Spoiler Free Review of ENDGAME
Do not worry gentle readers, this entire article will be SPOILER FREE!
Avengers - Endgame jumps directly into the story, setting the tone for what is to come for the next three hours. We do not even get the traditional Marvel intro right away, which provides a feeling of immediacy. It starts like a true continuation of the story from where we left off, answering a few questions and getting down to where our characters are at mentally at this stage.
I think it is really is important to remember a theme that the entire franchise is grounded within; that being the United States in a post 9/11 world. We have seen a fundamental change in how superheroes are used in cinema to reflect the societies in which they exist. The villains of the past are no longer one-note goons; they are complex representations of mankind’s inhumanity against a fellow man. A big angry bad guy is not scary. A big angry bad guy with an understandable and relatable ideology is terrifying.
In the past, superheroes were more about escapism and camp, acting as simple entertainment without much substance for movie goers. Now our heroes are more vulnerable and their weaknesses are exposed like the raw nerve that was America in the days following the 9/11 attacks. It takes more from them to “win” than ever before. They must push themselves to understand the complexities of their world, to overcome their inner struggles, and to take responsibility for their successes as well as their defeats.
The movies changed as well, showcasing how Hollywood was both threatened by and sensitive to 9/11 in 2001 and beyond. They had to reinvent themselves to more realistically reflect the fears and concerns of a new post-attack America. Iron Man 2 & 3, Captain America 2, Avengers 2, and Civil War all dealt with these concerns following the attacks on Manhattan by the Chitauri fleet as well as the devastation of Sokovia at the hands of Ultron. This leads to the questions of how we should decide to protect ourselves and to what lengths should we go. Do we toss away freedoms for security? Do we trust in governments to enact the will of the people? Who is going to do what it takes when unimaginable dangers come knocking on our doorstep? Infinity War showed us that the questions aren’t merely theoretical. Endgame may not fully answer those questions, but it continues to explore the space, but at a very personal level.
We see characters dealing with “the snap” in very different ways, much as we all would handle death and loss. Some may choose hope, some may focus on their tasks, some may feel despair, and there are also those in denial. It’s very realistic in this way and allows us to feel what these characters are feeling. They are more vulnerable, as many modern superheroes are, uncertain in many of their decisions and constantly adapting to the changing position of the world.
This movie feels like a comic book; the big double-sized annual edition. One of those comic books where we get to pull in characters from all over the place, many of which do not often interact with each other. It is these meet ups that provide us a few seconds of time like we would see on the comic book page, exciting the inner fan and providing flashes of possibility that we never thought we would see happen!
For example, just the fact that Paul Rudd is a superhero now is unbelievable to me. Then have him on screen with the likes of Robert Downey Jr, this is just delicious. Ant Man talking to Iron Man. Rocket Raccoon talking to Thor. Nebula talking to anyone! It just feels like a huge culmination of what has come before, grounded in everything that was built up to this point, and allowed to branch outward in exciting ways.
We have serious actors, putting forth the full effort of their craft, really selling these cosmic concepts and making me feel like they are real. It took them 10 years to build up to this, but it works so well that you will buy anything they say, no matter how ludicrous. The effects are on par with the best of the Marvel franchise so you are never really taken out of the moment. The action is sweeping and dynamic, heightened by the majestic score, and given poignancy by characters doing what they do best.
We also have several different set pieces, some familiar and a few that are unique. Much of this story spans the breadth of the MCU as we know it, so it is recognizable and we can look for what stands out as different instead of re-acclimating to a new backdrop. However, the scope of this story is huge, managing space and time and possibility with one good narrative thread. Even when things feel a little confusing for a moment, it is not long before that thread is pulled tight and everything aligns again.
No spoilers here, but there are more than a handful of incredible surprises. You will always get the Marvel classic moment where you think someone is about to get blown away by a bad guy only to have another hero blast them from behind in a great moment of victory. You also get a good helping of the Marvel/Whedon style of humor in the midst of epic battle, which elevates both forms and gives you a moment to breathe before you dive back in. Characters reference lines from other movies, and so you can see how much they have changed and how much they are the same people we met upwards of 10 years ago.
It is clear that this movie was also intended to give the original Avengers the spotlight, and to serve as a passing of the torch within the franchise. More time is given to the original six: Captain America, Iron Man, Bruce Banner, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Thor. Some of the other supporting cast still shine through in moments and super slick lines, but it’s the founding team that we follow through with more of the story. We do not know how any of these characters are going to be used in the next phase of the MCU, if at all. So, in the case we do not see some of them again. we are able to give them the sendoff they deserve with some really fantastic moments.
HOW TO WATCH IT
Watch It however you are able, but I would suggest going BIG on this one. I saw the movie on Friday night, Real D 3D RPX. For some of the bigger scenes, I could feel the kinetic energy of the action around me, and big thunderous moments were highlighted with the sound features of the theater. I have seen this used in overkill before, but certainly not here. The 3D was pretty great, but it isn’t as 100% essential as it was for say Avatar or How to Train Your Dragon 3. If you can afford it, it is worth the upgrade to see it as big and loud as you can get it.
Also, sit as close to the middle and close to the center as possible. The sound is best engineered for these seats and you do not want to be so close to the screen that your neck gives out on you 2 hours in to a 3-hour movie. Because of this, I bought my tickets as far out as possible so that I could reserve the best seats available. Comfort is key here so you feel good throughout the whole experience and you won’t be distracted by adjusting your neck, fidgeting with your concessions, or the need to use the restroom.I would also suggest being sparing with the food and drinks. There are maybe 2 opportunities to use the restroom, but they are still scenes that you shouldn’t miss if you don’t have to. I have a strong bladder, but even I was aware of my discomfort just before the movie concluded. Also, wear comfortable clothes and shoes for sure! I would suggest bringing a light jacket, or removable layers so you can adjust to the temperature of the theater. My theater was a little on the cool side, but not so cold as to need a coat. My light jacket across my lap was more than enough to keep me comfy.
SPOILER FREE EASTER EGGS
Howard the Duck makes a such a brief cameo that you probably will not see him there. I watched it twice and never saw him. He was included because there was going to be in a very small scene in Infinity War that was cut. I read somewhere that he will be getting some love in the MCU soon with his own television series, so I believe that is why he was included.
The Stan Lee cameo is another brief little nugget of love, for the car he is driving has one of his catchphrases as a bumper sticker reading, “Nuff Said”.
Captain Marvel dons a new hairstyle in the movie, a shorter almost pixie-style that is closer to what we have seen more recently in the comics. I believe it is meant to show an evolution of her character off-screen, but it’s a little jolting and so that fandom has mixed emotions about it. Makes her look a little more bad ass in my opinion.
Ken Jeong and Yvette Nicole Brown makes a quick cameo, the latest in a series of Community cameos instituted by directors the Russo brothers, who worked on the show.
In a very brief scene involving a storage space, the space is labeled Number 616, a reference to the 616 universe from Marvel Comics, which is where the main stories take place.
The original Ant Man helmet can be seen on a workbench in one scene. It is the big, gaudy, silver helmet that looks more like an ant’s head. Another fun little nod, much like Captain America’s shield on Tony Stark’s workbench.
Next week we will do a final wrap-up for Avengers – Endgame. We will look at what this film ultimately means to the MCU, what we know to expect, and what we can guestimate from what has been released thus far. Until then, go see the movie if you haven’t already and wear your favorite Marvel T-shirt.