Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame ★★★½

It began in a cave, with a box of scraps. It ends here, 21 movies, 11 years, and billions of dollars later.

Looking back at my past reviews for MCU titles I see that I'm constantly struggling with two halves of my movie-going self. There's the half that hates these movies for what they're doing to the artform, the half that longs for compact runtimes and small casts and single locations, the half that wants fresh stories and creative writing and compelling cinematography. Then there's the half that saw Tom Holland bring his childhood to life, the half that made plastic army men fight plastic lizards in epic battles that ranged from the living room to my bedroom, the half that wrote his own religion for a Dungeons & Dragons game.

There's no denying the faults here. The pacing is all over the map; it's a three hour movie with four hours of story to tell and six hours worth of characters. A day after watching, I couldn't give you a great summary of what happened because there's just too much going on. It takes far too long attempting to reconcile a new status quo that we as moviegoers know is only going to last until the end of this movie. It relies entirely on the audience's attachment and nostalgia for previous movies while presenting precious few original scenes for itself. That's the price long-form storytelling pays, especially serialized, and it pays off sometimes, but often falters here.

So why do I like this? Why do we care about these? It's not as simple as some of the more vocal MCU critics might argue, that appeal to the lowest common denominator brings in box revenue (if that were true, we wouldn't have gotten Brie Larson with that haircut). It's not just nostalgia for the comics – if that were true, my theater wouldn't have been chock full of teenagers. You might say this isn't a movie – it's a 3 hour cameo montage, a reflexive exploration of the franchise's own bulk. But reader, that's why I liked it. Obviously we'll get more of these movies – even without the knowledge of actor contracts and upcoming releases, not to mention the audacity this film has in setting up at least 2 more potential story arcs in a film with END literally in the title, the money printing bubble that is the MCU hasn't quite popped yet (though I do think it's reached the apex). Yet this feels final, in ways that aren't just about some characters. There's some joy here in places I didn't expect, payoff for watching a movie I didn't even remember liking all that much! When I was a kid I never liked Captain America and now I'm proud of him? There's some magic here. It's imperfect, dangerous magic, but magic nonetheless.

If you're spoiler adverse, I'd advise you to stop reading here.

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During the quiet moments of the final scenes, there were great, wracking sobs coming from a few parts of our theater. Just tremendously heart-wrenching, broken crying. When I walked out I saw multiple teenagers bleary eyed and sniffling. While this might be a sign of how fitting a conclusion this is, how it gives us finality, it also is a sign of how dominant Marvel has been at the box office for the last decade. Imagine you're 18, seeing Endgame in theaters now. You were barely even 8 years old when RDJ first brought Iron Man to life. You grew up with these heroes as a constant presence, dominating toy sales, movie ticket sales, plastering billboards and the sides of fast food cups. To see them gone? To see them retire, or die...RDJ has appeared as Iron Man in ten films over 11 years. He was a force that was always going to be there. And now he's done. I spoke to this in my review of Logan, that seeing your heroes broken and defeated is powerful. These are their heroes. We can talk all day about the negative effect that Disney's monopolization on movie theaters has had/could have/will have, we can trash talk franchise filmmaking and the corporate drive for expanded universe filmmaking. We can debate the complicity Disney has in propagating military jingoism or problematic worldviews, for failing to be inclusive past the most basic show of tokenism. We can make fun of the guy on twitter who said the MCU was the greatest cultural achievement ever (lmao). But the fact remains that MCU is remarkable, even if you hate it. It's got some real stinkers, and you might think even the best of them is pretty rough. But to have a franchise this large make this much money – and be this important to people! That's an achievement. For a franchise to span more than 20 movies in half as many years? Unprecedented! The two other largest franchises right now – Star Wars and Harry Potter- have half the amount of films stretched over a much longer period of time.

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