*MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD*
It’s hard to overstate how much these films have meant to a significant portion of the population. Many of us literally grew up with these larger-than-life icons as a new pantheon of gods, not to be worshipped, but existing as a heightened form of aspirational achievement. Many of us grew up thumbing through pages of colorful comics, watching as these heroes fought fantastical battles against gods and humans alike. As a child of the 80s, only a handful of the most iconic heroes received even the most cursory glance from the mainstream, as only Superman and Batman possessed enough cache to achieve mainstream cinematic appeal. For many of us, an Avengers film was only a pipe dream, as only Spiderman on the Marvel side had enough muscle to break into the mainstream in the 90s. That all changed in 2008. I remember standing in CompUSA, a now defunct computer store, and watching the trailer for the original Iron Man movie. Even in that moment, an actual Avengers movie seemed like a near impossibility given all the moving parts involved. In addition, my favorite character in the comics, Captain America, had virtually no mainstream credibility, and had only been seen in the most ridiculous of B-Movies, with most people not having any idea who Steve Rogers was.
And now, here we sit, more than a decade later, and what we once thought impossible has happened. Marvel has not only strung together an unprecedented level of quality across 22 films, but ended the entire saga in the most fulfilling way possible. Endgame is the culmination of over 70 years of Marvel storytelling in the comics, and more than a decade in film. That such an ending could ever hope to live up to the hype seemed absurd, and yet here we are, by all accounts having likely witnessed the greatest arc of movies in history, brought to a satisfying conclusion. For this review, I need not harp on the greatness of Robert Downey, Chris Evans, or Josh Brolin and the incredible depth they brought to their characters across this entire saga. Marvel’s casting has been impeccable and remains so here.
LAST WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
It’s incredible that this movies use a mechanism I hate with a burning passion and still succeeds: Time Travel. I absolutely despise when storytellers undo having written themselves into a corner by whipping out the old time travel trope and fixing everything. I started to hate it in this film as well once I realized that was the direction things headed after the early, shocking demise of current timeline Thanos. I still don’t buy their repeated explanations for quantum realms, divergent timelines and the like. Yet, this is the only storytelling mechanism I can think of that would allow for a suitably epic finale. Thanos retired and destroyed the stones, completely within his character. Any attempt to bring him back into the war after this action would have seemed fake and out of character. No, in order to bring forth armies and a final battle worthy of this film, only one thing could do it without poisoning the characters: time travel. So, for the purposes of the movie, one must set aside the obvious paradoxical scenarios that these situations bring about, and just have fun.
One staggering scene after another, we see the characters lurching back and forth through time in alternate angles of scenes from the older movies. I couldn’t categorize the sheer amount of call backs and fan service moments if I had to, so suffice it say that each of these scenes is a joy to watch as they live through events from previous movies at different angles in an attempt to undo Thanos’ snap and bring back the half of the population he disintegrated. This all leads to numerous time bending shenanigans, which results in likely the most over the top insane battle ever put to screen. As expected, the CG effects and cinematography are top-notch, which leads me into the small criticisms of the film.
They use the CG so heavily that it appears slightly synthetic, but given the scale of events that’s a serious nitpick. I already voiced my general displeasure with time travel, so I won’t belabor the point despite being able to pick out many timeline and sequencing problems. Another issue I had was with the appearances of Captain Marvel. She shows up as the ultimate badass in the first ten minutes, then disappears all the way until the finale where she shows up at the exact moment necessary to wreck Thanos’ plans. Another criticism that one might level at the film is that it’s too “fan-servicey” and by that I mean the film would be almost unwatchable to anyone not already invested in these characters and events. My last criticism would be on the portrayal of Thor. I can’t say I was a huge fan of turning him into trembling fat guy, but I guess the logic is that he’s experienced so much loss it finally broke him failing to stop Thanos.
Despite a couple of characterizations I wasn’t a fan of, I couldn’t have been happier with the portrayal of both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. The two were responsible for the biggest moments in the film, with the latter’s stellar moment producing an eruption of cheers in the theater. As a fan of Cap, I couldn’t have asked for a better send off than what he got, kicking ass, living happily ever after, and passing the shield on to the next generation. Tony’s arc was equally satisfying, starting out the MCU as the arrogant playboy prima donna, all the way up through alcoholism, and finally giving his life to save the world. They sent both of the iconic Avengers off in spectacular fashion, and it will be interesting to see how they are replaced going forward. Downey and Evans set the bar incredibly high, and I wouldn’t mind a few more time travel shenanigans to get the two back in the game at some point.
While I’m here, I’ll address the big moment of Captain America lifting Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. There seems to be some confusion how that was possible so I’ll outline it briefly. The enchantment specifically says: “Whoever wields this hammer, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” So, the question of whether the hammer can be lifted becomes one of worthiness. We saw in Age of Ultron that Steve could shift, but not lift, the hammer. This leads to two conclusions:
1. He wasn’t worthy at the time given he still held onto the secret of the death of Tony’s father at the hands of Bucky. Once absolved of that secret, his worthiness was clear.
2. He was worthy, he just elected to not show off and bruise Thor’s ego in front many people at the party.
Either way, this was a moment I was sure would happen, given he’s wielded the hammer multiple times in the comics, but it still came off as an incredible moment. All in all, if one is a fan of the Marvel universe, and given how much money it’s making that’s looking like an ever increasing colossal number, then this is the greatest finale possible for this arc. As a matter of fact, I have difficulty even imagining them topping Endgame, but then again, I can imagine quite a bit, especially with 70+ years of comic stories in the tank.
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