REVIEW: “Avengers: Endgame”

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It’s hard to image a 2019 movie with more buzz, more hype, more expectations than the 22nd film from Marvel Studios. While I still lean towards “Star Wars: Episode IX” as my most anticipated franchise event of the year, right behind it is “Avengers: Endgame”. It seems I say this with every “Avengers” picture, but this is another wildly ambitious undertaking and the culmination of eleven years worth of storytelling across the Marvel Cinematic Universe under the guidance of producer Kevin Feige.

Last year’s “Infinity War” left things hanging in a pretty precarious place. Despite the efforts of the Avengers, Thanos (Josh Brolin) successfully acquired the six Infinity Stones and in a snap altered reality causing half of the universe’s population to disintegrate including many of the MCU heroes. Thanos teleports away and sits down to soak in his handiwork. Meanwhile the Avengers are left in utter disarray and shock. It was a bold and stunning ending even though we knew the effects were only temporary.

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“Infinity War” did a great job raising the stakes and “Endgame” begins by sorting through the aftermath. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) remain the leaders of what’s left of the Avengers but failed attempts to reverse the effects of “Infinity War” has left them with no hope. Jump ahead five years into the post-Thanos future and each are trying to find their own way.

Returning co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo and returning co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely give a lot of screen time to the effects of grief and loss. Even when the heroes inevitably get back together to work out a new plan, there are still moments that remind us of the heavy toll. But throughout the film’s first half rarely are we given time to sit with the drama and emotion. It’s often undercut by the double-edged sword of humor.

It may surprise some, but “Endgame” leans heavy on humor. The MCU has always had a lighthearted element to their movies but few have embraced it as much as this one. At times it’s welcomed and keeps things from getting too dark and dour. And in many instances it’s genuinely funny. But at the same time the steady wave of one-liners can be a bit weird considering the dire circumstances. And when it fundamentally changes a key character it moves from weird to frustrating.

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I’m talking about Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who goes from angry and burdened with guilt to a clownish buffoon within the first 15 minutes or so. I won’t spoil his storyline but he’s essentially comic relief for the duration and a dramatically different character from who we saw in “Infinity War”. Clearly they’re taking the “Ragnarok” formula and running wild with it (You know it’s true when Thor pairs with Rocket Raccoon and Rocket plays the straight man). He’s given plenty of gags but never that big action moment fitting of his character. By the end it’s almost impossible to take him seriously.

You see more of the “Ragnarok” effect with Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). No spoilers but once again we get a dramatically different version of the character. Gone is the brute force replaced with what is essentially a carbon copy of Beast from the X-Men. Even Thanos loses some of the nuance that made him such an effective villain in “Infinity War”. And a handful of other characters simply fall through the cracks despite the film having a three-hour running time.

The second half takes on a more serious tone and that’s where we get the bulk of the action. It’s also where we finally get some of those huge crowd-pleasing moments and the packed audience at my screening were ready to let loose. It’s a truly spectacular final hour filled with some big character moments that brought enthusiastic cheers and more than a few fist pumps across the theater.

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It’s also an emotional rollercoaster sure to touch everyone who has invested themselves into this decade-long motion picture journey. “Endgame” has been touted as the final chapter in this particular MCU saga so sticking the landing was imperative. “Endgame” most definitely sticks its landing. It’s a poignant and satisfying ending so incredibly well done and fitting of a movie event of this magnitude.

From the very beginning “Avengers: Endgame” feels like something special, something unique, something unlike anything we’ve seen before. And even in its missteps it never loses that sense of spectacle and grandeur. It works best if you gaze at it through a wide lens because if you start looking too close you’re sure to find a few holes. Instead embrace it for what it is – the closing chapter to a truly remarkable cinematic accomplishment. Sure, there will be more MCU movies. But “Endgame” marks the end of an era that deserves to be celebrated.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4-stars

39 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Avengers: Endgame”

  1. Good advice about embracing it for it’s virtues rather than rejecting it for it’s faults. There is much to enjoy here and after 11 years in the making, I think we can handle a few downers and missteps so we can get the payoff.

    • I think you’re right. And normally I could give it an even higher score. But to be honest, the decisions they made with Thor and Hulk really frustrated me. For me it was handled so poorly. Couldn’t quite shake it. Still, this is such an epic conclusion. Seeing it again Thursday.

      • I loved it. After 11 years and 21 movies, there was a sense of closure for this incarnation of the MCU. While I definitely think that Infinity War was a better film in terms of pacing and overall story, I think that Endgame has an edge in terms of emotional impact. I won’t lie and I won’t spoil the film, but I actually got really emotional towards the end of the film, not just in how the character arcs play out, but also in how this series of movies came to an end. There were definitely more than a few sniffles in the theaters. It’s an end of an era, yet I will refuse to count Spider-Man: Far From Home as the end of Phase 3. To me, Endgame was the final film of the phase, and what a final film it was.

      • That last hour was like a 5-star roller-coaster of excitement and emotion. The ending couldn’t have been any better. My theater was a blast. But those two characters…the handling of them drove me nuts. Thor feels so wildly out of sync, even with Infinity War.

    • Ooooh that’s gonna be tough, especially considering how wide open the internet can be with these things. I love Thor too which is one reason his arc kinda irked me. Anxious to hear what you think.

  2. Great review! I’m trying not to be a spoiler here, but I actually loved what they did with Hulk. It was an interesting take on the blend of his two personas. However, with Thor’s character, I was secretly hoping he would go back to the “old him” before the movie finished. I’m looking forward to seeing what they will do with Thor in Guardians of the Galaxy 3.

    • Thanks so much. [SPOILERS] For me Hulk was disappointing for a couple of reasons. I love the conflict between mild-mannered Banner and the bruising beast. That’s what makes him Hulk to me. And it was really weird that Infinity War made a big deal out of his predicament but for Endgame it’s all solved off camera. We’re just told he figured it out. And he all but disappears in the final hour. Seems like he’s reserved to holding up debris. As for Thor, I was definitely wanting at least some return to form.

      • You’re right about Hulk. When I think about it, his character has never been fully developed to begin with, as he only has 1 standalone movie – so I wasn’t as surprised…We might see an explanation or development in future Marvel movies?

      • That would be cool. I think one of their big problems with Hulk movies has been getting the CGI and motion capture right. Lots of people have criticized their past efforts. How did you think he looked here? Despite my issues with the characterization, I thought the CGI and motion capture was pretty amazing.

      • I agree… But it can be done, especially nowadays, compared to his first film. I am impressed with the CGI in Thor Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Endgame. How he was rendered in Endgame was superior to all the other films, in my opinion!

  3. I guess I was a bit more forgiving about Thor and Hulk . Over all I truly felt this was extremely well done with Robert Downey Jr. ,Chris Evans , Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner really bringing their A game once again to give this conclusion the emotional weight needed . The story flowed well considering what they were trying to do and I loved some of the quieter moments which I wont mention due to spoilers if someone hasn’t seen it yet .
    As to the Thor and Hulk . I do agree with you . I didn’t mind the idea of a depressed Thor , filled with anxiety and doubt but the comedic element was off . Although no fault of Hemsworth at all , who does have comedic talent . He still is a solid Thor , but I feel cheated with where they have gone . The Hulk , I’m less forgiving to be honest . I loved the Hulk growing up and really loved numerous runs in the 70s especially from 1977 to 1983 . This Hulk is not the Hulk but a watered down , wimp. Not a fan of Ruffalo either because Banner should be more tormented and I just don’t think he has the chops to do that . So That was the weak part for me . The other moment I kinda went , cmon , was the girl power sequence , it was just too obvious and could have been done differently .
    However after saying that , and being on the record that although I have really enjoyed much of the MCU , I think many movies are grossly over rated , this movie was a true achievement in a broad scope that fulfilled most of what I hoped it would do .
    Emotionally satisfying , touching , heroic , action packed and epic in scope it ticked enough boxes off for me to give it 9 Caps shields out of 10 . Much of that score is because as I mentioned earlier the solid acting by the main leads .
    Going forward to be honest , I cant say I’m that excited for the new slate other than Guardians back on board and Dr.Strange and hopefully a proper Fantastic Four plus a Silver Surfer movie. It will be interesting to see how they perform , I suspect a little steam will be lost .

    • Fantastic comments and I really appreciate them. I think what frustrates me the most is that Endgame does so many things right. That last hour was 5 star quality excitement and emotion. And I completely agree about the quieter moments that really resonated with me.

      You also bring up a question that I asked my wife. Will the next wave of heroes carry the same attraction and excitement? I personally don’t know. I’ll still see them but I’ll admit they have some work to do.

      Thor and Hulk. [SPOILERS] I’m with you, a depressed and guilty Thor is fine. Even the body gag was funny up to a point. But they rode it for the duration. You are so right about Hemsworth. He’s absolutely perfect for the character. Not his fault. I thought Infinity War gave us the near perfect balance of Thor humor and power. In Endgame I saw nothing that resembled that character. We was essentially a constant joke. And Hulk…sigh. It’s interesting that Infinity War made such a big deal of the internal battle between Banner and Hulk. In Endgame we learn that they just solved it of screen. And he was all but gone in the big battle. Oh, the girl power sequence. It was cool but definitely on the nose. I couldn’t help but kind of laugh at it. Even my little girl asked “Was every guy just taking a break?” 😂

  4. I really liked it and probably place it as the best Avengers film. I think I’m reversed on what most people seem to think about the film though. The first two thirds I loved but felt the final hour (aside form the ending) was mostly fan pandering. It was a 40 minute scene of our favorite heroes playing keep away, which was fun but I wasn’t wowed by it. To note: I also liked how they handled Thor as they gave him one of the better Endgame character arcs and Hemsworth is so good at self-depricating humor that he sells it really well. I can totally see where a fan of his would maybe come down on the wrong side of their choice there. Medium sized Hulk was fine I guess and worked in the sense of the film but he felt a little half baked, like we need Bruce’s brain and Hulk’s brawn but we’re already stretched to a crazy run time so… meld them I guess.

    • Interesting take on Thor. I just couldn’t shake my key issues with him, as a fan but also as someone looking for a consistent character. First is how wildly different he is in Endgame than in Infinity War. I felt IW balanced his power and humor (as you mention, Hemsworth is great at that). In Endgame I saw him as a buffoon and a bit of a joke. I was okay for a bit because I kept thinking old Thor would be back. Sadly. I can totally see how the final battle may not work for some. I completely get where you’re coming from.

  5. I think I liked this film much more than you did as I felt it did a lot to really cover these themes of loss and disappointment. Especially from Thor’s side as he is someone not used to failure and he copes it with through a comical form of depression. I liked his arc because it showed someone who had all of these expectations to be something but has failed to do so to the point that he’s scared of failure.

    I also loved Banner’s arc as I feel like it allows him to find that sense of peace he had been looking for and accepts who he is. It’s a better film than I think a lot of skeptics give it credit for as I would put this film in a list of the 5-10 best superhero films ever in my opinion. I was blown away by it in many ways where I was a fanboy but also someone who loves cinema and what the MCU! did was find that balance to channel both aspects of escapist and serious cinema.

    Plus, I felt that final battle echoed a lot of the classic epics of the past as they got it right as well as create what I think is a rare perfect ending. Anything that is a superhero film that is to come is going to have a hard time doing what this film did.

    • Oh I quite loved a lot about the movie which is why a few of the choices frustrate me so much. The more I dwell on Thor the more I kinda hate his arc. I would argue that he has failed MANY times before and has lost more than anyone else prior to Endgame. To now suddenly become a dimwit and walking punchline completely clashed with his character in every other MCU film other than Ragnarok (even though this film makes him even dumber).

      I thought Banner’s arc was incredibly lazy and uninspired. He has this massive problem with the beast with in him all through IW. But suddenly it’s solved, not on screen but through a line or two of dialogue. And without that internal conflict and brute force, Banner/Hulk becomes an extremely bland character to me. I want smashing, rage, and the conflicted Banner to go with it.

      But enough of my griping, your last paragraph is so well said. It truly does have that epic feel, doesn’t it? And the emotional punch at the end couldn’t have been handled any better.

      I’m seeing it again Thursday and I can’t wait.

      • I feel like the Russos have done their homework as far as their love for cinema is concerned. I think in their mind, they’re not making superhero films. Winter Soldier I think to them was a political thriller inspired by films of the 70s and Civil War was also based on films of the 70s but also thrillers from the 1980s. When that big battle scene happened, I found myself thinking of Spartacus and Lawrence of Arabia as I was like “damn, they’ve done their homework”.

        Plus, I think the likes of Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, John Ford, Orson Welles, and Stanley Kubrick would find something about these films they can enjoy.

      • True. Winter Soldier is still the best MCU film to me in large part because of what you mention. The action scenes alone in that film are extraordinary. Such a sharp eye for cinema either in small scale or epic-sized sequences.

    • For sure. And even though I really struggled with a couple of things, I felt so rewarded for all of the investment I had put into the MCU. The payoff was incredibly satisfying.

  6. Great review Keith. I rarely go to cinema to watch a movie twice, but I think I need to with this. The movie is in no way perfect, but as a movie for the fans they did a good job.

    I still can’t un-see Thor. I might never be able to.

    • Thanks! I don’t see as many movies a second time as I used to, but I’m seeing this one again for sure. For one reason there’s so much I want to revisit and re-examine. But it also feels like a rare cinematic event and there may be nothing like it again in my lifetime.

  7. OK let’s try commenting again 🙂 I really disagree about Thor. I thought that was the only logical development for him, since he lost everything including hope. And Chris’s breakdown moments were so affecting + he was hilarious in all the other scenes he had, I laughed so hard WHILE also feeling compassion for him

    • I see what your saying and I feel I’m kinda alone on this one. I completely get the depression angle. It makes sense to me. But I felt the filmmakers never took it seriously. Instead I felt they ran with the ‘Fat Thor’ gag for way too long. He had the great 2 minute moment with his mother but otherwise I felt he was nothing but a punchline. It’s certainly not Hemsworth’s fault though. That dude is soooo good in the role and I think a lot of people overlook just how good of an actor he really is. Much better than someone like…I dunno…Zac Efron. 😉
      😛 😀

      • I thought it was more of Lebowski joke not fat joke. The fact he gained weight (and imho still he was hot as hell) was just a bonus, the gag was about him acting like the dude, with those clothes, messy hair and generally laid back (on the outside) atmosphere. It’s also what made his emotional moments stand out, here we were all laughing in his ‘first’ scene and there he goes, breaking down when he hears Thanos’ name. You leave Zac alone! 😀

  8. Good review! While I agree with some of the points in your article, I disagree with other points. One of them is Thor and Rocket’s involvement in the film. To me, Thor’s story was an interesting example of how one deals with loss. It felt like that particular narrative was a part of an overarching theme of the exploration of loss. Last year, I was confused as to why Rocket stuck around after Thanos’ snap. When he and Thor were paired together to find two of the Infinity Stones, Rocket’s explanation for why they were on this specific mission made that creative decision from Avengers: Infinity War make sense. I also wrote a spoiler-free review of Avengers: Endgame, with a spoiler review coming on my blog this weekend. Here’s the link if you want to check it out:

    https://18cinemalane.wordpress.com/2019/04/27/take-3-avengers-endgame-spoiler-free-review/

    • Thank you! I see bits of that in Thor’s story. But for me it was undermined by the running weight/slob gag and his overall silliness. I did watch it again today and the jokiness wasn’t as pronounced as I originally thought. But I still struggled with how dramatically different the character felt in this movie compared to the last. And Hulk… he was just left holding debris throughout the entire final battle. Still, such a fine movie.

      • I can definitely understand why you weren’t a fan of these creative decisions. As much as I enjoyed this film, I also found things in this movie that I didn’t like. For me, however, the positives outweighed the negatives.

  9. I believe this movie was one of the great ways to end an era. And what an era it was. World has been introduced to so many new superheroes about whom they might not have even heard and they stole their hearts. My best moments were Cap lifting the hammer. Such humility is so rare to find these days and no better way to instill in audience but by making one of the heroes do it. Second was the fatal snap of Iron man.Damn they should have kept that knee bending scene in the original release!!! That’s a way to go…

    • Great comments. Cap was always my favorite Marvel hero in the comics and he was my favorite MCU character. Marvel Studios did such a good job capturing the essence of that character. And Cap lifting the hammer was such a great moment.

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