The least spoilery thing I can say to sum it up is: It's the same basic fan-servicing Marvel that we've been seeing recently -- but something's different, because I enjoyed watching it this time! But yeah, I'm not even going to try, friends. There are definitely spoilers here!
Endgame: the big secret. The actors knew nothing; no information was released during marketing; and fans go to extreme lengths to avoid spoilers before release day. Even I did it the "right" way and achieved about 97% blindness. And still. Not one thing was legitimately surprising. Maybe if I'd gotten an out of context spoiler, sure; but within the narrative of the movie, there were no shocks, or plot twists, or anything that you'd expect to be kept secret -- save for the mere two deaths. The OG Avengers use time-travel to bring back the dusted, defeat Thanos, and pass their torches to the next wave. Pleasantly straightforward.
|I should probably mention that this doesn't help me look at Infinity War in an any better light. I wondered for a year if it might, but no.|
Yep. I had fun. The time travel aspect was super comic book-y and cheesy in a nice way. They must steal the Infinity Stones from their past selves in previous movies and the Back to the Future Part II vibe was solid fodder for superheroing. Sometimes not used to potential; other times smart, neat, and fulfilling to the characters' individual stories. And the final showdown battle finally took this series to the scale at which they've always wanted to exist. Like comics brought to life. And when the ultra-high stakes come in (Thanos planning to kill them all) you instantly know the heroes are in for a satisfying win, so it's easy to settle back and soak it all up.
Tony is the most focused-on character. Fitting, since he has an ultimate end -- and started it all. He gets to marry Pepper, have a little girl, live a briefly happy life, have a restoring man-to-man with his dad, and then die a hero's death saving the whole universe. Nice. Cap was my personal favorite. Since time travel now exists, he lives out a normal life with Peggy. Nothing could be more satisfying. And I realize this is fan-service, with no veil or pretense attempted. I was primed to be okay with that fact by the continuous pulling out of the rug from under my hopes of simple enjoyment, and don't care if it worked. These were thoughtful ends that the characters deserved. About time they received them.
|Throwback to when these two were the GOAT.|
Even Natasha's death felt earned and meaningful. Her and Clint's friendship was one of the first things I fell in love with in these movies, and that scene they had together made it all conclude in a way that felt natural and right. The scene mirrors Gamora's Infinity War death, even with the same music, yet inverts aspects in profound ways. They fight each other out of love, which has never happened in the MCU before. The sad tone was uplifting, and the emotion unforced. Long-established and consistent characters dealt with respectfully. Strange to think that after using movie after movie to point forward to the next with relentless ferocity -- actual, final ends are given here.
But it's not all satisfying lovey-dovey goodbyes. There's Beer-Belly Thor, which is by far the worst iteration of Thor even conceived. The weight (unintended) of the abject failure he feels could have been so powerful were he not turned into a joke. The scene with his mother was nearly good even with that looming over it. On top of that, the "joke" isn't funny. I'd like to say nonsensical too, but I have no proof, so I'll just say it annoyed me -- especially after Thor was the greatest redeeming factor of Infinity War. I've always liked original Thor Thor best, so I wasn't expecting much... but that was just insulting.
|Animated humanoids like Hulk and Thanos are impressive, but still fail to draw me in -- even in the way cyborgs and small CGI creatures do.|
I could devote a similar paragraph to Star-Lord, but I'll limit it to this: I hate, loathe, and despise what these films have turned Quill into. It makes me angry in a way that fictional things shouldn't, and this movie was the worst offender. The only mercy is his limited screen time. On the flip side, Nebula has never been more complex and involving. She continues to earn her spot on the team. Scott had the highest ups and the lowest downs: His reunion with Cassie had some of the most genuine MCU acting I've ever seen; and the time travel test was the "joke" that would never end. Yes indeed, the Marvel-brand jokes are still here, and bland as ever. It's impressive how deftly they skirted around Paul Rudd's comic abilities.
It's like the outline of the story had effort, with a nice and plain three act structure that kept the pace going, and thought-out building on past scenes -- but then the details were filled in by an MCU bot. Every tidbit and third line were a callback, and the rest stuffing. The dramatic scenes work by sheer force of will from the actors as they push real emotion through dialogue lacking any written personality. The Marvel-brand green screen and overly-CGI'd pastiness is at large too. The initial swell of the battle did have nice imagery with the portals though, and Vormir appeals, green-screened as it is. I genuinely liked one shot: the last one of Clint sitting in the water with the soul stone.
|I thought it was nice how the movie was more or less bookended by farewell speeches from Tony. There is muddling around, but ultimately there's a simple, solid structure.|
This movie exists because of past successes, like a greatest hit episode; no legs of its own to stand on, but enjoyable, nevertheless. Exactly what we expect from Marvel -- packaged as a tribute to those who got it started. The effort is nearly derailed by cringe jokes and mountains of CGI: There's lots of filler, lots of worthlessness, and lots that's recycled from the deep, deep, rut that Marvel has dug for itself. Sadly creative ruts aren't a factor for Marvel anymore. Their oodles of cash isn't earned due to quality craft, but to calculated marketing; and with these loyal fans, and the ability to fabricate and promote empty secrets, any kind of slop could've played on that screen and made the same amount of money.
Fortunate, then, that the slop they played for us was a relatively good time, made for pure, widespread enjoyment, and was relatively respectful; serving founding characters with one last dose of genuine progress and a hearty farewell. Almost not slop at all, at heart. Despite shortcomings and extended lapses into stupidity, at least there's a story here, used for the satisfying completion of the journeys of long-beloved characters. Despite everything, I'm glad I got to see the Avengers assemble for one last hurrah.