Dating back to 2012 with the release of “Marvel’s The Avengers,” I started a new habit of watching each and every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in the days leading up to the latest installment being released.
As more heroes and movies joined the universe, those lead-up days became lead-up weeks, and watching every movie prior to the next one became watching all of them before the first new release of the year … with other, unscheduled viewings throughout the year.
Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Endgame.” (L to R) Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), War Machine/James Rhodey (Don Cheadle), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). (Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2019)
If you do the math (I started to and then stopped to weep over the fact that I have so much free time), the number of hours I’ve devoted to the 21 films Marvel released between May 2008 and March 2019 is staggering.
It’s safe to say I was as excited as almost everyone (sans those people with even less to do than me) in the lead-up to Marvel’s latest installment “Avengers: Endgame.”
Keeping the 3-hour running time in mind, I had a light lunch, avoided the temptation of a giant soda, sat back and waited for the awesomeness to happen. Then I waited some more. And then I kept waiting, and kept waiting, and kept waiting, before finally realizing that aside from a few well-timed jokes and “aw, it’s that guy” moments, the awesome wasn’t coming.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in “Avengers: Endgame.” (Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2019)
Following the events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Endgame” shows our remaining heroes – and the rest of Earth – trying to recover from Thanos’ “finger snap of doom” in their own way. Tony Stark/Iron Man has taken on a simpler, quieter life; Steve Rogers/Captain America is leading a support group for survivors; Thor has gone into hiding; Bruce Banner/Hulk has embraced his reality and is seemingly thriving; Nebula, Rocket, and Captain Marvel are focusing their efforts on space; and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, with the assistance of James Rhodes/War Machine, is heading up a mission to find Clint Barton/Hawkeye, who has gone rogue.
All of that changes, however, when Scott Lang/Ant-Man (who was presumed snapped away) shows up and reignites hope that nothing that has been done can’t be undone. Through problematic science and Hollywood magic.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). (Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2019)
Since leaving the theater nearly 24 hours ago, I’ve struggled to come up with what to say about “Endgame.” I’ve softened my initial stance of “it’s awful” to “it’s just not very good,” but I feel like the more I think about it, the more I’ll lean back to my initial impression.
Let’s use vague generalities (to avoid spoilers) to see why.
First off, the entire film felt very disjointed. It doesn’t hop around as much as “Infinity War” – thank you, Thanos – but it still feels like they created a bunch of shorts, chopped them up, and created a 180-minute feature out of them. You’re not given time to get invested in a story or an emotion or an idea … apparently you were supposed to have built all of those things up over the last decade.
Speaking of ideas, while the science of what the remaining Avengers consider using to undo Thanos’ work is never fully examined or explained, it would probably have even “The Big Bang Theory” writers laughing and pointing. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, it seems so flimsy that they just kind of gloss over it and present it as “here you go … now give us your money.”
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) in “Avengers: Endgame.” (Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2019)
There’s also no real consistency as to what characters can or can’t do. Sometimes they’re unstoppable killing machines, and the next they need help from everyone and it still wouldn’t be enough. Think of it as being able to conquer calculus by yourself, but needing a tutor to help you with first grade math flashcards. You never really find out how just how formidable anyone is because it varies from second to second.
It also feels like the consistency is lacking in terms of plot follow through. There are things that are mentioned early and often (often enough to make you file it in the “this will be important later” file) that not only turn into nothing, but are completely scrapped with no explanation. Several times it felt like they were going one way only to change course, but not no back and fix things.
Honestly, the majority of “Endgame” feels like they knew people were going to buy tickets regardless, so as long as they get the “big payoff” at the end, the journey to get there doesn’t matter much. In this case, the “payoff” is that every story gets conveniently tied up with a shiny little ribbon on it, and virtually everyone that’s been seen in the MCU gets some screen time or a mention … it’s very high school reunion-ish.
Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Endgame.” (L to R) Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) and War Machine/James Rhodey (Don Cheadle). (Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2019)
If we’re looking for positives here, there are a couple: Thor’s shocking turn is actually quite entertaining, Captain Marvel appears to be the real deal, and Black Widow continues her path toward being one of my favorites.
Unfortunately, those individual performances/characters aren’t enough to save “Endgame.” and some of the paths Marvel appears to be headed down are making me cringe. The MCU will obviously continue and flourish financially going forward, but I’m finding it hard to remain optimistic about the creative health of the universe.
I hope I’m wrong.
★★ of ★★★★★