Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson
Following the events of Infinity War, where half of the population across the galaxy has disappeared to ash, the remaining Avengers need to find the answers in order to bring them back or simply move on with their lives. Different characters choose their own paths and one specifically provides an inkling of hope.
Considering everything that needs to go right just for this to be a competent film, I am extremely impressed that all of the moving parts came together for it be fairly great. It accomplishes that by slowing down what just happened in the previous film. Too often do these flashy superhero films have a story that wrecks an entire city but will not take a look at the unintended consequences of all of the damage. The characters who survived “the snap” face legitimate grief, especially Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). They each display different stages of grief and the way they clash in those feelings really works. However, as expected, this film cannot stay at that level and there needs to be some action and what ensues to kickstart the plot begins the decline where the film starts to get wonky for me.
An idea arrives to save all the people lost and then it began to get convoluted and just became an exposition dump form one character to all of the others. Ideas and a concept that was seemingly unavailable before suddenly fixes all of their issues. This whole plan takes up much of the second act, which quickly becomes the weakest part, but this movie relies on fan service far too much when the third act arrives. Especially in the large climactic battle to decide the fate of everyone where certain characters started interacting that would have no reason to but the storytellers believed that it would get the fans hyped up to see on screen. Part of me does see that for the extravaganza this film becomes some of those moments are in place are for rapturous applause and cheering but this story wants to take itself seriously. If it wants to do that then it must be said that narratively it does not track and simply and devolves to service the audience members and not the plot or themes of the story.
It does sound like I’m being harsh on the film, but I genuinely enjoyed some of the character work, especially with the original Avengers. This was always going to be about them and their journey to bring back the people who dusted. Tony Stark, whose arc ended many movies ago, has some very emotional decisions to make and the weight of it can be felt on the character. Chris Evans has to battle being the force of positivity he became in the previous films and trying to accept the reality of the circumstances. Black Widow has lost the family she never had because of Thanos’s snap and it has a real impact on her psyche and what informs her decisions as well. The action, like in Infinity War, looks tremendous with showing visuals that comic book fans could only imagine they would ever see on screen
This story also tries to balance the tone between the melancholic beginning and the comedy that Marvel films have famously displayed in the past. There are definitely moments it works more than it doesn’t because of the characters and the history the audience has with them. Conversely, Avengers: Endgame also has moments where the emotional scenes are undercut with unnecessary humor, but that has been the case in other Marvel films I love like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Additionally, in several instances in the film, the filmmakers wanted the audience to cry but did not impact me at all. Perhaps because I saw those moments coming from a mile away. One, in particular, was the “I love you, 3000.” Something obviously inserted to bring the audience to tears when utilized in the narrative and it just felt cheap because of its lack of buildup. It surprised me that even though I have seen every film in this franchise, it did not have an emotional impact on me, despite me hearing all of the snifflings I heard in the crowd.
Despite all of the issues I had with the story, Avengers: Endgame remains a very good film and I critique it because it could have been better. What the Russo Brothers achieved with this film feels like a miracle. While the plot might get convoluted, I never felt lost and I saw where the clear path of the narrative. Being able to bring together all of these characters and give proper endings to some of the most beloved characters shows directorial skill. It’s comparable to a very strong series finale that wrapped up many of the loose ends its previous episodes tried to establish. While it was never going to be a perfect movie with everything going into it and the financial stakes it holds, I cannot deny that this film demonstrates a triumph in large studio filmmaking where good art can be mixed with commercialization.