Finally! Something to avenge!
by Thom Yee
I know what it’s like. To want so desperately not to, but to know it as an inevitability. Dread it. Run from it. But always arriving at the same conclusion: You hate people. But don’t worry. So do I. And honestly, I think… no, I know that if I had had the chance, I would get rid of half of them too. At least that many. Starting with the people who won’t shut up in movie theatres. Because it’s precisely that type of person, one with no regard for those around them and the injustices they inflict on others, that led to the type of hatred I felt for people while watching Avengers: Endgame. I suppose, though, when it comes to something like Endgame, that, like Thanos’ mad scheme to kill half the universe, getting mad at awful people is ultimately little more than a game of numbers — combine the release of one of the most anticipated movies of our age with the longest running time ever for a superhero movie and attending that movie on its very first day of release and of course the odds heavily favour that at least one idiot would have to come to my showing and not be able to keep his mouth shut. And that he would have friends. Anticipation + Time + Overstimulation + People = Catastrophe.
And to be honest, while we’re talking about hate, I have to admit that I used to hate most superhero movies too. That might not sound like the words of a lifelong comicbook fan like me, but other than the very few superhero movies that met high standards and have stood the test of time (like the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie or… uhh… hmm…), most superhero movies always contained a level of disappointment that seemed to be inherent to the form. The Tim Burton Batman movies were Tim Burton movies first, Batman movies second (before becoming something else entirely worse under their later director, Joel Schumacher); the Blade movies just aren’t very good; the 2000s Spider-Man movies felt trapped by their own superhero trappings; there’s only one good X-Men movie despite there being so many of them (and even then its entire premise is based on fixing how bad the other ones were); and even the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, some of which rank among my favourite movies of all time, are very specific types of superhero movies, ones entirely divorced from actual superhumanity. Even the best of the pre-2008 superhero movies were still separate, siloed into their own worlds, never to meet or crossover with other superheroes. The pieces just didn’t fit together.
But hate isn’t what we’re here to talk about today. We’re here to talk about the latest Avengers movie, yes, but we’re also here to applaud everything it represents, because everything that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been, starting with Iron Man in 2008, its genesis, and has come to represent with Avengers: Endgame, its ultimate form [so far], is exactly the opposite of everything I’ve just mentioned. The MCU is bright and shiny and hopeful and even sometimes progressive, they find a place for all the heroes, and more than anything else, they’re, almost all of them, great in their own way. In some ways, Avengers: Endgame goes out of its way to prove that even the worst of the MCU movies is at least good enough, and it does so without ever losing sight of what it needs to be in the end: The final triumphant piece of this age of heroes we’ve been privileged to watch for the last eleven years. And that’s exactly what it is. And I have no trouble in saying, even this early in my review, that Avengers: Endgame is great.
It’s not as good as Avengers: Infinity War though.
What’s it about?
In the wake of the most devastating event in all of history, the remaining Avengers are left reeling at the shocking events of the Infinity War that left half of all life in the universe dead. It sounds sad, but it’s actually pretty kooky for a lot of it.
Along with including all of the heroes and all of our hopes and dreams of what superhero movies can be, there’s something else Avengers: Endgame has all of, and that’s all of the money. Opening to a record-shattering weekend box office of more than $1.2 billion worldwide, $357 million of which came from the domestic box office, Endgame handily beat the previous record holder, Avengers: Infinity War (noticing a pattern here?), almost doubling Infinity War’s $640 million worldwide opening and beating its domestic opening by nearly $100 million. I know that for most it’s hard to know and probably not even worth the effort to figure out how much movies do make or should have made in their theatrical runs, but I think even for those entirely unfamiliar with the subject, a number like $1.2 billion in only three days of release is staggering, and for people who like to pay attention to these things, $1.2 billion in a single weekend is, quite frankly, bonkers. Cuckoo. Bananas. It’s an irrational number (even if it can be expressed as the quotient of two integers), a number no reasonable person would have guessed before release because it’s soooo much more than anything we’ve seen before. And that it happened to a good, well-intentioned, inspiring, and hopeful movie is, quite possibly, a small triumph for mankind.
The most astonishing thing about Avengers: Endgame’s triumphs for me, though, isn’t about the money, it’s that it’s the movie that finally bridged and surpassed the gap between my comicbook fandom and my love of the MCU movies. I’d mentioned something about this idea of where these fictional universes reside and how they rank against each other for me about a year ago in my review of Infinity War and, at that time, said that Marvel had done such a good job with its movies that that I held the MCU up as equally important as the comics. Now that I’ve watched Endgame twice, though, I’m willing to go further and say that I may now care more about the MCU than most of what’s happening in the comics right now. And that’s a pretty big deal. There was a time, let’s just call it the early to mid 2000s, when the thought of a new comic book movie didn’t matter to me at all. News could come out about a certain director being attached to a superhero movie or a certain star being cast in a key superhero role or speculation could be made on what the direction of the upcoming superhero movies might be, and while it was always nice to receive good news, like when an actor like Christian Bale was cast as the next Batman, none of it mattered much to me. No, I had the comics to read, and those would always be the superior product, the best form of these stories. I look back at that time now and I almost can’t believe the age we’re living in now, because, at least as far as the MCU is concerned, the movies are now the best.
Is it any Good?
Avengers: Endgame is a very good movie. It’s also a whole lot of movie. You probably already know that though. Among the many things you may have heard about Endgame, its three-hour running time is one of the most notable, and if only by the sheer volume of how long it takes to watch this movie, you know that there’s a lot of there there. The experience of watching Endgame is honestly almost dizzying; it’s the type of movie you can become lost in, the kind of movie you can lose all perspective of time and space and maybe even start to feel separated from your normal existence, cast off into an entirely separate world where the velocity of time itself literally starts to feels different. But if you’re anything like me, it’s not at all a long three hours, and if you see it more than once, it’s actually a very easy movie to get your head around the second time through. Oh, and before we go any further, while I consider spoilers of Endgame to be off the table right now, I may spoil (and already have spoiled) some of the things that happened in Infinity War.
We pick up in Endgame very much in the midst of the misery that would only naturally follow an event as catastrophic as the death of half of all life in the universe, and… y’know that spoiler explanation I just gave at the end of the last paragraph? I’m now fully realizing just how difficult it is to talk about Endgame with any specificity. I guess what I can say about the movie is that there are three very distinct acts in Avengers: Endgame, first the wake of what’s happened and just how bad things are now that Thanos has won, second, what our heroes do about it, and third, the big battle for everything (well, half of everything), and of the three acts, I think I like the first act the best because it’s all about loss. They go much deeper into the true sorrow of this situation than I had expected, and it gives the events of Infinity War even more weight than they had before, and where we go from there in Endgame’s first thirty minutes or so is truly not what I expected. This direction gives a much greater sense of permanence to what our heroes have lost. I don’t think it’s that much of a spoiler to reveal at least some people come back by the movie’s end, but what those who are left end up going through is very real and not something that can just come back with another snap. Thanos’ gift to the universe will continue to have effects on the MCU going forward.
Unfortunately, it’s the second act that gives me the most pause with Avengers: Endgame. Not significant pause, but definitely some, and while there are some very cool scenes from a “What If…?” sort of perspective in these middle parts and some very strong character work here as well, some of which really does help to close the loop for our biggest characters, the tonal shift from sadness to the very wacky hijinks of the second act didn’t quite work for me. On the plus side, these scenes felt a bit like what we might have seen had we followed the post-Age-of-Ultron team of Avengers in that, especially with left over characters like Rocket and Nebula still hanging around, we have an assemblage of some of the weirdest and most disconnected individuals in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, I found that most of this middle part veered so far into the silly that it wound up making the movie as a whole feel a bit disjointed.
It’s once we move into the end of Endgame though that most of my issues with the movie were erased. There’s so much attention to detail in the conclusion of this movie, the completion of circles and destinies coming to fruition, all happening and swirling around at such a pace that it’s very hard to remember everything with just one sitting. There’s a scene with Cap’s shield, a scene with Thor’s hammer, a scene with tie-ins to the ABC TV shows, there’s the way Tony’s armour looks, something that the Hulk lifts up, and the way a certain specific set of characters stood together for just a moment, and it all registers because all of this stuff means so much to us by now as moviegoers, and so much of it is built on the history comicbook fans have grown up reading. There’s one scene very near to the end where some kid shows up seemingly out of nowhere, someone who I didn’t recognize at all at first, but once I found out who it was, I felt a very sudden jolt of fulfillment. That they would choose to include this person that they could easily have ignored or forgotten but instead chose to honour and reward those of us who have been here for all 22 installments of the MCU speaks volumes of the respect that the creators of Avengers: Endgame have for the fans and the genuine reverence they have for this world.
So should I see it?
If you have any interest at all in what Marvel has built over the last eleven years of connected cinematic storytelling, not seeing (Naziing?) Avengers: Endgame seems like a very nonsensical thing to do. It doesn’t reach the heights that Avengers: Infinity War did last year, but it’s, nevertheless, an incredibly satisfying conclusion to these characters’ stories. There are definitely some elements I feel could have been better executed, I don’t think they’re very tight with their own rules of how their universe works, and the tonal shifts in between acts are enough to make the movie feel more all over the place than it should have been, but none of these problems are so great that they’re not overcome with the way Endgame ends.
There’s a dreamlike, almost fairytale quality to how Endgame concludes and wraps up all of its loose ends and plot threads, one that’s intoxicating and hypnotic, and it was a feeling that, for me, really locked in how good this movie ultimately is and how well it stuck its landing despite how much work it had to do to satisfy both moviegoers and fanboys. It reaches deep into the lore of the MCU in telling this closing piece, and, in a way, it even corrects some of the mistakes of some of the preceding movies, and by the time Endgame reaches its natural conclusion, we all, in this packed theatre, were silent at the right times, cheering at the right times, collectively breathing in and out, and I know for sure that I could hear many people in the audience crying at the most emotional moments. We were together in this. As one. Assembled. That’s what made this experience so special.
And as for that idiot who wouldn’t shut up and his stupid friends? They were eventually led out of the theatre, about halfway through. A small story of justice in this microcosm of moviegoing at its finest.
And so everything was right with the world.
Thom’s Avengers: Endgame final score
On the Edge
- “Who puts mayo on hot dogs?” Your mom! The one you’ve, presumably, been living with for the last 12-15 years and who’s no doubt served hot dogs to you before?
- Of all the major Marvel characters, Nebula is probably the worst one to have to spend what seems like it will be your last weeks of life.
- Snapping your fingers is actually pretty tricky when you’ve got a glove [or gauntlet] on.
- Hiroyuki Sanada now in X-Men and MCU movies, joining Josh Brolin
- That Lebowski comment from Tony is so insane considering Jeff Bridges was in Iron Man and was this universe’s first supervillain.
- Love that taco bit! Tacos really are an inferior vessel for holding food!
- So that’s Abed, Dean Pelton, Señor Chang, and Shirley that have cameo’d in a Marvel movie along with Troy with an actual named role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. I’ve a creeping fear, however, that we may never get to see Jeff, Britta, or Annie, and I’m certain we’ll never see Chevy Chase anywhere near the MCU.
- And can I just say how weirdly satisfying it is at a meta level to see so much Community in the MCU?
- I’m so sick of everyone retracting their masks/helmets! You are in battle! Your headgear serves a purpose! It protects your head from damage! Stop taking it off in the middle of the fight! That’s dangerous!
- It’s been a while since I put out an official list of best to worst MCU movies. After this year’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, I’ll finally update.
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