My 2 Cents on Avengers: Endgame (SPOILER-FREE)

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW (although you really should just go see the movie)
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past year, you know that Thanos (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men, Sicario), the primary antagonist of Marvel Studios’s Avengers: Infinity War, collected six Infinity Stones, added them to his Gauntlet, and used a snap of his fingers to wipe out half of all life in the universe. Now, in Avengers: Endgame, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: Winter Soldier, Infinity War), the remaining Avengers—among them Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder, Sherlock Holmes), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four, Snowpiercer), Black Widow/Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Her), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Rush, The Cabin in the Woods), Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, 13 Going on 30, Spotlight), and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker, Arrival)—are going to set out to do “whatever it takes” to get back everyone who turned to dust.

Let me repeat—you need to see Endgame, all three hours of it. While I can’t help but nitpick the great number of plot holes and the blatancy with which this movie exemplifies the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s lack of diversity, it’s definitely worth seeing. The opening scene will remind you of the devastation that crushed us all at the end of Infinity War. Then it goes on to take the heroes through a crazy, humorous, poignant journey that crowns twenty-two films and eleven amazing years of the MCU. One of the best things in Endgame is how we spend so much time away from frenzied battling and focus on the characters themselves. Indeed, the tone starts out quite solemnly as everyone processes their grief, then lightens up and becomes more hopeful when they start devising a scheme to save the people they’ve lost. The little moments and callbacks that serve to reinforce relationships stack on top of each other well, adding even more facets of emotion to the story.

On top of that, this is a movie that gives due credit to Nebula (Karen Gillan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle). She has had such a multifaceted, empathetic arc since she started out as a merciless assassin and Thanos’s adopted daughter in 2013’s GOTG, making her one of my all-time favorite characters in the MCU. However, I can’t say the same for Thanos. When he resolutely embarked on his quest for population control across the universe in Infinity War, I found him to be a sympathetic villain. He doesn’t develop nearly as well in Endgame, and he gets stuck with unoriginal motivations at the end of his arc—nothing like Michael Keaton’s Vulture, one of the best MCU villains, in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The story itself proves to be incredibly enjoyable, although subsequent scrutinization will bring many of the narrative discrepancies to your attention. Without spoiling the details, I’ll merely say that it fits into a certain genre, and it uses creative plot mechanisms to play around with said genre. The wild twists and turns that it takes will keep you from guessing exactly where it’s heading. Bring some napkins if you tend to cry at movies; I watched Endgame with someone, and she was shedding tears the whole way through at the great range of emotional, occasionally heartbreaking scenes. Personally, though, one of them tore me apart, and I truly question whether it had to happen; so do the Marvel fans who are passionately debating this controversy online.

As always, when you watch a Marvel movie, you want enthralling action. Endgame dishes out a healthy amount of this, especially in the climax. A signature trait of these movies is the ability to sustain a flowing transition between different brawls, whether they’re concentrated on a team in one area or spread across distant regions, and Endgame doesn’t break this tradition. As always, you expect plenty of fun humor in a Marvel movie, and much of it lands, aside from a few bits that fall flat and a gaming gag that will surely feel dated in two or three years.

It’s unfortunate that Endgame, perhaps more than previous movies, shines such a glaring light on the steps that the MCU has failed to take towards diversity. It’s doing fairly well with POC, especially when you consider the cultural strength of Black Panther. As for powerful female characters, well, we need way more of them featured prominently. I’m glad we have Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson, Room, Unicorn Store), the first woman-led superhero movie in the MCU, although she isn’t featured in Endgame nearly as much as I had expected. Still, she’s got a few moments to show off her biting sarcasm and badass attitude. I can’t forget to mention Black Panther again, since it features quite a few strong female figures. And there’s a shot that gives a small taste of what the franchise could be like if it embraced an all-female superhero team. I appreciate this shot for what it’s worth, but it cannot compensate for all the testosterone that has dominated the MCU. And there needs to be main characters who positively represent the LGBTQ community. We were so close in Thor: Ragnarok, where the Asgardian warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, Sorry to Bother You, Creed) could have been confirmed as bisexual; too bad they never went through with that. It doesn’t help that Endgame engages in a shallow gesture of tokenism by showing us one very minor character who is gay.

You may have read RDJ’s comment on the last eight minutes of Endgame being the best out of everything in the MCU. Despite the plot hole that accompanies this touching scene, I have to agree with him. Of course, stay seated throughout the credits (which were designed with a pleasingly commemorative eye), because there’s one thing at the end that concludes the saga perfectly.

Go see it. That’s it. Go see Avengers: Endgame. Even if you agree with me on the issues about diversity and plot holes, don’t let them stop you from relishing the culmination of everything the MCU has brought us since 2008’s Iron Man.

Windup score: 94/100

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