scottstreet’s review published on Letterboxd:
Avengers: The Search for Purpose
Avengers: Endgame isn't like any other movie. Actually, I would go as far as to say that it isn't a movie at all. It looks like one, it acts like one, and it's a damn good one, but Endgame feels more akin to a climactic sporting event. It's the Superbowl of the MCU, and the fact that it was marketed using highlights from previous films reinforces that thought.
People will come into Endgame expecting finality, and thankfully Endgame offers that, along with all the quips & feels that come with your other MCU flicks. People that were cold on the MCU before can't expect Endgame to change everything for them, but as long as they are somewhat curious to see how this sprawling 22-movie long saga ends, they might get a kick out of it. It starts off just a bit after Thanos shattered the reality our heroes knew, and everyone has lost, and against Steve Rogers' wishes, they didn't lose together. But the defeat has thrown away any old grievances, and all they want is to find a way to change what happened, and that leaves us with the rest of the film being about... well, spoilers.
Writing about Endgame without spoiling it is a challenge in itself, but a challenge I am willing to accept. To talk about Endgame I have to take a dive into the arcs of the three central characters of the MCU, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and Thor. Tony's arc, since the very first Iron Man film has always seen him almost lose everything he cares about, only to save it in the end, Infinity War leaves Tony broken, defeated and stranded in another planet, having seen his surrogate son perish in his arms, he is lost, and he can't fix this with a box of scraps. Robert Downey Jr, with his pop culture defining turn as Iron Man, is by far the best performer in Endgame. He plays Stark with the usual quips and one-liners, but he is aware of his character's loss. Stark's quips feel automatic, almost like they're just a way for him to keep his mind away from his failures, and after having failed as a hero, he goes back to the last things he has left, his lover and his inventions, this is his coping mechanism, that is his purpose.
In Steve Rogers' first film, he was bullied for being sickish and small, he was made to feel useless because he couldn't fight for his country, and after he became Captain America and plunged that Hydra plane into the icy Arctic, he must have thought that this was it, he would never have enough time for that last dance. And this brought us to Avengers, Winter Soldier and Civil War. Captain America was just a mantle, some old school propaganda tool that was thrust into a world at war, while Steve Rogers is the man behind the myth, alone in the world he thought he saved, a relic of the past in a future he doesn't know. It's clear that his ideals aren't up to date, but sometimes all we need is a little bit of old school. Steve's arc is all about him trying to find home. The metaphorical ome might have been Peggy Carter, but his Captain America duties got in the way. It might have been the Avengers, but he had to give up on them. Maybe it was the Captain America name, but he had to give it up when the country he tried to protect abandoned him. In Endgame, Steve has lost his friends, his country was left in a post-apocalyptic state, and he is tired of trying to find home, Endgame sets up the last part of his journey, and now it's all about purpose.
Unlike the other two, Thor starts his journey as a Shakesperean hero, full of grand gestures, self-entitlement and arrogance. He is stripped of his powers because he has to learn how to be human, but he eventually gets them back, making his arc in his own trilogy feel very repetitive and in The Dark World almost inexistent. Thor's character only saw real change in Infinity War, when he had to lose everything, with no resurrections or Surtur-ex machinas in sight, only to fail when it mattered the most. Endgame has Thor live for one thing only, to kill Thanos and stop having to live with his mistake. Endgame tries to explore his mindset, and does so in a completely unexpected and honestly fresh for a blockbuster, way. Thor's arc isn't about finding purpose, Thor's arc is about living knowing that you can't find it, it's about, to put it in blunt terms, being a loser.
Endgame is well paced, showing again that the Russos and the Ms (writers Markus and McFeely) have cracked the code on what makes the MCU tick for so many of us. The 3 hour runtime feels satisying and rewarding, and the screenplay is again very tightly plotted, leaving no room for fillers, with every scene serving to further the plot. Unlike Infinity War, which made you feel like there was no time to breathe, Endgame takes it slowly. It leaves you to see the effects of the universe-altering events of Infinity War, to feel this post-Snapture world and its grief. And that makes every decision our heroes make feel bigger, these Avengers have something to avenge.
I can't talk about the jaw-dropping, mind blowing, ass-kicking finale, or the shocking but meaningful story decisions the Russos and the Ms make, it's too soon for spoilers, but Endgame is a different beast. To me, it's the ending of the MCU, and much like its characters, this story finally finds the elusive purpose.