Avengers - Endgame: A Retrospect
I don't often do this, but I thought it would be interesting to revisit a movie only months after release, and discuss if and how my opinion has changed. Why this movie? Why this soon? One word: Perspective. The MCU has been a significant part of my childhood, and because of that, Endgame was an event to me like it was for many others. I went into Endgame anticipating not only a movie, but "an emotional farewell" and "the final chapter in a saga that means so much to me." When you go into a movie with these expectations, it can colour the lens through which you view a movie. Don't mistake me. There's nothing wrong with being personally invested in a movie. But when this investment wears off, it's possible you look at the film which initially moved you to tears (this movie is only the 3rd movie to do that to me in my entire life) and feel like you're watching a different film entirely. Like the movie just doesn't hold up.
I've had my interests shift away dramatically from cinema and into different areas, and the investment I have in the MCU today is only a fraction of what it was when Endgame dropped. I thought it would be interesting to see if this movie still holds up in spite of this. Do I still think this movie is amazing? Do I still think it's the 9.5/10 movie I thought it once was when I saw it in April? I don't think so. Here's the interesting thing, though. My shift in opinion didn't occur as I began to lose my interest in movies and the MCU in general. My shift in opinion actually occurred shortly after I saw the movie in April.
It actually took me a while to realise I didn't like the movie as much as I thought I did. Immediately after I watched the movie, my sister told me "that movie was amazing! We've got to see it again!" I'm always one to jump at the opportunity of rewatching a movie I loved, and having just left the cinema, I told my sister "hell yeah!" The day after watching the movie, I thought to myself "okay, when am I going to watch this again?" And surprisingly, my mind answered by telling me I just didn't feel like seeing it again. It's odd because I watch almost every MCU movie twice in cinemas. Hell, I hated GoTG Vol. 2 and still saw it twice in cinemas. Whenever my sister would mention it, I just pretended I wanted to see it again because I didn't want to be the guy who told someone I was up for doing something with them only to change my mind. We never ended up rewatching it, because I think my sister lost interest too and felt she had better things to do, but I was thankful for it. Why, though? The more I thought and heard about the movie, the more I realised it was just because I thought the movie wasn't all that great or interesting. One watch was more than enough for me. Why is that?
On paper, Endgame delivers a satisfying conclusion in terms of the character arcs of a lot of these characters. A paragon of selflessness like Steve Rogers deciding once to live selfishly is perfect, as is Tony Stark's sacrifice. It is pure poetry to have a character who originally built an armour intended for their survival, to end their character arc laying their life down in an armour essentially designed for them to sacrifice themselves. The movie gets the characters pitch perfectly, and for a lot of people, that's all that matters.
That said, once the initial emotional impact of seeing Steve and Tony get their perfectly envisioned endings, Endgame leaves a lot to be desired. The fundamental issues begin about 15 minutes into the runtime, when Thor decapitates Thanos. A lot of people enjoyed this creative decision, proclaiming it left them having "no idea where the story would head next!" I thought this creative decision was rubbish, and kneecaps a movie that's just barely begun. Avengers: Infinity War built it's entire premise on "how on earth are they going to defeat Thanos?" Every scene is essentially a reminder of how powerful Thanos is and how screwed the Avengers are.
The movie ends with Thanos accomplishing his victory, and the question of "how are they going to defeat Thanos carries onto the next film?" I spent an entire year anticipating the progression of the Thanos vs. Avengers conflict. By killing Thanos within the first 15 minutes of Endgame, you've answered one of the movie's central questions before it's even began. This would be like if the entire Harry Potter saga built up the conflict between Harry and Voldemort, only for JK Rowling to kill Voldemort 15 minutes into the Deathly Hallows.
It's a good way to ensure I lose interest early on into the movie. As bad of a creative decision as this is, I'm willing to give the filmmakers an opportunity to regain my interest by giving my something else, even if it isn't what I expected. This movie fails to do that, as the movie essentially becomes a "Greatest Hits" Collection of the MCU, revisiting previous MCU movies. Sure, there are variations to these scenes. We aren't watching 1:1 recreations, and some are entirely newly envisioned scenes, such as Tony and Howard's scene.
But regardless, there is still little in the way of conflict in these scenes. For the entire second act of this film, there is literally no antagonist, which makes the entire heist segment feel less like a high-stakes action sequence, and instead a delightful walk through an amusement park, where the highest moments of tension feel like less nail-biting, anxiety-inducing, and more "whoopsies!" It's already uninteresting in it's own right, but particularly feels like a 180 from the constantly high-stakes, thrill-inducing Infinity War.
It is in this heist-segment of the movie when the Russo's decide to kill Black Widow. The idea of killing Black Widow isn't an inherently bad one, but her death is woefully mishandled here. Her death is treated less like the death of one of the longest-running, most prevalent MCU characters, and more like the death of a supporting character who was just introduced a movie or two ago. Not only are the moments leading up to the death overly cartoony, awkward and overly-theatrical, with Black Widow and Hawkeye essentially "battling" one another over who gets to commit suicide: we barely get to let her death sink in.
We get a few moments to mourn the death of an iconic character, only for the directors to tell us "hurry up! It's time for this show to move on!" I've heard a lot of people say "well, there wasn't space in the movie for Natasha's funeral", which I don't necessarily disagree with. However, if a filmmaker can't find a good way to do something, they shouldn't do it. If you can't think of a way to give one of the most iconic MCU characters a good farewell, just don't do it. I've also heard the excuse (from the filmmakers who made this movie) that "Natasha doesn't get a funeral because she is getting her own movie next year", which is a silly reason. A movie should stand on it's own merits and strengths, and not rely on a movie coming out a year from now, to alleviate it's flaws.
The third-act is when the movie decides it wants to have it's cake and eat it too. It wants to subvert expectations by killing Thanos, but ALSO have a large-scale action scene with Thanos as the final act of the movie. Here's the catch, though. The Thanos in the final act isn't the Thanos we grew to love (as a character - as a person, he's a piece of shit genocidal maniac) in IW.
I don't know who at Marvel thought it would be a good decision to have the Avengers fight a Thanos who has no recollection of the events in IW, but it removes the dramatic stakes that could've existed had this been the Thanos who experienced the events of IW. Think about it. The Thanos in this movie is literally fighting a bunch of nobodies he's never met before. It even makes his dusting at the hands of Tony feel less ironic and satisfying, because this isn't the Thanos who snapped the Avengers away. It's some dude who is supposed to become Thanos in a few years, but will never get to be, and has no past experiences with these people.
Overall, Avengers: Endgame is not a terrible movie, but it isn't a very good one either. In terms of functioning a sendoff to the MCU, it does a respectable job, giving conceptually perfect conclusions to Steve and Tony. However, where it succeeds as a farewell to those two characters, it fails in a lot of areas that constitute a great movie, and proves that while the destination is important, the journey to get there is just as, if not more significant, in crafting a great movie. Whereas the ending initially left a good taste in my mouth, the 2 2/3 worth of cinema leading up to it left me with no desire to revisit this movie again. And I even revisited GoTG Vol. 2!
I rarely talk movies nowadays, or even engage with them all that much anymore, which made me feel more creatively rejuvenated, fresh and passionate when I sat down to write this. I had loads of fun with it and the words came to me unusually easily, so I hope you enjoyed reading it! If you agree with me, that's great! If you think I'm a bumbling idiot, that's also great. As long as you gave me your time of day, I appreciate it! Just let me know how you feel in the comments below! See you ladies, gentlemen and others next time :)