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AVENGERS: ENDGAME spoilers
The weekend has come and gone, and seemingly everyone you know has just about seen Avengers: Endgame – the culmination of 22 movies over the course of 11 years. A triumph of branding, fan cultivation, and perfecting a certain type of blockbuster formula, one that’s threatening to even break Avatar‘s worldwide box office record. What a thing! It’s a movie I liked with some reservations…but I really wanted to get an opportunity to discuss a few points that have stuck with me over the weekend, and then open the floor for further discussion among all of y’all.
Here’s the deal, this is a full-fledged spoiler-filled post, and I expect the comments section to the be the same. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, bookmark this page for later. Or if you’re the type that doesn’t care about knowing the twists and turns of the film, that’s okay too!
Okay, let’s talk about Endgame…random, disorganized thoughts ahead:

  • The first act is a bit of an odd beast, with a somber tone not seen in any of these entries before. It’s a welcome respite, really…but it’s also the closest the MCU has ever come to approximating the tone of a Zack Snyder DCU film.
  • Emaciated Tony was done so well, I actually thought Robert Downey might have lost all that weight. They’ve gotten so good at this stuff, how can they still not convincingly get the Iron Man suit “floating head” thing right?
  • “Five Years Later” – as melodramatic as that title sequence was, the Legion fan in me couldn’t help but very excited.
  • I think I’ve settled on the idea that the Russos have a tremendous grasp on certain characters that outstrips their solo filmmakers, as their usage of Ant-Man is generally my prime example (though Doctor Strange in Infinity War was far stronger than his presence in his solo film as well). Scott gets some of the best early emotional beats.
  • Smart Hulk! I grew up loving the “Professor” version of Bruce Banner during the Peter David/Gary Frank days, so to have that brought to life on screen summoned up some nice “11 year old Kyle” feelings.
  • Black Widow’s bad hair makes way more sense in context now.
  • Hawkeye as Ronin reminds me uncomfortably of the CW’s Green Arrow.
  • Why even put Okoye on the poster in the first place if she’s barely going to show up in the movie?
  • Marvel Studios still doesn’t seem to have a grasp on Captain Marvel at all – two movies in, and that character remains an enigma and not in a way that seems purposefully done. Here she’s basically the film’s deus ex machina (one of many, really). Maybe the inevitable Captain Marvel sequel will better serve her.
  • Time travel…a tricky subject, and while one of my favorite tropes in adventure fiction, it’s just as easy to create tons of plot holes as it is to provide thrilling fiction. Here, the time travel approach is headache inducing. It provides a nice avenue to revisit a lot of favorite (that elevator callback!) and not so favored moments (Thor: The Dark World is now solidified as an important MCU outing), but trying to put together the hows and the whys is probably more trouble than it’s really worth.
  • The biggest question mark on that score is of course, the fate of Steve Rogers. Thematically, and even textually, his decision works like a charm. The conflict that’s defined the mega-arc of these recent movies, since Age of Ultron, even stretching back to the first Avengers has been the dichotomy between Captain America and Iron Man. Their final decision in Endgame reverses their usual way of doing business, as pointed out by David Ehrlich in his wonderful review. Tony has chosen to lay down on the grenade, and Steve has decided to take something for himself. “It’s like poetry, it rhymes!”. I love that. Steve’s romantic arc has been built around the longing he’s felt since losing his opportunity for a life with Peggy Carter. He finally got the opportunity that was long denied him, and he took it. We’re only human, after all.
  • The only trick of it, is trying to rationalize how the Steve-Peggy ending works. If it’s still a splinter timeline, it’s just a question of how he got back to the main timeline without using Tony and Bruce’s machine. If it’s instead the new main timeline, I’m willing to run with the idea he was her mysterious unnamed husband all along (though that was clearly not the plan from the beginning), there’s just the sticky issue of Sharon Carter. Did she never know what her great uncle looked like? Was he hiding in a closet every time she came over? Really, the rub here is they just want you to forget they even tried to pair him up with Sharon in the first place…there’s a reason she wasn’t in Infinity War.
  • Jim Starlin cameo!!!! I’m certain I was the only Atlanta-area film critic to notice that one, but it was wonderful to see arguably the most important post-Kirby Marvel creator get some big screen due. Don’t forget to give to his Kickstarter for the Dreadstar Omnibus.
  • Additionally, no one recognized the Iron Man 3 kid. Puberty and staying out of the public eye will do that.
  • Thor’s arc is a trickier subject, and certainly one that’s raised some ire online. As Endgame‘s runtime moves along though, there’s actually good deal of nuance imbued into it – particularly in that beautiful scene between his and Frigga, which also does some double duty in that Rene Russo finally gets to actually *act* in one of these. I can understand how the initial presentation of a beer gutted, Lebowski-inspired Thor may cause some pause in viewers though. I might ask if it differs in any way significantly from older Peter Parker in Into The Spider-Verse? Why did that get a pass in the larger discourse? I’d be curious to get someone’s take on those two presentations of depression and weight gain. I did enjoy Joanna Robinson’s piece on the arc, for what it’s worth, which provides a lot of insight behind the scenes.
  • Quite a bit of television set-up, moreso than anything that gives way for what’s to come in Phase 4. Loki with the Tesseract definitely reads like a pitch for what’s to come for him on Disney+, and I wonder what’s the likelihood they’re going to walk back the initial Falcon and The Winter Soldier title and instead call it “Captain America and The Winter Soldier”. Will Hawkeye’s series pick back up in his organized crime fighting ways, but maybe with his daughter in tow? I predict that WandaVision will be an inverse of the Tom King/Gabriel Walta comic, with Wanda being the one to create a nuclear family from robotic parts.
  • Really, the only Phase 4 piece we really get is Thor joining the Guardians of the Galaxy…which as the best pairing of Infinity War, for my money, is something I definitely welcome. “We know who’s in charge…..”.
  • I guess Peter and his friends are now all five years behind a ton of their friends. I don’t imagine this will be addressed in any way in Far From Home in July.
  • While I greatly enjoyed the first two acts, I think they could have used a bit of trimming. There are a few scenes that linger on just a bit too long, as the Russos try to play with the comedic chops of their performers, and so by the time we get to the gray, mucky finale (that again, reminded me of something from Batman v Superman), I held felt like I had run a marathon, but without any of the health benefits.
  • Thanos becoming significantly dumber was a lost opportunity, but I did enjoy watching Thor and Cap gang-up on him and tossing Mjolnir back and forth.
  • Much like The Dark Knight Rises, I appreciate Marvel having the balls to give their key characters actual endings. Might not be the endings some fans wanted, but they put a real punctuation on a few of these arcs and it’s difficult to lack admiration for that.

Alright, that’s nearly 1400 words, I better stop. A fun end, even if it’s not a film I would category call a home-run. One day I’ll watch Infinity War and Endgame back to back and see how it all hangs together…but until then, what did you think? Let’s dig in together.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. I really didn’t like it very much.
    Through the three hour piece, which I believe was far too long, I sequestered three sections of the film: 1) Infinity War aftermath, 2) Time Heist 3) The final battle.
    In the first section, the characters speak to the audience like action figures, their lines pulling from years of context and easter eggs, rather than speaking to any sort of character development and actual human involvement. The writers were more interested in making a joke that Dr. Strange lived on Bleeker Street in Manhattan, rather than ever acknowledging Thor murdered Thanos in the first 20 minutes of the film. The actor’s lines were stale, blurting out plot details that seemed to be for the sake of the plot than have anything for the actors to do. Most of the cast were going through the motions and speaking with plastic, generic lines. Not one point did I feel like they really lost something. I was just being told it by these broad strokes of character development. I would argue you could exchange the lines of Black Widow with Captain America, or Ant-Man with Iron Man, and there would be little to no difference at all.
    The second hour, the time heist, was something unique to the films, with the characters traveling to different eras of the MCU, such as the Battle of New York from the first Avengers film, or the planet where Star Lord finds the Power Stone from Guardians of the Galaxy. While I enjoyed the trip that they took, I also felt like it was a self-indulgent masturbatory romp through their past films. In one end, it could be interesting to see Hulk see how frightening he once was when he had less control of his powers. Or Iron Man seeing at one point where he nearly died in New York. But instead, the film brings more attention to calling out easter eggs, and revisiting past favorites played in different angles. Most of these scenes felt like they were just for the audience to say, “Hey, remember this,” and reward the viewer who can sing along to the Guardians soundtrack, and name every line from Avengers.
    That isn’t to say everything is so bad. I enjoyed the sequence where Tony Stark goes back to the 70’s and sees his father, while Cap enters the office of Peggy Carter, his love interest from a film that came out in 2011. To me, these were the highlights of the second hour, and for a brief moment, you remember that Tony Stark once built armor in a cave, with a box of scraps, because he needed to live for himself, not because he had to save the world.
    All of this leads to Endgame being just a love letter to a world that was created, rather than focusing on the individual heroes who elevated it. What I think I enjoyed the most about Infinity War was that it was a twisted hero’s journey. Thanos was the main character who grew and progressed in order to achieve his goals, killing his own daughter in order to save the universe. Although his concepts of morality were as unrealistic as the MCU’s concept of space travel, he was about as developed as any other superhero that these movies had. Yet, when Thor kills him in the beginning of the movie, all of that is wiped out. Thanos could have been replaced with Ronan from Guardians, or anyone else, and it would have made little difference. In that last hour, he became just another emotionless space villain to the audience.
    The final battle is a spectacle. Every character gets an action moment. Pepper Potts dons Iron Man armor. Black Panther runs, jumps, and kicks through a crowd. Spider-Man turns on an instant kill function in his suit. Every character pretty much gets a shining moment. Even Captain Marvel returns to go toe to toe with Thanos at one moment, a fight that many fans were waiting for. It’s a little bit of a shame the film resorted to washed out grey tones and dark colors, replacing what was supposed to be upstate New York with a nameless dirt battlefield, making the entire fight a series of grey blobs punctuated with the occasional laser beam. Where are the bright, exciting colors that made the battle of New York in Avengers so great? Or the vibrant orange and greens from Guardians? It was great seeing robot arms pop out of Spider-Man’s suit, but unfortunately, it was so dark and bleak, it looked like a bunch of grey sticks poking through play-doh. Thrilling stuff.
    Of course, at the end, there are some deaths, both good and bad. I wasn’t particularly emotional at the end, but I understand it’s a goodbye to a character. Heroes live. Heroes die. Heroes grow old.
    This was a Marvel movie that was about the Marvel movie. An ensemble piece at its best, or perhaps its worst. It has some good moments, but overall it is overstuffed, overfluffed, rewarding the the viewer for lasting 11 years, 21 movies, and three hours, at the cost of a good story with characters that were defined by better movies that than this one.
    Back in the day, Marvel Comics used to give out something called a “No Prize” to readers who figured out obscure trivia, or spotted certain references. Receiving a No Prize is a badge of honor for the nerdiest and self-indulgent. Like the fabled No Prize, Endgame is a slip of paper, that does very little other than titillate the mind of the individual who gets gratification for being the ultimate fan.

  2. I’m going to need to see it a second time because there’s a lot to unpack, but….
    I enjoy timey-whimey as much as the next geek, but the time travel in here was migraine inducing. Here’s a simple question I haven’t gotten answered yet; do the Infinity Stones still exist? If yes, how? If no, given what the Ancient One tells Professor Hulk, doesn’t that mean their universe is doomed?
    1a. (I would have given good money for Peter Capaldi to pop out of a blue box and start calling the Avengers morons)
    When A-Force assembles for the first time, several women in my audience yelled with joy. I bet money that scene was there, not just because it’s bloody amazing, but Marvel testing to see how people would react to it for a possible future movie.
    You can tell Brie Larson filmed her bits for Avengers before doing Captain Marvel. They really didn’t know how to use her other than “she’s terrifyingly powerful”.
    I think the Sam/Bucky TV show is a bit of a letdown. You have a black Captain America and you’re putting him on TV instead of a movie? Meh.
    No idea how the Wanda/Vision show is going to work (Shuri rebuilds him from the scans she took?). I confess at the end I half expected that instead of Cap coming back in time, it would be Natasha and Vision.
    Guessing the Black Widow movie is a prequel. Which is a little weird….
    The Soul Stone was a red herring. Nothing was really done with it, nor it’s power set explained.
    I guess Chris Helmsworth really is ok for doing more Marvel movies after all…
    I’m ok with fat Thor. I know there are issues, but Helmsworth (and Karen Gillian) did some great work in this movie. I also don’t know if Marvel use their de-aging tech on Rene Russo, or if she just doesn’t age.
    It’s now 2024 in Marvel time. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in future Marvel movies, ie. Captain Marvel (The Russeaus are now 30 years older), Spider-Man (kids in Peter’s class either graduated or were snapped. That’s got to be weird), Black Panther (who ruled in T’Challa and Shuri’s absence), Dr. Strange (who was protecting the Earth from other dimensional threats?), etc….

  3. My thoughts:
    – All the callbacks, expertly laid out, felt like paint-by numbers beats to hit, like a super-hero edition of THIS IS US.
    head-scratching moments:
    – The 5 years later situation (shout-out to another Legion fan) How does that work in real life? Peter is now officially 20 but physically 15? Which class does he go to? where half his old classmates are adults now…
    – Loki: that is probably the biggest problem, the Ancient One must be pissed with this one.
    – Cap hiding like a coward in Peggy’s closet for 50 years? No wonder we never got more AGENT CARTER seasons :)
    – Vision: I was expecting to see the white Byrne version. I wanted more Shuri too.
    The Final battle: I agree with previous comments, way too short, way too murky. The first half could have used a bit more trimming to give more breathing space to the end.
    Final thoughts: funny that when they filmed this they had no idea how big BLACK PANTHER and CAPTAIN MARVEL would be. Is that the explanation for their lack of screen time here?

  4. I think with these kinds of movies, the best you can do is a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I’m thumbs up. I had a great time.
    ROBERT REDFORD cameo!! He said he retired from acting! I marked the fuck out for that!
    The time travel was used in a fun way, but so confusing.
    A-Force!! OMG! That was a legit squeal of glee from me!
    People stood up and cheered when Black Panther showed up. The crowd reaction gave me goosebumps.

  5. I liked it a lot. Sure, Thanos was much less interesting, but really he had his movie last time. And I wish Hulk’s cathartic compromise had been onscreen, and felt a bit cheated that I missed it. And, once again, the Black Order was wasted.
    But Thor’s story was deeply touching. So was Nebula’s, Tony’s and Steve’s. I do wish the aftermath of Natasha’s death had resonated a bit more, but I think it was a good ending to her story, too. I like that Pepper told Tony to rest; it was a good ending to a character whose arc had been somewhat manic.
    I like that the newer characters weren’t front and center, but they all got nice little nods (like Thanos having to use the power stone to defeat Carol, Thanos needing the bombardment to avoid defeat by Wanda, or the ‘pass the gauntlet’ game played by the future heroes of the MCU). This movie finished the story that started in Iron Man. Because of that it felt deeply uncynical to me. It would have been so easy to turn it into just another installment in the money-making saga that is the MCU, but they provided a jumping off point rather than a commercial for the future. I hate Disney, but they freed Feige from Perlmutter and have let him do his stuff (even rehiring James Gunn). It shows in this movie.
    I loved the small nods to the larger continuity. This was the “final issue” of course you’d have those, but I didn’t expect to see Alexander, the Ancient On, Korg, etc. I especially loved having Jarvis in from Marvel TV’s best show. Those connections were important to the story, but they didn’t detract from focus on the core characters. It speaks to a narrative universe that will live on–Wakanda, new Asgard, Spidey, Carol, etc.–even as some characters leave it.
    I appreciated that dead meant dead (at least for now) for several characters, and the way they get Gamora back into the story is clever.
    Lots of it was predictable, but earned nevertheless. (Twists for twists’ sake aren’t a good thing.) I see nothing wrong with it being a love letter to MCU fans, because it’s clear the producers, writers, directors and actors love it as well. I rewatched all the MCU movies in the run up to Endgame. In the end, this works as fun event comic with nice tie-ins so that you can actually pay off character stories. I wish the Marvel Comics would learn something from this success.

  6. I wonder if the Redford cameo was shot before his supposed last movie, “The Old Man and the Gun.” It could be leftover footage from “Winter Soldier.”
    Interesting how so many people are going nuts over the length in their Twitter comments. Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz pointed out that 3-hour (and longer) movies have been around for a century, since the silent era. People endured them.
    He thinks it has to do with phone addiction. Asking people to put away their phones for 3 hours is, for a lot of people, asking a lot. Like asking a nicotine fiend to go 3 hours without a cigarette.
    Alas, I won’t have time to see it until Wednesday.

  7. Read Matt Zoller Seitz’s chilling (or thrilling, depending on your view) article at rogerebert.com, “Avengers, MCU, Game of Thrones, and the Content Endgame:”
    Lead:
    “Avengers: Endgame” is not just the culmination of the 22-movie Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also represents the decisive defeat of “cinema” by “content.”
    The word refers to a piece of entertainment that can be delivered any number of ways, and that’s defined less by its story, characters, source material, or presentational medium (cinema or TV) than by its brand identity (Marvel), its corporate parentage (Disney), and its ability to get hundreds of millions of people talking about it all at once, inducing such a state of excitement that they’ll implicitly threaten harm against anyone who “spoils” the movie by discussing anything besides how much they loved it. (In one case, the threat was more than implicit: a Hong Kong moviegoer was beaten up outside a theater showing “Endgame” for loudly discussing plot details.)
    What we’re seeing onscreen as we watch Captain America and Iron Man and the Hulk and Captain Marvel undo galactic genocide and destroy Thanos isn’t merely a superhero battle for the ages, but a seismic cultural event. It marks the end of one era and the birth of another.

  8. And maybe the most depressing part of Seitz’s article:
    “Art house cinemas (which have a business built around stand-alone, non-tentpole features) are struggling to stay open, and their proprietors face increasingly old crowds that aren’t being replaced by younger viewers.Theaters generally are on what an exhibitor friend of mine bitterly referred to as “Disney life support.” Forty percent of domestic box office receipts come from that one studio, most of its business is based around serialized, mega-expensive, dopamine-hit franchises. Now that Fox and all of its subsidiaries have been absorbed by Disney, and now the studio has a streaming service to feed (an insatiable beast, like a baby dragon), we can expect that percentage to increase.
    “We can also expect Disney to favor Fox properties that are internationally salable, endlessly franchise-able, social media-responsive. Expect more films like “Predator” and “Alien” than Fox hits like “Broadcast News,” “Hidden Figures” and “Gone Girl.” Dopamine rules.”

  9. One thing that occurred to me about the time travel piece…it’s an unusual take on it, but not without validity, it’s just this sort of metaphysical form of time travel to a degree (that may be the wrong word). It’s time travel where it’s centered mostly on your perspective, rather than a larger historical impact. “Your present becomes your past, your past becomes your future”…basically a never-ending straight line. Kind of feels like something Starlin would have cooked up…maybe there’s a commonality with Adam Warlock/Magus or some such…

  10. You know, if this place is going to post stuff like the whining over Fat Thor and NOT let people comment on it, what’s the point? Or did people justifiably mock how ridiculous it was and Heidi had to step in to protect one one of her precious little snowflakes?
    If it’s the latter, I sure hope Heidi doesn’t have any children because shielding people from criticism WHEN THEY’RE BEING STUPID is basically a guarantee they’ll keep being stupid and you can’t protect them forever.
    Mike

  11. JC – prior to watching the movie, all-white Vision was one of my predictions/hopes too.
    Craig – honestly, I figure WandaVision is probably darker than that..she literally uses her magic to reanimate him and he’s basically her corpse puppet. There’s no way they’ll do that though.
    The funny thing is, despite the movies pushing forward in time to 2024, quite a few of these characters won’t get sequels till closer to then anyway…

  12. The Russos have nothing on Jim Starlin’s Infinity Gaunlet which was far more superior. Big egos result a lacklustre finale to Phase 3.

  13. The Fat Thor thing is unfortunate. Thor’s depiction came across to me as a depression-awareness thing more than a fat-shaming thing.
    Disappointing that some outlets are trying to make hay off’ve this particular interpretation. It seems disingenuous and craven.

  14. I’m disappointed to by the lack of commenting on the Thor article, too, because I thought what they did with Thor in Infinity War and Endgame was wonderful and poignant. I hadn’t cared for any of the Thor movies, but the way they built off his loss–of friends, of identity, of purpose–was great. That conversation with Rocket in IW hits hard, and Hemsworth nails the guy on the edge of breakdown. Then Thanos mocks him for failing at the last moment, and he’s engulfed by despair. It’s not that he was fat; it’s that he let himself go. He quit living. Weight/height/etc. is relative–some people are bigger than others, some smaller, etc. But Thor’s normal state is trim, in command and ready to go. In New Asgard, his depression turned him into his opposite. He let his mental and physical health go. Then the double whammy of Frigga’s parental succor and Mjolnir’s confirmation of Thor’s worthiness, despite his failures and his giving up on life…that was genuinely touching. I suspect many if not most people are where Thor is at some point in their life. If only more people had their worthiness confirmed in the depths of their struggles so that they could triumph like the Odinson, out of shape body/mind and all.

  15. This felt like some kind of mashup between The Ultimates and the Avengers, with the morality of the former winning out.These weren’t really superheroes, these were soldiers.
    When Spider-Man activated the instant kill protocol my heart sank. When Hawkeye the serial killer got a happy ending, I scratched my head. When Tony Stark weilded omnipotent power and could have presumably opted for a peaceful solution, he chose murderous revenge.
    I grew up reading Marvel comics in the 70s and 80s and, as my dad wasn’t around much, my moral framework was (sadly) informed by the flawed yet inherently good heroes.
    I don’t think the movie depictions, with few exceptions, are the same characters. Heroes didn’t kill in the comics, the Comics Code inbuilt that limitation which became a strength in storytelling as the heroes had to find ‘another way’. In these films the heroes kill without visible remorse.

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