So, I'm writing this hours after seeing Avengers: Endgame.
Okay, I'm not fine.
I should say right now that I don't think it's possible to do an in-depth spoiler-free review of this film. Because Endgame is full of surprises, which extend even to the fundamental structure of the plot, I think that it's much better to go in knowing absolutely nothing in advance, if possible.
So, some very brief, spoiler-free thoughts: Endgame is not perfect, but it's pretty darn close, in my opinion. Movies that serve as final installments of multi-film series are especially prone to disappoint fans. In light of that, Endgame is astonishingly good. I can see why the majority of Marvel fans seem to have embraced it, though obviously, pleasing everyone isn't possible. Despite a few minor niggles, which I'll delve into later on, I was extremely impressed by the film.
Now, for the spoilers.
I cannot stress this highly enough–if you have not seen Endgame, Do. Not. Read. Further. Trust me. You'll thank me later.
If I shared all my thoughts about the movie, this review would end up far too lengthy, and I'd rather not have this be a multi-part series–though I could see myself writing further posts addressing specific aspects of Endgame in the future. Also, in order to avoid spoilers before seeing the movie, I haven't read a lot of reviews that have already been posted for Endgame, so I'll probably end up repeating what a lot of other people have said if I let myself ramble. As such, I'm going to keep things fairly brief here.
What I Liked
The story structure of this movie is brilliant. The very short first act takes any expectations you might have gotten from the trailers and throws them out the window, similar to what Infinity War did with Loki's surprise death in the opening scene. The five-year time jump was a nice touch, as it didn't cheapen the impact of what happened in Infinity War by having the solution of the Snap take place less than a month after the events of the previous movie. Although the time-travel solution was a fairly obvious direction for the second act to take, I didn't find it disappointing at all because of how it was handled. The specific method of time travel used in the movie—the many-worlds/branching-realities theory—isn't used very often, and it was employed brilliantly here. Though the science got little complicated, I appreciated this overall, as it shows the writers weren't underestimating the intelligence of their audience. In addition, the past wasn't actually changed, since the Snap and the five dark years afterward remained intact, which meant that this wasn't a reset button. The particular theory of time travel used here means that the various timey-wimey shenanigans we see in the second act don't really alter any Marvel films you seen before—all those scenes technically took place in other realities. (Granted, some of this could have been explained more clearly, which I'll get into later on.)
The final act, featuring a staggeringly massive battle against the time-displaced Thanos, was a stroke of genius, as it helped to prevent the time travel coming across as a convenient gimmick. On the contrary, Thanos' return was a direct consequence of the time travel. I can't say enough good things about the breathtaking cinematography of that final brawl between the Avengers and the forces of the Mad Titan. Not only was it amazing seeing just about every MCU character ever getting in on the action, the menace of Thanos was reinforced once again, not downgraded to allow for a happy ending. In a way, the Avengers never really “beat” Thanos, at least not by mere muscle or firepower. It took subterfuge and a massive sacrifice from Tony Stark to bring him down, which meant that even at the very end, Thanos never lost his menace. I think it's always better when the audience's reaction to a villain's demise is “Whew, he's finally dead” rather than “Huh, I guess he was never really that tough to begin with.”
While I'm sure not everyone will agree with me on this, I do feel that Endgame was a near-perfect resolution to all the major character arcs that have been building since the very beginning of the MCU. I left the theater feeling very satisfied by this element. Don't get me wrong—I really, really miss Tony and Natasha, and I'm sorry (in a good way) that Cap's story has come to an a close. But I didn't want this story to end without consequences. That would have been highly disappointing. While it was hard to watch Tony and Natasha giving up their lives, it was completely in-character for both of them, and it felt earned based on stakes that had been set up in Infinity War. Plus, we got a happy ending for Cap to balance out the sadder moments.
We have to talk about Peggy Carter, who remains one of my favorite MCU characters of all time. I love how she was used in Endgame, even if she didn't get much screen time. Seeing her and Steve finally reunited was the perfect note to end the movie (and this entire era of the MCU) on, in my opinion—time-travel complications aside. Also, the appearance of James D'Arcy as Jarvis in the 1970 sequence was a beautiful nod to the canceled-too-soon Agent Carter TV series. Hats off to the Russo brothers for being so thoughtful as to include this moment.
One other thing: though the big team-up of the female Avengers during the final battle could be described as a little obvious and agenda-driven, I didn't really see it that way. With the possible exception of Captain Marvel, I was excited to see all these characters get their time in the spotlight. But I was even more pleased by Scarlet Witch's big moment versus Thanos, since I've wanted to see her embrace the full range of her powers for a long time now. I hope that she and Wasp both have bigger roles to play in the MCU in future.
What I Didn't Like
I don't think the writers did a good enough job explaining the time travel in Endgame. There are too many questions and loose ends regarding this plot element left over by the end. Yes, there are good answers to pretty much all the questions, but we've gotten those answers through interviews with the producers, not within the movie itself. I think this could have been handled better, especially given the film's extended runtime. Mainly, I would have liked for it to have been made clearer that the Avengers' visits to the past didn't actually change the prior MCU movies, as this is something that a lot of fans might worry about regardless of how much they may have enjoyed the time-travel sequences.
I'm still not sold on Captain Marvel as a character, and I don't feel that she added very much to the film. That said, I'm glad to see that she wasn't used as a deus ex machina, as many had theorized she would be based on her power levels and the implications of Infinity War's post-credit scene. Her presence wasn't detrimental to the movie, but she also didn't win me over. Granted, I say this not having seen Captain Marvel yet, so I'm open to having my mind changed once I've gotten a proper introduction to Carol Danvers.
I have mixed feelings about the handling of Thor in Endgame. On the one hand, I'm one of the people who particularly liked the more “iconic,” Norse-mythology-influenced Thor we saw in the first two Thor films. (Yes, I did enjoy Thor 2, though I'll admit it has significant problems.) On the other hand, Thor: Ragnarok is one of my favorite MCU movies, and I'm happy that the new comedic take on the character has essentially given Thor a new lease on life, since Chris Hemsworth has begun to embrace more comedy-heavy roles than stock action heroes. I imagine he probably wouldn't have signed on for a new Marvel contract (as is rumored to be the case) had the powers-that-be not decided to take his character in a fresh direction. Even though Thor being a punchline more often than not isn't necessarily what I would always prefer, if that's what it takes to get more of the character in the MCU, that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Also, though I would probably have opted for Thor to go down a darker, more murderous path as a result of his mistakes instead of falling apart and becoming an alcoholic, Hawkeye filled the “dark avenger” slot quite brilliantly, so I wouldn't have wanted to change that. Essentially, each character dealt with grief and guilt in a different way. They couldn't all be as gracious about it as Captain America.
I suppose my biggest “complaint” about Endgame is that really does feel more like an end to the MCU than a new beginning. This is a double-edged sword. While Endgame does sow a few seeds for a new phase of Marvel films, I don't really see how anything can top the amazing arc that's been built up and concluded over the course of the first three phases of the universe. And I'm not particularly enthusiastic about any of the Marvel projects currently in development, except for Doctor Strange 2 (particularly if that movie adds Wanda as a supporting character, which needs to happen). The Eternals and Shang-Chi don't really pique my interest. I had some serious issues with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so even the addition of Thor to the Guardians roster isn't quite enough to make me eager to see a James-Gunn-helmed Guardians 3. (I'd much rather see a Thor 4 directed by Taika Waititi, but that movie is just a vague rumor at present.) Though there are a lot of surviving/still-active MCU characters I'd like to see more of, I don't know if my investment in this universe is ever really going to match the levels it reached during the Whedon and Russo years. For the moment at least, I can't say I'm looking forward to a new roster of Avengers. Even if some of the members are characters I enjoyed watching in Phases 1-3, it won't quite be the same. I think I'd prefer for the MCU to draw to a close at this point instead. But movie studios, Disney in particular, are not very good at allowing things to come to a graceful end instead of milking them for more cash, so I'm well-aware that the MCU won't be allowed to rest in peace. I'll admit that some of those Marvel streaming shows on Disney+ do look pretty interesting. I may end up following those more than the movies in future.
None of this, however, is really a criticism of Endgame. I don't know how successful the MCU is going to be from here on out, after reaching such heights, but I'm ultimately glad that this movie seems more like a final chapter than a changing of the guard. I wouldn't have wanted to feel that the original Avengers were getting pushed out in favor of new, less-familiar characters, and Endgame definitely doesn't give that impression. I expect many share my opinion that it's a deeply emotional experience watching this era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe draw to a close. I'm sad that it had to end, but since it did, I'm very happy that it got such a stylish and satisfying ending.
What are your thoughts on Endgame? Share them in the comments below!