Directed by The Russo Brothers
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Brolin, Karen Gilian
“Fan Service” is most typically a pejorative term thrown around during critical discussion of art, pop culture, film and literature.
It’s that moment in all these mediums where the creators, writers and/or directors wink subtly/no so subtly to the audience and say “We’re going to give you exactly what you want, no how matter how ridiculous it is.” This can sometimes devolve into fourth-wall breaking humor, over-the-top action sequences and other gratuitous moments within the narrative that can feel overly cheesy or too in-your-face for the audience.
(In terms of anime we all definitely know what “fan service” means)
But Marvel’s latest, biggest, loudest movie might be one of those few times where, despite fan service playing a huge role in its three-hour run time, it can be deemed a good thing.
It’s not all shallow though.The MCU’s “Endgame” is a love letter to its fans, rewarding them for sticking through the good and sometimes bad Marvel flicks of the past decade by giving them three hours of most everything the audience could want out of their favorite super heroes and boy, does this finale deliver at the end.
It’s an imperfect film but about as perfect as one can expect out of a film this huge with this many characters and though it suffers from many issues that have plagued MCU flicks for years if your inner child isn’t smiling ear-to-ear by the end of it you’re probably a little dead inside.
(Or just another neckbeard screaming “REEEEEE! BRIE LARSON BAD! REEEEEE!!)
“Endgame” continues where last summer’s “Infinity War” left off pitting Earth’s mightiest heroes against the Galaxy snapping despot Thanos, looking to avenge their failings in their previous encounter. Undoing the damage proves to be more difficult and complicated than expected however and now our heroes find themselves in a race against time itself to fix what happened, whatever it takes.
It’s kind of impossible to divulge what makes this film as great as it is from here without touching on some SPOILERS so if you haven’t seen the film yet I suggest turning around now and getting your ass to the nearest theater. The Mad Titan demands it…
(I’m speaking of course of The Mouse)
Though the ending is definitely the film’s biggest and best moment it earns it through a succession of smaller character moments played out over the story’s big time-hopping set up.
People, namely my friends, tend to drag me a lot for being perhaps at times overly critical of the MCU but I’d like to think my view point of this series is a little more nuanced than that. I’ve actually quite enjoyed this series from start to finish the thing is I just don’t see the MCU as a whole as this perfect piece of cinema that its most ardent fans believe it is.
That said, I definitely don’t see it as nearly as shallow or vapid as its most feverish detractors and film-major wannabes feel it is either. Phase 3 is a big reason why and it has been by and large far stronger than the average of the first two phases of the MCU.
(And lets try not think about most of phase 2 shall we…)
Films like “Civil War,” “Homecoming,” “Black Panther” and to smaller extents “Ant-man and Wasp” and “Ragnarok” have helped evolve these characters from being simply caricatures with quippy one-liners to fully three-dimensional super heroes with pathos and depth. Endgame helps conclude the arcs established by all these characters in these previous films in both surprising and powerful ways.
The movie is really about dealing with your past in order to be better in the future, afterall the catalyst of the events of this film is based all around the Avengers not being able to move on from the snap. The film deals with this through Marvel’s holy trinity of heroes (Iron, Captain America and Thor) who each encounter a point of unresolved emotional pain from their past in this time heist plot in the story. Though the setup of time travel isn’t exactly sharp we get some truly outstanding emotional closures here that will satisfy the viewers.
I won’t try explaining why or how they are in the past here because it’ll take too long but we see Stark and Cap journey back in time to just a year before Stark was born and Tony finds himself face to face with his father for the first time since his death and for once in this series becomes immediately vulnerable through it. Gone are his quips, his snappy dialogue as he’s confronted with the arbiter of much of his angst. But instead of getting angry he begins to see a far more human version of his father who seems as confused as he presumably was before raising his own daughter. The two have a tender moment in this sea of blockbuster action and credit to the Russos for recognizing the potential of having this dynamic playout on screen.
Meanwhile Cap finally comes to terms with the fact that, despite his tough exterior, he hasn’t truly gotten over the potential life he could’ve had with his one-time flame Peggy Carter from his first film. Again, the film puts this hero in a vulnerable spot where he realizes what he’s truly wanted his entire life which is to have his time with the love of his life.
(Well the love of his life at least according to canon. I know who Tumblr probably wanted, you crazy shippers! lol jk)
It show’s a brilliant inverse of both characters’ original core personality traits; Stark’s selfishness and Cap’s selflessness. Through the plot we see Stark has learned to be a selfless man who takes responsibility for others in this case his child or to make “the sacrifice play” as Cap proclaims in “Avengers” especially at the film’s end. Meanwhile Cap who’s been told to “get a life” on more than one occasion in this series finally realizes he wants one. He’s spent his whole life doing good for others that he hasn’t done much for himself. The film shows that there’s merit in both mindsets of thinking just as there is plenty of drawbacks as well and the movie is great for having these moments for both characters.
The God of Thunder, of course, also gets a profound moment journeying into the past and might be my favorite of the three.
Thor, who goes through both an emotional and physical transformation in this film, gets a truly touching scene with his mother that I did not anticipate seeing. We get the great Renee Russo reprising her role as the former Asgardian queen Frida who delivers a much needed dosage of motherly touch in this testosterone heavy action flick. She helps Thor come to terms not only with her death but his worthiness to wield Mjolnir harkening back to his first film.
Thor probably handled the aftermath of “Infinity War” the worst out of all the major characters and to see him gain wisdom and strength again through his mother was a nice touch showing that even a film as bombastic as this sometimes you just need to hear your mamma tell you you’re worthy of greatness.
(Thor presumably after learning that he was still worthy this whole time)
All three of these plot lines converge nicely at the film’s conclusion however, and despite the convolutedness of the time travel plot line you’ll be sucked into the emotional drama enough that’ll it mostly not matter by the time the finale pays it all off. All three actors between Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth deliver among their best in the series here and it’s bittersweet considering its the finale.
The biggest surprise in this film’s story however is Karen Gillian’s Nebula who completes her own arc from the first “Guardian’s of the Galaxy” movie. Again going back to the past, her long deeply troubling relationship with her father Thanos comes to a head in this film as she goes from violent, vengeful loner to violent, vengeful team player. All jokes aside we really do see some great change in this character as we see her genuinely care about others, wanting to do the right thing and in a changing of roles is the one to move Gamora this time instead to the good side (though its admittedly not technically the same Gamora).
But really, it’s this film’s finale that earns this movie’s title of most epic in the series.
For you comic book readers out there, take a minute to imagine your favorite splash panel from your top graphic novel. The wide shot, your favorite hero or villain in their full colorized glory, ready to do battle for the fate of the universe, that’s what this finale felt like at the end and it is breath-taking.
This is a movie that absolutely must be seen on the biggest screen possible because you can’t capture the scope and the magnitude of this film’s biggest moment without it and the theater’s surround sound. Credit to the Russo’s cinematography team and composer Alan Silvelstri pulling all the right heart strings at the right time cause your geeky soul will swell at this moment and you’ll remember the goosebumps it gave you for a long time.
(If you weren’t clapping during this scene do you even have a soul?)
The movie isn’t without issues, however. As mentioned before, the stickiest plot device in epic cinematic history rears its ugly head in this film; time travel.
Outside of films like “Terminator” and “Back to the Future” (both comically namedropped in this film) I’m not typically a fan of time travel in movies. While I try not to get too hung up on plot holes anymore (because it’s more complicated than that) time travel often leads to more questions being asked than answered. It’ll take too long for me to point every little in-congruency here in this part of the narrative but the plot seems to ask its audience to just go with it a little too much. It helps that the drama is compelling enough in these scenes that it matters less what’s physically happening in these moments than emotionally but also it’s hard to shake how convoluted the Avenger’s whole plan is because again its time travel.
This is a personal pet peeve of mine for movies so if it didn’t bother you that’s fine but it feels like they could’ve gone with something less hokey here.
(Me trying to wrap my head around some of the time travel stuff in the plot)
And while plenty of other characters complete some interesting arcs in this movie (Hawkeye gets grittier and Widow gets the most depth she’s been given since “Winter Soldier” though both have problematic elements as well) some other characters get shafted.
Bruce Banner, who spent the last film isolated out of his Hulk alter ego, seemed setup for a redemption tour in “Endgame” but ends up having the issue resolved off screen as he becomes Professor Hulk. The character itself is an interesting addition to the story but having this change happen during the time jump in the film feels like the audience was cheated out of a more profound cinematic moment. We could’ve had a Hulk-like take on Cap wielding Mjolnir or Thor finding his worthiness again but instead we’re left with a character without an arc on screen and it’s disappointing.
Speaking of disappointing the way Captain Marvel was teased at the end of “Infinity War” would have you believe she would play an integral part to this story but instead she is more or less an afterthought only to show up at the very beginning and very end. This isn’t an entirely a bad choice as the film is more about the original core of the Avengers and their personal beefs with Thanos BUT if you’re going to have a character as big and powerful as Carol Davers teased at the end of the last movie it seems odd to suddenly leave her out of the vast majority of the film.
(Some “fans” are still bitching about even a tiny amount of exposure to this character in the movie online and all I gotta say is again die angry, incels)
Also if you liked Thanos a lot in “Infinity War” you might be less pleased by his portrayal in this movie. While he’s still menacing and commands presence whenever onscreen he’s far less three-dimensional in this movie than the last. Yes, “Infinity War” is definitely more about him and that’s a smart choice, but I would’ve liked to have seen at least one more shade to the Mad Titan before his passing.
(As Nando v. Movies points out a small tweak to the ending could’ve added something more to his character and to the women of the MCU for that matter.)
And of course, bathos rears its ugly head again as the middle section of this movie, given its stakes, become overly quipy at times diluting the movie of a lot of its most sincere drama. I know this doesn’t bother a lot of you guys out there, but while jokes are welcome in films that get overly gritty an over abundance can lead to a cheapening of a story’s emotional arcs. Again though, I know it’s not a problem for most other fans but for me it was disappointing to again see a bunch of dramatic scenes in this movie undercut by cheap jokes.
Despite this movie’s flaws though it can’t be said this movie isn’t epic as hell and doesn’t deliver where and when it counts. No movie is perfect and for a movie whose main task is to complete 22 films worth of story and tie it in a nice neat bow at the end can we really say this could’ve been done any better and more amazing? Maybe but what we get here hasn’t really been done before and that in itself is an achievement that even the harshest, snobbiest MCU critic has to admit is pretty damn amazing.
(Was this gratuitous? Yes. Was it awesome? Fuck yeah it was!)
“Endgame” might not be greatest movie ever made, maybe not even greatest super hero film ever made, but it is the biggest by a mile and for it to stick the landing emotionally and cinematically the way it does (for the most part) given what it was tasked to do might make it the greatest blockbuster ever made at least.
It’s not hyperbole, given all my criticisms, to say the MCU is arguably the greatest series of films ever made given its depth of movies, narrative continuity, and its consistency in terms of entertainment. It has flaws, sure (I’ve documented plenty of them here), but “Endgame” delivers on the epic promise that was setup during those fateful end credits waaay back in 2008 when Nick Fury uttered those fateful words “Avenger Initiative.”
So, forget whatever issues you might have, mine included, going into “Endgame” because I can’t envision another worldwide movie moment quite like this in the future. It’s a movie that must seen in theaters if you’re fan (not that I need to tell you). The series, the stakes, the dozens of colorful and imaginative characters and larger than life antagonist to fight against; it’ll be a while before another movie comes close to delivering a blockbuster promise like this one in the future.
“Endgame” may be imperfect but it’s a Marvelous ending to an era of larger than life super heroes. Here’s hoping the next phase only gets better (and weirder) from here.
looks at Box Office numbers Well I for one welcome our Disney overlords ”March of the Empire” plays in the background