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After 11 years, 22 films, and 'The Snap," here we are at the Endgame. Marvels behemoth superhero franchise reaches its conclusion, but is it possible for the film to live up to over 11 years of anticipation?
In a word, yes, but there is a lot more to unpack here than a simple re-cap of plot. This movie is a stunning achievement from a technical, and creative point of view, but it is not perfect, and indeed some may argue it is not as good as Infinity War.
This rant will get into many spoilers, so please, if you haven't seen Endgame yet, then why are you reading this? Go, and see it, then see it again!
Endgame begins with our remaining heroes broken and defeated until Captain Marvel arrives to help Tony back to Earth, and to galvanize our remaining heroes to track down Thanos. Minutes later our heroes are breaking down his door, generally wrecking his nice farmhouse. Thor decapitates him, and we cut to five years later.
A side note about Captain Marvel here that the Russo brothers have directly addressed in interviews was that they had to film her scenes before her solo origin film was written, and that explains why she is largely absent from the movie. She is a plot device to get Tony home at the start of the film, then helps them defeat Thanos, and then she's gone, only turning up at the end for the cringe-worthy girl power moment of having all the female superheroes on screen in one shot.
What did work here was Scarlet Witch awesomely taking on Thanos, and battering the shit out of him singlehandedly in a great moment, though the cynic in me thinks it's purely because there is a Scarlet/Vision TV show coming out soon again, so it might be a good idea to have her actually do something cool in the film.￼
Okay, Marvel we get it you have plenty of strong female superhero characters, but the moment was not organic, and didn't work. After a few token shots it was back to the men fighting. What makes it more galling is they already did this scene in the three on one fight against Proxima Midnight in Infinity War; that made sense as all the women fighting were geographically close to each other.
I'll freely admit the start took me by surprise, and I honestly wondered where the plot was going to go until "The rat that saved the world" arrived. Yes, a rat randomly hits a switch in Antman's time traveling van, and Antman arrives fiv years later from the quantum zone, wondering what the hell's going on.
The first hour of the film was quite slow and sombre, but in a good way that showed our remaining heroes trying to cope with, and move on from, the Snap. Once Antman arrived, the plot dominoes began to fall fairly quickly.
Fat Thor (TM) was another highlight, as we saw how utterly broken he was in Infinity War, so it only made sense that with no imminent threat on the horizon he'd throw himself into food, alcohol, and Fortnite. Indeed Thor dealing with gaming trolls, and the return of Korg got one of my screening's biggest reactions.
Yes, as many people surmised Endgame is a heist film, which involves the Avengers having to travel back in time to gather the infinity stones, before Thanos begins his crusade for them. This plot point is one of the film's strongest, and weakest, at the same time. The mechanics of time travel are never really explained correctly–something to do with Pym particles, I believe. Yet taking repeated shots, 'so Back to the Future was bullshit?' at classic time travel films doesn't seem like a great idea when this film's own rules are less defined than Loopers.
The time travel device allows our heroes to venture back through many different periods, and movies of the MCU, which is massively fun, and also shows how these characters have developed over the years.
This also allows us to see Loki once again, and have him escape custody and disappear with the Tesseract before anyone notices. Again though, creating a world of timeline, and time travel, issues for those trying to keep up. But remember a version of Loki is now alive, which is lucky, because he has a Disney/Marvel show on the way.
It allows some great team ups, I never would have picked Nebula and War Machine as a team, just like seeing Tilda Swinton's Ancient One debating with the Hulk. Thor and Rocket get to revisit 'The Dark World," and Thor gets a motivational speech from his dead mother, but of course the two most important team ups are Clint and Nat, and Tony and Steve. We get great scenes with Tony talking to his father, and Steve spying on Peggy, and it's great to finally see the two of them back on the same page.
However with Clint and Nat going to Voromir, we know it's going to end badly for one of them. Everyone's assumption since the first Avengers film was that Hawkeye was going to die at some point; he was the least cool, and most expendable of any of the Avengers. But why kill Black Widow here? It didn't make sense, mainly as we know a solo spinoff movie for the character is due to roll soon, and unless it is going to be a predictable prequel to "Black Sparrow" if you will, then the aftermath of her sacrifice will be meaningless. It now means there will be some time travel/cosmic chicanery to bring her back, if her film is to take place after Endgame.
I also never thought the stakes were high enough, Thanos kill's the only person he loves, his daughter Gamora, to obtain the Soul stone, but the love and sacrifice between two friends is enough this time? Remember Hawkeye had a wife and kids, and Nat was being pushed towards a relationship with the Hulk in earlier films. Later plot developments spell out why it had to be these two characters, as they were the least important of the original Avengers, therefore we know later on we need our key three Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, but I don't think her sacrifice was enough.
Where Infinity War was Thanos' story, Endgame is our original Avengers swan song, with the main focus on Tony, Steve, and Thor, as it really should be. We'd guessed that one of the key three would not make it out alive, and of course, thematically and chronologically, Iron Man makes the most sense. His was the film that launched the Marvel Studios behemoth, and when Thanos says "I'm inevitable," we already know what Tony was going to say.
I have some issues with Captain America's ending as well. Most people had guessed that once time travel became a trope, there was a good chance that if Steve made it out alive he would get his happy ending with Peggy in the past. At the end of the film, he is tasked to return all the Infinity Stones, but firstly he gives his Shield (and essentially the mantle of Captain America) over to Falcon, this didn't work for me, as surely it should have been his best friend Bucky?
In the most famous comic book storyline 'The Death of Captain America," Bucky takes over from Steve, and in later stories Falcon becomes Captain America. I cannot really complain here though as we know there is a Falcon/Bucky Disney/Marvel TV show coming soon, so we know this relationship will be explored further then.￼
My other issue with Captain America's ending is that we didn't need to see old Cap'n Gump sitting on the park bench, we could have simply had him go back in time, then not return within ten seconds, and then have Bucky say something like "he's home." Then we could cut to the scene with Steve and Peggy dancing to end his story line, or the current characters could have visited old Captain somewhere down the line. Not to mention the amount of issues his appearance as an old man creates with the time travel rules of the film.
The climatic battle scene is amazingly done with Thanos' army absolutely walloping the remaining Avengers, then when the gold circles start to open, and our dusted heroes return, it's a great moment. The formerly dusted heroes each get a few moments to shine in the final showdown but like Captain Marvels involvement, they are barely featured in the film.
Black Panther has very little to do, and spare a thought for poor Peter Parker who, having just come back from a traumatic death, then has to witness his friend and mentor die immediately right in front of him. Also as five years have passed in the current timeline, this plot device has opened up a massive can of worms for story continuity. I'm really hoping in Spiderman Homecoming, they deal with the fact that Peter has missed five years of school somehow.
A minor sour point for me is that because of all the announced Disney/Marvel TV shows coming out, we know many of the deaths won't stick, by the end of Endgame a new timeline version of Loki and Gamora are back, we know Black Widow will be back somehow for her own movie, which really shouldn't be a prequel. Scarlett Witch and The Vision will have their own show, so Visions coming back again, and we also have the Bucky and Falcon show.
After a couple of viewings I think I can safely say it is a great film that is reminiscent of Return of the King, in that it gives us multiple endings for all our main characters, but because we have grown with these characters and actors over the years, we don't mind and the filmmakers have earned that time from the audience.
For me it isn't my favourite Marvel film, that still goes to Thor Ragnorak, which is just pure entertainment from start to finish, and I feel Infinity War is a better film in terms of scripting, plot, and that ending that shocked everyone.
In terms of scale and ambition though, Marvel deserves every bit of praise (and $$$) for seeing this cinematic universe through 11 years and 22 films that has undoubtedly wowed a new generation of comic book fans, and future filmmakers, showing the other big corporations that long term storytelling is possible over multiple films and decades, as long as there is the right team in front of, and behind, the camera.
Return of the King finally proved that epic fantasy films could be Oscar winners in categories other than SFX, so it would be nice to see Endgame get some kind of awards result, if for nothing more than to reward the crews that have spent over 11 years on these films, maintaining such a level of quality and creativity. It is finally time for a comic book film to get some academy recognition.