AVENGERS: ENDGAME is both a tear-jerker in its finality and enjoyably ridiculous in its logic.
By Matt Cummings
I’m in a bit of a pickle writing this review of AVENGERS: ENDGAME, not just because any discussion of the most anticipated movie in the past 30 years needs to exercise more than the usual secrecy; and not just because the Internet is awash with reveals that’s made it all the more important to stay off social media. It’s more than a culmination of 13 years and 21 movies that promises to be both giant and tear-jerking, but perhaps a cultural icon at this point and whose plot makes it nearly impossible to not reveal something in the process. Nevertheless, ENDGAME is a gigantic production, a tear-jerker in its finality, filled with humor, but dark in its premise and boasting a ridiculous leap to its logic.
After witnessing both defeat by the Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) and the deaths of literally half of the universe, the remaining Avengers including Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Rhodie (Don Cheadle), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), Nebula (Karen Gillian) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) hatch an impossible plan to regain The Infinity Stones. Their efforts will reunite them with old friends including Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the powerful but off-world Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) as they set to right Thanos’ mad actions.
ENDGAME is both a final farewell for some characters and a beginning for others. If you read comics, you know that no one truly dies, but it’s clear that someone here is gonna buy it. That’s been inevitable since 2012’s THE AVENGERS, along with news that contracts for several stars have now expired. The dark and melancholy tone of INFINITY WAR is mostly here, coming up for sunshine in (perhaps too many) comedic moments for most of its 3 hour-2 minute runtime. But this isn’t Shakespeare either, as Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) asks the team, “How many of you haven’t been to space before?” and then, remarks, “Don’t any of you throw up in my ship!” That sort of playful enthusiasm has pervaded this franchise, and it preps us for a beautiful swan song, complete with Composer Alan Silvestri’s still stunning heartbeat. Most of it is retread from previous MCU films, but it will still give you chills, especially during one scene near the end.
But ENDGAME is more than mere comedy surrounded by huge battles; it’s a film that is tonally distinct and more mature than earlier MCU films. Having established a darkening path with 2014’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and brutalizing us with last year’s INFINITY WAR, we’ve been witnessing a stronger path towards character development, as Thor, Stark and Cap expose moments of anger, regret and worry only to find the next action as overwhelmingly more important than their ruminations. For one Avenger, the physical change is distinct and actually hilarious, until even that becomes a bit of a distraction as we know their next actions could be their last. But it’s great to see Downey’s Stark actually become more than the rude and shallow caricature he previously portrayed. Here, he has moments to actually act in expressing and exercising his demons which take us back to IRON MAN 3. Ruffalo and Renner too finally establish themselves, with one coming to terms with his complex relationship and the other expressing a newfound darkness that emerges during the movie’s first scene.
While it’s clear that the MCU will probably be around for another 30 years, it’s also apparent that we’ve come to the end of this book. Sure, a seemingly endless supply of others remain unread on the shelves, but ENDGAME is a final bow for many of the original stars, and in every way these actors get their moments to shine. At the same time, tormented by what they’ve witnessed, these MCU veterans are faced with a near-impossible challenge of undoing Thanos’ snap. How Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely surprise us with an early major plot twist leads to a wild and clever theory that provides the vehicle for the rest of the movie. Some of that logic is honestly ridiculous, as if Markus and McFeely have watched too much STAR TREK, and you might be left asking the same logical-process questions I did after emerging from the theater, although your overwhelming desire to pee might take precedent. Audiences might also wonder why a certain new hero doesn’t get more screen time, but I feel slightly better trying to imagine how much longer ENDGAME would have been if they had retained a larger role. There is also a moment of excessively cool Girl Power near film’s end that ultimately fizzles, because it’s buried in the larger goal of defeating Thanos, rather than enjoying itself and bringing the audience along for the ride.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo also seem to have concluded their run with the MCU, keeping us thoroughly engaged while wondering if and when a bathroom break is most appropriate. They along with Markus and McFeely might be the best one-two punch in Hollywood right now, as each film has upped the stakes while finding room for tender moments, and there are more than a few here. Remember “the hug” when you see the movie. And while the mortality rate in ENDGAME is lower than INFINITY WAR, that’s not really what this one is about. Dare I say it, but yes this is more about character development than poorly-drafted baddies or heroes performing impossible physical feats. After 22 films, Producer and Movie Sage Kevin Feige has finally crafted a movie that balances big action set pieces with a story that gives Downey, Hemsworth, Ruffalo, Evans, and even Rudd a chance to act. The same applies to Brolin, the best movie baddie in a generation.
ENDGAME is both the tear-jerker we thought it would be and a chance to spring new growth as it expands to a universe beyond our Pale Blue Dot. Its finality will lead to lots of watery eyes, but your bladder doesn’t need to stick around for the credits, as no scenes during or after are presented. We have waited long enough for this swan song, and ENDGAME is a thoroughly satisfying experience.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language and has a runtime of 182 minutes.