- Movie Rating -

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

| April 25, 2019

As Avengers: Endgame approaches is closing scenes there is an inevitable sense that something significant is happening in movie history, something rare.  Movie franchises are a dime a dozen, but never does one reward its audience quite like this.  It is a joy to report that all the love and loyalty that fans have poured into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is rewarded in Avengers: Endgame, a well-mounted and surprisingly full-blooded three-hour journey of closing the book and saying goodbye.  Yes, there will be other MCU movies, but here there is a sense of bringing these characters to a satisfactory place of rest.  By the end of the movie, we know we won’t see most of them again, and in the manner of storytelling that’s okay.  The film’s closing passages allow you to make peace with that.  Slow curtain.  The End.

Of course, there will be other Marvel movies, but here is a definite sense of moving on.  It is not often that a movie series gets to close the book in a satisfactory way.  Most movie series go out with a whimper rather than a bang.  Those that wave goodbye with any measure of success are rare.  I’m thinking of Return of the Jedi, Back to the Future and Lord of the Rings.

What emerges in the closing passages of Avengers: Endgame is a surprisingly poignant and kind of beautiful message about letting go, parting ways, and coming to grips with the inevitable.  For me, this is timely.  This past week my family experienced a tremendous loss, and in finding a place to quiet sorrow, I found Avengers: Endgame surprisingly comforting.  Here is a movie very much about moving on.

But the movie is not all sorrow and hugs.  This is a blockbuster of blockbusters, a movie that intends to reward fans by giving them the biggest, and most full-blooded experience possible.  The movie is thrilling, funny, emotional and in a lot of ways unexpected.  Beyond it’s blockbuster status, this is a good movie on it’s own.  Plus, it’s really one of the best screenplays that any commercial film will employ this year.  There is a logic to the progression of this story, not just in terms of what has come before but in terms of where it takes the characters who are still reeling from tragedy.

The first hour of the movie is pretty much what you expect given the events set in motion by Infinity War.  A wounded world reels from the devastation caused by Thanos and so the opening scenes are imbued with an eerie, quiet stillness that remind you of the aftermath of 9/11 and the Oklahoma City Bombing.  Everyone scrambles to find a sense of normalcy in an abnormal situation and the question no one wants to deal with is “Where do we go from here?”

The Avengers are dealing with the tragedy in their own way.  Thor has become a recluse.  Stark is being Stark. Natasha has channeled her sorrow into PB and Js.  Cap concerns himself with the fate of other Galaxies.  Hawkeye has channeled his rage into a new identity that Bruce Wayne would find startling. And Hulk?  Well, I’ll let you discover that one for yourself.  In its own way, this is a strange and kind of beautiful tapestry of what people, especially those faced with security and public safety, do in the face of a tragedy.  Our heroes failed.  They didn’t live up to the task.  They blew the mission statement.  And now they have to deal with it.

I expected the movie to open this way, but what I didn’t expect is that the Russo Brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely would give us time to soak it in.  Scenes run a little longer than we expect.  Characters are considered in a thoughtful way – movies these days are not often patient enough to offer character and atmosphere, especially these big tentpole jobs.  One of the nice things about Avengers: Endgame is that while it has a lot to unpack, it is never seems to be in a hurry to get the job done.  There is a lot of movie here but it is evenly paced with very unexpected events that crop up every so often that seem to come out of left field.  For example, there is a death scene in the movie’s first 10 minutes that caught me completely by surprise, and there are many more moments like that throughout the film.  Those surprises were keeping me interested in what would come next.  Seriously, I never thought that the 22nd movie in a series could be so unpredictable.

I’ll try to be vague about the second and third act.  You kind of know that a Deus ex Machina is inevitable, but what is surprising is that the plot plays out without ever feeling like it is employing one.   There are a long series of events put into place to try and undo the damage that Thanos has done and it gives the writers a chance to reward moviegoers who have spent the last 11 years lovingly pining over these movies.  Twisting the MCU’s timeline back on itself, the plot is allowed the fun of revisiting pieces and parts of events that occurred in the previous films.  But it never feels like fan-service.  Yes, familiar scenes pop back into play and old familiar faces come about but it never feels like a desperation move.  There is a logical progression here given the journey that the MCU has taken for the past 11 years.  We’ve followed these characters for more than a decade now, and the producers want to reward your patience, and also to say thank you.

The third act is pretty much what you expect, but then again, it sort of isn’t.  Yes, there is a turnabout to make things right but the screenplay also makes use of the vast population of characters that we have met over the years – the climax gives new meaning to the phrase “a cast of thousands.”  The frame is so full of characters that you’re almost amazed that it stays oriented.  If this were a Michael Bay movie your head would explode.  The filmmakers have offered a spectacle that almost demands the theatrical experience.  The sights, the sounds, the colors.  You need the biggest screen you can find.  Woe to those who hold out for home video.

Again, the closing passages.  Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the loyal viewer is rewarded – the more you’ve seen of the MCU, the more the emotional notes will land.  And yet, there is a question that remains with this series – “Where do we go from here?”  Avengers: Endgame reveals the best of what commercial Hollywood filmmaking is all about, a decade-long experience of craft and writing and patience and skill culminating in a final chapter that feels almost as surprising as it does inevitable.  Here is the endgame, but you are made to wonder if this series can possibly keep up.  Will we possibly be able to reach this height again?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2019) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized