We finally have it. The conclusion to this (long) chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which started back in 2008. A three hour movie, which really acts as Part 2 to another nearly three hour movie (Avengers: Infinity War), this finale better be something spectacular. The wait is well-earned, and luckily the payoff is pretty epic.
If you haven’t seen last year’s Infinity War, I’m going to spoil it throughout this review.
In Infinity War, evil villain Thanos successfully collects all six infinity stones and uses it to “reset” the universe, making half of all creatures disappear. Avengers: Endgame follows the remaining characters five years later as they attempt to cope with the devastation from the last movie.
In a film with this many moving parts, the biggest concern is how it will utilize all of them without feeling too crowded. In Infinity War, it often feels like there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Characters are included as mere formalities, without always being pertinent to the tasks at hand. And so much is happening that barely any of them get a chance to shine. Or do anything, really. The filmmakers fix the issue by erasing most of them at the end of the movie. A tragedy that the remaining characters now have to solve in the sequel.
Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has become a vengeful assassin, going around the world performing a sort of genocide on all evil doers. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has turned into an alcoholic dropout who’s gained 40 pounds of belly fat and spends all day playing video games. Most of his lines are played for laughs, but this tends to backfire, becoming a farce over the course of the film, undermining truly heavy scenes with audience snickering.
The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has figured out how to find the perfect balance so he can be both Bruce Banner and the Hulk at the same time–which is one of the highlights. Ruffalo may very well be the best actor of the bunch, and in the past they’ve never known what to do with his character. So finally seeing the filmmakers be able to properly utilize him and his talents is one of the biggest pluses of this movie.
Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is actually living a peaceful life with his wife and daughter in the countryside. He misses those lost in the devastation, but also doesn’t want to risk what he’s gained during the last five years.
But Stark also realizes he can’t be selfish. Trying to reverse the events for the sake of billions is more important than his own interest, so he finds a way to solve the problem as long as he’s not putting his daughter’s existence at risk. The anti-self centeredness is a nice theme throughout the film, and one that never imposes itself too hard.
These four, along with half a dozen other heroes, decide that the only way to get all of their loved ones back–as well as everyone who disappeared from existence–is to go back in time to retrieve the infinity stones before Thanos can get his hands on them in the first place. So, essentially, Endgame turns into a time travel movie–which is amazing!
We go back to events from past films, as well as witness events that happened elsewhere at those times. The movie pokes fun at the old movies, but also embraces the long journey that it took to get to Endgame. It’s an homage, but also a necessary plot device–a rare feat.
Endgame isn’t without the few plot holes that are almost always inevitable with time travel stories. But most of them could be stretched by the imagination upon further analysis, and they aren’t enough to ruin the fun. Along the way, we also get some great satire/commentary of time travel in general, with references to some classic films like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Back to the Future (Endgame composer Alan Silvestri also scored the latter).
Up until a moment towards the end, Endgame goes entirely without an agenda. Almost like the sequence was thrown in at the last minute by the request of the studio, perhaps. I wish I could say it was innocuous, but honestly it’s enough to put a small damper on the whole thing, mostly because of when it occurs–during the climax, after going a whole movie sans agenda.
For a three hour movie, Endgame doesn’t feel like it. Mostly because it’s a lot of fun. Although sometimes it’s TOO much fun. If you look back at early Marvel films and compare them to newer installments, the tone is night and day. Nowadays, the comedy is a priority. The successfully irreverent style of Guardians of the Galaxy was used to fix the Thor series, but now has seemingly been applied to every movie in the franchise. And that irreverence often compromises any suspense or poignancy that we need to feel (see Drunk Thor). But in the end, the series gives us a great conclusion and knows where to find its heart when it really matters most.