Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 181 minutes
Release Date: April 26, 2019
Scott, will you ‘assemble’ with me to review the endgame of Marvel’s 11-year epic?
Yes, with a big America’s “ass” for “assemble”, Greg. Let’s recap.
It’s not long after the events of Avengers: Infinity War when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are stranded in outer space. Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel, Brie Larson) appears and returns them to what is left of the Avengers. Danvers flies off to take care of the thousands of other planets that don’t have super heroes to help them while the remaining Avengers go in search of Thanos (Josh Brolin) and the Infinity stones – hoping to reverse the obliteration of half the living beings in the Universe. They do find him, but he’s destroyed the stones and repairing the damage is no longer possible. Thor wastes no time in beheading Thanos.
Five years later, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, aka Ant-Man) emerges from quantum space where he has been trapped. For him, though, it felt like five hours, giving him the idea of using quantum physics to allow The Avengers to time-travel back to various periods in the past when Thanos was collecting the various infinity stones. In doing so, the Avengers will prevent Thanos from getting the stones and using them to obliterate half of all life in the universe.
Scott, this was a 3-hour end to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that took eleven years to tell. Frankly, I was worried that there would be a lot of padding. But in fact, not a moment was wasted.
The middle of the film is filled with the Avengers returning to earlier years that we’ve seen in previous movies. So, we get a fair amount of a reminder of how we got here. Often this device in storytelling can seem like spoon feeding of backstory to the audience (or in the case of TV – a horrible flashback episode). But each bit of time-travel storytelling moved the story forward while also giving us a reminder of how we got here. This was truly masterful storytelling by writers McFeely and Markus. And the direction by the Russo Brothers (Anthony and Joe) created a seamless story that never slowed down – and never felt rushed. Avengers: Endgame was a perfectly executed end to an epic story.
It won’t be possible to examine each plot point in any detail, there are just too many. My favorite part of the film is the ending. And as we’ve already warned the readers that we “spoil” plots, I feel comfortable talking about this here.
During the climactic battle, Tony Stark steals the Infinity Stones from Thanos who claims “I am inevitable…” – Stark reveals that he’s got the stones and replies “And I am Iron Man.” He snaps his fingers and destroys Thanos’ army. Stark’s final words bring the entire franchise full circle as those are the precise words that ended the first MCU film Iron Man.
The Iron Man movies (including the Captain America and Avengers films) are all about identity. Tony Stark is constantly trying to decipher who he is. Is Iron Man the mask, the suit, or the man inside the suit? This is the existential question Stark tries to answer in Iron Man 3 (my personal favorite of all the MCU films). And in the end, he fully owns both his identity and his destiny as Iron Man. Pepper Potts tells him that “We’re going to Okay. You can rest now.” And he dies. Tony Stark’s missing internal quality” was selfishness and ego. Gradually over the years we’ve seen Stark release bits of this – even becoming a doting father to his adorable daughter. In finally accepting his fate and martyring himself for the good of all mankind (and the Universe) he is completely healed. He can rest. I don’t normally care for martyred heroes, but this is how it is done, Scott. The Iron Man character arc was long, complicated, and rich.
Greg, Avengers: Endgame is more than a movie — it is an event, a spectacle, a comprehensive animated encyclopedia of iconic Marvel superhero characters over the past 80 years. The film is packed with fun and frenzy, and is also dripping with heart and soul. It’s first half was slow and character-driven, while its second half sizzled with action, resolution, and some satisfying surprises. It’s beyond the scope of our review to adequately describe the full grandeur of Endgame nor can we give it its full deserving treatment. All we can say is: This movie kicks some serious, notable ass.
One of the many things I liked about Endgame was its emphasis on the heroic theme of life transitions. Life-ending closure, as experienced by Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, is a very mature theme that the vast majority of superhero movies avoid, but here we are witnessing the death of one iconic superhero as well as the life-fulfilling geezering of Captain America. Both these men’s long, full lives reinforce the utility of our finite and limited existence, as well as the need for rest after we’ve fulfilled our calling. Clearly, the Marvel universe is not content to stagnate and is preparing itself – and its audience — for all the inevitable growth, evolution, and demise that all of us must experience and accept.
This year we’re reviewing and evaluating “the message” of the movies, and Endgame has its share of explicit messages. We hear such dialogue as “the measure of a hero lies is their ability to become their true self”, “What you most want is also what you most fear,” and “That’s America’s ass.” An absurdist interpretation of this film’s emphasis on Steve Rogers’ ass, one that Marvel might appreciate with a wink, is that all things must come to an “end”, that The Avengers are putting Thanos “behind” them, and that Cap-America is sent to a date “posterior” to the present time.
But the implicit messages of Endgame are far more intriguing to ponder. Life, it seems, is a team effort. No one saves themselves alone, and no one saves the world alone. If ever a movie drove home the necessity of world community engagement in solving the world’s deepest problems, this movie does. If only we had the global leadership today, and the global call to collaboration and cooperation that this film says is possible as our world faces the spectre of life-ruining climate change, tyranny, and tribalism that infects us all. Where are the Iron Men, the Captain Marvels, and the Captain Americas that we need to rally everyone toward cooperative problem-solving today?
Avengers: Endgame is the long-awaited culmination of eleven years of storytelling. It is much to Marvel’s credit that they had a vision that was both long and clear. To successfully execute such a vision with all the change that can possibly occur over that time is no small feat and I hope that someone tells that story, too. I never give a full score to a film that is less than perfect. There were some time-travel plot holes that I happily will ignore. Otherwise, I can’t see how Avengers: Endgame might have been improved. I award it 5 Reels out of 5.
The heroes in Avengers: Endgame are some of the most varied and complex that you can find. The addition of Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel in the final act of this series put a proverbial cherry on the cake. I give Marvel 5 out of 5 Heroes.
As you point out, Scott, there are a number of themes and messages running through this film. And as we agree, the Marvel films are not necessarily about delivering profound messages. Still, over the span of decades Marvel and the MCU have given us a new mythology. A mythology filled with so many heroes each of us can pick one to identify with. And enough stories that we can each pick a message that we can take home. I give them all 5 out of 5 Message points.
Avengers: Endgame has earned every penny of its 1.2 billion-dollar opening weekend. Greg, I don’t even pretend to fully understand the massive appeal of this film. The theater I was in was sold-out, packed to the rafters, and buzzing with energy, joy, and rapture for three whirlwind hours. Frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it. And quite honestly, I need more time to digest how Endgame so effectively and entertainingly has created a gestalt where the “whole” is head and shoulders greater than the sum of its parts. If you’re a fan of the Marvel universe, it doesn’t come any better than this, and I’m curious how and where – with the bar set so high now – Marvel goes from here. Like you, Greg, I give this epic movie the full 5 Reels out of 5.
Can a movie have too many heroes? Apparently this film is an exception to the rule that too many cooks spoil the superhero broth. This nexus of superbeings can seemingly never be equaled, nor should Marvel try to. If there is a flaw in the film, it may be that superheroic quantity can clash with quality, although that’s a debatable quibble given the solid storytelling of Starks’ and Rogers’ life-arcs coming to a satisfying close. Because the heroic storylines are spread a little thin among the dozens of heroes, I’m giving this mega-hero ensemble 4 Hero points out of 5.
I’ve already discussed the possible messages of Endgame and so suffice to say we’re left with some meaty issues to ponder about the nature of good and evil, as well as how good should be able to defeat evil. I was impressed with how Marvel injects some heartwarming humanity into superbeings that transcend humanity. I award this film 4 Message points out of 5.