I haven’t heard more people upset about spoilers since the Star Wars prequels, so please consider this sentence the spoiler space you very well may need if you don’t want to learn more. Then again, I’m going to discuss the idea of this film more than the actual movie itself.
Avengers: Endgame is the blockbuster of 2019. It’s a juggernaut that has the biggest cast of any superhero film ever, wrapping up almost 12 years of storyline and multiple movies, all to answer the question that came up at the end of Avengers: Infinity War: after you kill half of everything, what happens next?
There’s been a lot of soapboxing and online hand wringing about this film. Plenty of people feel the need to show that they’re above the paltry populace, happy to proclaim their intellectual superiority and state that comic book related films demand that adults remain stuck in the days of adolescence. Much like the issues of today’s politics, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind that feels that way. All that ends up is two people shouting their talking points and refusing to learn anything from one another. But my snide comment is this: can’t you just leave well enough alone?
This is a popcorn movie that appeals to the biggest audience ever. And that’s fine. You can ignore it if you like — we’ve never lived in a time where there’s more opportunity to enjoy the media that you want. Me, I ignore mumblecore, critic beloved films and Oscar-bait movies for the most part. And that is also fine.
All that I know is that I’ve seen nearly every Marvel film with the same set of guys that I’ve seen movies with since I was 25 or so. Each movie is an event where we get the chance to grab a meal, catch up and enjoy one another’s company in the midst of our exceedingly stressful and busy lives. If a movie can do that, it’s already a success before you even watch one frame. Movies bring us together, a light on the cave wall where we can hear a fantastic tale that’s bigger than us. That’s what this movie is — modern mythology of larger than life heroes who are the best of all of us battling the worst villains possible.
Spoiler warning part two — here’s where I get into major plot points. You’ve been warned.
More than the overall tale, I enjoyed the story beats here. Hawkeye becoming Ronin, enraged that evil survived the purge while his family did not. The main sacrifice of this film isn’t Black Widow’s, but his. He was the first person who saw her as more than a killing machine and gave her a chance at life. Now, she repays the favor, taking him from killing machine back to family man. However, he must sacrifice their friendship and the knowledge that her loss will always be in the background when measured against the perceived greater loss of Iron Man.
But hey — I’ve always loved the background characters more than the heavy hitters.
There are moments here that really portray what the three main Avengers have had to give up to protect us. Iron Man must lose the stability and family he never knew he needed. Captain America’s longing for Agent Carter, trapped by a glass wall that may as well be decades and not inches thick. Thor’s descent into depression as he realizes that he couldn’t save the day. Their fates each show them finally achieving the final part of their hero’s journey save Thor, who is fated to repeat his journey over and over throughout rebirth after rebirth, even after Ragnarok, the end of all things.
Those small moments mean more than the big explosions and special effects throughout this film. Tony’s quick hug with his unsuspecting father. Thor’s moment with his mother, who sees right through his deceptions. Even Quill’s way too brief reunion with Gamora. The heart behind each charcter is why we care. There are hundreds of superpowered characters on the screen. The fact that we know the minute motivations of more than one of them is a credit to this tale.
I love that this film both wraps up and begins new stories at its close. Sam Wilson must become Captain America, finally receiving the approval and friendship of the Winter Soldier. Thor realizes that his role is to be an adventurer, not the king, and gives the ownership of Asgard to Valkyrie. Even Steve Rogers realizes that despite becoming a grief counselor and telling people to live the new life they’ve been given, when the opportunity arises to return to his life, it’s one he should embrace.
Speaking of Rogers, I haven’t heard an audience start cheering in the theater for a long time. The fact that he’s able to lift Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, was not lost on this audience. Before, he was able to budge it. Now, his journey has made him truly worthy to lead the forces against Thanos, even if he appears alone at the seeming conclusion of the final battle.
I also like the synchronicity that the first words that kicked off the Marvel cinematic universe were Tony Stark saying, “I am Iron Man,” which are also his last words. There’s just something poetic about that.
Hey look — I was happy that Crossbones got a few seconds of screentime. I’m that kind of geek. And if that fact upsets you, I’m never going to convince you that this is a good movie.