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Avengers: Endgame
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Supposedly Fun Thing Part II"
3 stars

Although “Avengers: Endgame” is far from my favorite of the 22 entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that have been released so far, it does contain the one moment that I have been looking forward to in the entire run of the increasingly expansive franchise. During the massive scrum that makes up a good chunk of the last hour, one character—it hardly matters who—approaches another one and makes the standard declaration of how the second person killed their loved ones and ruined their life and yadda yadda yadda before preparing to destroy them. The second person—they shall also remain nameless but I suppose that figuring out this person will not be much of a chore—looks at the first person, furrows their brow (at least as much as they can) and remarks “I don’t even know who you are?” Yes, the MCU has finally gotten so vast and so overloaded with characters, each with their own detailed backstory and array of powers/abilities, that even the other people in the story have begun to lose track of who everyone is and how they relate to everyone else. Yes. it is clearly meant to be a funny line but as someone who has felt increasingly lost at sea as the franchise has pursued a bigger-is-better aesthetic to absurd extremes, this was perhaps the one moment in the entire series that seemed to be speaking for me. This is not to say that the film is terrible by any means but unless you are in the mood for three solid hours of relentless fan service dedicated to convincing you that the countless hours you have spent watching all the earlier films (not to mention all the TV shows and additional ephemera) have not been in vain, you may come away from this hymn to big-screen excess yearning for, of all things, a little than what has been provided here.

Of course, a challenge almost as great and fraught with peril than any of those faced by the army of on-screen heroes is to try to write a review of the film that will not have Marvel or, even more potentially fearsome and off-putting, overly excitable fanboys bitching about spoilers. This is difficult enough under normal circumstances but in this case, it is even more perplexing than usual because this is, after all, technically the second half of a extended mega-movie that began with last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and even the vaguest suggestion of what is on tap could be considered an unforgivable breach of protocol in the eyes of some. Hell, at this point, even the most innocuous reference to the most seemingly insignificant side detail could potentially destroy everything to more sensitive viewers. After much internal debate, I think I have hit upon an elegant solution to this particular problem, if I do say so myself—one that allows me to convey what I need to get across in order to provide a clear and coherent critique without giving away too much. Even better, the results could serve as an ideal audition piece for another particular line of work if the whole film critiquing thing eventually dries up completely.

Picking up 22 days after the finale of “Infinity War,” in which the vile Thanos (Josh Brolin) eliminated half the life throughout the entire universe—including a good number of the vast array of superheroes who had assembled to bring him down—with the mere snap of his fingers after acquiring the six all-powerful infinity stone, “Endgame” begins with (REDACTED) trapped in (REDACTED) along with (REDACTED) and near death until they are rescued in the nick of time by (REDACTED) and returned the core group of surviving Avengers, including (REDACTED), (REDACTED), (REDACTED), (REDACTED) and (REDACTED). After tracking down (REDACTED), they devise a plan that will hopefully return things to the way they were and bring the vanished back but things quickly go (REDACTED). When the story picks up again, it is (REDACTED) and our heroes are trying to figure out their place in their new world—some have made peace with the past while others are haunted by it in ways ranging from murderous to self-destructive—when (REDACTED) unexpectedly turns up again after (REDACTED) with a possible idea for reversing the course of history using. . . you guessed it, (REDACTED). (REDACTED) pooh-poohs this as a pipe dream but after discovering that it could actually work, the gang assembles to (REDACTED) in order to (REDACTED) and bring (REDACTED) back in order to set things right. Naturally, things don’t go entirely smoothly, especially when (REDACTED) gets wind of their plans, and it all sets the stage for yet another battle between (REDACTED) and (REDACTED) with the literal fate of the entire universe hanging in the balance.

Oh yeah, there is also a cameo by (REDACTED) thrown in for good measure.

Since the debut of the original “Iron Man” in 2008, the MCU has expanded in such a grandiose manner that even such wildly ambitious efforts as the “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” franchises seem almost puny by comparison. That approach reaches its absolute apotheosis with “Avengers: Endgame,” a film so overwhelming in terms of scale and scope that it is almost impossible to imagine that another film could be made that could even come close to approximating its jumbo-sized nature. From a logistics standpoint, the film is breathtaking to behold—in its efforts to simultaneous wrap up the “Infinity War” narrative, pay off moments set up in the 21 previous films and lay the groundwork for the next phase of the MCU, there are times when I found myself reminded of those people who used to appear on variety shows back in the day who would keep an array of plates spinning on thin rods without letting any of them fall and shatter. Of course, there is a slight difference between watching someone doing that for a couple of minutes on Ed Sullivan and watching virtually the same thing being done for three hours to the tune of an increasingly concussive soundtrack rather than a tinny rendition of “The Flight of the Bumblebee.” A ton of work clearly went into making “Avengers: Endgame” and it never lets you forget that for a minute. Alas, this means that there is never a moment when the film just allows itself to sit back and relax for a moment. You never get a sense that you are watching a story evolving in a natural and unforced manner—practically every scene feels as if it had been endlessly hashed out in some Marvel boardroom by a group fo executives worried about what might happen if audiences were allowed to respond to the material on their own terms instead of having everything relentlessly pre-programed for them long in advance. After a while, even those sitting in the audience can feel the combined weight of both the sheer size of the endeavor and the enormous expectations that have placed upon it as if it has been plunked on their laps and you never get a chance to simply relax and get into the movie as you might with a smaller and more overtly humane endeavor.

Even if you are somehow able to set the film’s enormous size and massive expectations, not to mention the fact that it requires one to have seen 21 previous entries to fully get everything that is going on, and look at it simply as just another mere mortal of a movie, “Avengers: Endgame” still comes across as a less-than-perfect enterprise. For example, the conceit that screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have employed to potentially reverse the effects of the climax of “Infinity War” is not exactly the freshest or most innovative idea—it is such a familiar gambit, in fact, that the characters themselves start taking about how often it has been employed by movies over the years. That bit is funny, I suppose, but by introducing it into the mix, it essentially deals a death blow to the gravitas that the story is leading towards later on. There are scenes involving certain characters that are clearly meant to have the kind of great emotional impact that the sacrifice that Spock made at the end of “Star Trek II”) but even though there is nothing to overtly indicate that something along this line might be employed, the mere fact that reversing such seemingly irreversible actions is now a possibility cannot help but reduce their power. As for the rest of the screenplay, it is certainly livelier than “Infinity War” but it has so many characters—many of whom are given the chance to confront the demons of their past at great length—and subplots to deal with that it just becomes exhausting after a while. (Trust me, while fans of the MCU will most likely embrace this film, I suspect that few of them will come away from it yearning for an extended cut.) And despite all the resources that they have at their disposal, co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo have yet to create an action sequence that is anything other than neatly orchestrated exercises in near-chaos that never really stick in the mind or betray the touch of human hands.

This is not to say that the film is never a pleasurable experience. As I mentioned, it certainly improves upon the slog that was its predecessor and contain just enough in the way of lively elements to keep hopes up for at least a while. There are a number of funny jokes and bits that help to lighten up the proceedings and the performances are generally more engaging than usual. Among the old-timers, I one again enjoyed the delightful comic touch that Chris Hemsworth has brought to the relentlessly humorless character of Thor over his last couple of outings and was amused to find Mark Ruffalo employing the same approach to his latest turn as Bruce Banner/Hulk to equally strong effect. As the stalwart Captain America, Chris Evans is strong and sure enough to make me consider going back to his first couple of solo outings as the character, which I was not completely on board with, and see if they have improved with age. Hell, even Robert Downey Jr. manages to break free of the torpor that has marked his recent appearances as Iron Man and delivers perhaps his best performance in the role since his original outing. Among the newer additions to the fold, Paul Rudd scores a number of big laughs as Ant-Man and as Captain Marvel, who is clearly being positioned as the center of the next collection of Avengers, Brie Larson, despite her relatively limited screen time, proves that the franchise is in capable hands.

Looking over my past reviews of MCU-related movies, I learned that have pretty much been split down the middle—Ive liked about half (including the first two “Avengers” films, which I did not recall caring for that much and which I know I have not revisited), disliked the other half and only felt that one—“Black Panther”—achieved a real sense of cinematic majesty that would allow it to live on long after the fad for Marvel movies has finally abated. If I were to rank “Avengers: Endgame” amongst its predecessors, I have a feeling that it would land smack-dab in the middle. It has its moments of real wit and entertainment, it sticks the landing of this entire saga as well as any single movie possibly could and I am fairly certain that those more dedicated to this particular branch of filmmaking than I am will come away from it entertained and reasonably satisfied, not to mention more than a little exhausted. At the same time, it too often lacks the real spark of inspiration that drove the best of these films along and it is clear that it is no longer interested in taking the kind of risks that supercharged the franchise in the first place—some younger viewers may not realize what an enormous gamble the entire MCU was at first, especially in regards to casting Robert Downey Jr. as the point man. “Avengers: Endgame” is mostly adequate, if overlong, but if it had spent a little more time on imagination over spectacle, it might have had a chance of being the kind of overwhelming cinematic epoch that it is clearly aiming to be.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=31495&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/24/19 14:08:13
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User Comments

7/18/19 Jonathan It was a fun movie...nothing more nothing less. Yes there were some question marks, but not 4 stars
6/02/19 fulcibrad These things are starting to resemble Star wars more than Star wars 3 stars
5/08/19 Bob Dog Typical emo teen superhero nonsense - twice as long as it needs to be. 2 stars
5/05/19 I Hate FF For MARVEL fans, this is a great superhero masterpiece of 10 years. 5 stars
4/26/19 morris campbell 2 long but a solid finale imho 4 stars
4/26/19 Koitus It was good. IW and Avengers 1 are better, I think. Plot was what I expected.. 4 stars
4/26/19 Jack A convoluted noisy idiotic piece of corporate garbage. 1 stars
4/25/19 Bob Dog Quite simply the greatest film i`ve ever seen. 5 stars
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  26-Apr-2019 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Aug-2019


  DVD: 13-Aug-2019

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