Sunday, April 28, 2019

Review: A SPOILER-FREE look at "Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame Review

October 2014. A month and year that has taken up major bandwidth inside the confines of my brain. That was the month and year Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige announced the Phase Three slate of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. We saw that we'd getting sequels to Captain America, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. We heard we'd be getting introductions to new characters like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and The Inhumans. No doubt the big announcement was we'd be getting a one-two punch of "Avengers: Infinity War." Part One was to come out in 2018 and Part Two was to be released in 2019. It made perfect sense at the time. We got a glimpse of Thanos during the mid-credits of "The Avengers" in 2012. Then the Infinity Stones got mentioned in "Thor: The Dark World" in 2013. Comic fans no doubt put two and two together, figuring out what we'd eventually be in for.

I would dream about the next five years and how this story would play out. The films of Phase Three creating an outline of detail leading up to Thanos challenging Earth's Mightest Heroes. Sure, the Phase changed a bit. We got an unexpected sequel to "Ant-Man." Once Sony began sharing rights to Spider-Man, he got a movie. Then the Inhumans movie turned into a TV show I'd rather not remember. It also seemed the quality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe only got better. All of this leading up to a point where Thanos collected all the Infinity Stones, snapped his fingers, and just like that half of life in the universe got turned to dust. That was 2018, and the in the year that followed, long time fans could only theorize how this story would end. Eventually the Part II got dropped and "Avengers: Endgame" became the title, a reference to a line Doctor Strange says in "Infinity War." There was a great marketing campaign for "Avengers: Endgame" where only very little of the three hour runtime got used in the commercials. Theories, rumors and "leaks" were abundant on the internet. Everybody curious as hell to see how this would end.

I saw "Avengers: Endgame" today. Now that I've seen the movie, I am having trouble putting words together to describe my experience. It was the movie I thought I'd see, but also not at all the movie I thought I would get in equal measure. It was a movie I didn't realize I needed, but a movie I am glad that I got. That probably doesn't make any sense, but like I said, words fail me at the moment. What I can say is that I didn't anything this good could have come from this idea. I figured the end result of this whole Infinity Saga wouldn't work both commercially and creatively. But somehow it has. The Russo Brothers, directors of both Infinity War and Endgame, stuck the landing. They were able to find story, character, theme and development in a gigantic superhero story, a story which in someone else's hands would have been a bunch of noise and chaos. They deserve big kudos for making this out with something respectable made. "Endgame" is a movie that is a tad rough around the edges, but the pros overwhelming outweigh the cons. "Endgame" is a movie that breaks it back to please the audience, but it never sacrifices story and character in the process. The audience is the winner, no doubt, and as I read people are going to the theater for seconds, this should be a nice box office take for Marvel and Disney.

Specifics on plot have been scarce at best. But essentially, merely weeks after Thanos snaps his fingers. The remaining heroes are trying to find a way to find Thanos (Josh Brolin) and get some revenge. I remember writing my original review of "Infinity War," and I had mentioned that it felt like a superhero episode of "Game of Thrones." Much of the first half of "Endgame" feels like a superhero episode of "The Leftovers," there is plenty of focus on the fallout that Thanos created. I liked that the movie paid a little attention to the world was affected by the snap.

But if you think "Endgame" is just some kind of psychological drama and character study, fear not. There is plenty of spectacle in "Endgame." I am not going to get into spoiler territory here, but the movie shifts quite a bit in its second half. I plan to write a more spoiler-heavy article tomorrow. But if you haven't seen the movie yet by chance, just know that the movie delivers on every possible comic book level. There are moments I've been dreaming of seeing forever, and I finally saw them today, and that's awesome. I will say that the movie is a little rough around the edges as it concludes. There is a plot device used in the second half of the movie that is tricky. No matter how you use it, its tricky to pull off in storytelling. Whether in movies, books, TV shows, what have you. But I believe the movie did what it could with the device.

It seems redundant to mention the talent in the movie and go over each character and how well the actors portray these characters. I've spent eleven years with these characters and these actors. They have forever imprinted on these characters. There won't be a single conversation regarding these characters in the future without bringing up these actors. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillen all continue to throw themselves at these roles. Josh Brolin continued to be satisfying villain, one of the best of the series by far. These actors deserve all the credit for believing in this world and making the most of their time onscreen.

After eleven years and twenty-two movies, I am happy that Marvel Studios and the casts and crews bringing this epic journey together have stuck the landing. Special congratulations goes to everyone that could make this happen, and for this franchise to still have so much steam left to give is a miracle. The only other franchise I can think of with 20+ movies is the James Bond series and as much as I love that series, not all of the Bond movies work. Whether these MCU movies are good or great, they all work. Most franchises fizzle out at movie three or four. So again, I am impressed how much has been accomplished here. Like I said, it may not all add up at the end, but I don't want to sound nitpicky and I can only hope superhero filmmaking will be as ambitious as this in the future.

It's been a wonderful 11 years, now let's make it 11 more.


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