At The Movies - Avengers End Game Delivers And Then Some
By Jordan Bosch
The Walt Disney Company is pretty frightening in this day and age. They’ve been acquiring companies, intellectual properties, and film studios with such abandon that they’re coming dangerously close to monopolizing the Hollywood industry.
The recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox, the upcoming Disney+ streaming service, and what seems now to be an inevitable takeover of Hulu are only the latest in a series of shrewd business decisions by the company exploiting the excesses of capitalism.
And of course they’re able to do this because they’re making so much money by virtue of the fact the content, specifically movies, they produce generally happens to be really good.
Which brings me to Avengers: Endgame, almost certainly what will be the highest grossing movie of 2019.
Pumping money into this juggernaut can’t help but feel like abetting Disney’s unstoppable trajectory, and it makes one question the ethics of seeing and promoting these titanic events.
It’s easy to be cynical and refuse to see movies under the Disney brand and I understand the sentiment not to contribute to its success. But that success is inevitable, there’s nothing average moviegoers can do against Disney’s might and greed, and despite its gargantuan scale and “blockbuster appeal” (not to mention a dumb title) Avengers: Endgame actually is a great movie and deserves to be separated from its own hype and the amoral actions of its parent company.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has accomplished something unprecedented in cinema by linking so many films, so many characters, so many disparate worlds and styles into a shared continuity that demands a level of investment and attentiveness.
Each movie is a success because it’s taken as a given that somehow it’ll have reverberations through the grander universe.
In this way the MCU has effectively replicated comic book storytelling. And Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of it, of eleven years of build-up, world building, and character development.
And where it’s immediate precursor Infinity War disappointed in terms of focus, character, and some unfortunate theming, despite being good in other regards, Endgame is the much stronger epic worthy of its immense anticipation.
In fact it belongs alongside Black Panther and The Guardians of the Galaxy movies as one of the very best this cinematic universe has produced.
I can’t discuss in any great detail why, because large parts of the plot have not been revealed in any marketing -indeed one of the best things about the experience of going into this movie is how vague it is.
The most I can give away about the story is that it takes place in the aftermath of Infinity War as the displaced and despondent surviving Avengers work to find a way to not only defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin), but to reverse the decimation he wrought on the universe.
There are risks taken in this movie that I was very impressed by.
From its’ earliest minutes it throws you in unexpected directions, changing the kind of story you think it’s going to tell.
The film is quite adept particularly at dealing with the fallout of Thanos’ finger snap, both the physical devastation and the emotional. Though it never goes too far, it depicts the grimness of this post snap world very well.
And where Infinity War felt packed at times, Endgame benefits from its comparatively small cast, with several key avengers including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and even Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Nebula getting fitting story arcs.
This could easily serve as a fourth Iron Man or Captain America movie as much as a fourth Avengers movie.
And yet the movie still maintains the tone of its predecessors; as heavy as it can be it’s also wonderfully light.
The plot, once it gets into gear at the end of the first act, is convoluted, ever-so-slightly cheap from a story perspective, and silly. But it’s also very much in the spirit of comic book plots, and everyone involved in the movie is aware of this, though not to the point of constantly satirizing, deconstructing, or even subverting it.
The movie takes it seriously, confident that the audience is on board, but also has fun with its own rules and is creative wherever it can be. It helps that everybody in the movie (surely a record-breaker in cinematic ensembles) is giving it their all.
Everyone has been theorizing about the death toll of this movie, and in expectation of that, just about every major cast member plays their part as though it were their last time.
However most of all, this movie is just Awesome -and I mean that in the traditional sense: the very definition of a movie spectacle!
Its’ filmmaking isn’t very interesting, the script isn’t as tight as it could be, the direction and production design is sometimes flat, and it certainly could have explored its drama with more depth.
But this stuff is swept away without much bother by how sensational, captivating, and fun it is.
Endgame is a huge reward for avid fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, chock full of fan service that’s both satisfying and earned.
There are references galore to every corner of this universe (including a couple notably unexpected ones), Stan Lee gets his final movie appearance, and for anyCommunity fans, you’ll be happy to know directors Joe and Anthony Russo revived their tradition of giving someone from that show a cameo.
Really, once you see the direction the story takes, it becomes clear the movie is a giant celebration of the MCU itself, and in this it feels remarkably unpretentious. It’s not saying “look at how great we are” but rather “look at what we’ve created” and “look at how much fun this ride has been”. And these statements are underlined by a climactic sequence that may well be the most thrilling, satisfactory, and deftly executed action-set piece in any superhero movie.
Obviously I can’t say anything about the ending itself except that it’s right. It’s where the story was meant to go, it hits the right beats, and is presented in the right way.
And yes, while there is a sense of ‘ending’, it provides plenty to speculate on for the future, staking down a handful of new and promising developments. This movie universe certainly won’t be the same though, and it’s an incredibly bittersweet way to wrap up an era. The last shot even got me misty-eyed.
I feel one thing I can spoil (because it’ll save a lot of bladders after the three hour experience) is that there’s no post-credits scene to this movie -which makes sense as apart from Spider-Man: Far From Home there’s no confirmed slate of Marvel movies post-2019. But you don’t miss it. Because the movie doesn’t really leave you wanting more, it’s exhausting in the best way. And it would undercut the movies’ themes to include either a teaser for something to come or a gag.
Avengers: Endgame is extraordinary, probably one of the greatest movie events of the modern film culture, and worth separating its art from the fact you’re giving some money to that threatening mouse overlord. It’s hard to imagine a superhero movie ever being grander or simply bigger than this. Like the first Avengers and the MCU itself, I imagine it’ll spawn imitators, but it’ll always be the first, and the watermark in the shadow of which other ambitious blockbuster franchises will have to exist.
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