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Subj: Re: My ultimate SPOILER-filled Avengers Endgame review (read only after you've seen the movie)
Posted: Sat Apr 27, 2019 at 10:27:22 am EDT (Viewed 320 times)
Reply Subj: Avengers Endgame
Posted: Thu Apr 25, 2019 at 07:22:53 pm EDT (Viewed 356 times)
Avengers: Endgame is a very deliberate culmination of 22 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but despite possibly containing the greatest scene among the 22 films, it may actually be the weakest Avengers movie (but I like Age of Ultron a lot more than most people). At an epic 3 hours and 1 minute, it does try to give characters their due, but it does so awkwardly. The movie debuts following 2 weeks of Game of Thrones season 8's opening episodes, which are also devoted to characters over plot, the second of which has a looseness that gives the characters plenty of room to breathe while the first one felt more like a checklist of scenes that needed to be completed. Endgame, unfortunately, is more like that first GoT episode. Hulk and Thor suffer the most here.
After setting up the conflict between Banner and Hulk in Infinity War, it's completely resolved offscreen with the Banner persona taking over the Hulk body and as such, eliminates the Jeckyll/Hyde and misunderstood Frankenstein's Monster elements of the character. The Hulk should also have gotten a chance for some payback for the beatdown Thanos gave him in Infinity War. The madder he gets, stronger he gets aspect of his power would have allowed that opportunity except the plot choice here means it's dulled by Banner being in total control.
Thor suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after coming closest to stopping Thanos before his snap wiping out half the life in the universe, leaving him a drunk with a big beer belly. The Russos leaving him in this "Lebowski" Thor state the entire film might feel subversive, but like the Hulk, it doesn't work because it's not part of Thor's character, of which his worthiness is essential.
The Captain Marvel scenes were actually shot in this movie before her own titular film, which was released first, and so the Russos aren't able to gauge her properly. They seem to follow Kevin Feige's edict that she's the most powerful superhero whereas her own film makes that far more ambiguous. She overshadows the other Avengers in a way that weakens the drama, similar to how Superman weakened the Justice League movie.
Between Black Widow and Hawkeye making the sacrifice play for the Soul Stone, Black Widow had to die for it to have resonance because really, who cares about Hawkeye? But one could argue that for precisely that reason, she should have been the one to live. She had spent her entire time with the Avengers paying off the red in her ledger whereas Hawkeye had basically just become the Punisher for 5 years, but he gets the happy ending surrounded by his restored family? This would be more understandable if Scarlet Johansson simply wanted to move on and never be in another MCU movie, but she' set to be in a Black Widow prequel movie probably next year. The prequel will be far less effective if it feels like the story of a character whose story has already been told and finished. It's not even like the Star Wars prequels about an already deceased Anakin Skywalker. Those came out 16 years after the original trilogy. Black Widow's death will still be fresh when her film arrives, and if that film somehow chooses to undo her death, it will cheapen it here.
Iron Man's challenge in the first Avengers movie was to overcome Captain America's accusation that he doesn't make the sacrifice play, he doesn't lay down his life for others. He did that by flying the nuke into space and managed to survive. This time he does it by wielding an Infinity Gauntlet of his own making. That he dies from using it closes the potential plot hole of why no one on the hero side uses the most powerful weapon in the universe from the beginning of the fight. All that works for plot and theme, but the execution was lacking. The "I am Iron Man" line was great but then the post-gauntlet-use death scene lacked the elequence of say, Star Trek II's Spock death scene. The dialogue just wasn't up to snuff to carry the weight of the scene. Pepper seemed too ready to make peace with it when this had been her biggest nightmare all along.
Captain America's ending seemed to break the rules of time travel that the film had set up. As the Ancient One noted, once the Time Stone was removed from her reality and taken to the future (whereas it was not before), it would create a branching timeline. That wouldn't affect the core MCU reality; however, it would have terrible repercussions for the new alternate reality, which is why Steve Rogers returned the Stones. Except that Rogers went back in time and spent a lifetime with Peggy Carter. That should have also generated an alternate reality and not have impacted the core timeline except that Rogers shows up in the core timeline as an old man. Similarly, Loki escaping after the first Avengers' movie story instead of being captured for the events of Thor: The Dark World and Ragnarok would also result in an alternate timeline for that Loki. Otherwise, it would have drastically affected the core reality's history with the Reality Stone and the Space Stone/Tesseract. I predict the Loki escape scene will lead to this version of Loki running about the core MCU, which would unfortunately undo much of his character arc, one of the most interesting ones in the MCU. Similarly, reviving Gamora by having a past version of herself come to the future seems awkward because it retroactively eliminates all the character building we saw between her and Quill in the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Will we have to go through that again in the third film? In any case, Cap's ending does have a poetic quality to it. The present/future version of himself spends his life with Peggy and then the past version of himself gets revived from the ice and does all the superheroing while the retired version just sits back and watches, having gone through it already.
Nebula surprisingly has one of the biggest roles in the film. In my opinion, she was always one of the most interesting characters in the Guardians films. Thanos always preferring Gamora psychologically removed Nebula's humanity piece by piece just as Thanos literally did so to her physically, leaving her this husk of hate who still wanted to prove herself to her father. She overshadowed the generic Ronan as a villain in the first Guardians, and her reconciliation with Gamora was moving in the second. As per the time travel rules in this story, her killing her past self generated an alternate reality for that death, as her present/future self did not die, which again, makes Cap's old man appearance a plot hole. Nebula was very enjoyable here right down to her reactions playing with Tony Stark that open the film and her tenderness towards him.
The movie has a very clear 3 acts, the first hour is devoted to the repercussions of the snap, the second hour invokes time travel to recover the Infinity Stones from the past, and the third hour is the final confrontation with Thanos and a long epilogue. The first act takes too long, especially the unnecessary Ronin stuff with Clint Barton. The Thor section which aims for comic relief with him playing Fortnite with Korg and Miek comes off as too facetious and clashes with the tragedy Thor has experienced. The Black Widow section in which she has become the leader of a defacto Avengers works best. Perhaps surprisingly, there are no real actions scenes for practically the first half of the movie.
The second act of time traveling is a blatant exercise in callbacks to the many characters/actors who have appeared in the previous 21 films. We get Loki/Tom Hiddleston, Ancient One/Tilda Swinton, Frigga/Renee Russo, Jane Foster/Natalie Portman, Jasper Sitwell/Maximiliano Hernandez, Brock Rumlow/Frank Grillo, Alexander Pierce/Robert Redford, Howard Stark/John Slattery (de-aging not completely convincing), Edwin Jarvis/James D'Arcy (who only appeared in the Agent Carter show, not the movies), Peggy Carter/Hayley Atwell, and Hank Pym/Michael Douglas. It really demonstrated just how immense a universe Marvel had crafted in the past 11 years. All this was pleasurable yet frustrating because there was no emphasis in placing recognition on how important each character has been. Loki is short-shrifted considering his contribution to the franchise. Peggy Carter as well. While the Ancient One hasn't been so monumental, I was fine with her possibly getting the most screen time of the callbacks because Swinton is such a wonderful actress. I also enjoyed the continuation of "Community" cameos, here with Ken Jeong and Yvette Nicole Brown. The Russos directed many episodes of that great show. Also it was nice to see Joe Russo and Jim Starlin get cameos.
The final act has that greatest MCU moment when Thanos appears to be on the verge of victory, calling on his Black Order and army of Chitauri, then Dr. Strange opens portals for all the unsnapped MCU heroes and Cap finally says, "Avengers assemble!" This is followed by the biggest (in terms of number of characters) action scene in the MCU. Lots of characters get brief moments to shine, particularly Black Panther, Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch, and Captain Marvel. Valkyrie on her winged horse is one of the most enduring images from this battle. And yet, it feels a bit rushed. This would have been the prime moment for Hulk and Thor to tag team Thanos and get some catharsis for them. It's a satisfying battle, but not as much as it could have been.
Final nitpick: The 5 years that have passed between the two snaps creates some potential continuity issues. Why is Ned still in high school when Peter Parker greets him? Shouldn't he be in college by now? And is Ned now 5 years older than Peter? Cassie Lang is definitely older now (potentially allowing her to be Stature in later films).
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