Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame ★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Major props for opening your $250 million epic ten-year superhero conclusion with a first act that’s largely just sad people talking about how sad they are, right before you pull an abrupt tonal shift and then start doing taco bits. That’s the kind of thing only Marvel can pull off, because the people who see this opening night will patiently wait through it so they can finally and loudly chant made-up African words at Black Panther during the climax (not kidding, the person next to me did this, I almost beheaded him Thanos-style). 

But jokes aside I really do think that first hour or so (right up until about the Tokyo scene with Hawkeye, where I ducked out and checked my email) is largely impeccable. It’s patient and melancholy and totally happy to make time for a lovely little scene like Cap’s support group or Ant-Man reuniting with his daughter (a moment that sort of made me realize that that relationship is probably one of the most developed in the entire franchise). Once everyone starts going back in time the movie gets fun and very very tacky in a charming Ragnarok-esque way, but it maintains a little bit of that sad spark for scenes like our heroes taking a moment to reunite with their parents. It becomes a totally fine, fan-servicey movie about refusing to move on instead of a great, sad movie about the pain of moving on (which we all knew it was never going to be, because there’s a Spider-Man movie coming out in two months). That’s not the same movie I liked in the first act, but it’s still a good movie!

And then the third act rolls around (kicked off with the absolutely abysmal fridging of Black Widow, who deserves better after the very moving performance Johansson manages to deliver here), and everything just goes to Infinity War (read: shit). I like Cap catching the hammer just as much as the next guy; I like almost nothing else. There are maybe one or two more nice moments in that finale (Rudd and Lilly smiling at each other comes to mind; maybe I just like Paul Rudd?), but it only drives home just how terrible these movies have become at action, cutting all over the place and never once delivering us any kind of a sense of geography. When the coolest action beat in your big woman power team-up is the little hop-skip Evangeline Lilly does, you’ve got a problem. And once again, just like Infinity War, outside of a core group, none of these characters know each other! Sure, there’s an abstract sort of “holy shit, comic books” glee in watching Spider-Man ride on a pegasus with Valkyrie, but it’s nothing compared to the actual character-driven thrill of Thor and the Hulk tag-teaming a giant space worm in the original Avengers—or even just Tony and Pepper fighting back to back here. It’s all too much of a muchness, a comic book splash page stripped of the fifteen pages that usually precede it.

But then again.....you have a sweet Tony funeral scene (that hilariously finally gives us a big all-of-the-Avengers tracking shot, except they’re sad and wearing tuxedoes), and the pitch-perfect final moments with Cap and Peggy. These are moments that do understand that story should come from character and from the inner journeys those characters go on, in a way that most of the recent Marvel slate simply doesn’t. I can’t deny that there’s a special little power in watching Paltrow place the “Proof That Tony Stark Does Have A Heart” ARC reactor on the raft, or in watching Jon Favreau weirdly crush a goofy-sad line about how much Iron Man uhh, liked cheeseburgers. And as a dyed-in-the-wool First Avenger defender, it’s sort of powerful to see Marvel give their best Avenger the ending he always deserved. He had a date, and he got his date. So maybe it was worth it after all, just a little. Y’all are still crazy if you think this is better than Guardians 2 though.

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