I hate good byes. Never been a fan. At best they are an awkward social formality. At worst they are heartrending moments of emotional loss. Avengers Endgame is the final chapter to a story that has spanned 11 years and took 21 movies to tell. It is a “good bye” moment that stretches three hours. By my own standards, I should hate it. It is telling then, that I rate it as one of the best films I have ever seen in a genre that is very close to my heart.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way here shall we? Endgame caters to a very specific audience. It is a love letter to comic geeks and serves as gratuitous fanservice to legions of nerds. Folks that, like me, have stayed emotionally invested in its characters for a long, long time. We are talking decades here. As such, it has little to offer anyone that comes into this scenario cold. One can’t critique this film in isolation because it has been conceptualized as the climax to a series of stories. Reviewing it as a stand alone film would be akin to criticizing a book by reading only the last chapter. It is not so much that the reader didn’t “get it” so much as he/she didn’t bother to read it. If you were someone watching Endgame, you got it. Actually, Endgame likely got YOU. Got you good. And with a box office collection of 2 billion (!!!) USD in just the first fortnight of release, you would be in good company.
The movie wastes no time in carrying on from where it left off. In the fallout of a reality bending holocaust that sees half the number of every living thing in the universe gone, survivors are left reeling in its wake. Some try to move on. Some can’t. And five years later, it is only a chosen few that have the fortitude to keep fighting.
Thematically, Endgame is a little weaker than its predecessor. Where Infinity War had the narrative depth of being a debate between deontology vs utilitarianism, Endgame is more of an “Empire Strikes Back” moment for the protagonists. It is a chance for the heroes to hit back whilst also ending the arcs for some of it’s more prominent characters. There are hints of something deeper, especially when it comes to Tony Stark, who struggles with the idea of gambling away a decent present for the sake of a potential future where the world is better off. But the the movie doesn’t delve into this enough to make it the central theme. Not that it needs to. Endgame works well enough without it.
In the interests of keeping this review spoiler free, I will be vague about the plot. Suffice to say it involves using some nifty comic-book/sci-fi tropes to allow the audience to revisit some of the more memorable moments from many of the previous movies. It involves time travel and asks a lot from the audience in terms of suspension of disbelief. But hell, this is a franchise that blows up planets like popcorn. I am actually surprised by how many side characters and in jokes the writers managed to squeeze in here. (Did I mention this was fan service?)
In many ways it sticks to the marvel formula. One that I have previously called the Gloom-Joke-Punch combo. If there is a difference, it lies in the way the movie treats its moments of non action. There are more of those here and rather than merely slow things down, they only add to the tale. Some of Endgame’s more poignant moments are the ones without any explosions. It also takes some interesting risks with some of its more popular protagonists such as Thor and the Hulk.
By this point, the actors are portraying characters that they have played multiple times before. There are some however, who have to exhibit more emotional depth given the harrowing journeys they have been on. On the whole though, barring a couple of notable exceptions, this is familiar territory. If you liked actor X in the earlier films, you will like them here. Which reminds me, one of Endgame’s triumphs is making the character of Hawkeye genuinely cool. That poor bastard was always a bit of a joke. Not anymore. At long last, Jeremy Renner finally gets his moment to shine.
There is no denying that the last act of the movie is a series of visual spectacles. Every offering of the MCU has had its defining “moments”. The Avengers had Hulk punching a space worm in the face, the first Iron Man had Tony walking away from a tank that he knew was going to explode, Infinity War had the Battle of Wakanda, Civil War had the iconic Cap vs Ironman cover brought to life, so an and so forth. Endgame has a whole bunch.
When a certain character says the words “On your left”, the theater exploded in a round of applause that shook the walls. Fans screamed for well over half a minute and it took me a while to realize I was screaming with them. Endgame is liberally sprinkled with moments like that. And though it is fair to say that there is nothing new here, ie, the camera work, the color palette, the music, the actors, the effects etc, all of it is presented in a package that just works. Nitpick all you want, this is still a hell of a ride. It will make you laugh, whoop for joy, jump out of your seat in excitement and is very likely to make you shed a tear or two. What more can one ask from a product of entertainment?
Yes, it is time travel. It is impossible. Beyond a certain point, it doesn’t make sense. I get it. The plot cannot stand up to close scrutiny. Few comic book plots ever can. And therein lies the brilliance of the film’s creators: I don’t care. I don’t care that time travel is convenient, I don’t care that Captain Marvel is the ultimate McGuffin, I don’t care about the dozen or so plot holes I could easily nitpick about. Avengers: Endgame is far from perfect. A moment of reflection will make anyone wonder about how much was lost to the editing process. If you are Thor fan in particular, you might end up feeling very short changed. But regardless of all that, they got me. They got me good. They managed to bid farewell to an aging cast and hand over the torch to a generation of new actors. And they did it while telling a tale that had me at the edge of my seat. At the end of the day, as far as endings go, this was damn near perfect.
I hate goodbyes, but this one was good enough to make me applaud.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
PS: I have kept this review a tad shorter than I’d like. The fact is that, at this point, my views on this story arc would be voluminous enough to fill a whole book. I might end up doing a series of posts on the journey of every major character. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, let me know. Excelsior!