Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame (2019)


TitleAvengers: Endgame
Release Date: April 26, 2019
Director: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Summary/Review:

The twenty-second installment in Marvel Cinematic Universe is the culmination of several plotlines and story arcs established in the previous movies. Obviously the pay off is going to be better the more invested you are in the previous 21 movies.  Almost every review I’ve seen of this movie says it’s a finale, which is puzzling because more MCU movies are coming, but it does tie up ongoing storylines for the original 6 Avengers in satisfying ways. The movie also sets up storylines that I expect will be followed up on in future stand alone movies for the more recently introduced characters.

While Avengers: Endgame is over three hours in length, it never feels boring or padded, and it includes a lot of excellent character work.  I think of it almost as three movies in one.  The first movie focuses on the aftermath of Thanos snapping half of sentient life out of existence as each of the original Avengers deal with the trauma of their failure, grief over the people lost, and adjusting to the new normal (or not).  In the second movie, the Avengers try a daring plan to reverse the Snap, which plays out as a heist movie with a lot of action and humor, but also some great relationship moments.  The final movie is … well, hard to describe without using spoilery words, but it is epic!

11 years ago when the MCU began, I had no interest in watching superhero movies.  I didn’t even watch any of them until four years ago.  Now, I’ve managed to see all of them at least once, and I’m impressed how the MCU has improved in quality in leaps and bounds over time.  They’ve also created something unique and innovative in film storytelling that reaches it’s culmination in Endgame.  If you’re a doubter like me, I highly recommend giving (some) of the MCU films a chance and then checking out Endgame.

Rating: ****

 

HEAVY DUTY SPOILERS

Okay, so here are some various thoughts about Endgame for people who’ve already seen the movie or don’t care to be spoiled:

  • After watching Infinity War, I proposed the idea that if the 50% of beings in the universe are killed in The Snap, what if Thanos himself was arbitrarily dusted?  After seeing Endgame, I think this would have worked quite well as the Avengers end up killing a powerless Thanos early on in the movie.  Imagine the drama if we’d spent the past year wondering how the Avengers were going to reverse The Snap if we knew that Thanos and the stones had disappeared?
  • I liked how the early parts of Endgame focused on how people on Earth were dealing with the loss of half the population, and I think it would be interesting if the idea were explored further in a stand-alone MCU film set in the five-year gap (see below).  But some aspects puzzled me:
    • In San Francisco, we see abandoned cars and missing persons signs. In New York we see abandoned boats docked around the Statue of Liberty (presumably left by refugess fleeing to New York?) and learn that the Mets no longer exist.  In both cities, the streets are bereft of people.  50% of humanity is a lot to lose, but New York alone would still have over 4 million people! Surely in five years, someone would’ve cleaned up this mess.  And there would be plenty of people left to restock the Mets roster and fill the stands at Citi Field (MLB survived the Great Influenza and WWII, after all).
    • In Infity War, we see cars and a helicopter crashing and presumably people die from these crashes who did not turn to dust.  Do the inifinity stones magically account for these collateral deaths in the 50% or are they an addition to the 50%?  Do the people who died indirectly as a result of The Snap get restored.
  • Thor, in his grief and trauma, drinks too much and gains a lot of weight.  It’s played for jokes and he looks like The Dude from The Big Lebowski, but I appreciate that Thor doesn’t magically lose weight and become fit and cut again when he starts fighting.  Fat guys can be heroes too.
  • One of the strengths of the “Time Heist” portion of the film is that there are great character relationship moments.  Thanks to time travel, Thor gets to talk with his mother about his gried, and Tony Stark gets to connect with his father about parenthood.
  • As much as it was totally predictable conclusion, the moment when Sam Wilson leads in all the restored-from-dust Avengers was completely awesome.  I also like how they pass the gauntlet around as a way of focusing on individual characters in the midst of a confusing battle.  And the scene where all the women heroes team up, while a bit pandering, was pretty awesome too.

The future of the MCU

Endgame is being touted as the finale of a 22 film series, but clearly it is also setting up new stories to be told in future films.

  • It’s clearly the end of the line for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, and while it’s always possible to bring them back in some way, I think it would ruin a satisfying ending to their story arc.
  • Natasha Romanoff dies in the movie, which is not so satisfying, but the MCU can be redeemed if they follow up on producicing the promised Black Widow solo movie.  With the character dead that will be a challenge, though. The obvious solution is a prequel showing Natasha’s origin story although I don’t think that would be too interesting.  Another option would be a story set in the five year gap of Endgame which I think would offer more interesting character possibilities as well as a chance to further explore the world after half the population vanished.  The downside is that whatever problem Natasha would have to face in this story would seem small-scale compared to The Snap.
  • Clint Barton is likely done and happy to head into retirement with his family. I suppose a longer film about his “Ronin” period could be made but that would be pretty grim.
  • Bruce Banner, now Professor Hulk, never got a trilogy but had his story arc spread out over various other films which worked surprisingly well.  I don’t know if there are any more stories about Hulk to tell, but I wouldn’t complain if we saw him again.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, vol 3. is being set up to be a search for the past version of Gamora who traveled to the future with Thanos.  And, it looks like Thor is along for the ride!  Except, in real life, Chris Hemsworth says that he’s finished with Thor.  I’d love to see Thor and the AsGuardians have a movie together (heck, I’d watch a Thor/Rocket/Groot buddy road film) so I hope he’s not being fully honest.
  • Steve Rogers hands over his shield to Sam Wilson to be the next Captain America and it will be great to see a movie where Sam takes on the role.  One of the oddities of Endgame is that old Steve doesn’t talk with Bucky on screen, which seems out of line with the importance of Bucky to Steve in all the Captain America movies. I do think it would work if Bucky is a supporting character to Sam’s Captain, and perhaps more of what Steve & Bucky talked about off screen is revealed.
  • I really like Tessa Thompson as Valykrie and now that she’s ruler of Asgard, I want to see that played out in a Valykrie movie.
  • And of course Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel will complete their trilogies.

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