‘Avengers: Endgame’ Takes Some Risks that Don’t Pay Off, but There’s Still a Lot to Love

Avengers_Endgame_posterIn some ways, this feels like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in that this film contains both the highest highs and the lowest lows of the franchise.

“Avengers: Endgame” is the follow-up to 2018’s “Infinity War” and is the 22nd film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began 11 years ago with “Iron Man.” The film returns its ensemble cast as the titular team, with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner, alongside about a dozen other actors, including Josh Brolin as bad guy Thanos. Anthony and Joe Russo return to direct.

To say this film is one of, if not the, most anticipated cinematic events of all-time is an understatement. It literally broke the internet when tickets went on sale and Disney is giving it a $200 million marketing campaign, which is more than most movies even cost to make. I personally was enthralled with the film seeing as I am a semi-Avengers fanboy (half of the MCU is fantastic, half is “meh, fun, fine”) and “Infinity War,” a movie I have seen ten times and only gets better with each viewing, was my top film of 2018. And while “Avengers: Endgame” falls more toward the ladder group, there are still great moments within.

We will start with the positives of the film, because there are plenty. The fan service in here is incredible, and for the most part it does not come at the expense of drama or pacing. I really can’t get into much of the *why* (in fact most of this review will be vague redactions) but how they address certain past films of the MCU or give characters little moments is either touching or entertaining, and feels earned not forced.

The plot itself is kind of clever, albeit predicted by any fan who has read a comic or can piece two-and-two of how the MCU has played out over the last 10+ years. They really don’t give much of it away in the trailers, save for one shot that if you know what you’re looking for will confirm your theory, so casual filmgoers (if there are any of those left still going to Marvel movies) will enjoy the route they take.

It is well-documented that Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.’s contracts expire after this film and it could be their final go-around, at least as leading roles. Captain America didn’t make Evans a star but it is hard to picture anyone else throwing the red, white and blue shield after all these years, while Downey literally had his career saved by “Iron Man” after plenty of arrests, and it is impossible to imagine where this universe would be without him. Both men turn in great performances and the film honors the journeys their characters have taken.

I can’t really say what I didn’t like about the film because of “spoilers” (as far as wanting to go in blind), but I will just say there are two people that I really do not like what they did with the characters. One is altered simply to become a joke and I hoped it would just be a one-scene ordeal but it drags on, and the other becomes a distracting cartoon character. Neither really fit the doom-and-gloom tone the film seems to (at least is pretending to want to) be going for.

A complaint a lot of people have about the Marvel movies is they insert jokes at the expense of drama, and I think that is only sometimes true. “Thor: Ragnarok” is a literal comedy but it certainly tosses out improv humor in moments that should be life-and-death, but in films like “Infinity War” no one is cracking one-liners as Thanos approaches them with the Infinity Stones. Here, the writers are more than willing to try quips at the expense of a should-be dramatic moment, and just like “Us” a few weeks back or “Captain America: Civil War” I think the stakes are too high and it just seems unorganic. Quips worked in the first two “Avengers” movie because Joss Whedon is clever; this script isn’t always.

The climax is emotional and fun, albeit in a “dump out your toy box and throw them at each other” kind of way. But it made the 12-year-old kid in me giddy with joy and when the theme music kicks on it actually put a lump in my throat having seen so many of these stories over the past 11 years. The final 30 minutes of this film certainly rank among the MCU’s best, and for being three hours long the film may not justify all 181 minutes, but it certainly never drags.

“Avengers: Endgame” actually has some guts and conviction, something a few Marvel movies lack, but it sometimes doesn’t know when to get out of its own way. It treats most of its characters with respect but then will turn around and alter others, and it just rubbed me the wrong way at times. I got my fan service, even if I was able to predict 95% of what was going to happen, and to some that may be enough. Following up “Infinity War,” one of the best superhero films of all-time, I did expect a bit more but I can’t say I was wholly disappointed.

Critic’s Rating: 7/10

Walt Disney

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