This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Eric Lees’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Disney's™ Marvel's™ Avengers™ Endgame™ is in a way a true marvel in how it is a giant celebration for eleven years of the most predatory entertainment media conglomerate consuming more and more, and as the free market of American cinema comes closer and closer to extinction, it dies with thunderous applause. Avengers™: Endgame™ is a paradox where I simply ask, "How can a movie be so large yet so small?"
The movie starts in medias res with Tony Stark starving in space. Oh no, how will our hero make it out this time? We ask this because we know he will make it out. If not because every one of these flicks is as cookie cutter as they come, his later appearance is spoiled by practically every trailer. So he's rescued by Captain Deus Ex Machina, who comes to the ship because she read the script and the survivors on Earth plot their revenge, which they effortlessly act out. From then on, a whole lot of nothing happens. This is a superhero movie? It is mostly just regularly dressed people stumbling around talking. There is no sense of wonder or heroism. It feels more like a sitcom pilot than the grand conclusion, fitting considering the Russos' origins, and are even plagued by the SNL disease of letting takes run on way longer than they need to be after a "joke" was "wrapped up" due to the smug self-insisting nature of the actors and filmmakers thinking they are much clever to themselves than they really are to an audience.
Fanboys will respond to this by saying that the franchise has "matured" past that. The industry realized that comic books are for children, and so they slap a pathetically hollow surface level feeling of grit and seriousness so that the now adult children do not outgrow the comic and can keep consuming. For being so "mature" it sure does a poor job depicting how something like the end of Infinity War would really affect the world. Nope, don't worry audience! Everyone is still a quip machine! If we give them overlong scenes of just talking, that justifies every other scene being a lighthearted romp. Half the world is dead? Well, watch Hulk dab! Not a single moment in Endgame™ has nearly an equivalent emotional gravitas as anything in say Batman v. Superman, where the nature of heroism is challenged by those in power, where people are divided by blind fanaticism (comic book fans) and the disempowered elite. Here the dichotomy is the same shtick as the Saturday morning cartoons: Bad guy bad, good guy beat up. Cue thunderous applause. There is no context beyond anything that a literal child can pick up. What a true demonstration of maturity. If this wasn't enough, let's have bottom of the barrel humor assaulting you at a constant rate, from cheap overweight jokes at the expense of Thor to cheap naivete exploitation on behalf of Hulk (who has merged with Banner to become more "sophisticated" to the point where he does nothing that makes Hulk, well, Hulk). Now if you are still not satisfied, we'll even sprinkle male objectification with jabs at Captain America's ass (Such a thing would not happen to Captain Marvel: Not only is the double standard against men evident but indeed, Evans' does have an ass unlike Larson)
The biggest transgression is how hard it jumps the shark after the supposedly grave outcome of Infinity War with its nonsensical time travel plot. Hulk gives the most half-assed and needlessly convoluted explanation of time travel simply to tell the audience to shut up and not pay attention to the gaping holes in logic that will follow. This is a totally dishonest (not to mention inefficient) way of doing the "I suggest you don't worry about those things and just enjoy yourself." scene from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The difference is one is a harmless comedy and the other is lauded as one of the great cultural milestones of modern generations (Well, I supposed that applies to Austin Powers too) that costs and steals millions. Nothing about the time travel makes sense beyond justifying the script. This entire portion fills the plot with more holes than swiss cheese on a sinking ship. Why not just go and get more Pymm Particles first? What took them so long to think "Hey maybe we should go back and visit Hank Pymm to get more of this stuff so we can be more efficient?" How does Cap return the Soul Stone if it was only revealed by a magic curse that requires the death of a beloved (how does he return it AND the Power Stone without a spaceship?!)? Not to mention how funny it is to imagine all the terrible events in the world that Cap just let happen. This mentality is utterly toxic and backward to what the first third preaches. Cap helps people move on with his seminars, yet he is stuck in the past, and in the end, he is rewarding for this selfish thinking. This is not heroism, this is hedonism.
Hell, the whole emotional crutch of the movie is invalidated by time travel. Hulk establishes that it's actually impossible to change the past because time is just moving forward. They need to retrieve the stones simply to do a snap that will bring people back. They clarify that even if you kill your past self, your current self won't stop existing. At the same time, they clarify there won't be alternative universes either. This is confirmed when Nebula kills her older self. By these own rules, it should have been possible to bring both Tony and Black Widow back, they simply needed to fetch an older version of them and bring them to the present. We know this wouldn't have any negative effect because Gamora was brought back this way and if by doing so she had actually been removed from her timeline, a time paradox would have happened because Thanos would have never been able to get the Soul Stone and thus the initial snap that set all in motion wouldn't have happened.
This time travel nonsense leads to a parade through the years, revisiting several movies for the sake of getting people to remember what happened in them. Look, consumer, it's that movie you saw five years ago! Remember when that character said this funny line? Well, we hope you still find it funny because here it is again! Now get ready to clap when we recreate this scene just so we make sure you remember! How many times do we as a viewer have to see the same scene of someone confronting an important person from their past? There are zero catharses every time save for Thor's moment, though even this scene is just apeing off of the genius of Kubrick and Spielberg in A.I.'s pivotal emotional scene. Time travel is too big of a concept to just suddenly throw in at what is meant to be a climaxing chapter, and the massive entity which it is is wrapped around the heads of its important figures almost immediately for the sake of plot convenience, with Stark literally going from "it's impossible" to "it's easy" in the span of fewer than five minutes.
The action is piss poor as usual, and this extends beyond the literal action of the scenes but the action of catharsis for the viewer. The Russos just never learned how to properly edit actions together and convey a stable sense of cause and effect. Particularly, the fight with young and older Captain America is nearly as bad as every instance of action in Civil War, and just like that movie, contains nothing but half second cuts, bolting camera and cutting to yet another extreme close up so one cannot tell how untrained these actors really are. Marvel hires not based on skill, but name power, and it shows. Even Chris Evans has notably gotten smaller since The First Avenger, which makes sense because after years of a steady paycheck and guaranteed starring roles, why try? With some exceptions of admittedly strong performers (mostly from the newer characters) those who have been singing the same song and dance are visibly tired. Ruffalo especially is hilarious for all the wrong reasons, talking like he's drunk the whole time. I wouldn't be surprised if they made him go Professor Hulk so that he didn't have to go outside (Also nice of Bruce Banner to resolve his conflict with Hulk that was his whole point in Infinity War off camera! Very convenient!). Disney can shovel as much money on the screen to make all of the CG look impressive (though even that is difficult due to the horrendously dull color grading especially in the final battle which looks straight out of Battle of Five Armies) but they still can't muster up some good ol' pathos unless it's a grand staged "We're so gonna make the whole theater cry" moment that one can see coming from a mile away (Silvestri's soulless score serving as a conveyor belt of processed pathos for those not mentally awake enough to feel like a normal human being without provocation). Mishandling of pathos continues for various character arcs. Drax now has no reason to fight because he never even got to have his catharsis with Thanos (undoing three movies worth of development), Black Panther and all of Wakanda are reduced to Deus ex iconicism backup warriors with the significance of Afrofuturism reduced to "cool pointy spears", and Thor's character assassination spanning basically since he entered the MCU reaches a new peak with how utterly wasted (literally) he is throughout, his final scene being a not-so-subtle reflection of the spiritual death and abandoning of national heritage that plagues Europe.
The last act of the film is a nigh-unbearable assault on the senses that echo the very worst aspects of the trainwreck that was Ready Player One. There is little cohesion, characters simply appear where they need to in this supposed grand scale battle. Cameos of characters pulled from all over are thrown in at breakneck speed as if the film is desperate for as many applause moments as possible, yet nothing is accomplished. In one of the most gratuitous moments in the franchise, every female hero somehow appears onscreen together to fight, but then only like 3 of them are actually useful. This just goes to show how poor the power scaling has become exponentially over the years and how with characters such as Captain Marvel or Stark's technology that keeps looking more like magic than science, stakes simply do not exist. Speaking of power scaling, a nice callback to Infinity War is how broken and misutilized the wizards are. Yes, now there are a ton of wizards, and rather than have simply one (1) of them teleport the Gauntlet somewhere to safety, the entire cast just plays hot potato with it. The constraining nature of the script throughout the film reflects the uncertainty Disney has with its own world. They have amassed this extensive category of characters (who each practically all can be boiled down to "the snarky one") from all over, some even from different studios, and yet they still don't know what to do with them all. This is supposed to be some sort of grand finale, but all it does, in the end, is set up even more sequels. Do you want to have a moment to cry over Black Widow™? Forget that! Get happy we're setting up new Captain America™, Spider-Man™, and Guardians of the Galaxy™ movies! How can you let this money train end? These characters are totally disposable, the ones exiting spend time passing their mantle down. There is no personality with these names, no real character. They're icons propped up by stacks of cash indistinguishable from action figures.
Endgame™ is not the end. We all know this. Disney continues to greenlight more and more sequels and spinoffs, racking in cash as they plot which studio to liquidate next. Having just bought 20th Century Fox, a move that cost over four thousand jobs and a numerous wealth of creative vision, it's clear as day Disney's plan to throw in X-Men or Fantastic Four as soon as the public loses interest. The audience is so enslaved to their own childish fantasies of wanting to see these spandex shmucks slap each other silly that they are willing to bend backward and expose their bare bellies when their backs become too scarred to scratch further. Endgame™, like every Marvel entry before it, is not concerned with being its own work, but continuing off of others and setting up further. It exists to make as much profit as possible and then disappear onto the streaming platforms of the giddy slaves to keep them occupied until the next. Over a decade of this happening, and it just keeps going on. It deludes people into believing its an anchor of our modern culture, but the only "culture" it could possibly reflect is consumerist trash culture, regressing the state by how it destroys context by creating mass yet shallow content.
The docile consumerist society which Disney has built up oblivious to the nature of cinema itself furthers disposable utility within an artistic medium and selectively rewards the development of convenient pandering, making the audience feel like they are being rewarded for mindlessly consuming over a decade's worth of filth. Billions upon billions spent shutting down other visions (Due to the merger, the status of a possible sequel to Alita, an actually fantastic and unique blockbuster, are now in the hands of the Mouse) rather than fleshing them out, utterly backward way of thinking for a free market. Ideally, you would want other works and visions, because it creates competition and gives your company incentive to try and create their distinct style that attracts their base, but Disney has successfully commandeered the market through mass conditioning and content control, creating the most middle of the road and safe broad appeal, a vision built on compromise. That which they call "nostalgia" serves as nothing more than a mask to cover the Stockholm grasp that Disney has ensnared this generation with, building a web of false attachment and a sense of entitlement in the fanbase, leading to a desperate feeling to fight for whatever media was shoved down their throat because at this point, what else do they have?