Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Avengers: ENDGAME Spoiler Review and Thoughts

Avengers ENDGAME is an epic and satisfying conclusion to the first 3 phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a perfect send off to the original Avengers who started it all. 
It’s filled with expertly handled fan service, and will make you laugh, cheer and cry. It was darker and more sombre than I expected, but at same time also funnier – Marvel (or the Russo’s) are the absolute masters of balancing tone and juggling multiple character arcs. It’s the best “ending” that a franchise of this scale has ever had committed to film.

However, it’s not a perfect movie, I don’t think it’s the best MCU film and I do have a few minor issues. I’ll start with those…

!!! SPOILERS !!!

It’s long, and although I think the 3 hour runtime is justified to deliver the emotional stakes required to complete our heroes journey on such an epic scale, I do wonder if in the long-term this will impact the rewatchability of the movie. That won’t be an issue for people who watch a movie once or twice, but for us geeks who watch these movies multiple times will it be a problem? 

The first hour is our heroes chatting to one another down on their luck and debating what to do (or if they should do it), this is great the first time you watch it, but once you know they will all eventually come together and get on with it, will it hold up? 

Also, there’s very few action scenes or set-pieces in the movie, yes there’s the huge 20+ minute climatic battle, but even the time heist section in the 2nd act pretty much revolves around 6 conversations (rather than actions). So there is surprisingly little spectacle in the first 2 hours of the movie. Likewise, by killing the original Thanos the time pressure intensity of resolving the situation is also removed, so it feels like the Avengers have plenty of time to come up with a plan / solution.

Of course, the flip side of this is that if you’re emotionally invested in these characters and knowing it’s (some of their) final outings, maybe we just want to spend time with them chatting and working things out. As a huge fan, I enjoyed this and pretty much every resolution you want for these characters is delivered, but in the years to come if I have a choice to watch either Infinity War or Endgame, I think I’d prefer to watch IW as a pure movie-going experience.

Ok, for a film I absolutely loved, the last few paragraphs come across somewhat negatively, I’m not trying to be down on the film but just my thinking overall. The other two things I had slight issues with were: -

Fat-Thor… still not sure how I feel about this... The initial introduction is played for jokes which is incredibly funny, but I was surprised this carried through for the whole film. There are some underlying serious emotional repercussions that are eating away at him which balanced with the humour, but ultimately it’s a different character to the Thor we’ve had in the MCU previously. There’s no denying that Chris Hemsworth is getting damn good at the comedy and drama in his performance, but whereas we got a final hurray with the other Avengers, this Thor felt like a new character being introduced for the movie specifically.

Black Widow’s death… in the context of the film it plays ok, though it didn’t really have an emotional impact on me. Primarily because there’s a Black Widow movie coming out next year, so the whole time it was happening I was just thinking this is going to be reversed. Of course, by the end of the film it isn’t and the Black Widow movie could be a prequel, but in the moment it didn’t grab me. The fact it also re-used the music from the equivalent Gamora scene in Infinity War, took me out of the experience too.

So now onto the positives…

Obviously the final battle is absolutely spectacular, we’ve never seen a sequence on this scale with so many lead characters from their own franchises together (it is the fulfilment of the MCU in one epic shot). This is a roller-coaster of emotions, the music swells as we move from cheers to tears multiple times. It’s structured beautifully, with the original three starting the battle, being whittled down to just Cap and then literally the whole MCU joining the fight.

There are so many incredible moments in this one sequence, it’s worth the price of admission alone. Captain America wielding Mjonir, the moment when all the heroes eventually return, Captain America shounting “Avengers… Assemble!”, Thor and Captain America exchanging Mjonir and Storm-Breaker “No, you have the little one!”, Spider-Man being pulled through the air with a web attached to Mjonir, Giant-Man punching a Chiutari ship out of the air, that “girl power” shot, Captain Marvel smashing through Thanos ship and that head butt, the list goes on and on… and of course the final sacrifice.

The fan service (and call backs to previous entries) in this movie is ridiculous, to the point where I’m thinking did they add some of this in post-production based on what people were saying following Infinity War to ensure it was included? Of course you’ve got all the big stuff in the final battle, but there’s so many smaller moments throughout the movie – Captain America’s “Hail Hydra” and “subverted recreation” of the elevator scene from Winter Soldier, the multiple cameos spread throughout the Time Heist section, Thor joining the “Asgaurdians of the Galaxy”, Cap v Cap and “I can do this all day” “Yeah… I know!”, finally we see Professor Hulk, Cap’s last dance, again the list goes on…

Time Travel worked out fine in the end, I was a bit nervous the Time Travel solution would in some way rewrite the MCU or reverse the snap in which case the previous movies (or just Infinity War) would become redundant. But the solution worked for me, my interpretation was everything that has already happened still happens (so they can’t change the past), and when any of the characters went back in time they were technically always there in that time period (just off camera). Cap’s mission to replace the Infinity Stones directly after they were taken, also keeps the stones in the original timeline for future movies. So they don’t stop the snap from happening, but they can get them to re-use them to bring everyone back (five years later).

This in theory keeps one prime timeline that prevents any alternate timelines or time splits from happening, except there’s a couple of things that aren’t really explained. One, 2014 Thanos leaves his timeline (together with Nebula and Gamora) for the final battle in 2023 which he then loses – so does that create a branching timeline where the click never happens? My theory (although it’s never explicitly said in the movie) is that when Tony does the snap and Thanos and his army are dusted, is he’s actually sending them back to 2014. This ends the conflict in 2023, and also puts Thanos back to 2014 so the prime timeline continues to happen. I back this theory up by the fact that in Infinity War Thanos seems to know who Tony is (as if they’ve met before?).

It’s just a theory and I’ve seen multiple interpretations of how time travel work in Endgame, but that’s mine.

Linked to time travel - I think Steve Rogers / Captain America got the perfect send-off, I always suspected Endgame would end with Cap getting his last dance (see my Avengers Endgame predictions post – see I did say that!), and the fact he got to live out his life with Peggy is exactly what his character deserved. Again, based on the time travel rules established by the movie, I don’t think this is a new timeline, I believe the 2023 Cap always went back in time and was living his life with Peggy concurrently whilst his younger self was frozen in the ice.

The other big character conclusion is obviously Tony Stark / Iron Man, who ends the movie with the ultimate sacrifice. I again thought this was really well done, and as the MCU essentially started with Tony saying “I’m Iron Man”, it was great to end it on the same note. The funeral scene in particular with the majority of characters there was a particularly special touch. The fact he also had a resolution with his father was a nice touch (allowed by time travel).

With the big two’s story concluded, it really does feel like the end of this chapter in the MCU and it’s time to move on. I do really like the fact both endings feel definitive, yet the door is somewhat open for these characters to potentially return in some capacity. I can see Tony returning in the form of AI (ala Jarvis), so he could still be part of the MCU. Or you can see a situation where our heroes go back in time to get Cap for “one last mission” for example.

I really liked what they did with Bruce Banner / Hulk, he comes across as the jolly green giant. He didn’t really add much to the final fight, but was obviously pivotal in bringing everyone back.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Hawkeye in the MCU, he’s always been a bit bland, I appreciate what they did with him in Endgame and taking on the RONIN persona for a bit, but I can take it or leave really.

Ant-Man's return out of the Quantum Realm and him finding out 5 years has past was handled really well, the emotion on his face when he realises he's missed 5 years of his daughter life is heart-breaking (Paul Rudd's performance here is great).

Although barely in the film, Captain Marvel had a pretty significant impact on the story, she saves Iron Man, helps take out original Thanos, destroys Thanos ship and prevents him doing a second snap. It shows how powerful she is and I wonder how they’ll incorporate this into future films, but I’m glad she was used sparingly – it would have felt like a bit of a cheat if she saved the day (after only just being introduced).

Now Endgame is out it also makes some of the deaths from Infinity War more permanent than we initially thought they might be. I always thought the people dusted by the snap would return, but Endgame conclusively confirms the death’s (pre-Snap) will remain (which the Russo Brother’s had always said since the beginning to be fair). So no Vision, Heimdall or (original) Gamora and Loki returning. Though again, you have Loki and Vision related TV shows in the works, and an out of time Gamora so… we’ll see.

There’s so much to write about Avengers: ENDGAME, it’s hard to understate how well they’ve nailed the ending, and it’s a cinematic achievement on any scale you look at it.

It’s still early days and I’m unsure where I’d rank the movie against the other MCU entries, it’s definitely in the top 10 but probably not top 5. But then it’s such a different movie to everything that’s come before, the other films are all self-contained (to a certain extent), this is very much a conclusion and victory lap for the franchise – so it’s difficult to compare.

Either way The Russo’s and Marvel Studios have delivered a satisfying conclusion to The Infinity Saga. 

Written by @RossBishop for MoviePush. Follow Ross on Twitter.

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