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.