Hype, like the Infinity Gauntlet, is a double-edged sword. While it may drive demand for a movie so high that marketing is no longer needed, it also sets unreasonable expectations for the final product. And 2019’s most hyped movie, Avengers: Endgame, finds itself having to balance the weight of expectations. It is everything that we expect it to be, but yet it feels like it could be so much more. In this spoiler-free review, we see how expectations have resulted in the highlights and letdowns of the film.
Avengers: Endgame is the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War, which ended on a cliffhanger where the villain won and half of the heroes died. This movie sees our heroes regrouping and recovering from defeat, as they embark on a high stakes, last ditch mission to save the universe. But they end up running afoul of a sinister threat, and it may take the ultimate sacrifice(s) for them to emerge victorious.
To top the colourful, imaginative, flashy fights of Avengers: Infinity War would be nigh impossible, which is why Endgame doesn’t even try. But the whole point of watching a superhero movie is to watch modern-day gods accomplish spectacular feats. While there are set piece battles (and some of them are pretty massive in their own right), it feels like there’s not enough action for the running time for the movie. The fights aren’t as memorable as those of Avengers: Infinity War, even though the stakes are somewhat higher.
However, there is a reason why there’s not as much action — the movie is crammed with emotional beats for the major characters. The characters that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise are each given beautiful character moments as they come to terms with what they have given up and what they long for so much. We’re given poignant reminders that Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor are only human (so to speak), especially when they come face to face with the demons of their past and their deepest regrets.
That’s because the movie is somewhat of a trip down memory lane of the MCU. While the scenes are best savoured by audiences who have watched every MCU movie, they still bear enough dramatic weight to drive the plot forward. Avengers: Endgame takes this time to revisit pivotal moments in the 22-movie history of the MCU, and it certainly pays off in terms of driving up the nostalgia factor. (Note that the movie has a mammoth running time of three hours – 181 minutes to be precise – so empty your bladder and hold off on the sodas.)
Yet the basic plot that the heroes come up with is a fairly standard superhero trope which is fairly convenient, but accrues many, many loopholes along the way. There’s a short scene that gives lip service to the absurdity of the plot and how it could be much better utilised, but it’s handwaved away before it can even be acknowledged.
From an in-story perspective, these loopholes are rather glaring. But from a meta perspective, it’s quite clear where all these loopholes are leading to. They’re sowing the seeds for spinoffs and sequels and plenty of future stories in the MCU. While it’s impressive to see how much set-up has been woven into the fabric of the film, it could have benefitted more by focusing on closure for this phase (Phase Three) of the MCU, rather than trying so hard to drop little hints and teasers about what may happen in future movies (or television series).
There’s also the issue of progression of the heroes’ capabilities. Thanks to the (literal) plot device of the film, we see the heroes struggling to get it right one minute, and then becoming masters of precision with the device in the next minute. It’s a little too sudden and glossed over too quickly. But then we’ve already suspended disbelief for much of the movie already, so what’s stretching it a little further, anyway?
Key antagonist, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is also a letdown. He morphs from the brooding, driven, philosophical villain of Avengers: Infinity War into a cartoony caricature of himself here. When his plan fails, he defaults to the same reaction that every supervillain has — a scorched Earth (or universe, in this case) policy. All that characterisation and depth is thrown out the window as Thanos tries to do what every villain always attempts, but fails.
Admittedly, different audience members will have different expectations of the film. After all, it purports to be the culmination of 11 years of superhero movies. It’s hard not to have preconceived notions of what it should or should not be. In that respect, there’s no way Avengers: Endgame could have lived up to every person’s expectations, nor should it.
Avengers: Endgame is a beautiful capstone to one of the most ambitious and enjoyable shared movie universes out there. But it struggles to juggle all its different roles — set-up machine, nostalgia device, action tour de force, and sequel — although it does perform admirably. It is hard for it to live up to everyone’s expectations, since they’re infinite in variety. However, Avengers: Endgame still manages to eke out its own flavour underneath all that, and for this, it should be applauded.
Oh, by the way, don’t bother staying after the credits roll just for post-credits scenes; there are none. It’s truly the end of an era for Marvel Studios.
Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes.
Should you watch this more than once? No.
Running time: 181 minutes
Avengers: Endgame opens in cinemas:
– 24 April, 2019 (Singapore)
– 24 April, 2019 (Malaysia)
– 24 April, 2019 (Philippines)
Avengers: Endgame is directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The main stars are Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk/Bruce Banner), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye/Clint Barton), Don Cheadle (War Machine/Rhodey), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man/Scott Lang), Brie Larson (Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Danai Gurai (Okoye), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), and Josh Brolin (Thanos). It is rated PG-13.
Marcus Goh is a scriptwriter, having written for popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.
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