By ANTHP2000 27 Comments
A Review of Avengers: Endgame; The Rights and Wrongs
It's been 2 months since A4's release, and I think we've all been able to jump off the high train and be as objective as possible, bringing in the perfect opportunity for our genuine thoughts on the film, hence this blog. As you've probably suspected, I'll be listing the positive and negative aspects, and close with the end result of the pop culture phenomenon that was the final part of Marvel's cinematic adaption of the Infinity Saga. Keep in mind that this is my subjective opinion and mine alone, and wether or not you agree with it doesn't really matter. There's nothing more subjective in the world than the entertainment value of art in any of its forms. And as a final note, I think we should all know by now that this won't be a spoiler-free review.
Avengers 4: The Rights
Where to start here? As a whole, the film was a fantastic experience with a majority of high points. The technical aspects were undeniably worth their salt, from the writing and directing of the Anthony and Joe Russo, who have yet to let us down after 4 great films, to the brilliant acting from some of the biggest names in Hollywood, to the beautiful visual effects in each and every scene. Here's a list of what we're going to briefly break down and judge (positively) below:
- The General Concept
- The Character Arcs
- The Emotional Scenes
- The Action
- The VFX
- The Humour
- The References and the Cameos
- The Epilogue
1. The Concept
We all know the idea behind Endgame. A3 ended with half the population of the universe turned to dust by the Decimation, so the remaining Avengers, spread across the galaxy, attempt to reverse the effects of Thanos' snap. With direct tie ins to Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel, the movie centers around the heroes planning a comeback, travelling through history and searching for the Infinity Stones throughout a number of different timelines. This is basically the entire plot of the movie, but what's important and should be appreciated here, is the way it was executed on-screen in relation to the characters. The film focuses on the original heroes, the 6 founding members of the Avengers, and in large part, it serves as a quality goodbye to them - or most of them. I believe the writing and the direction doesn't get enough credit for this; this is virtually 8+ different franchises coming together in the closing part of 10 years worth of cinematic history, there is so much to show, so many potential aspects to explore, but let's face it, it is and will always be an Avengers story, and who's more representative of the Avengers than the old generation of the team? Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, the Guardians of the Galaxy; powerful allies, heroes with potential and fan-favourites, yet the film manages to not take the spotlight away from Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, or Hawkeye and Widow. Keep that in mind, the story could easily center around the New Avengers, but it doesn't.
2. The Character Arcs
Moving on to the individual arcs of each hero, particularly the original six Avengers. I feel like half of it could be done better, so here I'll focus on the most satisfying ones: Tony, Natasha and Steve.
"I love you 3,000."
Let us begin by what I consider the most developed character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony Stark, A.K.A. Iron Man; when we first meet Tony, he's nothing but a genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist, he's created one of the most efficient weapons on the planet and he struggles to control it, often clashing with the government and even his very own people, like Pepper as a result. After he's recruited by Fury, he proves himself more of a hero than ever before, willing to sacrifice himself to undo the mistakes of the U.S. government while contributing to the defeat of Loki and the Chitauri, and scoring the first victory against Thanos. Even then, he's still struggling to feel at home with the Avengers, and he keeps on being his usual, eccentric self. The fact that he very often gets himself on the verge of death comes with backlash from his personal life, and not just Pepper. Being an Avenger and having a family is difficult, and we see that Tony does not even begin to discuss marriage or children until 3 years after Ultron's invasion, where things seem to be going well. Unfortunately, Thanos attacks and prevents a safe and sound environment for a family. When we first see him A4, he's still stuck in outter space, waiting for his death when the oxygen and the supplies run out. Nebula does whatever she can to keep him alive, but it won't work. After Carol rescues them and drops them off to earth, a devastated and guilt-filled Tony makes a quick attempt to end Thanos and reverse the effects of his snap, but to no effect. The Infinity Gauntlet is destroyed, and the world must come to terms with the new order of the universe. During the 5 year gap between this moment and the Avengers' second attempt, we see that Tony has found himself fortunate enough to build a family with Pepper by his side. He has Morgan, a beautiful, healthy daughter and he lives in peace and quiet with his the woman he's in love with. This is the peak of Tony's growth as a character; up to A3 we see that he's come to terms with the responsibility of being one of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes... just not enough to let go of his ego, not even when the world is at stake. He characteristically decides to put his phone away and not contact Rogers in the last film, but now we see that he's put all this behind him, he's accepted the burden of a hero, he lived failure and he saw the results of his mistakes with the wiping out of half the universe. He's as mature as he could ever be, and he's in the time of his life where he can make the right choices, and so he does, by assissting to Thanos' defeat. It takes more than enough courage to set aside such scarring differences, put your happiness, which you so long waited for, and your life at direct risk and finally sacrificing yourself for the cause. If you watch Avengers: Endgame, and then you watch Iron Man I and II, it's far from difficult to spot the differences on Tony's character. A4 provided him with a phenomenal character arc and a great goodbye.
Another beloved character, Natasha Romanoff, A.K.A. the Black Widow. We all know what's the deal here; her dark past, she was not given a choice. She was taken in by the russian government and brainwashed into becoming a living, breathing weapon. When we meet her in Iron Man 2 and A1, Natasha is just a spy, who is there to do the job. She is asked to infiltrate, she does it, she is asked to fight aliens, she does it, no second guesses, she does everything she can to escape her past. Natasha had a lot of red on her ledger, years worth of blood on her hands, and she was not going to forget this any time soon. She had accepted that she's a lesser soul, one that did not deserve more chances than the ones she had been given, and that is why she seizes every opportunity to make up for her assassin status. The real character arc of hers was fleshed out in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where we slowly and subtly see her transformation from a cold-hearted spy to a hero. Rogers played a major role in her development, he is the one who gave her the nod she required to open up on her emotions and let go of her job, focus on herself and her own relationships. Steve needed a friend, and she gave him that all the while gaining a better understanding of herself, she's not worthless and she's not unforgivable, she's just another human being forced to make mistakes. She thought of herself as a monster, she believed she had nothing and then, with the Avengers, she finally found the home, the family she was looking for. Natasha would go out of her way to keep this family together, and we saw some of those attempts in Captain America: Civil War, where she supported that staying together, on either side of the coin, was more important than anything. It is this same family that turned her to who she was now, wether or not she realised it, a fully fleshed out superhero. When we see her in Avengers: Endgame, after the initial, failed attempt to take down Thanos, she's highily involved in the remnants of the world affairs. She's taken over the Avengers Facility and she's looking to fix the new world, still falling apart 5 years after the Decimation. She's searching for old allies and clinging in hope. When the Avengers finally find a way to reverse the snap, Natasha finds herself alongside Barton on Vormir of 2014. One of them has to sacrifice themselves in exchange for the Soul Stone and, as expected, they are going to fight over this. At the end, Natasha makes the ultimate sacrifice, she falls to her death, saving Clint and giving him the second chance he deserved to live his life, as he himself once did for her, indirectly saving half the universe too. This scene is important because it's the "endgame" of Natasha's own arc, she has wiped out all the red in her ledger and some more. She's a true, proven hero, not the assassin they tried to force her to be. It's a very bittersweet feeling, she has achieved her goals, she's free from her past and she now rests.
"Well... after I put the stones back, I thought, why not try some of that life Tony was telling me to get."
Finally, there's everyone's favourite soldier, America's ass, Steve Rogers, A.K.A. Captain America. To this date, Cap remains one of the standard characters to have faced struggles in the past, in his case the need to adjust to an entirely new world to the one he grew up and fought in, but remains pretty static afterwards. A4 did him well however, giving Steve the ending he deserved. We've seen the lengths he's willing to go to in order to protect others from Captain America: The First Avenger already, and he's proven himself a valuable and a more than selfless hero throughout his time as an Avenger. So much that he seemingly did not even regret the fact that he woke up one day, 70 years later and was recruited to fight aliens. Well, in this film, he's finally given his due. After he ensures that the universe is safe and returns the Infinity Stones, he takes the initiative to live his life in a timeline where he was never put on ice, where he grew old with the love of his life, Peggy Carter, and they finally had that dance they owed to one another. Steve virtually lived a perfect life, his dream, after he succeeded in all his goals as a superhero. Let's face it, there's no ending mroe satisfying than this.
3. The Emotional Scenes
Not once has Marvel released a film before that came close to touching me as much as this one. Throughout the 3 hour course, almost every character gets their due in terms of emotion, and no doubt they're all fantastic scenes. Firstly, let's put aside the 2 major death scenes, the sacrifices of Tony and Natasha respectively. Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson gave it their all in these scenes, and their performances were nothing sort of phenomenal. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Renner couldn't have been better, and the overall result was me reaching for tissues twice in one comic-book movie. I'll put Tony's funeral in this same category too, the one shot of so many characters in black, paying their respects to Iron Man outside his house, is too obvious to explain further.
Now, there's a whole other number of noteworthy scenes, some short, some long, but all very powerful. Many of them revolve around our heroes revisiting past allies. For instance, take Thor's visit on Asgard in an attempt to retrieve the Aether back in 2013. He meets with Frigga, minutes before her death in the hands of the Dark Elves. Apart from entertaining, the scene is very touching. Thor is still guilt-driven and feels like a failure, afterall he made the final mistake that led to Thanos' victory in A3, by not going for the head. He is physically and emotionally devastated, and the touch of his mother is the turning point of his character in this film. He only regains his confidence after Frigga sits by him, assures him that he's not a failure and gracefuly strokes his hair while sharing her wisdom. Before leaving, he lets her know he's missed her, retrieves his lost-in-the-hands-of-Hela-4-years-later hammer, and heads off to save the universe.
Meanwhile, Tony and Steve travel back to 1970 in Camp Leigh, to retrieve Pym Particles and the Tesseract. Before Tony can leave the facility, he gets confronted by Howard Stark, his own father. The interaction is interesting to say the least, esspecially with the inevitable irony going on, with Tony making up a fake identity on the spot and looking at a reflection of himself, the man he never truly got to meet in his time. While on the family discussion, Howard finally tells Tony that even though his child wasn't even born yet, there's nothing in the world he wouldn't do for him - remembering Tony's issues about how his father never told him he loved him, not even that he liked him, is a key aspect of this scene. On the other end of the scene there's Steve, coming across Peggy, standing a few feet away from her, with a wall right in the middle. The symbolic setting of this scene put together with the theme makes it all the more touching that he's standing right next to her, yet he needs to hold himself together and not come out, no matter how easy it'd be.
Another scene that's worth a mention is the opening, a scene that takes place during the Decimation, at the very end of Avengers: Infinity War. In a quiet, peaceful setting, we see Renner's Hawkeye lose his family, Laura and all his children while outside the farmhouse. They vanish right before they're about to have lunch, with Clint looking for them, right after we see how happy he finally is to spend time with his kids, even teaching them archery. The lack of any theme in the background makes the scene all the darker and more intense.
Finally, there's absolutely no way you could dismiss this last scene; Thanos has seemingly put down the toughest of the Avengers, he's called in his entire army and he's getting ready to annihilate earth, which he was going to enjoy very, very much. The Leviathans are coming from above, Thanos' followers arrive, Rogers' allies are all down and his indestructable shield is broken in half. He still stands up, he stands against the most powerful army of the universe, he stands against all odds and he is ready to go down a soldier's death. And then, "On your left", the portals open, the Avengers arrive, the sorcerers, the army of Wakanda, the Guardians, Asgard, everyone is here to defend humanity, and by extension the universe alltogether. The Avengers assemble.
4. The Action
One of the key aspects of every Marvel film are the action sequences, and you'll struggle finding a single action scene as iconic as the Battle of Earth. Once the Avengers have assembled, the armies charge at each other, he forces of earth against the army of the Mad Titan. It's nothing but spectacular watching all sorts of different character, with different powers and abilities, different fighting styles blending in together and teaming-up from ground and air as one. From the Valkyrie's Dragonfang, to Spider-Man's webs, to Iron Man's repulsor blasts. As always, the Russo brothers designed a battle to the smallest of background detail and did a great job setting up exciting combat and whatnot interactions throughout the entire sequence. A few spotlights include Captain America battling against Thanos right after he's lifted Mjolnir, Scarlet Witch forcing the Mad Titan to rain fire with her immense power, Black Panther defending the Infinity Gauntlet and the entire female cast coming together to open path for Danvers. I do think some aspects like the Black Order were underutilised, but nothing too serious. The movie also offers a few other good, well choreographed but more grounded sequences, like Ronin taking on the Yakuza and an undercover member of the Hand, the initial attempt to reverse the Snap or Cap fighting his past self in the Avengers Tower.
5. The Visual Effects
What is there to say here? The CGI in the final battle with Thanos being a highlight as usual, capturing the most subtle of expressions on his face and giving him more humanine traits, such as when he realises and accepts defeat, taking a seat and waiting to be dusted. The well designed aliens and beasts on both sides... the most impressive part though is probably the cinematography. Not even A3 was so visually impressive, the shots of Clint and Natasha on Vormir speak of their own. Titan and Thanos' farmhouse also stand out as beautifully designed settings.
6. The Humour
As usual, a noticable portion of the film was comedic scenes. To be fair, I much preferred the balance between comedy and story-telling in A3, but that doesn't mean Avengers: Endgame didn't do a good job with this too. They overdid it in some aspects, which we'll get to below, but it was overall well put into the story, with some quality humour too. The references alone were very entertaining, but the silly stuff like "America's Ass", Peter describing Doctor Strange's powers as "the yellow sparkly thing that he does all the time" or the entire first scene with overweight, drunk Thor playing fortnite... come on, it's the MCU, we needed that scene.
7. The References and the Cameos
Avengers: Endgame is the final part of the Infinity Saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's the epilogue of a long story. One of the things I always appreciate in finale stories, is the summary of the whole thing, Endgame did this well using not only the time travel, but dozens of references and past characters. When Steve travels back to 2012 to retrieve the Tesseract, he finds himself in an elevator with Brock Rumlow and his S.T.R.I.K.E. operatives, who question Steve transporting the Tesseract himself, quite familiar? "Hail Hydra"... and because that wasn't enough, moments later, Cap took a taste of his own medicine; "I can do this all day". While travelling to Vormir alongside Natasha, Clint makes an exciting remark, "We're a long way from Budapest", as another reference to their adventures during their time as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, something that happened in the Battle of New York as well. The movie is filled with this as well as very entertaining cameos from the Ancient One, Alexander Pierce, Frigga, Loki, Jane Foster, Agent Carter, Howard Stark; great talents, but most importantly, for a good number of people at least, Edwin Jarvis. Yeah, we got to see what his physical form is like, and it's James D'Arcy's Jarvis, the Jarvis fans of Agent Carter have learned. I watched the show last year and I found it brilliant, so seeing the cinematic side of Earth-19999 recognise it, all the while we were so sure at this point that Marvel TV does not exist for Kevin Feige, was more than satisfying. This scene marks the first time Marvel Studios has included a character from Marvel TV in the films.
And who could forget the cameo of the legendary Stan Lee, before he passed away. Unfortunately, this is more than likely the last Marvel movie we'll see him in, but it will be a long time before someone forgets his name. It's quite bittersweet seeing him driving that 1970s car, but at least he was here for the MCU till the final film.
Lastly, a very strong theory (that to my knowledge hasn't been confirmed yet) suggests that the entire final part of A4 was a direct reference to Tony's vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where he sees the Leviathans descending to earth, Natasha lying in the same position as in Vormir (granted facing the other way) and Captain America's shield broken just like in Endgame. He could've saved them, and he did.
8. The Epilogue
More than anything, A4 is the epilogue of 10 years of storytelling, a goodbye to 3 Phases of films and a very small, subtle introduction to Phase 4. At the end of the movie, we see each arc's end result individually, we see Steve Rogers growing old and passting the mantle of Captain America to Wilson, all the while Sam is interacting with Bucky, opening the path to Falcon & The Winter Soldier, we see Spider-Man returning to his old life with his family and friends, setting up Spider-Man: Far From Home, we see Romanoff learning the name of her real father for the first time, plausibly linking to Black Widow, we see Wanda indirectly mentioning Vision, setting up WandaVision, we see Thor leaving with the Guardians and leaving Valkyrie to rule Asgard. The whole ending basically works as a way of introducing the limitless possibilities of Phase 4.
Avengers 4: The Wrongs
Really there isn't too many things I'd change about this film. It was a success because it was good, but it's also expected that something this big is going to have some flaws. I'll only briefly analyse each one because there isn't much to say here:
- Time travel: I think the means of the plot moving forward has been rather obvious ever since A3 to many of us, and while they did try to undo the cliche nature of time travel using unique aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the Quantum Realm and even set up some new rules about it, which was a major point I might add, it also made things a little too complicated at points. It's easy to be confused about several scenes like Cap's ending after he returns all the Infinity Stones and a number of plot holes people are fighting over.
- The funeral: Really, as beautiful as this scene was, something was missing - yeah, Natasha didn't get a proper goodbye from the public. I understand that there's a very good chance we'll see her 2023 self again in Phase 4, but in-universe, they're not supposed to know that... and on a meta level, they just didn't feel like her death was as important as Tony's, despite it being both vital to the plot and a big deal. They could have at least put her tomb stone, or picture or a flower next to Tony's. That was a big turn off, and the writers coming up with excuses like "it wouldn't be in character because she wasn't as much of a public figure" or "it could have happened off screen" really didn't help.
- Thor as an overplayed gag: As entertaining as it was during the first few scenes, they really did overdo it with "fat Thor" at some point. Seeing the mighty King of Asgard, the physical perfection that is Chris Hemsworth, being all drunk, depressed and overweight was so weird that it was good, just... not for over half the movie. This was one of the mindsets he could have overcome earlier on.
- Thor leaving Asgard to the Valkyrie: Don't get me wrong here, Thor and the Guardians have chemistry, and I really like Thompson's Valkyrie, it's just that it felt like a very weird choice. It's out of place that Val is all of sudden a "born leader". She spent years away from Asgard as a bounty hunter, she's forgotten was a kingdom is like, Thor's barely interacted with her even as fugitives; it wasn't well set up. Not necessarily a bad choice, more like something out of the blue. Plus, I was kinda disappointed that Thor won't get to save his people personally.
- Ronin and Professor Hulk: Two of the founding members whose arcs in Endgame has a lot of potential, but they didn't live out to it. I liked the bits that we saw with them, we got a brief explanation of their motives for taking on these new identities, and we saw some good scenes with a rogue Hawkeye and and a Banner who has come to terms with his alter ego and has created the perfect combination of brains and brawn... but still... how did those happen? What exactly initiated these choices? It's not fleshed out enough, and it felt like a disservice.
- The world post-Decimation: One of the most interesting parts of the movie is the world 5 years after the snap, we see the tombstones for the genocide, we see Steve attending support groups, also acting as a reference to Sam Wilson's previous job, and Natasha with the remaining world leaders explains that governments are still falling apart by the day. I don't think we saw enough of this, maybe in deleted scenes? Another thing to note is that the writers thought of having Natasha run an orphange instead of the Avengers Facility, further exploring the loss humanity had gone through during that time.
These are just some secondary changes I'd make, but I don't really mind most of them. It would also be nice to see some cameos of classic characters like Quicksilver, Heimdall and Lady Sif, but I guess we're fine.... frickin Wong with his attitude though... Overall, I'd rate the film with a solid 7.5/10 - it has its flaws and some weak scenes, but it's a very enjoyable story, packs a huge punch of emotion and in the grand scheme, let's face it, it works perfectly fine as the finale of Phase 3.