Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame ★★★

Hot Take: Endgame is the worst Avengers movie. 

Out of the entire Infinity Saga, this film is without a second of doubt - the one I’m most divided on. Buckle up, this is gonna be a long-ass reviewHow could a movie be so dumb, yet so genius at the same time? There’s so much that works, and so much that doesn’t. My initial experience of Endgame arrived on opening night with a packed and eager theatre. It was ahead of a whole year of anticipation and weeks of hype, as the film’s release got closer and closer. Endgame is where I learned one important thing the hard way: expectations can completely dictate your entire experience of a movie. 

Entering the cinema and ever since the end of Infinity War, the hype and expectations I had for this were ridiculous. And of course, falling in love with Infinity War so much, I only expected Endgame to top the levels of teeth-clenching action suspense and insane heights of power on display as well as it did then. I was hoping for a film somehow even more dark, with an MCU outing following a tone that finally matched its stakes. I was hoping for a film somehow even more tense, with a comic book spectacle that could portray such powerhouse combat enough to break the screen. 

Unfortunately, Endgame is the exact opposite movie that is Infinity War, and to detriment of my first experience with it. 

I at first thought to myself it was still one of the best MCU installments yet, even after I sat through the entire thing stunned by the idea that the film wasn’t meeting my hype and walked out the theatre with the realization that I was disappointed. The more I thought about it, the worse it got though, and unlike the countless people across the world and the cheering crowd in that night’s cinema adoring this film, I was left with a definitely opposing opinion. Hoping for it to get a lot darker it was actually way too funny, and hoping for it to get a lot faster it was actually way too slow. 

Clearly on this revisit there are things I have come to appreciate more about Endgame and issues that still nag me, but one point will always stay the same. This isn’t necessarily an immersive, edge-of-your-seat adventure, at least in my opinion. Especially at the beginning it feels like a slowburn drama. The structure is fragmented along with its pacing, as the first act draws comparisons to HBO’s The Leftovers, the second act fundamentally and thematically imitating Back to the Future Part II, and the final third act replicating the large-scale farewell of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I could feel the weight of the slow runtime so hard each act felt like its own movie. 

Things switch too much, and instead of a seamless three hours it’s rocky with various missteps and fumbles. The whole first hour grobbles in the loss of Infinity War, and while I understand this direction it sacrifices so much. Literally any sort of conflict or tension is nonexistent. When did the MCU decide to go through 21 hyper-produced, fast-paced compilations of one-line quips and climactic explosions, and then have the final film wrapping everything up be such a sluggish bore? I understand that maybe a strict conversation that examines its characters in such a vulnerable setting would sound fresh and appealing for a superhero film, but the fact that it’s slow, boring, or just talking without any Michael Bay explosions isn’t even what immediately makes this portion a trouble for me to enjoy. 

I mean yeah, it’s definitely boring and worthless on a rewatch but the actual contents feel so passive, mild, and just calmly existent like really the entire movie itself. However, the decisions made in this appear more relevant to discuss when I arrive to the third act. 

The act before it in the second one though, has its own problems. The Time Heist’s self-referential ride through the MCU is insanely innovative, as it allows itself to celebrate the franchise through the narrative’s mechanics, but it’s filled with so much lazy writing the plot is unable to sustain any sort of accountability. I don’t want to bash on anyone who loves Endgame, but it’s incredible how many simple flaws are dismissed just because of the scale of the movie. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Introducing time travel, Endgame’s writing skims over the - I repeat, invention of time travel, with just over a few seconds dedicated to it. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp sets up one of the most what the fuck post-credit scenes the MCU has ever enabled (or at least we thought) with Ant-Man getting stuck in the quantum realm. This is huge, especially considering that Endgame’s backbone all relies on Scott, and instead of displaying even any sort of effort the writers resort to a random rat clicking a button. The entire movie relies on a rat. To create the mirage of failure Tony loses the Space Stone in New York, and with the entire fate of the universe at stake - the reason why he loses the gem is because Hulk hates stairs. Unfortunately enough, as if it couldn’t get more annoying, Loki steals the stone while a bunch of SHIELD agents stand around absolutely clueless

These could sound like nitpicks but at the end of the day they’re vital moments in the film’s plot, and the fact that they’re written to this level of silliness is baffling to me. Time travel is there right when they need it, Ant-Man is there right when they need it, and Hulk hates stairs right when they need it. The actual scenes produced from them halt the rapid pacing that the beginning of the Time Heist began with to turtle speed, and instead of any true stakes there is just the attempted illusion that there are any.

It’s insane how Infinity War goes from having one of the greatest villains of all time, to Endgame with no villain at all. There isn’t a single body of force that pushes against the story anywhere to be found. Cap fighting himself doesn’t amount to anything, and even if it sets up something in the alternate timeline it still doesn’t shake that it’s just a hollow action sequence. Even when Thanos finally enters the film after his death in the beginning, all the emotional weight established in Infinity War is completely wasted. At that point he just becomes a standard blob of flesh for the Avengers to fight, especially when his motives go from deep to generic all in one cliché villain speech. 

Just this doesn’t lessen the power of the third act on its own, as the personal choreography of Infinity War is replaced with a bland CGI clusterfuck. Cinematography is dull, and all I see is two massive clunks running at each other. I’m not even gonna get started on the Zoom meet they had before all the female characters arrived at the exact same spot for CNN to capture them together, and the fact that Doctor Strange goes from turning a black portal into butterflies in Infinity War to being assigned plumber duty here. I am disappointed with the feel of the final battle - which is less like a battle and more like a victory parade, and the character moments here that were established in the first act appear all the more underwhelming.

This comes from the two most worst handled heroes in this movie (and what makes the first hour rockier past its slow pace), Thor and Hulk. 

Ragnarok: Kicks the shit out of Hulk. 
Infinity War: Takes the power of a dying star. 
Endgame: Cheese whiz. 

The Russos tore down Thor from badass to fatass within a flash. I can understand the grief and depression that justifies this decision, as it’s not the fact that he’s obese that makes this poorly executed. Even though I thought this was absolutely genius to begin with, they go overboard and turn Thor into the butt of the entire movie’s joke. He’s purely pathetic comic relief. He completely fails because of his arrogance, but not even a single word or individual moment is exchanged between him and Thanos. What a waste. 

Obviously I would’ve loved a much darker, more serious, and more vengeful Thor entering back into the mix at his prime. The Russos can’t seriously look at the melted ice cream Lebowski fuck they created and say that this is the character at his peak. During his time on Asgard he whines and cries, and even though there is an intimate conversation amidst this (similar to Tony meeting his father, and Steve meeting Peggy) the arc attempted to convey itself doesn’t work. His relationship with Frigga is over-justifying itself, as she’s literally the supporting character who had the least amount of screentime in the franchise (not literally but amongst the Odinson’s and the other Asgardians she’s that forgettable).

Apparently he gets acceptance of who he is despite letting his past failures shape him, but there’s no true redemption or hint that he’s back into fighting mode. It seems that he’s ready after he gets Mjolnir but right when they get back the movie begins to make fun of him again, and it doesn’t ever draw the line between Thor being the comic relief and Thor returning to one of the leading Avengers. And even if his summoning of Stormbreaker and Mjolnir where he says, “let’s kill him properly this time” supposedly marks his highlight of the film, that isn’t remotely enough. If you’re going to tear the character all way the down, you have to build back further the way up, and I feel like they were short here.

Professor Hulk is another subversive idea that is appreciable in the beginning, but then continuously underwhelms as the film progresses. First of all, mending the Hulk and Banner together doesn’t make any sense in the logic of what already happened. How it helps in the world that just got its population snapped in half is beyond me, but even within the character’s arc it doesn’t make up for the weak portrayal in Infinity War. I’m fine with Banner’s tenure in Infinity War since he shows his competence in the battlefield without the Hulk, but as a setup for a redemption arc against Thanos it isn’t satisfied at all. Ragnarok calls Hulk the strongest Avenger by name, and then we end this film with Hulk having not even the slightest impact on the final battle. He’s barely there. 

I really thought a Hulk rematch with Thanos was such a straightforward way to connect A to B but it never happened, and was a missed opportunity. I definitely see the appeal that this wasn’t such a straightforward arc, and that Hulk finding peace with himself provides a more intimate and personal look at the character. However, when it turns him into pure comedy and the weakest version of the character it’s a poor payoff.

How Marvel was able to fit both Fortnite and dabbing into Endgame is just puzzling. Obviously, these come down to just preference with the writing decisions, but I feel like the poor choices don’t end there. Apparently there were two cuts of Endgame - one with more Captain Marvel, and one with less. Clearly they went with the one with less, and as much as I think Captain Marvel is one of the worst films that the MCU has ever poured out and that the character herself is way too thin, they should’ve added her character into the mix. There was an opportunity to make Captain Marvel more than just a bunch of space explosions, but that’s literally all they use her for here. The entire development in the character is seriously just the unfortunate Hillary Clinton hairdo they thought was a good idea. 

She becomes the definition of a plot-device. Tony’s lost in space? Enter Captain Marvel. Even though Rocket probably had the coordinates they completely skip that, and she still appears too convenient. Thanos orders to reign fire? Enter Captain Marvel. After they throw her out of the plot, she comes right back into the movie just to fly her body through a ship, exchange some tickling with Thanos, and then the best part of the movie - get punched right back out of the movie by the Power Stone. Apparently the other cut had her with Hawkeye and Black Widow on Vormir, and that makes way more sense. It could’ve used that time to actually give Captain Marvel a relationship with any of the Avengers but now she just feels so out of place. 

The already established two though - Tony and Steve, are written to perfection. This is where the tide shifts a little in the Endgame’s favor. I can’t deny that both their arcs are beautifully satisfied here. Tony ends the war, Cap finds a life without one. Their endings tie in with their original films and the path they set on throughout the entire franchise. I feel like Tony’s sacrifice is arguably a little redundant, since he was always the guy to sacrifice all the way back in The Avengers, but the wrap up with the I am Iron Man line is too good to let go. I also enjoy Captain America being the “man out of time” finding his resolution through time travel. Beginning to end it just makes sense. 

I really love how they handled Clint and Nat as well. It was definitely cool to see Clint go berserk as Ronin, and it hopefully allows them to expand more on this during the Disney+ series. This was the biggest character development we’ve ever gotten for Hawkeye. Nat sacrificing herself ends her arc masterfully, as the pair started when Clint made a decision to save Nat’s life and now the inverse brings their relationship to a close here. 

All the small banter and character interactions within all this is absolutely gold, as we get just as intimate as Age of Ultron did if not moreso. On the darker side, Karen Gillan’s performance as Nebula steals the show and is so underrated. All the sequences at the compound are great to some extent as well. Unfortunately, it did get way too lighthearted for me since they treated time travel as a complete joke, but it stands. Overall, this is still the most poetically redeeming MCU film. That’s where it leaves me so divided. 

In the first hour, even though it’s so slow and passive it subverts in the existential crisis of these characters, in the second, even though it’s dumbed down with some of the laziest writing conveniences I’ve seen alongside the complete lack of a villain or stakes, it rewards you with a look back at the entire journey reaching this point, and in the third hour, even though it’s redundant in the giant army we’ve seen a million times with a rather unengaging/underwhelming battle, we get some worthy moments (Cap summoning Mjolnir, Avengers Assemble, the Portals scene) and a beautifully dedicated sendoff. 

Even though I don’t necessarily like what Endgame did, it did what it wanted to with conviction. The numerous flaws shake the film’s integrity down to its core, but as another cinematic achievement in the MCU I can sincerely appreciate the film. I actually kind of like it, with its faults and all. I’m just glad that this isn’t necessarily the plot abomination that was a saga-ending blockbuster of the same year - Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Hopefully in the MCU going forward it’ll treat its characters with the same amount of confidence, and we’ll see if it earns the same amount of ambition once again. Despite trying to go much bigger it feels much emptier, but I can still find satisfaction in the Endgame’s smaller moments. 

Part of the journey is the end. 6/10.