Movie Review: "Avengers: Endgame" (2019)
DENOUEMENT (dāno͞oˈmäN): noun; the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.
Objectivity is going to be a very difficult thing to keep here, but I am going to try. After all, you don’t pay off an entire cinematic universe of 21 previous films without some serious emotional investment. That’s sort of the point of the whole MCU; they want you to be all in. They certainly succeeded with this DC kid (as covered in my trip through the MCU). That hook got stuck in my mouth and they yanked the fuck out of it this time. Part of that is the genius and humanity of the late, great Stan Lee. Part of it is stellar casting and a belief in the magic of cinema. The biggest part is, ultimately, the belief in heroes and the need for them.
MY ONE AND ONLY MILD SPOILER (WARNING!!): I am assuming that, by now, you are aware of the events of Avengers: Infinity War (i.e. the “finger snap”). You’ve been warned. The rest of this is spoiler-free.
It’s been a little over three weeks since Thanos achieved his goal of wiping out half the population of the universe. The Avengers are broken. Humanity is reeling. Thanos has retreated to a peaceful cabin on another world to rest and revel in his “merciful” deeds. What remains of the Avengers on Earth decide to try and finish off Thanos and, well, avenge those they’ve lost. From there, the waters get more than a little muddy. The cost of what has happened is more than anyone expected (including Thanos himself), and the ramifications will be felt for years to come. When a plan to course correct presents itself, will the remaining Avengers be able to recover enough to conquer the Mad Titan and become who they are supposed to be? Can half the universe really be saved?
That synopsis is about as blandly vague as a sugar-free vanilla smoothie, but I really don’t want to spoil a single moment of this masterpiece for you. The first thing that strikes you is how prepared they were to make this movie and finish this tale. That’s why I started off with the definition of denouement- no stone was left unturned, no character left out, no emotion neglected. It’s just brilliant.
In my review of Avengers: Infinity War, I called it the Empire Strikes Back of the MCU. I stand by that statement, and Avengers: Endgame backs that up in being the Return of the Jedi for Marvel Studios. The only thing missing are a bunch of muppets (couldn’t resist ripping off Kevin Smith for a moment there). Seriously, though- the pacing and tonal ups and downs are eerily similar to the original pinnacle of the Skywalker saga. At times, it’s a little too cute and nostalgic for its own good, but it’s just so damn hard to find fault with it. In that way, Endgame is a celebration of the empire that’s been built by the reigning kings of comic book entertainment.
The stakes are high and the emotion is off the charts. You’d have thought it would be hideous in the immediate aftermath for our heroes, but it’s so much worse years down the road. Seeing Thor in that condition was both utterly comic and a little nasty. Black Widow is clinging to duty (the only thing she has left). Hawkeye goes as dark as you can. Captain America is still the embodiment of American optimism, and that is somehow the most heartbreaking of all. Ant Man steals the show this time around…and you know I did NOT expect that (that negative Paul Rudd bias again)! The Hulk gets the biggest change and carries the humor portion like the giant he is. Mark Ruffalo is unabashedly the shit! Rocket is sadness personified; who knew a raccoon with a gun fetish could make you feel that strongly?
And Tony Stark? He’s the most relatable of all. It took a true catastrophe of universal proportions to complete his change. Now he’s got everything to live for, a reason to play it safe. We can all relate; it’s called aging and getting older. He’s a hero of a different kind now. Still, when the time comes ‘round for Spidey to be avenged he gets that twinkle in his eye. Your fist is in the air! Your heart races!
Let’s kill Thanos!
The third and final act of this film goes down in the annals of film history as the perfect conclusion. The battle, the grandeur of redemption, the cinematic scope of it. I’m sure even Peter Jackson was thinking the battle at the gates of Mordor just got curb-stomped like it tried to rob Edward Norton in American History X. I literally watched it with consistently wet cheeks, nor was I the only one. That theater was in the grips of a powerful group emotion, a truly beautiful thing to experience as a group.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses in this kind of story. The two big sacrifices made are done with so much weight behind them. It’ll burn into your soul a little bit, and both of those actors deserve some serious hardware for pulling your heart out and stepping on it. Bring a napkin or forty.
So many great scenes and moments in this badboy:
Tony’s message to his family
The new Hulk
Thor’s Old hammer and new hammer and who wields them
Josh Brolin doing literally anything as Thanos
Another trip to Vormir
Captain America’s story conclusion…beautiful
Every old character has a moment or two
More Loki! You can’t have too much Hiddleston….
The opening scene…fucking ouch!
The entire final battle scene, and a villain army that wasn’t generic
Callbacks…so many callbacks…how’d they all work?
The message of being the best person you can be isn’t lost. The need for heroes may be a generic one in the superhero genre, but I’ll be damned if they don’t go to extremes to outline it here. Nothing wrong with that. I’d like to add that it’s beautiful that the savior of the group in the beginning and the end is a woman (Captain Marvel), and that the ladies of Marvel are so critical to the success of the whole affair, as is Black Panther and the entire nation of Wakanda. The inclusivity is both necessary and long overdue, but the moral of the story is one that Jack Shephard gave us in LOST: if we don’t live (and fight) together, we’ll die alone.
Avengers: Endgame delivers the perfect counterpunch to the events of the previous film. I’ve seen the term “fan service film” (a term with decided negative connotation) batted around a time or two already. If that’s what qualifies, then give me more fan service. This denouement is everything it should be and everything you wanted, in your heart, for it to be: epic on a universal scale, more dramatic than any “serious drama” out there, funny enough to make you squirt a little of that barely held piss (3 hours!!), retardedly gorgeous, wonderfully scored, acted with both nuance and blatant nostalgia, and passionately made.
Fan service, huh? I’ll take some more of that. I’m clearly not winning on the objectivity front.