-stuff shortly!