Thursday, April 25, 2019

'Avengers: Endgame': No Safety Or Surprise

This image may or may not contain a spoiler.

Last year, I walked out of Avengers: Infinity War equal parts despondent and irked. The grief I felt over the deaths of multiple beloved characters was tempered by my annoyance at Marvel's manipulation. Of course all those characters didn't really die. So what was I crying for? In a year we'd all have proof we had shed those tears for naught.

It's exactly one year later and indeed that proof has come with Avengers: Endgame, the ultimate culmination of ten years of juggernaut franchising that brought us 22 movies and Marvel/Disney almost 20 billions dollars. And in many ways, Endgame is even more about loss than Infinity War was, since it means the end of an era, and whether characters really die this time or not, the franchise will never be the same.

And in Endgame, the remaining Avengers are truly living up to their title, hoping to avenge and ultimately reverse the deaths of their friends (and oh also, millions of other people and beings across the universe, but whatever). You didn't think they'd just accept defeat and retire, did you?

Although, for the first 30 minutes or so, many are doing just that, and man, it's an emo spectacle. There's so much gloom, doom, and clinical depression among the remaining team you'd think you were watching a DC movie. If you thought those final moments in Infinity War were a bummer, just wait and see what survivors' guilt has done to the gang.

The only hero this age of depression has a remotely amusing affect on is Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as it turns him into a pot-bellied, perpetually drunk Norse god version of the Dude, drowning his despair in beer, pizza, and video games. He's the film's comedic soul. Considerably less funny are Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) who begins the movie painfully skinny and on the verge of death, and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who is the only one truly trying to keep the Avengers team alive (after all, she's barren and has nothing else to live for, right?).

But, unlike a DC movie, it isn't ALL doom and gloom, and thankfully, the majority of its three-hour (THREE!) running time is devoted to the kind of banter, camaraderie, and action that has made this decade long franchise the crowd pleasing money maker it is. All the characters get emotional arcs and big moments (some more crowd pleasing than others); I cried (genuine, earned tears this time) more than once. And as much as I'd like to discuss the specifics of those moments, or even some more general plot points, I completely agree with the studio's request to keep the film's surprises under wraps. If you're a fan of the franchise, you deserve to see it as unsullied as possible. (And if you aren't a fan, uh, what are you even doing here?)

So, instead I'll end this with a selection of likes and dislikes, as spoiler-free as possible:
  • As a fan of any post-apocalyptic story (and destroying half of all life is nothing if not apocalyptic) I was disappointed that the film really doesn't show us what the new 50%-offed reality looks like around the world, or across the galaxy. What we do see is only within the Avengers' purview, and that's a pretty narrow purview.
  • One character gets such a satisfying ending--it was one of many tear-inducing moments--that I didn't even mind that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you think about it too hard. (Actually, a lot of the movie has that same problem, but at least they acknowledge several of those logical leaps, and even joke about it.)
  • The somewhat disappointing treatment of one female character is softened by the addition of one moment that will clearly piss off a certain segment of Marvel fans while making another segment burst into tears. (If you cried when Wonder Woman took to that battlefield, bring a whole box of Kleenex.)
  • Speaking of female characters, yes, Captain Marvel is in the movie. How you feel about just how much she's in the movie will likely depend on where you fall in the segments mentioned above. (I will tell you this though: she doesn't come back to Earth, fly super fast around the planet to make it spin backwards thus turning back time like I was hoping she would.)
  • Man, 2019 is a tough year to be a nerd, with the ends of Game of Thrones, The Avengers, and the Star Wars saga to contend with. But if each of them has taught us anything it's that nothing ever truly stays dead, does it?

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