Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Avengers: Endgame

More than the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began back in 2008 with Iron Man, Avengers: Endgame is the coda to the series that climaxed in the last chapter and now offers an opportunity for one last hurrah, for heroes to take their final bow, and for Marvel to usher out one set of lead characters and set the stage anew.

For my money, the most successful films of the past 11 years have been The Avengers, Avengers: Infinity War, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Excluding Winter Soldier, a great standalone film which cares nothing at all about larger continuity (it basically wrecked Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after all), both Avengers and Infinity War faced enormous obstacles in pulling together various threads of the MCU into a single story. And both succeeded brilliantly. Avengers: Endgame comes off like their less-successful younger brother. I'm not going to call Endgame the Frank Stallone of the Avengers franchise as it may outshine Avengers: The Age of Ultron, but it's a messy final chapter that offers plenty of memorable moments while failing to live up to what has come before.

The film begins in fits and starts with sequences more akin to separate vignettes, each looking in on various characters and offering another failure for the team, than scenes of an interlocking story. It's not really until the arrival of Paul Rudd's Ant-Man that the film's story begins in earnest. It's here that the movie starts to pick up steam and, aside from the equally clunking endings (there are several), the majority of the film entertains hitting a nice balance between humor, action, and emotional beats.

The series certainly makes some changes in the final chapter. The new version of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) proves to be entertaining, even if not all his sequences are as funny on-screen as they might have been in the script (although the scene on the streets of New York is priceless), but playing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) mostly for laughs undercuts the God of Thunder for most of the film in a way that offers several laughs but may not always best serve the story or the character. Other than incorporating Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), the film doesn't have much work to in introducing new characters as the cast is relatively the same as the previous entry. Instead the script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely finds a way to honor as many of the previous films as possible, which is enjoyable for fans of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe but left me yearning for a bit more originality by the end.

Without offering any spoilers, the film's basic premise is the remaining Avengers coming together to try and put right a universe devastated by the Thanos' (Josh Brolin) actions at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Along for the ride are the staples of Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Hulk, Ant-Man, Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Nebula (Karen Gillan), with Larson's character, and other familiar faces, mixed in at times. This, of course, ends in a huge battle (as every Avengers movie has done) followed by a series of epilogues.

Avengers: Endgame does offer a couple of big wow moments, and I will also admit that it got me to tear up slightly at one point (don't worry, no spoilers), but the structure, focus, and rehashed story points is more Return of the Jedi than Star Wars. For a franchise that has spawned more than 20 films it's not too critical to say this one ranks somewhere in the middle (though it is the third best of the four Avengers films, fourth of five if you count Civil War). Is it everything I wanted? No, I think it gets a bit too fanboy at times celebrating the franchise's own accomplishments and borders even on schmaltzy once or twice. I also don't know if it will play as well on multiple viewings as many of the other films. That said, Avengers: Endgame is certainly worth seeing and succeeds in wrapping up several of the plot threads left dangling from the previous film and offering a farewell to some favorite characters.

No comments: