Part of the journey is the end, and “Endgame” makes the journey worthwhile.
April 24, 2019
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-fi
Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Part of the journey is the end. That’s the pitch the studio’s skilled marionettes, Anthony and Joe Russo, try to make with “Avengers: Endgame”. Though much of the Reddit espionage that typically happens around Marvel movies have traced where exactly some stories are headed, the studio—which began its saga in 2008’s Jon Favreau-helmed “Iron Man”, or to some people, Ang Lee’s take on “The Hulk” in 2003—likes to remind us of our enslavement to these movies, and how their first collective resolution unfolds. We’ll gladly watch how things end, despite the ending being possibly already known to us.
Ways away before the movies even start its rounds of promotion, the franchise’s discerning fans are already putting in work in mapping out where the stories will head. They have taken some wild guesses—sometimes even tipping over to the all-too-wild, as they postulate that Ol’ Man Thanos’ head will explode, “Scanners”-style, after the size-shifting hero Ant-Man goes subatomic and enters through his anus. It’s all funny stuff, but more importantly, it’s indicative of how invested Marvel’s following can get.
And yet, hordes of fans are guaranteed to flock the theaters come opening day.
However, going into “Avengers: Endgame”, it’s hard to say that fans will be prepared enough. No, there are no surprise cameos (at least ones that are in-your-face, like this Howard the Duck appearance) nor are there sharp narrative turns so out-of-box that they will make the franchise as golden again as before. The movie feels unobligated and unconcerned with making ties to immediate sequels. And that’s just it, isn’t it? Perhaps the greatest thing about the new “Avengers” movie is that it almost serves as a reprieve from its tried-and-tested formula. It feels admirably unmoored from ensuring future profits. Like its heroes, the movie is devoted to a mission: to craft a resolution as studious, meticulous, and therefore worthy of modern cinema’s most successful franchise yet.
One can even go as far as saying “Endgame” is the most personal entry to the series, which is an odd thing to say about the billion-dollar empire it’s built upon. The fact that a movie event as gargantuan as this can have a reeling sense of ownership from its fans, filmmakers, and cast—the main credits lovingly strokes out the actors’ signature, like high school students graduating out of something they will take with them for life—is a thoroughly affecting thought. The movie, which is riddled with cosmic outings and time paradoxes, makes everything work by honing in on its six primary Avengers. By doing so, there’s a straightforward structure to follow, offering a sense of predictability that the movie, come the time, has no qualms of subverting.
The lowdown looks something like this. Five years into the Mad Titan’s ‘snapture’, the world is barely in the throes of dealing with the loss of half of the population. Everyone clutches on their own ways of coping, including the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) decides to shack up with his family. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) comes into terms with the monster raging inside him and is now able to say the dreaded G-word. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), somehow, gets over his guilt of not “going for the head” and in the process develops a beer belly —something that the movie loves to figuratively poke at. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) has far-more bloody methods. After his family gets dusted, he averts his aggression toward Yakuzas in the streets of Tokyo, where Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) hopes to enlist her to, possibly, undo everything. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who now spends his days helping other people cope with their losses, says, without a pinch of irony: “I keep telling people they should move on. Some do, but not us.”
Some intense brainstorming sessions later at the Avengers HQ, the gang decides to confront the rules of time and half-mindedly goes onto a metaphysical odyssey to reacquire the Infinity Stones, place them in their own Infinity Gauntlet, and undo The Snap. As with other movies with time travel, “Endgame” actively shies away from overexplaining its rules, which is a smart move in my book. Had the filmmakers spent a minute more on establishing its own concept of time travel, there would have been questions as long as the movie’s exhaustive running time. What’s more, it gets away with putting minute developments that can come handy as Marvel’s mothership, Disney, builds its own big and small screen stable over at Disney+.
The screenplay, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is tempered with enough wit. As depressing as the situation its characters face, “Endgame” and its writers imbue the experience with a certain type of lightness where it needs it. That’s a bit of a double-edged sword to draw following “Avengers: Infinity War”, a movie with felt, almost palpable stakes. Here, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is less motivated by his own picture of a world existing in his own idea of tranquility but more so a personal vendetta against heroes with nothing to lose who set out an elaborate plan—Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) calls it, proudly, a “time heist”—simply to stop him from making his plans. “I am inevitable,” he warbles. It’s a different perspective on Thanos altogether, but it’s no less compelling.
The funny moments—much of which involves Thor’s sundae dad-bod and Ant-Man being in the margins of Avengers’ cool crew—are welcome in that they don’t dilute the movie’s greater moments. This is owed to the movie’s better pace and how it knows it has story arcs to complete, and thusly there’s only enough room to fool around. By the end, the resolutions the movie chooses for its “original six” are all agreeable. I won’t go into how everything went down (that would ruin everything for those who have yet to see movie and, more importantly, it would make me the subject of Pagan-like online ostracizing by MCU fans), but what I will say is that “Avengers: Endgame” is a poignant, thoughtfully-crafted conclusion to a series that’s been proven time and again to be marred by its corporate affiliation. For the first time it feels like, Marvel defies this association and makes something that feels uniquely its own.