In case you've been living in some sort of alternative universe not decimated by Thanos, Avengers: Endgame is the endgame that isn't really an endgame. Though, it's actually partly the endgame in some ways but not really the endgame in other ways.
The game will continue, though it will end for some but not others.
After having accumulated 22 or so Marvel Cinematic Universe films over the last 1,000 years or so, Marvel's third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe actually hits the end of the line with the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home but the end of the line has, indeed, arrived, or maybe it hasn't, for certain others within this wildly avenging universe.
The only thing that I know for sure has ended with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is my patience.
We already know that Infinity War ended with a cliffhanger that wasn't really a cliffhanger. Thanos (Josh Brolin) had successfully gathered the six Infinity Stones and used that power to decimate half the life in the universe including beloved avengers like Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and even our adorable stumpy Groot.
There's no spoilers there, okay? It all happened in the last film. If you haven't seen the last film before you're seeing this film, then you're going to have to take a hit of LSD anyway because none of this is going to make sense. Avengers: Endgame is not a stand-alone film in any way whatsoever.
It's a film that was pretty much 21 films in the making and its unwieldy, overly stuffed 181-minute running time reflects the fact that co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo were bound and determined to pay everyone, down to Uncle Joe the janitor in that one scene in Iron Man, their due respects. I mean, seriously, I haven't seen this many celebrity cameos since Kanye and Kim Kardashian got married.
While millions of Marvel fans grieved the events that unfolded in Infinity War for a solid two minutes before coming to their senses and realizing that Marvel wasn't about to decimate their cash cow, the truth is we always knew that that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe logic is never required, the laws of physics are constantly ignored, and money is the Groot of all evil.
No, I wasn't dropping an Easter egg there. I just thought it sounded funny.
If you've watched the trailers, and most of you have, then you already have a pretty good idea of who's hanging around amidst the half of the universe that actually survived Thanos's evil moments in whupass episode. Without spoiling a darn thing, darn it, suffice it to say that Avengers: Endgame uses the world quantum more than Donald Trump proclaims "no collusion."
Avengers: Endgame is a film for its most hardcore of fans. While others will certainly appreciate it, in fact I'm guessing most moviegoers will eat it up like a quarter-pounder at a White House sports reception, discerning moviegoers will discover the truth long before the film's 181st minute rolls around.
Avengers: Endgame simply isn't a very good film.
Oh sure, it's an occasionally awe-inspiring film. It's a frequently funny film. It's a strangely somber film. It's an incredibly nostalgic film.
It's just not a very good film.
Avengers: Endgame has a few moments of genuine brilliance. It has a few moments of genuine emotional resonance surrounded mostly by studio-influenced emotions meant to manipulate audiences into a second, third, and fourth viewing of the film. The film has some genuinely good humor, most often coming courtesy of Robert Downey Jr's "I could do this performance in my sleep, but I'm wide awake" performance. Co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have crafted, and I use that term loosely here, a film with big moment after big moment after big moment being passed off as cohesive narrative.
Fans will buy it. They always do. That's fine. To each their own, ya' know?
That doesn't mean it's actually a good film.
The film's sentimentality often feels forced. I mean, sure, I already know friends of mine who say they cried during the film.
The simple truth is that Avengers: Endgame is going to satisfy a good majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's fans. This review, modestly trashing but mostly in a light-hearted sort of way, is going to be completely irrelevant with the exception of the few haters who will take the time to write back misspelled love letters and basement-dwelling threats dripping with more faux venom than the pizza sauce dribbling down their chins.
Pushed by the studio to not reveal any of the film's major plot points, the other simple truth is that isn't particularly challenging since there really aren't many significant plot points worth mentioning. There's mostly stuff that happens. Then, more stuff happens. Then, hey, even more stuff happens. Then, stuff gets reversed or maybe it doesn't then more stuff happens.
Avengers: Endgame is mostly about the stuff that gets us to the end of the game. Unfortunately, most of that stuff is remarkably laborious and a little numbing and I may have soiled myself, twice, during all of it.
Maybe not. Maybe I'll just use some quantum physics to unsoil myself.
Or hey, maybe Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) will help a brother out since she's really not doing much else here.
It may sound like I'm a harsh voice for a film that has been mostly universally praised. Maybe I'm just old, tired and turning into Rex Reed.
God, I hope not.
There is a moment in Avengers: Endgame when it actually feels as if perhaps the Russo Brothers have stumbled across something. The film's tone is darn near perfection, comic booky in all the right ways and sublimely nostalgic to near perfection. It's as if you're sitting there looking at the screen going "Oh my, this is going to be a great film after all." The men, and the kinda raccoon, mostly step aside and it's the women who damn near save this film from its methodical melancholy and faux madness.
Then, it detours again.
Despite my numerous misgivings about Avengers: Endgame, I simply can't deny that there's fun to be had. While it would be an absolute blast to simply trash the film, it would also lack integrity and be dishonest.
Despite everything, Avengers: Endgame is a fun film. These characters, many of whom have now been in our lives for years, have grown to mean something to us whether or not that actually makes any sense. Robert Downey Jr., one of Hollywood's truly great comeback stories, has been an absolute joy to watch as Tony Stark/Iron Man and you simply can't help but enjoy watching him bask in the golden aura that seemingly surrounds him.
Scarlett Johansson, Black Widow, and Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlet Witch, give us genuine emotion and something absolutely compelling, while Gwyneth Paltrow, despite being saddled once again with a paper thin Pepper Potts, acts the hell out of her time on the big screen. I had goop all over my face just watching her.
Paul Rudd, as Ant-Man, is always solid. Rene Russo, as Thor's mom, elicits genuine laughs. Brie Larson is seriously kick-ass charisma and ready to barge her way into the future, while Chris Hemsworth has fun, Chris Evans emotes with resignation, and the rest of the gang here draws us in by doing exactly what we've fallen in love with them doing over the years.
So, yeah. Avengers: Endgame is the end of the game in some ways and it's a complex, demanding, overly drawn out yet still compelling cinematic work that will please the vast majority of MCU fans while maybe even drawing in a few new ones. It's not really that great of a film, but Avengers: Endgame is the film that it needs to be and I'd dare say it's the film that fans will want it to be.
Now then, where did I put that last Infinity Stone?
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic