Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Review: Avengers - Endgame (second-pass)

Avengers: Endgame (second-pass / 2D / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 181 mins / Dir. Joe Russo & Anthony Russo / Trailer

Well, this isn't the review I expected to be writing about the second-most anticipated movie of 2019. My first-pass of Endgame is here. My thoughts on the film haven't changed since then, I absolutely adore it. Every single frame. Even if the already-gargantuan runtime still isn't enough to properly accommodate the number of characters involved. Even if the film's approach to time-travel is elastic, self-contradictory yet absolutely textbook all at the same time. Even if the God of Thunder is effectively reduced to a fat-joke for two and half hours because the screenplay doesn't want to close his character arc just yet but doesn't have anything for him to actually do.


I love Avengers: Endgame. It's just that…

…why am I not blown away by Avengers: Endgame? I left the cinema satisfied from character (okay mostly), narrative, script and visuals points of view. But I didn't have that buzz. That 'shit, I'm so excited I need to see this film again as soon as possible'. That feeling of utter childlike joy I had after Spider-Man: Homecoming, after Guardians Of The Galaxy, after Iron Man 3.

Ant-Man & The Wasp is the (relatively) low stakes palate-cleanser following the literal genocide of Infinity War. Likewise, Captain Marvel is a retro lead-in, but was never going to attempt to match the absolute fucking armageddon required to close this chapter. Both enormous fun, but deliberately light on dramatic gravity.

Yet with Endgame I was more 'that was utterly fantastic, now let me see if I've got everything straight here, let me just refer to my spreadsheet'. Because a lot of this movie is admin. Great admin, important admin, but still*1. That's only to be expected when you're wrapping things up, twenty two chapters into a continuous flow. And hey, my day-job is in Quality Assurance, I fucking love admin (and spreadsheets). But a fair amount of time here spent is ticking off names and ensuring the audience is reminded of secondary characters from earlier movies.


Maybe it's just because I've been waving the flag for the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2008*2, and my many years spent immersed in Star Wars continuity means that by this point I'm slightly less caught up in the emotional swell, and more preconditioned to connecting story-dots as we go? That's certainly true of the first time I watch an MCU flick (as well as any/all Star Wars, obviously), and I'd wanted a close second-pass to take in all the plot details I'd missed the first time round. But there turned out to be surprisingly few of those - a testament to how well written the screenplay is.

It's not that I wasn't thoroughly engaged for every single frame of Endgame, and it's certainly not that the film doesn't have its fair share of goosebumps-moments. But most of these are things which I'd been either hoping for or flat-out anticipating for some time, not things that I couldn't believe had just happened. While the Russo brothers are spinning many plates here, there are few actual surprises. But again, if this were the 22nd level of a tower block, no matter how accomplished it was it would still have to conform to the rules laid out in the floors below it*3.


Perhaps I'm not overwhelmed because I know this isn't the end of the line for the franchise? The title itself seems to have led to several people (in the actual, offline world) referring to this as "the last Avengers movie". Which it very much isn't. The fact that Spider-Man, Black Panther and Doctor Strange all have officially announced sequels in the pipeline did remove some of Infinity War's punch, somewhat. And if there are more individual hero-films on the way, you can bet your bottom Disney-token that there will be future Avengers team-ups, too. The supergroup hasn't ended, it's just shifted membership. Not unlike The Drifters or the Sugababes, you can't just kill them off, apparently*4.

But, anyway. To clarify, because this reads back like a really negative appraisal, I absolutely love Avengers: Endgame, I'm not finished with it by a long shot and think it's very almost the best film it could be. But that best film was probably never going to surprise me.

And I don't mind that. Even if it sounds like I do...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well, Infinity War.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Hell yeah.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Hell yeah.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Given what we've covered above, let's not call that one just yet.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Possibly, I suppose?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I'm not hearing one.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Pre Vizsla's in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although mentioning the film casually to a colleague at work, he referred to another colleague (not present at the time) who'd said that the three hours wasn't a problem as there were plenty of opportunities to nip out to the toilet because not that much was happening. Still, it's nice to know that the notional idiots who we imagine only turn up for the explosions and the LOLZ really do exist. [ BACK ]

*2 This sounds like bragging or gatekeeping - it's not, I assure you. Besides, everybody knows I can't really get into a franchise unless I'm there at ground-level. I get the fan-version of impostor syndrome if I try. [ BACK ]

*3 Seriously kids, when you're in Quality Assurance that shit is for life. [ BACK ]

*4 And on a side-note, I've long maintained that Marvel is terrified of actually killing its heroes. Think of the roll-call of good guys in Endgame. Now think of how many of those are gone by the end credits. The goodbyes we say in this movie are significant, but not particularly numerous.

There is a separate issue surrounding the exit of Black Widow and whether she was 'fridged'. It's covered very well in this article here, although I'd point out that at least Natasha's death meant something. Had Clint won the race to the bottom of the cliff, his exit would have been as shrug-inducing as the rest of the poor bastard's characterisation, frankly… [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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