Early-bird Warning: This post contains CRITICAL spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.
a spoiler-free review by the Crow.
Note: For once, we shall be publishing a full review of this movie
on Friday, the 26th of April, 2019. when the spoiler ban lifts on Monday, the 6th of May, 2019.
We’re in the Endgame, now
The Crow: Last year, Infinity War arrived in theatres as the culmination of ten years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whether or not it was good was never the question — it was the achievement that was important: that it promised almost every major character from that ten-year period of movies in a product that would unify them under a singular goal. It did turn out to be rather good, but it was the promise that carried the movie. And did the team behind the movie deliver on that promise? Yes, it did.
The singular goal was quite simple: to save half the universe. But then, just like that — as Mike Goldberg would no doubt put it — half of those characters, if not more, were gone — with a snap of the fingers. For the first time in a Marvel movie, the Big Bad would come away the winner. And to those who are familiar with the lore of the comics, this shouldn’t have come as any real surprise.
Some may have been surprised by the fact that they actually “did it”: gave us a movie in which the villain — as sympathetic as he may be portrayed — wins. But ever since we first glimpsed him in 2012’s Avengers Assemble, we knew that when Thanos arrived, we would be… courting death. They told us what they had in mind, and we shouldn’t have expected otherwise.
But was it really death? Disney/Marvel had already lined up sequels for characters we witnessed “dying”. Plans included a Black Panther sequel, a Doctor Strange sequel, and so on and so forth. Did we for even a moment expect these characters to remain dead? Of course not, but the question that was raised was: how were they going to be returned?
Were the actions of Thanos (Josh Brolin) going to be undone, wholesale? Would our heroes erase the consequences of “the snap”? Would the events of Infinity War be relegated to nothing more than a faint memory because of how things would go in Endgame? All we could do is wait for the movie to come out.
And here we are. We’re in the Endgame, now. (Have I said that too many times already?)
An important thing to note while reading this review is that the ‘achievement’ I mentioned earlier — the bringing together of the vast assortment of heroes — contributed greatly to the rather glowing review I gave Infinity War. As far as I’m concerned, Endgame will not gain that feather in its cap — the achievement has already been completed. Endgame now stands on it’s own two feet.
Another (minor) point to note is: I really do dislike spoiler-free reviews, but this is one of the biggest movies ever made (although whether or not it’s the “biggest” is debatable), and it won’t be released for another twenty-something hours, so I have no choice. I fared rather well with Us, so I might as well give this kind of review another go (lest I be stabbed in a back-alley).
With all of that said, let’s assemble ourselves, and jump straight in to:
a Spoiler-Free Review
SPOILER LEVELS at MINIMAL
But: before we get started, does anyone want to get out?
Conversations I had/overheard whilst walking into the movie revealed that much more was leaked about the movie than I had been made aware of, and simply existing on the internet had revealed a great many “leaked plots” floating around. Unlike Godzilla: King of the Monsters, secrecy surrounding the plot of Endgame was of paramount importance, and if any of these spoilers were true (I have not read or watched any of them myself), it’s a shame that the team were let down so gravely.
That said, I find the plot of Endgame to be a little hit-and-miss.
The reason for this movie being re-titled from Infinity War Part II is clear within the first act: it’s a fundamentally different movie. To put it simply: Avengers: Endgame will rub a lot of people the wrong way. While I won’t be getting into any specifics of why, I would like to talk a little about the story.
The first thing to note is that there really is a lot going on in this movie. As a word of caution to those of you heading in blind — I would highly recommend you stay alert throughout the experience. To some, the plot might seem very dense, but it actually isn’t when you unpack it; however, it’s better to keep that in mind.
The issue that I take with the plot is how it handles the greater web of MCU lore. There are some fundamental aspects of the fictional universe (for lack of a better word) that need addressing, but are hand-waved away. This is a problem, but far as the ride within Endgame goes, everything about it works… sort-of. The specific issue I’m talking about has been a problem within the MCU ever since it’s first appearance in Doctor Strange, and while I can see how it can be left as it is, I’d like a more robust explanation, considering the entirety of the plot hinges around it. It’s possible we might see one in the future, but Endgame suffers quite a bit from how this aspect is used nonetheless.
The rest of the story, however, is fine. It’s nothing that hits any high notes as far as the craft goes, but it’s certainly nothing bad. I’d put the level of writing — for the overall plotting — on par with Infinity War, as a matter of fact. These two movies (and Godzilla: KotM following them — for we are nothing if not unabashed subjects of the King) have achieved a special level in the sense that they don’t require to have amazing when it comes to the grander plot: the spectacle, the scale, and the sheer volume presented to us will carry these movies regardless.
Where the writing does — at times — shine, however, is in some of the character moments. With the exception of a few MCU movies, this is something Marvel has always excelled at, and it shows here as well. Where Infinity War misfired with trying to make Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her relationships with Thanos, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), and Nebula (Karen Gillan) the emotional core of the story, Endgame handles that aspect of storytelling rather well. There are moments here which will move any Marvel movie fan, as well as audience members in general.
That is not to say, though, that everything is well and good in the universe of Endgame. Some of the character choices are a little strange, to say the least, and there are a few that I can already see leading to endless arguments for years to come. I usually advise not bothering so much, but some of these choices might be far too severe when one considers we’ve been watching these characters grow for a good many years. Some of the characters act in ways we wouldn’t have expected, and while there’s nothing wrong with subversion or experimentation, altering their character arcs as drastically as Endgame does might come with consequences as far as the fan reaction is concerned (this text so far does not refer to anyone’s physical conditioning, mind you). Personally, I can see them working.
The humour is fine, as it always is in the MCU, and there’s also a reference to the first truly famous line from the MCU, which is placed perfectly. And before you ask: no, I’m not talking about a box of scraps(!). I’m talking something more distinctly heroic.
That said, let’s talk a little about the movie’s other aspects:
Endgame boasts all our featured and secondary characters so far save for three distinct names. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) are returned to action, as the fans have been clamouring for. However, take this with a pinch of salt: just because they’re there doesn’t mean you should expect them to have as much screen-time as in Infinity War. Some characters are relegated to glorified camoes. It’s something I’m personally fine with, but some people might be let down about their favourite characters not featuring as much as they might have hoped.
There is one character whose story within Endgame I’m not so sure about, and I’m sure it’s going to be a choice that fans will be quite upset by. To be quite honest: personally, I found it a good moment, and a natural outcome, but I found the lack of the character’s presence leading up to the moment to be rather disppointing. I’ve always liked this character in the comics, and in the movies — maybe that’s just the fan in me speaking.
The performances are rather good. There are a few I’d like to name in particular, but I’ll save mention of them until our spoiler review. What’s important to note is that no one lets the movie down. When the emotional moments happen, the actors carry their scenes as well as any I’ve seen in action movies. There is, also, a little critter whose name I expect sung in the Hall of Heroes (they have one in Asgard, don’t they?).
As for our original six… Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his friends piss off, ghost! are a joy to watch, and everything leading up to the character’s final scenes is pure fun. Captain America (Chris Evans) reaches the crescendo of his career in spandex by delivering an all-conquering (quite literally) presence in the movie, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo; played in some scenes by Lou Ferrigno) is — as always — a pleasure, and Robert Downey Jr has another excellent turn as Iron Man. The character choices I mentioned earlier do affect these characters, but for the bulk of the movie, they’re exactly what we wanted.
A lot of people seemed to be bothered by the idea that Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) would “destroy” Thanos in their showdown. I understand problems of balance, there, but I didn’t see the huge deal. Thanos by all means should be able to hold his own, and he does more than just that. It’s a good fight, and Captain Marvel is rather powerful in her appearance. Their showdown’s pretty decent, all-around, as brief as it is.
Whereas Infinity War was Thanos’ movie, Endgame is an Avengers movie (Assemble!). Don’t expect to see everyone being active in the journey. This is mostly to do with our core heroes, even though the roster is a large one. One of the many things the movie certainly has going for it is that it’s visually stunning. I believe I was quite harsh on Infinity War for its shortcomings in that department, and Endgame is a marked upswing in quality. The movie looks a great deal better than its predecessor, and the audio is on the same level (I did like the audio for the most part in the previous instalment).
Marked by emotional beats that hit home and a story that will leave people questioning what they’ve seen so far, while at the same time being a resolution to the arc started in Avengers Assemble, Endgame is certainly a movie that will be talked about for some time. Risks are taken, and not all of them pay off, but in its own right, as a singular entity, Endgame works to great effect. Is it one of the best movies of all time? Not by any means. It retains Disney/Marvel’s title of achieving something so bizarrely sizeable and making that size work in its own favour, but it doesn’t break any new ground in the art of cinema as we know it. It’s a good action movie, and a good superhero movie. It’ll be divisive, I believe. It features callbacks to some of the best scenes in the MCU’s collective history. It does what it sets out to do, but it does so in ways that weren’t expected. Character arcs are given resolutions that fly in the face of their development so far, and yet, those same arcs reach their natural “end” before the resolutions even occur. It boasts many things to clamour for, and things to puzzle over. What it certainly isn’t is a bad movie.
Is it the best movie of 2019 so far? It’s up there, for sure. It’s pure spectacle and tension crammed into a lengthy runtime that flies past so quickly that I must commend the pacing. It’s a very well put-together movie, and leaves the MCU as we know it with much to answer for, and much to live up to. After eleven years and twenty-two movies, this is an ending to an era that was long coming. It quite literally passes the torch to the next generation of Marvel movies, and I can see some influence drifting in from works such as Star Trek: The Next Generation to answer the question I raised about the worldbuilding (which I’m told Kevin Feige is also a fan of, but shan’t take into consideration unless it’s spelt out). For now, I shall leave you here, and until we see each other again for the wide release, let me issue a call-to-arms:
— Corvidae, Collect!
THE CROW: 7/10
(Thank you, Marvel)
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Here are a few official posters: