*** Title Photo Courtesy of ©Marvel Studios 2019***
When putting together a post for a movie, it begins with knowing what to put down everyone can read and those sections of the movie which you better stick in the spoiler section of the review. Some films easily divide into the spoiler versus non-spoiler section. Then there are those movies which defy one’s ability to separate the possible spoiler from the information one can provide which will interest your audience without revealing too much. Given the cultural event status of the latest movie in the Marvel Comic Universe, Avengers 4: Endgame defies one to review the film without spoiling the whole bag before one even begins.
As the film defies one’s ability to keep out spoilers I figure I will give one right away. But not necessarily about the film itself. Given the penchant for the Marvel universe to hold things back until the credit sequences in the film, I don’t feel like I will be spoiling too much to tell you they did not have an ending sequence other than to pay homage to the first cast of the Avengers to populate the Marvel Universe. We will be sorry to see many of them go. But I was a little sorry not to get a little peek into the new direction of the Marvel Universe as they are moving on from many of their characters.
With the lack of a definitive future for the Marvel Comic Universe, or a little sneak peek into said universe, we turn to the movie itself and see how Marvel wishes to wrap up Phase 3 in the MCU before moving on to Phase 4. (Technically the next Spiderman movie occurs in phase 3, but given it occurs after Endgame, you will see it really should almost be phase 4 as the Avengers transitions from its original lead.) Avengers 4: Endgame had a lot to do, so with that, let’s catch us up to speed. (I’d put a spoiler alert here but honestly, if you haven’t watched all this and are attempting to watch Avengers 4 because of the cultural touchstone it is, you need this information in order to know what’s going on.)
With the previous MCU in play, we experienced searches for the infinity stones in many of the films. We first see the Tesseract (The Space Stone), in Captain America: The First Avenger (Chris Evans), being pursued by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving and later Ross Marquand in both Infinity War and Endgame) to power an all-powerful weapon. It reappears in the Avengers as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) tries to pursue the stone for his own nefarious purposes. Thereby thwarting Thanos (Josh Brolin) designs for the stones back then.
The Mind Stone was used by Loki in his scepter to control minds. This eventually gets put in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) head to bring Vision to life. The Reality Stone first appears in Thor 2. The villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), wishes to use it to turn matter to dark matter. When Loki and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) prevail in the end they take the stone and give it to the collector, for whatever bizarre reason.
Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) finds the Power Stone and tries to sell it off only to be confronted by Thanos henchman in an attempt to destroy worlds. The Guardians are able to wrest it from Ronan’s (Lee Pace) grasp and give to Nova Core for safe keeping. The Time Stone first appears in Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and is controlled by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). When she dies Strange controls the stone and keeps it safe with him. As for the Soul Stone, it doesn’t appear until Infinity War.
In a post-Thor: Ragnarok sequence, Thor and Loki run into Thanos with the Power Stone in his clutches. Thanos takes the Space Stone and kills Loki and many others in the process, leaving Thor for dead. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is whisked away back to earth to the offices of Dr. Strange. Getting Iron Man and other assembled heroes together, they try to hold off Thanos as he comes to retrieve the Mind Stone from visions head and the Time Stone from Dr. Strange. They are able to get Dr. Strange and kidnap him aboard a ship. But they fail to take Vision as Captain America and a few other Avengers keep him safe.
In the meantime, Thanos goes after the Reality Stone personally. He arrives at the Collector’s (Benicio Del Toro) place before the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive per Thor’s warning. Thanos captures Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and tortures her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) until Gamora reveals the location of the Soul Stone. He then goes after the stone but has to Sacrifice his only love, Gamora, to get the stone. Meanwhile, a few other Guardians including Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) takes Thor to get himself a new hammer with which to fight Thanos after failing to defeat him the first time as Thanos had the Power Stone.
Without trying to get into every detail of the previous movie, Thanos is able to eventually retrieve all the stones. There are, however, a couple of curious things which happen before he does. One of which was Dr. Strange tells Iron Man there was only one way for them to beat Thanos among 14 million different possibilities. Secondarily, Thor has a chance to defeat Thanos despite having the Gauntlet and unloads into Thanos in the chest. But as he didn’t go for the heart, Thanos was still able to complete his mission and eradicate half the universe.
In addition, we learn Thanos believes his destiny is to unburden the world of overpopulation. He wants to help all these burdened planets take care of their issues. Surviving members the team to stop Thanos include Thor, The Hulk, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Rocket, Nebula, and Captain America. (We don’t officially know about Hawkeye, and learn Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is stuck in the Quantum Realm when people vanish from the ending sequence of Ant-Man and the Wasp.)
With all of this as a background, Avengers 4 must accomplish a lot. Especially if they are going to put everything back right if making everything right is possible at all. And with so many moving parts in an attempt to prove it takes a village to make a movie, we have a 3 hour and 2-minute running time. So what about Avengers 4: Endgame? How good a movie is it? Was I as disappointed in the film as I was in not having a mid-credits or post-credits evening? I guess you will have to read more to find out.
Review Of Avengers 4: Endgame
The Avengers movie falls into four distinct acts. This occurs because the film tries to focus on four different themes throughout the piece. With the first act, they focus on the toll on the human psyche as it deals with loss. The Beginning of Avengers 4 pulls on the heartstrings and we re-enter the world of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who has left the life of a superhero to enjoy life with his kids. He is out there with his daughter practicing with a bow and arrow when he turns around to get something and she vanishes. He looks around and yells for his wife and boys and realizes they have all vanished. Things are not the same for this man who had set aside the crazy life only to be Godfathered back in.
We shift to Tony Stark and Nebular trying to get the Guardians spaceship across the Galaxy. Tony gives some very poignant dialogue about giving all he has, and yet it’s not enough. Of course, they fail as the ship falters, until the Deux ex Machina of the Marvel Universe shows up to rescue them from their predicament. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) returned from her whirlwind universe tour when she got the call from Nick Fury. And in the cut scene for Captain Marvel, she returns to find the world in chaos and asks where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) went. So, her seeking out Tony Stark or whomever she may find at the other end of the universe makes sense. How Tony would survive without oxygen on the return trip home comes into question, but whatever.
Cut to the heroes as they go off to do whatever the can to chase after Thanos. They desperately want to reverse what he was able to accomplish. While you think it could be considered a brief subplot, I think it tried to humanize these Avengers as they suffer their own loss. They are able to take out the head of Thanos this time. (Thor doesn’t make the same mistake twice.) But they failed. Thanos destroyed the stones. The heroes have to come face to face with their own failure. You can see this first hand as five years later Captain America participates in a grief/loss recovery group. And Thor . . . we will get too.
The second act turns into a buddy action movie. It’s replete with gag lines, oddball situations, and strange bedfellows working together. (Rocket Raccoon and a hilarious Lebowskiesque Thor are pretty darn ridiculous) This second act begins with the entrance of Ant-Man into the picture. He navigates his way out of the quantum realm to find himself five years into the future and the world gone wild. Making his way to the Avengers he posits the possibility of time travel. They bring this to Tony Stark who tells them to pound sand as even if didn’t kill themselves in the attempt, they would lose to Thanos again. And he didn’t want to give up what he had on the off chance he might not get killed.
They take to recruiting the next best thing: The Hulk. As Thor changed into a Rubenesque figure in a ridiculous way, The Hulk has learned to control his anger and now is a cross between the Intellect Banner and the ridiculously powerful he-man Hulk. I’m betting he did it as he recognized some things needed to change. He realized his lack of control during the battle in Infinity War caused problems. Unfortunately, this area of science was a field in which Banner was not familiar. So he tried his best, failing spectacularly in another hilarious moment.
Needless to say, Tony Stark finds himself studying the possibility of time travel. He cannot shake the need to be selfless here. Admittedly one of the most self-centered of the superheroes, Stark remembers the vanishing of Peter Parker, and he cannot let his happiness blind himself to the pain of others. So he moves to help the remnants of the Avengers go after those infinity stones throughout time to take them before Thanos gets them, correct the future by snapping everyone back into existence, and take them back in time so Thanos makes the same mistakes, leading to his death in the end.
Each Avenger takes on different tasks. Tony Stark confronts his father. Captain America faces his lost love from the past. Thor coming face to face with the mother he lost. Nebula faces the father who abused and abandoned her. And Hawkeye and the Black Widow facing the ultimate challenge of whose sacrifice means less. They successfully complete their mission as each person brings back the stone to reverse the spell. The Hulk puts on the glove and it causes him damage, as it had done to Thanos. Of course, why Thanos could use the glove twice to snap out of existence and use stones to destroy themselves is a question one might want to ponder.
The third and fourth acts, I will describe as War and Coda. I do not wish to get into these or give every spoiler away. (Suffice it to say I’m uber-pumped about the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie.) What I do want to say is this. The Marvel Comic Universe began with a bang back in 2008 with the original Iron Man under the capable hands of Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jon Favreau. As the Universe looks to close a chapter on some classic characters and enter another world with new story arcs, super villains, and amazing superheroes, they did an amazing job of keeping to something quite unique in this genre. While Tony Stark demonstrated genius in creating an amazing suit and keeping himself alive, Tony among all the Superheroes was the most human.
It would be hard to overstate the impact of Captain Marvel or any of the other superheroes for that matter. But Avengers 4: Endgame represented the completion of the arc of Tony Stark’s character. While he was Iron Man and the loudmouth braggart in many ways, he realized the necessity of giving of one’s self for a cause bigger than yourself and was the everyman hero of this amazingly well put together movie. Yes, we lost some characters, and some will fade off into retirement. But we will not forget Tony as he was the worst of us, but also the best of us. He realized what one man could do if he put his mind to it. And he perfectly embodied the saying: “it is better to give than to receive.”
***End Of Spoilers***
I love this film and think it a fitting tribute to the people who put together this Marvel Universe. (Including the man racing away in a car . . . Stan Lee *sigh*) But, I would not consider this a perfect movie. And I want to hit on almost perfection for four-star movies. My main complaint would be the movie was overlong, and definitely not for the uninitiated into the Marvel Universe. (I will write another post discussing the essential movie watching one must do before watching Endgame.) What makes certain scenes in the movie, especially during the climax, so powerful is the investment we have in this universe. Without all the backstory and subplots, we might not care quite as much with what’s happened.
Rarely do films require such complete devotion to the past in the series to understand the present pictures. Marvel, for better or for worse, has achieved this. This makes me happy and sad for what the future may behold. Given the overlong nature of the film and the difficulty understanding it without complete context, I am going to give this a rating of 3 and one half out of four stars.
Rating: 3 1/2 Out Of 4 Stars
Wrapping Things Up
I’m still going to complain about the lack of a post-film credit sequence. But I do have to recognize the amazing tribute they had at the end with all the original Avengers. I loved seeing Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and the rest have their signatures up there and screenshots of their most memorable moments in the series. It felt a little like an Academy Award celebration of those we lost this last year. And as we will be losing some of these iconic characters, I admit I will be sad to see them go.
They have made me laugh. They kept me on the edge of my seat. And, for a couple of moments in Endgame, brought me to tears. It will be hard to see some of them go. But I think they made the world a better and more enjoyable place, which is all I ever want from Hollywood. Thank you for these past 11 years of fun entertainment. I hope the next 11 is even better with so many more characters to choose from as Disney brought Twentieth Century Fox into the fold.
Continue The Conversation
So where do you think the MCU Universe will go from here? What role do you think Captain Marvel will play in this universe? For those of you who have seen the movie already, what do you think of the new direction of Guardians of the Galaxy? What do you think might happen? And just as an interesting aside, what do you think Thanos biggest “sin” was?
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, The Single Dad’s Guide to Life