Monday, May 6, 2019

Avengers: Endgame


Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.
2019. Rated PG-13, 181 minutes.
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth
Robert Downey Jr.
Josh Brolin
Mark Ruffalo
Scarlett Johansson
Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Chris Evans
Chadwick Boseman
Elizabeth Olsen
Don Cheadle
Paul Rudd
Benedict Cumberbatch
Anthony Mackie

After the events of Avengers: Infinity War, our heroes are in pretty bad shape, at least what's left of the collective. They mope, go after Thanos, and mope some more. Before you know it, five years has passed. Everyone still in the universe is trying to move on, but understandably, many are failing. Finally, someone gets an idea that might reverse all the damage Thanos did. It's a long shot, but it's the only one they have. The Avengers assemble once more in an effort to save the day.

From the very beginning, it's clear Marvel is going to try and tie up every remaining strand of the previous twenty-one movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is both a strength and a weakness. To the good, the film takes its time in an effort to get us to really feel the pain of the characters. The film's three hour runtime is a testament to the fact that the writers do not want to rush through this. The slower pace also helps alleviate a bit of the crowded feeling bound to creep up in a movie like this. It gives each of those it deems main characters a chance to wallow in their own self pity.

At the risk of sounding sadistic and/or insensitive, no one's depression is more enjoyable than Thor's (Hemsworth). When we catch up with the god of thunder, he's taken the term man-child to a whole new level. Over the last few years of MCU time, he's been not so busy. Over the last few years of our reality, Chris Hemsworth has proven to have impeccable comic timing. Not only did he make us laugh in Thor Ragnarok, he did so in two comedy reboots he was clearly the best part of: Vacation and Ghostbusters. He shines once again in Endgame when being put in charge of the chuckles. He is obviously doing Thor as The Dude from The Big Lebowski. That film is even referenced by Iron Man (Downey Jr.). It works because even as the immature brute he was when first introduced to movie-going audiences, there was a regality to him. What made it work comedically was the juxtaposition of his Shakespearean persona with us regular talkin' folks. In Endgame, he's still got the Shakespearean thing going, but now it's working against his own vices with hilarious results. Iron Man and Black Widow (Johansson) both go full on dark cloud and Captain America (Evans) tries to keep a stiff upper lip, but none resonate as much as Thor.

The only other character who gets us going as much as Thor is Mark Ruffalo's Hulk. Ruffalo gets to give us a different Hulk than any we've seen on film. We have a good time with this character as we're seeing him in a whole new light. However, there is a drawback to this. As in Infinity War, Hulk is once again noticeably absent from the action. We're also seeing Hawkeye (Renner) differently. He takes the darkest turn, but honestly that's all forgotten about once the plot needs him back on the team. I would have loved much more of this subplot, but we just don't get it.


On the bad side, all the time we're taking to establish how sad everyone is keeps the movie stuck in first gear for quite some time. It's not that the film can't get going as much as it just won't. Scenes of two characters talking about how terrible everything is seem to go on forever even though the point they're making was made in the first few lines of dialogue. Making these scenes more succinct would likely have saved fifteen or twenty minutes off that prodigious runtime without changing anything emotionally. And trust me, the Russo brothers, who shared directing duties, are going for all the feels. They get plenty of them, but they also deliver an Avengers movie without a ton of avenging. Even when the plot seems to demand action, we often get more talking. Narrative tension is dampened in favor of trying to set us up to cry. When we finally get to the big action set piece which serves as the climax it's less a thrilling battle than it is a chance for every one to strike their best superhero pose. Between these moments is the camera panning over large numbers of beings engaged in combat, but only focusing on any individual battle for a moment or two.

Thanos (Brolin) himself is also a victim of the script's desire to explore the feelings of our heroes. He was such a great villain in Infinity War largely because he was actually he protagonist of the film. The Avengers were the antagonists, there to make achieving his goal difficult. He was the character we spent the most time with and learned the most about. He even earns some sympathy points because his point is a valid one. Here, Thanos is just another bad guy. Everything interesting about him is ignored. The narrative tension necessary to rattle our nerves is practically absent because of this. The obstacles our heroes face are largely comic or existential. The immense stakes are diminished enough to give the whole film a feeling inevitability it can't shake enough to make us question what we knew before sitting down to watch.

The MCU's latest hero, the newly minted Captain Marvel (Larson) is similarly victimized. She appears briefly, disappears for long stretches, then reappears. If you haven't seen her solo flick yet, you might not have a clue who she is. Even if you have seen it, you only have a vague understanding of how powerful she is, unless you've filled in the blanks with what you know of her from the comics. The film treats Scarlet Witch (Olsen) is treated in the same manner. These are two of this universe's most powerful people. Sadly, we get almost nothing from them.

The film is banking on the love we've built up for these characters over the last decade-plus. For the most part, it pays off. Several moments tug at our heartstrings enough to make us believe we're watching members of our family on the screen. Unfortunately, this is really just an extended thank you to fans for the billions of dollars Marvel and Disney have made from this endeavor rather than a great standalone movie. I imagine it's worse if you happen to stumble upon it as one of the three or four people who hasn't been keeping up with the MCU. You simply won't have the frame of reference required to enjoy it. I don't have that issue. If long-winded, the writing is good enough to keep us interested, and trades on the idea that audience members for the twenty-second film in an immensely popular franchise are expected to walk into the theater already full of empathy. The script then tries to expand on that. Despite much of what I've said here, I do like the movie. It's a solid way to spend three hours. I'm just not on the bandwagon calling Endgame the best thing ever.


29 comments:

  1. Best Marvel movie ever ❤️πŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ

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  2. Replies
    1. I wish Marvel good luck creating another cinematic villain as good as him.

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  3. I can understand some of your qualms but I was just in awe of what I saw. Maybe the audience experience helped as we all cheered, cried, and went ape-shit over what we saw.

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    1. Oh, this is definitely a big, fat thank you to fans for sticking with them all these years, so I definitely get it. My crowd had a blast, too.

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  4. Definitely worth watching again and again.

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    1. I'm sure I'll see this several more times.

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  5. I'm so glad you liked Thor! I think they just had to hide CM for most of this because of how powerful she is and they had pretty good explanation with her having literally all planets to cover

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    1. Thor was amazing. I understand why CM wasn't in the picture more, but I was hoping that she would've shown up a bit sooner in the battle.

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  6. What do you think of the official trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home.

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  7. Great review! I'm just glad Wanda got a huge moment with Thanos (dude needed an airstrike to stop her lol) I wasn't expecting that. Thor's depression was spot on and made me forgive giving Hemsworth the belly. It was a logical thing.

    You're right about Thanos taking the backseat, I was okay with that since IW was essentially his point of view. I'm glad of his children Maw got a bit more of the spotlight. He's so smarmy.

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    1. Wanda has been underutilized since she's come into the MCU. It's weird how they treat her like a child.

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  8. Great review! I loved every minute of it but I completely agree with your closing paragraph. I can't imagine anyone not fully caught up with the MCU finding all 3 hours of this enjoyable.

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    1. Thank goodness everyone's all caught up, right?

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  9. This review is spot on. You echoed and perfectly articulated many of my thoughts on the film. I think a lot of people are caught up in this film''s hype and the fact that it is such a love letter to the fans, is making a lot of fans appreciate only the good of this film and not analysing the bad. It's a great movie but Marvel has done better.

    Like you, I was quite disappointed in the Hawkeye/Ronin subplot. His welcomed back into the team and no one even takes a second to question his mental state or be a little weary.

    I have a friend who spells out the problem with Marvel movies quite nicely, he says that as soon as a character becomes too powerful to defeat, Marvel puts them on a side quest that leads to them arriving to the fight late or never at all. This inconsistency really bothered me, Infinity War showed that all Thor needed to do was go for the head to beat a Thanos with ALL SIX stones. Now he struggles with double the firepower and a stone-less Thanos? I get that this is an out of shape Thor who's a little rusty but come on!

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    1. Thanks! The love letter aspect has pulled the wool over a lot of eyes.

      Exactly on Hawkeye. So much more could've been done with him.

      I hadn't noticed that about Marvel's movies, but it's true. Great eye by your friend.

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  10. You make a great point re Thanos being relegated to a sidebar character, but I can't for the life of me think how this film would have worked had he remained at the forefront as he was in Infinity War.

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    1. It would've been quite different. That's for sure.

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