SPOILERS AHEAD! Major plot points and twists discussed in this review.
Avengers: Endgame is pretty much the superhero movie of the decade, with a $1.2 billion worldwide opening weekend and is likely to have the most reviews written for any comic book movie ever (currently #1 on IMDB for popularity and already 322 critic reviews). Thus, I’m going to try to do something different. Instead of a longer article, this review will briefly focus on my major impressions.
Oh and in case you just want to know if you should see the movie or not: go see it, 100%.
- Directors: The Russo brothers (Anthony & Joe Russo), who adeptly directed Avengers: Infinity War and Captain America: Civil War, some of my favorite MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies. I’m impressed by their ability to handle large casts with compelling narratives.
- Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely – Both have written for several MCU movies and a few Chronicles of Narnia films.
- Actors: Pretty much everyone in the MCU. No need for intros.
Ratings & Reviews
Ratings data as of 4/28/19.
- IMDB Rating: 9.1/10 (175,377 ratings / 3,706 user reviews)
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96% (379 critic reviews)
- Metacritic Rating: 77/100 (55 critic reviews)
- The emotional high note: after Thor, Cap, and Iron Man are beaten down by Thanos, the entire enemy army rushes the outnumbered heroes, when one of Dr.Strange’s portals opens behind them and the vanished reappear. Before that, you see Captain America knocked down, shield broken, barely getting back up to see Thanos’ endless legions rushing the lone heroes. We feel the hopelessness of the situation as 3 exhausted heroes face a horde. Suddenly, we hear the telltale sound of a portal opening and out of the light steps Black Panther, Spiderman, and almost every other fighter who had been dead. The plot mirrors the prototypical hero’s journey–an dark abyss followed by rebirth that marks the climax of the story. Personally, it’s my favorite scene in a film full of emotional high points with all the deaths and team ups going on. Runner up wow factor scene: Captain America wielding Mjolnir, something that was hinted at in an earlier film.
- Thanos is killed off in the beginning, subverting the expectation for a big showdown where the heroes save the day and reinforcing the confused feeling of “what do we do now?”. This subversion reinforces the thematic strength of Thanos being inevitable; of what he’s done being unstoppable. In a typical Hollywood movie, the viewer would expect the death of the villain to mean a victory, but here his death feels like the antithesis of catharsis. The snap is one problem that can’t be solved by simply killing Thanos. The viewers feel the same feeling of hopelessness that the Avengers themselves feel. Killing Thanos is just sound and fury signifying nothing, changing nothing.
- Massive cast handled well with a surprising amount of characterization and development for a majority of the main cast members. With less capable direction, the large number of characters could have led to shallow character development, with none of our protagonists being given a chance to shine. That’s not the case with Endgame. Every role is treated with respect. Surprisingly, Nebula has an entire struggle and redemption story arc as she quite literally fights against her past self. Stark, Rogers, Thor, and even Hawkeye gets scenes that delve into the character’s motivations and intricacies. There’s closure as you feel like some of the heroes you’ve been with since the beginning–like the very beginning with Iron Man–conclude their stories in a satisfying manner.
- The time travel they introduce is actually multiversal travel. First, props to them for addressing how changing the past creates temporal paradoxes. With changed future events, you would have no cause to travel through time in the first place. When our heroes travel to the past, their changes are creating a separate parallel timeline–an alternate universe. That’s why they can’t just kill Thanos as a baby–it wouldn’t affect their own reality’s future. The Infinity Stones being gone also supposedly messes with alternate timeline regulation. If the Avengers can cross over to a different reality’s timeline, who’s to say someone else from the other reality won’t cross over into the main reality? Thanos certainly did. They also never did resolve the plot thread of Loki grabbing the Tesseract in the other timeline. Multiverse shenanigans may be part of future movies.
Nitpicks & Other Notes
- Captain America’s stay in the past plays a little loose with the time travel rules established in the movie. If making changes in the past creates an alternate timeline, how is Captain America able to stay in the past and stay in the main timeline until he’s an old man? Maybe returning the Infinity Stones merges the timelines back together? It’s not really explained so it’s up to speculation.
- Captain Marvel’s seems a little too OP, in the same vein as the problem with Superman in the DC universe. The problem with super strong characters–the most famous being Superman–is that they hardly struggle in their fights. Think about how boring a one sided sports game is to watch. One of the reasons why Marvel was able to compete as a comics upstart against DC was the greater focus on human, flawed characters you could empathize with. Captain Marvel lacks the same amount of personality and chemistry the other Avengers have. Within Endgame, Captain Marvel is flirts with OP Superman territory when she singlehandledly downs Thanos’ mothership and nearly wins against him in a 1-on-1 battle while he has the Infinity Gauntlet.
- No Nick Fury in the final battle. I’m just a little disappointed he didn’t show up to fight Thanos since there are no Avengers without Nick Fury. A couple zingy one-liners and maybe a SHIELD helicarrier would have been a cool thing to see during the final battle.
- Thor is useless for a significant portion of the movie and has some mommy issues. Thor is pretty much dead weight for a good deal of time, then he nearly endangers the Infinity Stone heist mission because he wants to talk to his mom about not feeling like he’s living up to expectations. The talk does develop his character a little, but it also feels like previously tread territory and a not very important personal issue.
- One particular “girl power” panning shot in the final battle is a little heavy handed. They have all the female heroes stand and pose together as they back up Captain Marvel’s charge. The scene felt a little too shoehorned into the action–a little too heavy on the cheese. They could have handled that scene in a way that flowed better instead of jarringly interrupting the action to hit the viewer over the head with a “yes, there are female superheroes” message.
This review is part of the Quick Reviews series. Quick Reviews are concise with standard formatting (and spoilers) that you can read in a about minute to get the gist of our thoughts.