REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame (SPOILERS)
Apologies for the lateness in this written review (especially, since it's in its 3rd week now), but life sometimes gets in the way. Hopefully you all managed to listen to our epic 3-part podcast review of Avengers: Emdgame. If not, you can listen here - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3. I wanted to share my SPOILER FILLED review since I had to dramatically jump off the podcast. I really urge you to go into the film without being spoiled. So, please don't read further unless you have.
Okay...this is your last SPOILER ALERT!
Having been able to see the film a few times, I was able to notice more things and appreciate others more. I had always expected to love this film, but this film exceeded my expectations. Over the last 22 films and 11 years, we have seen these characters grow on screen. This was the perfect love letter and ultimate finale one could ever ask for. I honestly think that the best thing Marvel Studios did, aside from hire Kevin Feige, was bring on the Russo Brothers. Their ability to deliver an amazing superhero movie in a fresh new way is bar none.
For me, this film was all about the characters. In my part of the podcast, Rich and I discuss character arcs. I am glad that this film focuses on the original 6 (with a few more thrown in). Every character had a role to play and everybody stood out in their own way.
I was reading a Hollywood Reporter article that talked about the Avengers being two different teams based on who handled them. Joss Whedon's Avengers were more about heroic moments in which they save people. It is a much brighter universe. The Russo Brothers's Avengers have more of a personal stake in what they do. It is about how they view what to do is right. And, when these kind of events happen, "the ultimate battle between good and evil feels as much like the airing of a long-held familial grudge as it does an epic showdown with the fate of all life in the balance." Neither is better than the other. God knows how much I love Whedon's Marvel's The Avengers. But, there is something undeniable in how this team went from being a bunch of heroes together to an actual family, warts and all. To me, this makes the stakes higher. And, when we left the theaters at the end of Infinity War, we really felt not only the stakes, but the heaviness of seeing our heroes lose.
Nebula (Karen Gillan) was definitely an MVP. It's amazing to see where this character has come from. Gillan plays this woman who has been ravaged by the harshness of her father and break her down so it is entirely believable to see her pathos at this part of her journey. The scene when they arrive on Earth and Rocket sits next to her and holds her hand...gah. I died. It was so beautiful.
Another MVP to me was Thor (Chris Hemsworth). It would be easy to dismiss Thor as comedy relief and just take him as "melted ice cream," but Hemsworth gave him so many layers. There is a man in pain at the most vulnerable point in his life. By this time, he's seen his mother, father and brother (as well as sister) die and his homeworld destroyed and then feel the guilt of not killing Thanos before he was able to wipe away half the universe. The scenes with Thor and his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) are quite wonderful.
Along with Thor's comedic beats came those from Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Rudd is always a master at bringing that lovable and sympathetic schmoe. He probably brings the lion's share of laughs. I don't think anybody will every forget "America's ass." Yet, when Scott sees his daughter Cassie, I think this brought the first genuine tears (for me) in the movie.
Another character that brought on the laughs was Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). It was wonderful to see the "Professor Hulk" version in this movie after seeing so many films with Hulk smashing. Ruffalo brings a sweet lovableness to the character.
Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) started off as a bit of a comedy relief with his giant walking tree friend Groot. But, over the course of several films, we began to see a vulnerability within Rocket. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, he really starts to see the Guardians as his family. In fact, he has tension with Peter because he feels Peter doesn't respect him...as a brother. So, in Avengers: Infinity War, Rocket sees his whole family die. By Avengers: Endgame, in the scene where Rocket tries to slap Thor out of his anxiety attack, it is a pivotal moment where we see Rocket is willing to do anything to get his family back.
Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner really step up their performances as the two non-powered heroes (Black Widow and Hawkeye respectively) working among gods. The scene in which they are flying the Milano to Vormir and they smile each other as Hawkeye says, "this is a long way from Budapest" says it all. It was especially nice to see Hawkeye shine a little more in this film. He's always had the least substantial role and the Russo Brothers really gave him weight and substance, especially as we felt his family disappear in the first moments of the film which made him a man without hope. And then to be pulled from that by one of the people he loves most in this world. Not in a sexual way, but as two people who have survived so much together. So, it is particularly painful when we knew one of them would have to sacrifice themselves to obtain the soul stone. Johansson and Renner really pull out all the stops in that scene which eventually rips out our heart.
I think Rhodey/War Machine (Don Cheadle) also struggles with being a non-powered hero, even though he has his super powered armor. He is more used to being a soldier that follows orders. For him, his armor is an extension of the weapons he's used rather than ascending to the type of godhood that Iron Man possesses. And, he himself has had to struggle with this after becoming disabled in Civil War.
And, of course, that leaves us with our two team leaders - Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.). Both actors bring their A-games to these characters.
With Iron Man, Downey shows great vulnerability for the character. When we see Tony Stark frail and gaunt after the battle on Titan and being trapped on the Milano with Nebula, it is almost hard to see because we are used to him being so strong and confident. After all the tragedy, it is natural for him to want to withdraw. But, it is also like him to be able to go back into the fray to do what is right. And, in doing so, he sacrifices himself. It is poetic that his last words really were "I am Iron Man."
With Captain America, the first half of the movie, we see his humanity. He tries to help the world by helping it move on from the tragedy in the snap, even if that is as small as leading a support group. By the end of the movie, we see Captain America in full hero mode. When he summons Mjolnir, it always elicits applause in every screening that I've gone to. And I've seen it 5 times at various times in the day. And, when he finally says the fabled "Avengers Assemble," there is equally thunderous reaction. The rumors were that Captain America was gong to die, but I was so glad he ended up going off and having happy ending with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
I'm also glad that he passed on the mantle to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). I know a lot of people had their heart set on Bucky (Sebastian Stan) becoming Captain America, but, to me, it makes more sense for Sam. For one, Sam was Cap's loyal partner for years and he believed and upheld the ideals that Captain America espoused. While Bucky may have been his best friend, there was too much time with Bucky being the assassin Winter Soldier. Who knows what would happen in Bucky slipped out of the deprogramming. And, finally, I think it's a big deal for the mantle to go to a person of color. For so long, the Marvel Universe had been primarily white men. This film definitely highlighted the diversity that has grown over the last 11 years, including a great moment with all the women of Marvel teaming up.
I also loved all the cameos in the film. They were so unexpected, whether it be a more sizeable part like the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a shorter one like Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) or a tiny one like Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Tony's funeral scene was absolutely amazing as it panned through all the guests. It really was a testament to the 21 films that went before it. The whole film was a testament. If you go through the film, you will find references to all the movies throughout. That said, you can almost go into the film blind and still enjoy it. My mother, who never minces her words about whether she likes a movie or not and really knows nothing about Marvel, loved the film so much that even she wants to see it again.
And, really, that's because of the emotion and humor as well as the great character development. This is a film you can only savor with each viewing.