Avengers: Endgame Review – A Powerful but Imperfect Finale
Avengers: Endgame is one of the most anticipated movies in recent memory. From the start, Marvel Studios made fans aware that the movies were building towards an epic story as part of their ambitious, shared cinematic universe. Respecting the source material, Marvel Studios adapted a roster of comic book superheroes for a modern audience. As fans became more invested which each new franchise, including superheroes that were not widely popular, Marvel’s momentum continued to grow. With Endgame, not only has the anticipation greatly risen so has the expectation for an emotionally satisfying and meaningful conclusion to the Infinity Stones story line.
Avengers: Infinity War put the superheroes and the fate of the universe at its highest point of unresolved tension. With Spider-Man: Far From Home and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 already announced, Marvel’s intent was not to mislead fans into believing these superheroes are gone for good. Rather Infinity War’s ending focused on the emotional bonds between the characters. For example, Tony Stark helplessly watches his young protege, Peter Parker, turn to dust in his hands or Okoye watching the king she is supposed to protect disappear into thin air.
Endgame’s story picks up in a post-Thanos finger snap world. To set the tone, the filmmakers utilize a somber color palette. It is as if much of hope was snapped out of the world along with half of the living creatures. Though there are some lighter moments and quips, the slower paced first act conveys the impact of the Avengers’ loss to Thanos. Infinity War started off with a big battle in New York, but Endgame doesn’t initially play to triumphant superhero conventions.
The original avengers are appropriately at the forefront of Endgame. Focusing on the core characters from the 2012 Joss Whedon directed film gives a grand sense that the journey they started together is coming to a climax. The previous Avengers movies primarily focused on the characters’ heroic side. Endgame let’s us in on the private side to some of these heroes in order to lay out the emotional groundwork.
Among the original avengers, Clint Barton/Hawkeye has had the least amount of screen-time. Endgame gives Hawkeye his best character-driven material. Jeremy Renner conveys a mournful loss without overacting. Over the course of Endgame, he arguably has little to live for and everything to fight for. Hawkeye continues to play well off of Black Widow.
Natasha/Black Widow is holding things down at Avengers headquarters. She seems resigned to living a life of penance but wanting to be useful in serving some greater purpose. While Hawkeye goes off on his own a lot, Black Widow has closer connections with the other Avengers such as Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner.
Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk isn’t getting his own trilogy. Still, the MCU is exploring new ways to portray Hulk/Bruce each time we see him. In Endgame, this integrated version of Hulk/Bruce provides easy-going humor, which is especially enjoyable in the movie’s solemn first half.
Thor also provides humor, showcasing Chris Hemsworth’s comedic talent. But after carefully building Thor back up in Infinity War, Endgame uses the Asgardian for a running gag that goes on too long.
Thankfully Steve Rogers/Cap gets much better treatment than Thor. The first Avenger is leading a support group for survivors. He suggests to the group members to live their lives to the fullest but is unable to follow his own advice. Steve Rogers is given a basis for a personal arc, something that goes beyond defeating a big purplish titan.
Cap and Tony Stark have their differences that they need to come to terms with. We catch up with Tony recording a farewell message shortly after the events on Titan. From a billionaire playboy philanthropist to a family man, the writers raise the stakes for Tony by making them as personal as possible. Dr. Strange told Tony the odds of success. So Tony is aware of the possible consequences and he knowingly takes on the responsibility because he’s … Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr.’s performance is top-notch, he’s a great actor to build the MCU around.
Endgame does what is expected by bringing back the vanished. The question going in is if it would feel too much like cheating the events in Infinity War. That likely depends on if the viewer feels emotionally invested in the journey, the characters and if the price to bring to back the vanished is sufficiently paid off. Thematically, Endgame underpins the narrative with the notion that as long as there is hope, there’s a will to make things better.
The plot mechanism requires a lot of movie rules to be established. There will likely be lingering questions viewers will have after all is said and done. Some fans believe the plot lacked clarity. Personally, without getting bogged down in the plot’s technicalities, the characters moments and callbacks are well worth it. Endgame draws upon many MCU story lines. The story is constructed to impart the significance that Endgame is a culmination of a decade’s worth of storytelling.
In addition to the debatable critiques on how certain characters and the plot device is handled, there are other minor nitpicks. The character building that made Thanos an interesting villain in Infinity War is diminished in Endgame where he’s mostly a conventional big bad. To be fair, Thanos is given good reason to go scorched earth on the Avengers. The final battle sequence has many great fan service moments. But certain sequences could have used more of the intricate fight choreography that was a highlight in Infinity War. Some of the original avengers could have gotten a bigger share of the spotlight in these action scenes. Further, there are other critiques that would be better discussed in a completely spoiler filled post.
Avengers: Endgame showcases the sheer scope of the shared cinematic universe. The 3 hour run time is filled with nostalgic callbacks and fan pleasing moments which for many viewers may outweigh some of the criticisms. The original avengers’ personal arcs are mostly well managed though there are issues with Thor’s characterization. Over 20 films and eleven years later, Endgame’s sense of closure and the final phase 3 movie, Spider-Man: Far from Home, offers a good jumping off point as any. Whatever direction the MCU may take moving forward, for better or worse, we will always have the enjoyable run that is the Infinity Stones era.