Movie reviews by
3 (out of 4)
Avengers: Endgame is a virtually perfect resolution to a miraculous franchise and an adequate superhero movie all its own. We can forever argue in apocalyptic or utopic rhetoric about serialized filmmaking forever changing the very fabric of Hollywood's ability to satiate the masses. But as the crest of the superhero sensation appears to have finally broken on the shore, Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will likely confirm the collective decline of the phenomenon. Endgame has reached audiences in numbers akin to just a few films in cinematic history – if this final Avengers (for now) felt more complete, emotionally conscientious or judiciously trimmed, it could have been a pop culture criterion worthy of the blinding spotlight.
Endgame traces the best and worst of Marvel's proven formula, from the studio's selective capacity to stir audiences to its most feeble attempts to pander to them. As a 3-hour triptych including a weepie, Back to the Future Part IV and finally the superhero showdown to rule them all, Avengers: Endgame is almost too much to process at once. For the most part the movie is a sustained wonder of synchronicity save for a soft joke or a jarring edit here and there. But like countless epics before it there are trade-offs to the long-form dramatic staging. Engrossing, multi-strained spectacle can be foolishly interrupted by condescending simplifications or structural top-heaviness.
But at least the Avengers finally have something to avenge. While clearly inferior to Avengers: Infinity War (pretty much tippity top on the MCU scale), the subsequent half of this titanic superhero sendoff is unwieldy and unexpected. Endgame strolls along a fine line between all-ages entertainment and nerd-specific sensory overload, just not quite as gracefully as its predecessor. As much as Endgame isn’t your typical latter half of a huge series finale (like Deathly Hallows, Mockingjay or Breaking Dawn), it still takes anywhere from a few flicks to up to 21 movies of preparation to enjoy. All the rewards meant for devoted Marvel fans are actualized primarily in the last hour of pornographic superhero battles which, ironically, can also be fundamentally enjoyed by just about anyone.
The mounting drama running through true film sequels can prompt instances so poignant they are capable of transcending the medium altogether – look no further than The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for said pathos. Despite its enormous pleasures, Endgame feels in many ways like another link in the chain of endless buildup leading to all too little crowning compensation. Minor gripes aside – the misuse of Captain Marvel, lack of closure beyond the biggest characters, the overflowing narrative – Endgame is the sort of mass cultural orgasm that doesn’t need to earn over a billion dollars opening weekend to prove itself a mammoth event picture. Tapered, monopolizing execution lent this film unfathomable, impossible anticipation and expectations, a detriment only to people like me who scoff at comic book readers and yet take these movies way too seriously.
The Russo brothers have been upping their game since the Captain America sequels, and Marvel Studios' president Kevin Feige and head MCU screenwriter Stephen McFeely have handled the paramount points of the interrelated universe rather scrupulously thus far. Whether through absurdity, affect or sheer dumb luck, Endgame's outcome is involving and emotional in spite of its myriad moving pieces. The payoff for major character arcs – at least for the highlighted heroes, this time including Hawkeye and Ant-Man (absent from the last get-together) alongside big finishes for Captain America and Iron Man – are fairly reasonable in their ultimate satisfaction. Thor's blubbery, manic-depressive turn is fitting even if it's milked for many laughs – only Hulk and some of the previously dusted superfriends feel forgotten or underrepresented.
Seen with some measure of clarity – this is just a movie after all, no matter how many loose ends were dangling following Thanos' climactic snap – Endgame has as much fun as is logically allowed and makes a number of judiciously weighed gambles rearing the 22-film, 4D chess game. While no disappointment it's almost as if this one colossal undertaking needed another two-parter to elaborate properly. As an overworked three-hour superhero quasi-denouement the film may be Hollywood excess at its zenith and yet the highlight instances of catharsis are classically effective. Endgame became the highest grossing film of all time worldwide just as Phase 4's seeds were sown. If Disney's streaming service played no role in their best and surest property's future (I will NOT be watching television to prepare for Doctor Strange 2), the horizon would seem like the right kind of corporate comedown was in store. Instead Disney will do it all over again, just the same but bigger – they can't help but keep feeding a perpetually monopolized storytelling catastrophe in motion. Chances are Endgame will be looked upon fondly after superhero flicks – whether in general interest or relative quality – recognizably start to fade. For now, we can criticize and enjoy the peculiarity of the popular cinematic present for all its worth.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
The Current War,
"So what've you been up to?"
"Escaping mostly... and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice