At long last.
We can finally all breathe. After twenty-two movies, we can finally turn our attention to other films and budding franchises that have been overshadowed by the Marvel behemoth. If you look over there, the DC Extended Universe is still budding and…well…ok – it sucks pretty hard. Joker looks promising based on the previews, but then so did Suicide Squad. Instead, let’s check in on the new kid on the block, Universal’s Monsterverse, led by everyone’s favorite lizard-king, Godzilla. Movie three in the franchise is just hitting theaters and I am sure they are going to follow the Marvel playbook by releasing several movies featuring standalone monsters before giving us a royal rumble between them all. Wait – this new film is the royal rumble? Aw, man?! Looking ahead and I see Dark Phoenix, another Men in Black, another Toy Story, another Annabelle, remakes of Child’s Play and Shaft, and another Secret Life of Pets? I’m simultaneously thrilled/terrified of how Dark Phoenix will go (given the rollercoaster of quality that is the X-Men franchise) and Toy Story 4 will probably be fine, but, sheesh, that is not an encouraging slate of movies coming up. What’s that? Spider-Man: Far From Home is the big Fourth of July release? Whew!! I knew I could count on you, Marvel.
Seriously, though – what an amazing run for Marvel. Eleven years ago, I was not overly impressed with how the franchise started. Ironman was entertaining but had some serious plot issues (to be fair, it gets better every time I watch it). Ironman 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger were mediocre and everyone pretended The Incredible Hulk never happened. It wasn’t until Disney took over that things really took off, with the release of The Avengers. After that, every movie got better and better, (with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – I still don’t know what the hell happened there), and we all couldn’t wait until each subsequent film released. With Endgame breaking almost every box office record (it’s just about to pass Avatar for number one internationally), the MCU will have grossed more than $21 billion dollars at the box office and we are more than happy to confirm it was money well spent. So, of course we can’t wait until the next Marvel saga begins.
(SPOILER ALERT. This is for the three people who somehow still haven’t seen the film, yet are somehow reading this review.)
So, what about Endgame, then? Well, it was awesome. Unlike the way Game of Thrones has decided to impale itself, Endgame does its best to tie up the multitude of MCU storylines in satisfying ways. It has action, reflection, solemnity, humor, and emotion and engrosses the viewer for its entire three-hour running time. It picks up a couple weeks after the conclusion of Infinity War, with half of the life of the universe removed by Thanos and the remaining half picking up the pieces. The remaining Avengers, now with Captain Marvel, track down Thanos to attempt to take back the Infinity Stones, only to discover Thanos has destroyed them. With no way to undo the genocide, Thor cuts off Thanos’ head and we fast-forward five years with everyone just trying to pick up and start their lives over again. The end.
Just kidding. What really happens is the Avengers invent a time machine. No, seriously, they do. The idea comes from Ant-Man after escaping the quantum realm five years after being trapped there when Thanos snapped his fingers. I realize time travel is a bit of lazy plot device, especially because once you go there, anything can be undone. But, come on – do you really think Marvel is that lazy? Some of the best dialogue in a film already loaded with great dialogue involved explanations of time travel and the realization that Back to the Future was bullshit. To quote Bruce Banner and Nebula, “that isn’t how time travel works.” After Banner explains to Ant-Man that once you go back in time, the past becomes your present, Banner has another discussion with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, in case you forgot who the Ancient One is), further explaining their plan to fix what Thanos broke. The Avengers are not going back in time to change the past because then their future would be different than what they left from. Instead, they are going back to several different times to gather the Infinity Stones, take them back to the future, snap their fingers to bring back all of the life Thanos made disappear, then return the stones back to the moments in time they originally took them from. That way, their past remains the same, assuring their future is the same as well. Did you follow all that? No? Neither did Ant-Man. Don’t worry though – Banner and the Ancient One’s conversation includes a colorful line representing time, drawn in the air by the Ancient One as a visual prop for everyone who doesn’t understand time travel. So, everyone.
Obviously, things don’t go according to plan or else, again, the movie would just end. Instead, we get a battle royale rematch between everyone and their mom, but without Thanos wielding a nearly fully populated Infinity Gauntlet. In fact, no gauntlet at all. This time, Thanos is trying to snag the gauntlet and stones that the Avengers made and the Avengers are trying to keep it away from him. This battle led me to wonder what are Thanos’ full capabilities/powers? Is he just super strong? Is his giant blade thing some kind of magical weapon and that is why it can’t be defeated by Thor’s new axe? Is his entire race as powerful as he? Where is the rest of his race, anyway? Did he lose a child and that is why he kidnapped Gamora? Was he married? Was he a gardener prior to becoming a warlord? Won’t the firing from his warship onto the battlefield also kill him? Suffice it to say, I think he is basically the equivalent of the Hulk and that is all I have to say about that.
As fun as the climax of the film is, it wasn’t great for a couple of reasons. For starters, without the gauntlet, Thanos is no match for several of the Avengers. Thor should be able to kill him with a single lightning bolt, giant Ant-Man could just step on him, Ironman or War Machine could load him full of bullets, missiles, and energy beams, Scarlett Witch could psychically rip him to pieces (which she doesn’t actually do when she has the chance), Doctor Strange could do any number of magical things to kill him, and Captain Marvel could either shoot him with energy beams or just fly and punch a hole through him like she does to his spaceship. Again, what is Thanos? With twenty-two movies, I don’t think it is too much to ask for a couple minutes of Rocket or Thor filling us in on Thanos’ race.
The other part of the battle that forced me to look incredulously at the screen was the poorly conceived, girl-power moment that shows how far Disney and society in general still have to go in dealing with gender equality. Captain Marvel joins the battle by smashing through Thanos’ ship and destroying it. She flies down, takes the gauntlet from Spider-Man and finds herself facing some bad guys, sneering at her that she is alone. From behind her, we hear a female voice exclaim that she is not alone and the camera pans to literally every female character gathering behind her. I desperately wanted her to raise an eyebrow at the women and baddies, point at the wreckage of the massive spaceship she just singlehandedly destroyed, then fry every enemy in a fifty-yard radius with her energy beams while simply saying “I’m good.” Instead, all I could think was “what the hell is Mantis doing anywhere near this fight? Also, when did Mantis learn how to fight at all?”
Look, I get it. Endgame is a comic book movie with absurd premises that we have to accept, so what’s one more? I don’t think it is too much to ask for a little more consistency on those fronts and a smidge of exposition, but I’ve seen far worse. Those were small moments and Endgame really was everything we could have hoped for in a climax. It met all of our expectations and then some, it gave us a thoughtful approach to time travel, it dealt with all of the characters in satisfying ways, and it gave us the tiniest little hints at possibilities in future films. But, it is very nice to have closure on eleven years, hundreds of dollars, and fifty hours of screen time invested in a franchise that nearly always gave us its best. *Inhale* Ahhhhhh. (Meanwhile, in Westeros, WTF!?!)
Rating: Worth so much more than all of us paid for it and we’ll keep paying for more.