First of all, this post will be filled with major spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film, want to avoid spoiling it, and read on anyway, that’s on you.
I saw it for a second time (Monday morning) and there were over 100 people at the 1030am showing, many first time viewers (because they stuck around for nonexistent mid- and end-credits scenes. Normally, I’d confine my responses to “I liked it!” on social media, but when I see everyone making white hot takes, I feel I ought to counter-balance their errors with my own.
For the record, I did like the movie quite a bit, but I didn’t shed any tears (and I cry at the movies, lemme tell you).
IRON MAN/CAPTAIN AMERICA
Without these two actors knocking these two roles out of the fucking park right from the beginning, I don’t think we would have had an MCU. Not like the way it has turned out. Yes, in later movies, other actors made their marks, but I don’t think people would have kept coming back with out these two stars and the charisma they brought to these roles. Stark was such a jerk for so much of the time, and Rogers was such a boy scout, that either could have been insufferable. They weren’t.
Stark sacrifices his life at the end, finally proving that he is, in fact, a guy willing to lay down on the wire. Not that he needed to prove that, because we already saw it in the first Avengers movie. But no matter. It’s his big heroic moment. It’s his tragedy. At the end of the first movie in this franchise, he stood before the news media and said he wasn’t the heroic type. In the end, he’s the one who has to give his life to save everyone, and he doesn’t hesitate.
Rogers walks away from his life as a hero. He literally turns his back on it and retires. Honestly, I’m happy that he gets a happy ending, but it seems a shame to me that the same Captain America who refused to sign the Sokovia Accords would walk away
I’d heard people talking about The Hulk’s/Bruce Banner’s last three supporting appearances as a three-act Hulk storyline, and… I guess? In Thor: Ragnarok, he spends a lot of time with Hulk, except when Banner is terrified of letting him out. In Avengers: Infinity War, he spends most of his time as Banner, because the Hulk is afraid to come out or something? Because the Hulk got knocked around and now he’s scared?
And for the third act of this Hulk story, we get Banner and Hulk mixed together. Which isn’t a story. Ruffalo is great–he’s extremely likable, even when he’s mo-capped and cgi–but this movie needed The Hulk.
I keep seeing people writing takes on this character’s death, saying she’s been fridged / semi-fridged / had her agency taken away / is devalued because she can’t have kids / and so on. Frankly, it’s annoying.
“Fridged” does not mean “a female character died and the other characters in the movie didn’t like it and neither did I.” It means a female character had no other function in the story except to die, motivating the male lead(s) with their grief. If you want to see a fridged character in an otherwise fantastic movie, watch The Man From Nowhere. What happens to Romanov isn’t fridging.
She and Barton love each other (but platonically, because they’re both awesome). Each is willing to die for their mission, and neither wants the other to die. They fight over it. You can’t say there’s a lack of agency if she has something she wants, fights for it, and gets it. That what agency means. That’s what Stark does at the end of the film, to much more fanfare.
And frankly, who else are you going to put into that spot? Someone has to die to get the soul stone, as established in the previous movie. Someone has to not come back after the successful time heist, so the audience doesn’t think the movie is making the plot too easy. So there needs to be loss during the heist.
You can’t lose Banner, because you need him for the snap. You can’t lose Rogers, Stark, or Thor, because they’re your trilogy-each centerpiece characters who need to fight to the end. And the other characters love someone, but they’re either a) one of those necessary four, or b) already snapped into non-existence.
Barton and Romanov are the only two characters who have genuine love for each other, and can be sacrificed for the plot. At which point you have to ask: Do you want a scene where Barton’s kids get to be reunited with their father, or do you want a second, mini-tragedy that steals some of the narrative thunder from the Stark memorial? The Hulk snaps his fingers and Romanov wanders into the other room, where she sees Barton’s phone buzzing with a call from his wife?
That would suck. It’s supposed to be an upbeat moment right before the missiles hit. These up/down/up/down reversals are the fuel of a big action thriller (or any story, really).
Romanov is haunted all through this picture–in yet another fantastic performance by Scarlett Johansson. For all my talk about how Downey and Evans sold their characters in the early Marvel films, Johansson’s performances in the Avengers films are the most grounded, real, and interesting. She’s fantastic. I had no doubt whatsoever that Romanov would have made that choice.
Finally, we have to ask if she’s really dead or not. Banner says that he tried so hard to bring her back in the snap, but didn’t succeed. But how does he know? Peter Parker appeared on Titan, where he died, and was returned to Earth via one of Dr. Strange’s portals. If Romanov was brought back, she’s standing around on Vormir, wondering if someone’s going to swing by and pick her up.
Plus, she’s going to have her own movie. They say it’ll be a prequel, but will it? Will it really? We’ll have to see.
A bunch of people were upset by his characterization in this film, especially for what they considered fat-shaming. As an actual fat person myself, I’m usually put off by fat jokes, but Endgame came with a context that made it all right. Just about every film with Thor in it makes a point of showing him with his shirt off. (My wife’s a big fan of those scenes.) They did it again here, and it’s not sexy at all.
What can I say? I laughed. If you didn’t like it, I’m not here to tell you your reaction was wrong. I could have done without the “Eat a salad.” line, though.
Also, it’s interesting that, watching the Movies with Mikey episode about Thor: Ragnarok, he talks explicitly about how that movie shifted the tone of the Thor pictures to match the Guardians of the Galaxy films. And now James Gunn gets to play with that character in the GotG3. Mikey Neumann, prescient as ever.
Nothing is going to make sf/superhero nerds tear their hair out as much as the time travel rules in this film. Why? Because the time travel rules break all the standard formats for time travel stories that we’ve grown used to, and people keep talking about how flawed it is.
Here are the standard time travel formats:
1. When you travel back in time, you are the secret reason that everything turned out the way it did. (aka Timecrimes)
2. When you travel back in time, anything you change alters the future that you came from. (aka Back to the Future)
3. When you travel back in time, any changes you make create an alternate reality. (aka I can’t think of a movie that does this and don’t want to google one up)
Avengers: Endgame establishes that none of these formats apply. Characters can go into the past, but they can’t change their own past. They can screw things up so badly that Loki steals the tesseract and escapes with it instead of returning to Asgard with Thor, and still, nothing about the world they lived in has changed.
But an alternate reality is created, right? Nope. Tilda Swinton explicitly says that the Infinity Stones prevent alternate timelines from being created. There are no alternate timelines.
That means Nebula can murder her 2014 time traveling younger self without blinking out of existence. Thanos can jump to the future from 2014 and get evaporated by Iron Man but still snap his fingers in 2018. Rogers can whisper “Hail, Hydra” to the Hydra agents in that elevator and also have them believe their cover is intact in Winter Soldier.
In short, cause and effect is broken. And that’s fine. This movie didn’t erase the previous ones. If you can’t handle that, I don’t know what to tell you.
Although, how Banner and Nebula became experts on time travel is beyond me, but they needed someone to lay down the rules, so they gave the dialog to the smartie pants and the space lady. That’s less believable than their time travel.
THAT WOMEN OF MARVEL MOMENT
I guess that moment where Captain Marvel has the new infinity gauntlet and a bunch of female superheroes rally around her got a big cheer in some theaters? It didn’t happen in either of the showings I saw. For me, when I saw that, I was reminded that Marvel has a bunch of kickass women in these films, but only one has been in the lead. The rest are supporting characters. Terrific supporting characters, but still.
Is that moment pandering? Maybe so, but I think you can tell a lot about a person (or organization) by who they pander to. When I saw that moment, I took it as a promise. I recognized it as a way for them to say We know we have all these great female characters, and we know you want us to do better with them. And we intend to.
At least, I hope that’s what they’re thinking. Don’t fuck up, Marvel.
If I’m being honest (and I am) one of the fun parts of any superhero story are the power moments, and this movie was full of them.
Cap calling lightning with Mjolnir
Scott Lang grinding one of the Children of Thanos under his heel
Pepper Potts fighting in her own suit
Scarlet Witch breaking Thanos down and taking him apart (something Thor, Cap, and Iron Man couldn’t do) forcing him to wreck his own army to save himself.
Captain Marvel taking that head butt like it was nothing.
The moment where Cap stands alone against Thanos and his army was gorgeous.
And more. So much fun.
One of my favorite parts of that final battle was all the callbacks to previous movies. “On your left” Black Panther calling out “Clint!” Hope Van Dyne saying “Cap.” Peter Parker getting that hug from Stark. And activating kill mode. And getting called “Queens” by Captain America.
TO SUM UP
Because I have more to say but this is getting long: The first time I saw it, I went with my wife. She’s not a fan of much of anything (except sunshine and the outdoors) but she enjoys big fun entertainment as much as the next ticket-buyer. You’ll never get her to buy an action figure or a branded T-shirt, but if the movie’s fun, she’s cool with it.
But she didn’t like Endgame very much. For one thing, traveling to past movies made it harder to suspend disbelief. She also didn’t care for the plot coupon storyline to collect the stones. “Just a bunch of short films that didn’t hold together” she said.
And I’m not going to argue her point (not just because she’s my wife). She’s not interested in the callbacks or the power moments. She’s not waiting for someone to acknowledge the female characters in these films. She’s not hoping to see each of the minor characters have a cool moment in a big battle.
The movie to be physically beautiful.
To care about the characters
To get caught up in the plot (even if it’s sorta manipulative)
To feel something.
Endgame managed the first and second, but not the rest. That’s why I suspect its legacy will be mixed. For those of us who have followed the MCU with something like enthusiasm, it’s a terrific season finale for the first three phases. For everyone else, it’ll be another overly busy cgi punch up that they watch once, maybe, but not again.
Which is another way of saying that I don’t think it’ll crack my top five, but I enjoyed it none the less.
[Opening comments for a few days so we can have a spoilerish conversation without going to social media.]
[Eleven comments–five by me–and 28 spam comments. I’m going to close comments here a day earlier than expected.]