Avengers: Endgame is a movie of moments. Its predecessor Infinity War was a movie of minutes. The former felt a bit like Marvel homework as most seconds were spent placing pieces across a chess board for a game the audience didn’t get to play. Despite the interesting and dramatic choice of framing its villain as the protagonist, it was mostly setup and little payoff. The latter, tipped by its namesake: Endgame is the opposite.
It also works as a standalone picture. The film cleverly utilizes Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man as an affable audience surrogate. A character whose inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or “MCU” collective extends to one scene in a previous crossover film, he constantly questions the goings on of other main characters while feeling like a real person and not an exposition device. He also works like many efficient sources in the film as a strain of comic relief. Though the more serious elements of the film land and I admit I surprised myself tearing up at certain moments, the most peculiar thing about The Avengers might just be how much it is indebted to Friends and not just because of Paul Rudd’s inclusion.
Constantly mixing characters in fresh/ exciting ways the movie never makes the lesser franchise blunder of forgetting one character’s relationship to another even when the audience might. “Hey I know you!” Hawkeye says at one point. Reminding the audience that despite the fact two characters may share the screen, presumably on the same side and have been around for 4 films or more, they do not necessarily know each other even though the audience may know them both. The fuel the film gets from characters it doesn’t take for granted provides plenty of mileage that is often successfully overwhelming. Whether you are a Marvel fanatic or just happen to be tuning in this week, the filmmakers (directors Joe and Anthony Russo) in their television background (Community and Arrested Development) haven’t forgotten about you. The scale is the cinematic equivalent of TV’s Game of Thrones though it might be as much rooted in comedy as it is in action a per MCU guidelines. Taken as a series the level of achievement in wrapping up such a large scale story is stunning, beyond the level of Harry Potter and one audiences may not see for a long time unless Star Wars: Episode IX pulls the mystery box out of its ass. (Sidenote: AVATAR 5 in 2027 announced today by Disney)
There are moments in the film where your brain excitedly scrambles through character roster logistics to answer ‘What?’ or ‘Who could that be?’ while some super power move is demonstrated so fast and furiously. As if the filmmakers are laying the track only one step ahead as the audience races down it at the speed the film is gathering billions. It is awesome!
Going beyond basic grades I give this film of B+/ 88/ Level 4- what makes the film difficult to judge on the aggregate is that it is harder to look at these movies based on their critical impact strictly as films. Their event nature, the decimating effect on the rest of the theatre business. $200 million dollar-level marketing campaigns (enough to fix the Flint Water Crisis or as much as this movie made in 2 days. The fans most importantly with their reactions and theories provide their own narratives that have become just as intrinsic to a brand without necessarily having to deal with or try to elevate the film’s own quality directly. Hopes, feelings, expectations and criticisms whether they are met or not have become a part of the process and harder to separate from objective content execution because of growing ridiculous cultural emotional baggage. It is a deeper discussion about pop art left to RogerEbert.com. Predominantly, the film succeeds and closes a chapter of our culture.
Endgame offers the crucial thing most MCU film’s lack: closure. It hews close to the Marvel terms of agreement. 1) Characters, 2) Humour and 3) Superpowers in that order. The Russo’s manage to take a few risks despite a familiar a greatest hits style meta-narrative; leaning on previously underutilized characters to do emotional heavy lifting, framing established major characters out of its story, and smaller but no less effective risks like changing character cosmetics (the subject of a NYTimes piece). It all works really well. Past errors like balancing screen-time and inconsistent special f/x are corrected. Its storytelling can forgive inevitable drops of one or two plot points that mess with the timeline or shift out minor character threads for major ones. The lack of set up is often negated or at least mitigated by the majesty of what is happening on screen. For newcomers and fans alike, Marvel has managed to keep you in mind- Mom.
The set up of this film takes 45 minutes due to franchise obligation. It is the best time to go to the bathroom, also before its last hour around the 1 hour 45 minute mark.
I am 21/ 22 having not having seen Captain Marvel yet (I heard it wasn’t good and didn’t want to give Disney all the money). It did not affect my enjoyment of her scenes.