Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame ★★★½

Russo Brothers Ranked
2019 Ranked
MCU Ranked

*NO SUBSTANTIAL SPOILERS*

For a film franchise that’s been scrambling itself together over the course of a small 11 years, it can indeed be seen as quite an achievement that the grand finale is indeed that; a spectacle rivaling all spectacles and, in a generally more comforting way, a spectacle that rivals the themes and ideas of this mega-franchise itself.

Much has been made of the Infinity Saga’s first half of the final battle. Many loved it for its grandiose identity and its ability to pluck on the heartstrings where it could, others (this writer included) saw a hollow shell, a spectacle of nice colors, easy action, a compelling but illogical antagonist and an almost unbearable amount of one-liners without any real human emotion within it. Right in the first hour of Endgame’s initially daunting but easily sustainable three-hour runtime most of these things get inverted right away. Aweinspring spectacle is set to an absolute minimum and a lot of time is spent observing the universe as it works its way through a completely new kind of existence. The Avengers feel utterly defeated and that failure is the main obstacle that holds them from working on a solution to Thanos’ masterplan. They go on to other things. Some of them keep fighting crime in one way or another, others choose to tone down the assertive nature of their superhero existence to offer mental support to other survivors. Tony Stark, in any other case the man with a plan, is taken aback most of all. He’s given his all to help create this iconic dream team but the defeat under Thanos has hit him heavily. If anything he’d just want to forget it all and work on a more subdued family life. Thor, in his mind born to kill Thanos, also suffers greatly and is… ahum… visibly taken by it.

The main point is, where Infinity War didn’t give us an ounce of humanity behind all the flashy heroics, Endgame gracefully eases us into the aftermath, building up an emotional core to this sensory overload of cinema that dearly needed some of that. Superheroes are nothing without a deeply personal reason to fight and somehow most of the films in the franchise skipped over that idea in favor of expanding the universe to its limits. Of course there were a couple of outliers who did surprise along the way with more dramatic or comedic angles, but it feels as if now, in the final hour of a decade-long battle, the real power suits, muscles, and guns get stripped away to make room for what it really means for these characters to do what they do and why it’s so damn painful for them to (occasionally) fail at it. It’s even somewhat of a miracle to see so much unexpected (and unexpectedly good!) comedy to flow between these more tender and sometimes even grim first moments. It makes for a strangely compelling ambiance in which the best elements of comic books are finally shown in the right light.

When the plot thickens and the leftover gang comes up with a new plan to play around Thanos’ tricks - not in the least constructed by a dazed and confused Scott Lang - Endgame works itself towards a perhaps even more satisfying second act where the best and worst elements of intertextuality rear their heads. Without spoiling too much of the fun, the writers find an interesting way to play upon the easier joys of a fandom by reminding them of all the fun they’ve had in the past ten years, while simultaneously building upon the human aspects of the ragtag crew of misfits. Each in their own way they get to rekindle with their past, their initial wants and needs and their future dreams before the expected final battle comes around.

Of course, when taken in broad strokes, the plot of Endgame isn’t something that miraculously cures all the predictability within such corporate creations, but with enough clever twists and turns throughout it manages to surprise enough to not be taken for granted. This is a billion-dollar mega-spectacle, yeah, sure, but it’s also an über-dense climax that offers more than just a happy end and a heroic goodbye. Where the more obviously constructed moments do feel really forced (a particular girl power moment feels made just to make the film look extra woke), the surprises really do surprise. And of course, on either side of the spectrum, flaws are to be expected. One character’s death is handled so crudely that it almost feels as if we don’t have to care, while another character’s death is handled with such grace that it even made this Marvel-cynic tear up a little.

Whether or not you’re a fan of this franchise, it’s hard to argue Endgame does succeed graciously at what it sets out to do. Where Infinity War was supposed to feel like the beginning of the end (and eventually only set up the stakes for the actual endgame), the grand finale of the Infinity saga is not only the majestic pointe to a long-boiling epic space-opera (nay, a universe opera!), but also a rightfully tender exploration of the feelings behind the masks and superpowers that has been taken for granted for so long. It is in no way perfect, but it’s undeniably a satisfying end to this long-gestating tale.

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