Release: April 29, 2019
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Screenplay: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Josh Brolin as Thanos, and Plank as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel
Running Time: 181 minutes
A couple of weeks after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Tony Stark and Nebula sit marooned in an inoperative ship in deep space. With oxygen running low, Tony uses his helmet’s recorder to document a final statement to Pepper. Tony Stark prepares to drift off to sleep, to his death, but the pair of marooned heroes are rescued by Captain Marvel who carries the entire ship back to earth. Determined to take revenge on Thanos, and acting on a hot tip from Nebula, the remaining Avengers, with Captain Marvel in tow, set off to take revenge on Thanos who, having fulfilled Paul Ehrlich’s deepest desires, has taken up life as some kind of farmer on a remote planet. The group arrive to find that the infinity stones have disappeared and the gauntlet is no longer operational. With their hopes of blinking their compatriots back into existence dashed, a physical confrontation with Thanos ensues, during which Captain Marvel learns the limits of her own strength and the folly of arrogance, and Thor slices off Thanos’ head with an axe. Five years, and one Captain Marvel mental illness haircut later, Scott Lang returns from the quantum realm to find half the world’s population missing. After a stop off at his ex-wife’s house to see his daughter, Scott heads for the Avengers’ compound with a plan to undo the events of Infinity War. The group engage in some Back to the Future-inspired shenanigans wherein they muck about with events from early in the franchise in an effort to seize the infinity stones at a point in time before Thanos has them all. Back in the present with all of the stones, Tony makes a facsimile of the gauntlet which Bruce Banner uses to blink the disintegrated heroes (and the rest of the galaxy’s population, of course) back into existence. Unbeknownst to the team, however, while they were mucking about with the space-time continuum, their version of Nebula was captured by a pre-heel turn version of herself who, while the team are busy playing with their new power glove, uses their time travel platform to summon an earlier version of Thanos and some of his minions. An enormous battle ensues, during which the team plays a game of keep away with the new infinity gauntlet. When things take a dark turn however, Captain Marvel shows up and again learns an important lesson about the limits of her own strength and the folly of arrogance. Thanos eventually takes possession of the gauntlet and snaps his fingers once again. However, through some skillful sleight of hand, Tony has stolen the gems and socketed them (somehow) into his own glove. With a snap of his fingers, Thanos and all of his minions begin to disintegrate.
Since the 2012 release of The Avengers, and the beginning of the so-called “phase two” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the quality of the films has become wildly inconsistent. Phase two boasted a few memorable pictures in the form of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the first Guardians of the Galaxy, and the surprising enjoyable for an Adam McKay movie Ant-Man. However, it also gave a panoply of the forgettable in the form of Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. When the long-running series entered into “phase three,” the frequency of releases ramped up even further, and with it, continued dips in quality. Since 2016’s Doctor Strange, the jokey, Joss Whedon dialogue has become more and more prevalent, the CGI declines in quality while also becoming more ever present with each successive release, and each film becomes ever more bloated. These things reach a critical mass in Avengers: Endgame. A film that attempts to tell a tale of a team of superheroes trying to thwart an apocalypse on a potentially galactic scale, but is so marred by jokey dialogue, computer effects that are barely better than a Netflix original, and a runtime that renders the proceedings incredibly unfocused to the point that this event that the franchise has been building toward for the last ten years ends up packing all the punch of an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Bloat has become a huge problem with the modern action soap opera blockbuster. With Endgame, Disney have produced a film that runs longer than, and does even less with its runtime than The Last Jedi. There is absolutely no reason why this film had to be three hours. All of the major story beats, and then some, present in Endgame could have been dealt with just as effectively in 2 hours, and we could have been spared some of the extended jokey bits that render this harrowing time travel tale of averting a galactic apocalypse tonally schizophrenic on a level that makes Spider-Man: Homecoming look downright dour by comparison. Spider-Man man crushing on Tony Stark during a hectic battle, the idiotic Hulk vs. Ant-Man autograph scene, the time travel test montage, these and many other bits that served no purpose other than to stretch this picture’s length could have been pared down or cut entirely, and nothing would have been lost.
My general thought with regard to acting in these cape flicks has been that it doesn’t necessarily have to be stellar, they are just popcorn movies after all. That being said, the performances in Endgame sink to a new low that borders on unbearable. Mark Ruffalo, as per usual, is stuck at a dull monotone and comes across like he is reading from a cue card just off screen. I know you were mostly replaced with CGI in this outing, Mark, so most of your lines were likely done as a voice over in post, but can you at least make it sound like you’re not reading? Chris Hemsworth’s performance as Thor is worthy of the next installment of the Sharktopus series. Robert Downey Jr. seems like he is on autopilot, just going through the motions until it’s time to cash that last fat paycheck. Then there is Brie Larson. Larson’s Captain Marvel doesn’t get much screen time, appearing in something like two or three scenes throughout the course of the picture, but when she is on screen, it is a stark reminder of just how forgettable Larson is as an actress. The sex doll in Lars and the Real Girl has more personality and presence than Larson.
Of course, the worst parts of Endgame come courtesy of CGI and tonal inconsistency. While the effects aren’t quite as embarrassing as they were in Black Panther, the computer rendered backgrounds, cartoon hulk, and the cartoon villain aren’t quite up to the same level as the effects in past outings, even going back to the franchise’s beginnings over a decade ago. As the tone goes, well, it comes down to the jokes, quips, and banter once again. If you’re telling a story of a life and death battle for the fate of the entire universe, I don’t think your characters should be stopping to banter like a pair of hack comedians exchanging bad one-liners. Furthermore, if you really expect me to give a damn about Thor’s self-pity, maybe try not having him make poo jokes while blubbering like a simp. People aren’t going to stop on a battlefield to exchange banter. This, of course, is the stink that Joss Whedon left on this franchise when he directed The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. It is a trope that has permeated most of his output, and the output of his acolytes. If a character is on screen, he must be saying something. Films, like comic books, are a visual medium. Sometimes, it is okay to have the characters say nothing and just have the images do the talking.
Given all of the hype that surrounded it, there was no way in nine hells that Endgame was going to be a flop. That being said, however, it was not a good movie. Avengers: Endgame is a bloated, morbidly obese, tonally dissonant mess of a film that sends the MCU out not with a bang, but with a resounding cry of “who cares?”