Review: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

It in many ways feels like a futile effort to review a film such as Avengers: Endgame, a movie so culturally monolithic that everyone who is going to see it probably made up their mind about a year ago. Making this task even more difficult is how focused this work is on resolutions – to talk about any narrative detail feels like a spoiler. I’m more driven to do an analysis, something only for people who have already taken in the film and want to discuss the intricate details – alas, my New Year’s Resolution this year was to write two relevant reviews a week, so I must at least try.

I could break down the more technical elements, but at this point, I think we all know where this franchise’s attention lies. All of their energy is focused on what appears on screen, not really how those objects are shot. This is a series that gets Visual Effect nominations every other film while being entirely standard fare in regards to editing and cinematography. At its best, as in Black Panther, it also backs the visual effects with equally stellar set and costume design – Endgame doesn’t quite reach those heights, but it does an effective job capturing the conflicting designs of these intermingling franchises.

Continuing that comparison to Black Panther, to essentially summarize my thoughts on this film I don’t feel I can discuss as much I would like – Avengers: Endgame is likely my third favorite MCU film and also the third I’d score higher than 3.5 stars, beaten out by just Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy. Where Black Panther is MCU at its visual best and Guardians of the Galaxy perfected the franchise’s signature half-comedic atmosphere, Endgame is the first to fully land the concept of the crossover film – the concept the entire MCU was initially sold on.

On reflection, I feel like the key element holding Infinity War back is that it reduced a lot of characters to action sequences – they were detached from their own element. There is something about Endgame that manages to draw from the style of their films more. The MCU consists of many films that carry a similar feel with slight differences – a space story here, political intrigue there. Endgame goes through a variety of these moods with ease.

Similarly, Endgame simply makes better use of its characters. Infinity War is a string of people reacting – Thanos guided the actions. The problem with that is most characters acted the same – something very serious was happening and they all fought back however they could given where they were. Endgame succeeds by allowing the characters to play in their own element. Again, there’s a sense of variety here, as each character really takes their own unique path. The lead characters all carry their own guiding force – it’s a team film, but a team consisting of strong-minded individuals.

Avengers: Endgame is going to be far from the best movie of this year – again, this franchise pays too little attention to the technical language of cinema to achieve anything truly masterful – but it may just be the most satisfying. Where Infinity War was marked by a sense of impermanence, Endgame is a successful follow-through on so many stories that came before.

I guess my fear going in was, how was this film going to pull off its claim of being the conclusion to much of the MCU up to this point, all while the franchise would clearly chug along until perhaps the total collapse of cinema? But they handle it well, largely by honing in on the individual paths each character has found themselves on during their own films. They’re not merely props for a larger story – Endgame is each of their stories crossing into each other.

With how inescapable these films are now, it’s hard to remember how daring it was for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be a thing in the first place. It’s the great Hollywood experiment of the modern era, to make a truly massive yet interconnected series of blockbusters. Endgame really sells this franchise as a cohesive unit, reaching beyond the simple fanservice of seeing your favorite characters fight together every few years by using the crossover to contrast these familiar faces.

4 Stars Out of 5

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