Cinema Dispatch: Avengers: Endgame

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Avengers: Endgame and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

My displeasure of Infinity War is well documented in both my review and the follow up piece I did, so I was frankly not looking forward to this one.  Still, the two films they’ve done since then, Ant-Man and The Wasp as well as Captain Marvel, were really great entries in the genre and confirmed that Marvel could still make a great film if they wanted to, and if nothing else it’ll be worth ripping off this Band-Aid once and for all and letting things get back on track before Thanos butting his ugly purple head in.  So hey, if I HAVE to be here I might as well try and find something to enjoy about it!  Is this the perfect conclusion to not just Infinity War but to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it currently exists, or does the first iteration of this franchise and these characters continue the utter disappointment from the LAST time we saw them?  Let’s find out!!

After the events of Infinity War which (SPOILER ALERT) ended with Thanos (Josh Brolin snapping his fingers and wiping out half of all living creatures in the universe, the remaining Avengers are stuck in a world on the brink of collapsing and with no real way to fix things. I  mean, they could go after Thanos and kick his head around a bit, especially now that Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is here to provide some cosmic backup, but would that even fix anything at this point?  The real question is whether or not those people can be brought back, Thanos or not, and after some time with no ideas they get a visit from one of the lesser known among them Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) who might just have the answer they’re looking for what with his experiences in the Quantum Realm and all that entails.  The remaining Avengers which include Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), uh… whatever name Rhodes is going under now (Don Cheadle), as well as honorary members Rocket (Bradly Cooper and Sean Gunn) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), and a barely held together Hawkeye (Jeremey Renner), now have a mission in place (and a rather odd one at that) to bring things back to the way they were before, but it’s incredibly risky and could actually make things worse if they DON’T succeed.  At even less than half their usual strength since everyone is still dealing with the trauma of what happened can The Avengers manage to pull off one more spectacular feat of heroism against the one foe they couldn’t overcome?  What dangers will they have to face along the way, and are all of them able to confront them with steadfast determination and the will necessary to succeed?  If this IS gonna be the last one of THIS specific kind of Marvel movie… maybe we could get a Star Wars crossover?  I mean it’s now or never, right?

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I’ll also settle for a movie where Captain America beats up those THE LAST JEDI IS SJW PROPAGANDA jerks.

So the question I’m sure is burning in all your minds is whether this is BETTER or WORSE than the last film, and so as not to keep you in suspense for any longer than necessary, I’d say this gets a big ol’ thumbs up from me!  I liked this movie WAY better than Infinity War, and it’s POSSIBLY the best ensemble movie that Marvel has done up to this point.  Where Infinity War felt like a culmination of everything WRONG with the Marvel formula and comic book movies in general, this feels like the opposite of that; a sort of balancing of the scales if you will.  Infinity War took the bad parts of the previous Ensemble films like Ultron’s ridiculously stuffed plot and Civil War’s grim tone, but then this film’s inspiration is much closer to the smaller films with the Ant-Man franchise being the most notable example.  In fact, where Civil War was an Avengers film in disguise, this film is basically the Ant-Man 3 we will hopefully be getting at some point, and sure it’s still got its problems, mostly due to it being a sequel to a not particularly great movie, but as far as capping off this franchise before moving onto to whatever comes next I think they nailed it about as right as anyone could expect.  Hey, endings are ALWAYS hard and not everyone is gonna be happy with what we’ve got here, but compared to what Infinity War was like, it could have easily been so much worse.

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“Before we go into space, does ANYONE need to use the restroom?”     …     “WELL TOO BAD!!”

Before we talk about how this movie BEGINS, we need to ask the OTHER obvious question; does this movie retroactively lighten my opinion on Infinity War because it works so well as not just a movie in its own right but a continuation of the last film?  Eh… I won’t go that far.  I guess you could say that I now feel that AN Infinity War movie should have been made because this second one is so good, but I think THE Infinity War movie we got is still a tedious waste of time.  The status quo that’s set up at the beginning of the film is actually quite good and feels radically different enough from anything else in the MCU that its compelling in that way that Elseworlds stories tend to be; as if we’re peering into a dimension where our biggest WHAT IF questions get to be answered only on the big screen instead of in the realm of fan fiction or even one off comics.  It’s gonna be hard not to spoil ANYTHING in this movie because the marketing has been so close to the chest with what is actually in the movie, but several times in the first half hour of the movie will make you go WHOA and give you a sense of utter wrongness that begs to be corrected, so if I can lighten up on ONE aspect of Infinity War it does feel ultimately worth it to end on such a bleak note as it did.  MAYBE it could have used a bit more hope or an indication of things to come other than the Captain Marvel stinger, but the first act of this movie is about the best way they could have followed up on it.

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“So, how’s the family?”     “Still dead.”     “Yikes.  Sorry about that, Iron Man.”     “Wait, do you even know who I am!?”     “Yeah.  I just said it a minute ago.  Pay attention.”

Now this is where we KIND of have to get into spoilers because the meat of this movie, the plan to fix everything, is where the movie is at its strongest but also the part that the marketing has completely covered up.  You can probably map out the third act from the trailers or even just assuming where this kind of story has to end, but the middle?  Yeah, I did NOT see it coming, or at least in the form that it ultimately took, so if you want to go in with NO SPOILERS AT ALL, you’ll want to turn back now and see the movie first!

We good?  Alright, so after watching the trailers the only indication of ANYTHING that happens in the middle act of this movie (a good hour and a half of it) is the matching suits they’re wearing at one point, so good on Marvel and Disney for keeping it under wraps so well.  The core of this movie is not preparing for a battle, but instead a time travel mission that very explicitly draws parallels to Back to the Future Part 2 in that we’re visiting periods of time that we already saw in the other movies.  Yeah, I guessed that time travel had something to do with this considering Ant-Man’s whole deal with the Quantum Realm or whatever, but what they do here is frankly a beautiful way to pay homage to this iteration of the franchise that we’re essentially closing the book on as each of the survivors are put into teams to go back in time and grab the Infinity Stones at various points in history to bring back to THIS timeline and maybe fix everything with their own snap.  I won’t say EXACTLY where they go, but you’re gonna recognize them if you’ve been following these films up to this point (and I know you have), but the best part is that despite the oppressive nature of this movie and the preceding one, it’s a whole lot of FUN to watch them more or less copy Back to the Future Part 2 as they watch themselves and their friends go through the motions of their respective films while also making changes to them and expanding upon them in ways we could only have imagined up to this point!  THIS is the kind of thing I love to see instead of just fruitless punch ups one after the other which can be enjoyable but also can overwhelm if done to excess.  You know, like in that one movie I can’t seem to stop mentioning.

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After this they’re gonna shrink down and explore The Hulk’s internal organs, just for the heck of it.

Now the third act is about what you’d be expecting from this movie so I don’t really have to go into spoilers of any kind to get across what’s good about this part of the movie.  Whatever punch up with whoever is available against whatever bad guys are left is not only a fantastic action set piece but ends up soaring past even the best action in Infinity War; not just in terms of the sheer spectacle of it all, but the context in which it is presented is much more hopeful and upbeat even if the odds are still stacked against them.  Again, this is where Infinity War being its own separate movie (or at least the specific movie that was made) feels woefully incomplete because that’s the kind of action scene that comes in the middle instead of at the end.  When the bad guys HAVE to lose to build up the threat, you want to be able to build up from there instead of just going home with that taste of defeat in your mouth, and while I won’t say exactly how this one goes (even with how lax I was about spoilers so far I wouldn’t DARE to go into any of that), it actually feels like the kind of final match that you close everything out on; the cap stone to an ongoing feud that delivers a sense of finality to it that you want before disengaging from this fictional universe.  The whole thing is just a work of art on a technical and storytelling perspective with a few moments that I would love to have framed and put on a wall; the kind of illustrations that you look at before someone starts telling you the great story that it shows.  On a more SPECIFIC level, it does give you a lot of moments that will become fan favorites and even a few things that many of the comic fans have always wanted to see which is good because the other thing about the third act is that… well, it definitively feels like the end of something.  Not just the story of Thanos and the Infinity Stones, but what THIS version of the MCU looks like.  We’re absolutely getting more Marvel films going forward and plenty more from characters that are in this movie, but it does feel like a proper ending and is perhaps the best ending we could hope for.  Now I’m sure that some people out there smarter than me could come up with a slightly better way to end this story but too often I myself get caught up on that question and I think that, outside of perhaps 3rd Rock from the Sun, endings are kind of inherently disappointing because either it’s to something that SHOULD have ended a long time ago and is just crawling past the finish line way too late, or it’s something we genuinely don’t want to see go and no amount of good storytelling or brilliant moments can compensate for that sense of loss.  Maybe I’m overthinking things here and I’m sure there will be many takes on the way this movie ends, but it worked quite well for me and I’m pretty excited to see where things go from here.

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“Looks like I’M the captain now.”     “I understood that reference!”     “I know you did, buddy.  I know you did.”

I didn’t even touch on the flaws of this movie which are certainly there, but none of them are much of a drag on this movie.  It’s too long to be sure as its pushing 3 hours and it’s one of those movies where you don’t want to miss a moment of it, so keep that in mind if you want to see this in theaters.  The whole time travel mechanics feel intentionally vague which isn’t a HUGE problem because it’s not really about that, but there are certain plot points that will raise an eyebrow if you’re looking for them, and at least one in particular is notable for how it affects at least one of the upcoming movies.  It’ll be… interesting, to see how they write their way around one particular plot point in this, but until then it  sticks out like a sore thumb even if on its own is a VERY good scene and feels almost feels like a bone thrown to what was one of my least favorite parts of Infinity War.  Other than that, there’s not much here that they get wrong which is surprising considering just how many pieces there are to this lumbering monstrosity of a film that manages to be so much fun despite how much weight it was carrying.  I absolutely recommend this movie about as much as the other Marvel films I liked.  Is it the best one?  Perhaps of the BIG films like the other Avengers films or even Civil War, but it’s hard to compare it to the self-contained films that don’t have as much to prove and can be a bit less spread out in its execution.  The thing is, it doesn’t need to be THE BEST Marvel movie to succeed; it just needed to be the RIGHT Marvel movie to bring a sense of closure to everything, and among its many successes that is the most important it manages to get right.  If for no other reason, you might as well go see it NOW before everyone else spoils it for you; at least more so than I already did here!  Okay, one more!  SQUIRREL GIRL KILLS THANOS!!  No, that doesn’t actually happen.  Or does it!?

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