What’s The Movie? Avengers: Endgame
What’s It All About, JG? Saying an emotional, tear-jerking farewell to characters we’ve lived, loved and explored with over more than twenty movies and giving them a rousing send-off as one of the most ambitious projects in all of cinema closes out. Or, corporate synergy, crossover promotions, blatant emotional manipulation and a pathological desire to keep the superhero gravy train going. Take your pick, really. Either way the story is simple – Thanos wiped out half of all life in the universe by snapping his fingers, so now whatever remains of the Avengers has to find a way to stop him, using a really weird model of time travel, sacrifices, and loopy plot logistics. Steed and Mrs Peel not featured.
Why Did You Give It A Go? Well, I’ve seen all the other movies in the series so… yeah. Of course, that’s what Marvel / Disney count on. Seen that many, you’re gonna see them all. And like it or not, this is a cultural event like few others.
Is It Any Good? It’s oftentimes extremely good, sometimes brilliant even, but not by any means universally. Part of the problem with reviewing a movie like Endgame so close to its release (and this was true for Infinity War as well, of course) is that I’ve only seen it once and it’s so packed with details, easter eggs, and a vast amount of references both small and large, that it’s impossible to catch everything on a single sitting. The basics of the plot are fine – time travel was one of only two ways out of the end of Infinity War, and though it’s an unusual version of time travel it’s effectively deployed. And this is a film that understands how its audience reacts to these characters, so it goes out it’s way to lean on that – Tony’s death follows on from everything we’ve learned about him since the first Iron Man movie, giving himself the chance to sacrifice his life for the greater good (essentially as he did in the first Avengers movie, though he survived that time). And resting the final emotional climax of the film on Captain America and the indisputably fantastic Peggy Carter (rather than the variable acting skills of Gwyneth Paltrow on the battlefield) was a smart and brilliant call, and a perfect moment of much-earned catharsis. Chris Evans is, even by his own standards, outstanding as Cap this time out, and having him be the core of the conclusion feels completely earned. On the other hand though the treatment of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is pretty unforgivable – her sacrifice is as great as Tony’s but she never gets a big, swelling-strings funeral scene, her death itself is a carbon-copy of the same Soul Stone scene from Infinity War (and for Hawkeye!) and there’s just something so casually uninterested about it that it feels wrong. Marvel have come in for some criticism when it comes to female characters, and this exactly demonstrates why much of that criticism is deserved. She’s been part of the MCU for longer than Cap or Thor yet this is how she goes out? Not good. Oh yes, Hawkeye’s back. Except now he’s not Hawkeye, he’s Ronin. With a very silly haircut. Either way, he’s still pretty tough to care about – not bad, just there (See also: Witch, Scarlet).
How Many Of These Movies Did You Watch? All of them.
Would You Recommend It? Yes I would. There are failings here, but there’s no doubting the sheer power of so many moments. The final battle is still going for a more-is-more approach common to these movies – basically it’s the same fight to stop Thanos as the end of Infinity War, just on a substantially grander scale – but it would take a hard heart not to feel something when all the dusted characters come back. Black Panther and, especially, Spider-man, feel very moving, with Tom Holland still note-perfect as the latter and demonstrating more rapport with Robert Downey Jr than Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper has ever managed. Chris Hemsworth gets to continue the development of his comic side with Fat Thor, a nice counterbalance to much of the maudlin, downer start to the film – and the film is to be greatly praised for having the courage to have a slow, thoughtful start rather than plunging back into action at the first available opportunity. That gives time to appreciate the impact of what Thanos has done, while allowing enough space to explore how the characters react to it. Captain America essentially acting as a trauma counsellor is an especially adroit choice early in the film, and Evans’s natural decency radiates out of those scene in a way that’s crucial to making them work. And who would have believed Ant Man would be so crucial to everything? Once the action picks up, there’s much fun to be had with the time travel aspects – Captain America fighting himself (“America’s Ass!”), revisiting all the bits of previous films for larks, and generally just having fun revelling in the accumulated continuity of a vast series of movies, and with enough confidence in the audience to assume they can keep up. As mentioned it’s not flawless – Black Widow deserves better, some of the visiting-the-past material lingers a little too long on repetition, and occasional shortcuts do lead to fairly hefty exposition dumps. Delightful as it is to see the beyond-fabulous Tilda Swinton back, she’s only in one scene to tell Our Heroes how to fix things already, and it’s nothing than Tony or Banner couldn’t have figured out really (not that I want to see Swinton gone – she’s awesome). And the inclusion of Captain Marvel feels a bit… well, I don’t want to go down the deus ex machina line, but it is a bit contrived. She shows up at plot-relevant bits of the movie, then buggers off when her astonishing powers might risk ending the movie a bit too quickly by unbalancing things. It’s not a terminal mistake or anything, but it’s a bit inelegant. Saying all that, Endgame gets far more right than it gets wrong, and that very final scene is exactly the note-perfect ending the series needed to conclude on. It’s earned, it feels emotionally honest, and it has Peggy. It couldn’t be any more perfect.
Score On The Doors? Practically, 8/10. But they killed my beloved Black Widow, so actually 0/10. Unforgiven.