Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

It’s sincerely amazing that Endgame works as well as it does given the foundation it’s building off of is the train wreck that was Infinity War.

Infinity War was a mess. Almost none of the characters in the movie were given arcs, and of the few that did, most were frustrating regressions that seemed to undermine these characters growth in previous movies. And while Endgame doesn’t retroactively “fix” Infinity War, it recenters the focus on character, allowing it to salvage some of the half-cooked ideas from its predecessor and craft them into something feels like real, earnest drama. The best version of this come with Thor, whose obsession with finding a way to kill Thanos gives way to a full blown psychological break after killing the Mad Titan fails to undo their defeat.

Thor is fat and drunk and it’s played for laughs, but underneath the comedy is a deep sadness and brokenness that the movie doesn’t shy away from. In fact, the whole first hour of the movie is very nearly perfect; letting us wallow for a good long while in the pain of the Avengers’ defeat and the hopelessness of the world that exists in the aftermath before eventually presenting the means by which hope might be restored. Steve is leading group counseling; Natasha is organizing the remaining Avengers, but her resolve is holding on by a thread; Clint is a rogue vigilante; and Tony is wrestling with his devotion to the new life he’s found for himself versus his moral drive to make right the mistakes of the past.

But not everyone fares so well. Both Infinity War and Endgame fail to deal with the state of Natasha and Bruce’s relationship, and yet after Nat dies in the late second act, the movie still tries to mine emotion out of Bruce’s reaction even though we have no context for where they were at. Worse still is Gamora, who was the most misused of all characters in Infinity War. Doomed to die a crass, poorly executed death, she returns in Endgame thanks to time travel shenanigans, but in order to do so, the had to reset her character arc back to zero. It just feels like an immense waste. Throwing out five years of character development for the sake of an emotional climax that totally falls on its face.

But the rest of the arcs are great. By focusing the scope back down to the six original Avengers plus a handful of extras, it gives each character more room to have a clearly defined story. The center of all these stories, though, is focused on Cap and Iron Man. A man out of time who doesn’t know his place in a world without war, and a man so worried about protecting what he loves that he is stuck in an endless feedback loop of solving problems by creating worse ones. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans – who have brought nothing but their A-game to these roles for the past five years – pull out all the stops here, and the story they’re given to work with is genuinely moving and effective. In the end, the way each of heir stories culminate is as good an ending as one could ever hope for; Tony Stark is released from his vicious cycle, finally able to rest knowing he protected the world, and with the war finally over, Steve Rogers gets to have the life that was stolen from him and the dance he’s waited for for 80 years.

Ultimately, that’s what makes this movie work. I could complain that the final battle – despite having some great, crowd-pleasing beats – feels uninspired and safe compared to Whedon’s work in the first two movies. I could talk about how I wish we got to see more of the people the Avengers are supposedly meant to protect. But in the end, the emotional catharsis this movie arrives at outweighs nearly all of its failings. Like the MCU itself, it’s messy and unwieldy and doesn’t always work, but when it does work, Avengers: Endgame feels like nothing short of a miracle.

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