Guest review by: Callum The Critic
You can check his film blog here
Yes, the subtitle for this review is intentionally vague for good reason. If there is one thing that I have grown to really dislike is reviewing so-called “event” films because there is simply so much baggage that comes with such a thing, mainly the hype for such an event could easily prevent someone from truly being critical on a film either way whether you liked the product. While it is no secret that I was not the biggest fan of “Avengers: Infinity War” last year, I was willing to give this one a chance in delivering a worthwhile film of a genre that I really do like and maybe even a worthwhile send off. Does “Avengers: Endgame” pick up on where “Avengers: Infinity War” left off in a satisfying way? Read this review that contains some minor spoilers (because this is simply one of those films that I really cannot talk about without giving away certain plot details since the trailers barely show us anything) and find out:
Let me get this one thing out of the way right now, this film is certainly a more watchable film than “Avengers: Infinity War” mainly because this was at least a film had at least something resembling intrigue behind the character interaction which actually felt like they were building up to a thematic idea or going somewhere with said characters growing as the plot movies along rather than just the heroes simply explaining what just happened or explain what is going to happen and some of the excuses that I hear for such a fatal flaw in screenwriting for “Avengers: Infinity War” that I get from fans of that film are truly some of the most embarrassing excuses that I’ve ever heard, including comments like this:
“Well the heroes kinda HAD to go through explaining stuff whenever they could, not only to ensure that these new heroes that had never met each other were on the same page but so they could co-ordinate their plans. This is what happens when loads of separate people united by a similar goal have to do. How was this a bad thing?”
Are people really making excusing the lack of character development in a film? It’s a bad thing because it is the film that actually doesn’t understanding the point in supporting characters in a story. Supporting characters to some degree should provide thematic parallel to the films themes, even a character as small as Reece in “The Dark Knight” had that. All the scenes in the film with the heroes to me is nothing more than padded plotting in which no real story is actually being developed with how most of it is people explaining what just happened or what is going to happen. But what makes it worse when it comes to the whole resources and supporting characters not exactly providing any counter-arguments to Thanos’ philosophy and s is the fact that the character Tony Stark would be the perfect counter-argument to all the stuff Thanos has been saying as Tony is someone who uses his ingenuity as a way to be creative with limited resources and the film does NOTHING with it. The whole thing with the heroes not doing anything other than explain the plot because it just makes the film not only bloated with it juggling too many characters, but one of those films in which the story and plot are constantly at odds with each other for screen time rather than what a good screenplay would do and find a way to merge the plotting and storytelling together, which is something I feel like most of the MCU while not made into great films (with the likes of Iron Man 3 and a few others being the exceptions) are at least overall functions as stories . To me that is just very poor story structure and why “Infinity War” simply is not a good film as critics like A.O. Scott said in his review for the film: “surely the most expensive parts of the movie, but the money seems less like an imaginative tool than a substitute for genuine imagination”
The reason why I am bringing all of this up is provide you with some context for my own thoughts on “Avengers: Endgame” because feel like this is one of those films that I am having a serious love-hate relationship because there really is A LOT to like about this film and I actually do agree with some of the films fans that when there are certain emotional moments in the film that make me somewhat understand why this film struck a core with many people in the same way I really can’t with “Avengers: Infinity War” and honestly some of it really doesn’t work brilliantly in the films favour because not only does it work consistently with characters entire arc throughout the series, but is consistent with what the film itself set up from the first act and even if the rest of the film didn’t quite live up to the intrigue and brilliance of the first act that didn’t come off as filler, I say the arc that this character was consistently solid throughout the film because all the pieces and scenes that were put in place for this character felt like legitimate build up, pathos and all came from a place within the character mindset, even the humour coming from this character didn’t bother me as much as it did in some other places.
These make for such a captivating heroes journey and this make the emotions of his ending feel less shallow buy more impactful and layered ending that deserves all the praise it gets. Who is the character I am talking about? Well none other than Tony Stark himself, Iron Man. It also helps that this film actually acknowledges the existence of “Iron Man 3” with a lot of its callbacks to that film and its uses of mirrored imagery that enforces the Tony’s idea of redemption and learning to become a better hero and a better man overall since the first “Iron Man” film which helped kicked start the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like Wolverine from the X-Men or Rocket from the Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man is the member of the Avengers that most friends of mine helped with my emotional connection with the character since I do have a lot of the character traits and flaws that Tony has and trust me when I tell you that a lot of the actions and choices of overcoming ones ego that Tony makes in the film are easily going to be the ones I would make on a personal level too…………….or if I was rich enough with the advanced weaponry that he had.
The best way to describe my experience with this film overall is that it is one of those films with a great opening and even a great ending (despite feeling a bit too much like the whole “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” multiple endings thing), but a lot of my issues that happened within the middle of the film that really do bother me that prevent me from seeing it some grand epic finally as a lot of people are claiming. If you loved this film to pieces, then I hold no grudge against you as you can enjoy whatever you want, but please don’t treat what I am about to say like it is a personal attack because it really isn’t and wouldn’t really care either.
A film I guess is about second chances and self-sacrifice which includes such universal ideas such as redemption and even some borderline Biblical such as the guilt, the power of sin and letting the past go. This mainly represented through who I think most of us can agree are the Marvel Trinity in the same way Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are the DC trinity: Captain America, Iron Man and Thor although the likes of Nebula also play a part in this them too through some nice symbolism later on in the film and even Thanos who in a way despite what many would say is a noble goals (I would consider them to be rather stupid) is pretty much the antithesis of the idea and is by definition represents the irredeemable. I am not going to lie that I was pretty much on-board with the first act minus a few scenes that I think could have been cut out like one particular scene with Steve Rogers that I don’t think really added anything to the film and dragged the film on for a bit because in a way a lot of what the first act did was answer certain questions and criticisms that I had with “Avengers: Infinity War” such the popular internet criticism of “Why doesn’t Thanos simply triple the resources of the universe?” or how his rather simple motivation (especially when compared to the comic book version of the character) pretty much left Thanos with no goal left and as I’ve said in my review for “Avengers: Infinity War”: “He just wiped out half of existence, so what? Are the remaining heroes going to barge into his house while he’s having a beer? He simply has no goal left and I could not be shocked if the writers for Avengers 4 would have to find a contrived reason for Thanos in order for him to be pro-active in the plot”.
While I see seeds of the first act almost coming off as a more balanced exploration on the philosophical ideas that Thanos spouts out in “Avengers: Infinity War” with how there is less pollution in the rivers that almost comes off as an endorsement of what Thanos is saying, but at the same time it opened certain criminal activities and even hinted on certain psychological effects that the actions of Thanos has had on the universe. Sadly nearly all of these ideas are immediately dropped as soon as the plot really kicks (which I would say is roughly when Ant-Man arrives in the film) in order for a rather convoluted time travel plot (and even without the time travel, the films plot relies a bit too much on convenient happenstance for my liking) that did lead to some nice character and emotional moments, but it kind of gave me a rather sense that makes this film almost the Two-Face of modern comic book films. It also doesn’t help that when it comes to superhero stories, I am not exactly the biggest fan of the sort of stories that inspired this film to begin with which are the event comics that the likes of Marvel and DC make every year in the comics which are usually devoid of anything that really grabs me as an investor of fiction and I am more of a fan of the solo adventure stories like “The Dark Knight Returns” or “All Star Superman” since character pieces tend to be more focused and not bogged down by padded exposition or spectacle and are stories that felt like were ones in which the writers were rather ambitious in telling rather than ones that the higher ups at the studios demanded to be made in order to make a lot of money.
It is the kind of story mostly works in theory than it does in practise as there are certain moments that I know are supposed to be emotional, but start to notice certain problems with them. I’ve already got onto to why I think the stuff that the film did with Tony were fairly satisfying and did hit home with me, but most of my problems with certain come from the character arcs of Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Thanos. Let’s start with Hawkeye since his is easily the easiest the talk about, there is a scene between him and Black Widow in the middle of the film that I think was supposed to be a tense and emotional scene, but ultimately comes off as unintentionally funny to me and comes off as a tacked on moment of emotional manipulation because it opens a can of worms in regards to what motivated Hawkeye to take action in resorting half of the universe in the first place.
I really disliked what was done with Thor in general, I get what they were going with his character representing the idea of overcoming guilt in the form of the primary theme of second chances and outside of one isolated scene that I feel like was there to make “Thor: The Dark World” more connected to the grand story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as being the crutch of Thor overcoming his guilt, it was sandwiched in-between some painful attempts at comedy that are giving me flashbacks of “Thor: Ragnarok”. The conclusion with Captain America’s arc is not exactly an idea that I am completely against in theory, but certain implications of it I find to be rather troubling as Indietrix Film Reviews have said in his review for the film. But my problems stems from the fact that this conclusion somewhat contradicts the main character arc that Steve Rogers was going through in these films (especially in his own trilogy) which is the arc of the guy moving on from the past and yet maintaining his principles.
I know calling a film “emotionally manipulative” is pretty redundant is the basic mechanisms of art itself is specifically designed to manipulate its audience into feeling certain emotions, but it does become a problem if said emotional moments are not earned by the broad context of the story and sadly Captain America’s conclusion falls under that category for me. Finally is Thanos, without going into too deep into spoilers in the film, I will say that while I don’t think Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War” completely functions as a character, I do appreciates the films attempts at internal conflict and pathos behind the character and Josh Brolin as the character is up there with any motion performed role by Andy Serkis as one of the most chilling and convincing performances that makes it one of the best pieces of acting that I have ever seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sadly a lot of what was done with Thanos that I appreciated in “Avengers: Infinity War” was largely absent in this film as the character represented in this film was way less interesting or the twisted pathological presences that made me at least understand why many would consider Thanos to be one of the best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I am also not complete convinced that this film quite works as a grand finale to a saga in the same way I do with the likes of “Logan” and to a lesser extent “The Dark Knight Rises”. These issues range from a lot of unanswered questions and loss threads from either aspects of this film or other films that were made to look like set ups, but never really get any pay offs. You could make the argument that since the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a continuous ongoing story and therefore it shouldn’t be a problem, but this is a problem since the film itself and even many fans of the film are treating it like an end of an era sort of story. A finale of any kind whether it is TV or film should give you the sense of finality by being very tight with the script and should give you the sense of a resolution, I simply did not get it with this film since a lot of it simply makes me scratch my head and not in a “plot hole” sort of way in a way a lot of people did with “The Dark Knight Rises” and more in line with the whole connective idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While I still say that at times praising a certain film in this series due to the efforts of their previous entries “built up” by saying this is a culmination of 11 years of filmmaking almost comes off as false praise to me since people who say that are really not judging the film in a vacuum or on its own terms regardless of whether it is the 4th or 100th entry in a franchise. But this also opens up another can of worms when it comes to the idea of the connective universe which is I think some of the connections rarely factor into long term character development or into decisions that affect the characters and plots in the next film that they are in (with Tony Stark being the one exception) because they are sometimes contradictory to the set up. I mean what is the point in having a connective universe if things don’t actually pay off like I would have expected at least a moment between Nick Fury and Carol since from what I’ve heard their dynamic in “Captain Marvel” was essentially a buddy cop comedy? It just makes the idea of a connective universe less like a curial story device to engross the experience and more of a technique from the studios to sell more tickets…………..which is working due to all the box office records that this film has broken.
Now let’s talk about the story device of time travel in the film, I can kind of get what they were going for with the time travel on a symbolic level because not only was it used as a plot device to make things right, but is almost the perfect symbolic device for the idea of second chances and redemption. However like certain emotional moments in the film, I feel like this idea is better in theory than in execution as this film version of time travel physics is not your usual stuff that you expect from films such as “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” or “Back to the Future”. While I appreciate to a degree that the films time travel simply isn’t going back to the past to prevent this from ever happening because another superhero film known as “X-Men: Days of Future Past” already did that idea and did it brilliantly, so I can understand not going that route to avoid any comparisons. However, this plot device ultimately makes the film a bit of mess for my taste by the end. I am not going to pretend that I am some expert in quantum physics of time travel since not even Stephen Hawkings could get his head around it, but I say this film draws more attention to its time travel than most other time travel films like “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” or “X-Men: Days of Future Past” since in those films the time travel really was just a plot device that is keep in the background for a more human story.
The usage of time travel in this film reminds me of a quote that Sharon Marsh once said on an episode of “South Park” which I think is the following: “Just because an idea is overly convoluted and complex doesn’t make it cool, it’s just stupid”. The more complicated explanations of the time travel get even worse since it contradicts multiple explanations of itself and opens itself to plot holes all over the place that is pretty hard for me to forgive in some areas. It also doesn’t really help that film came off as pretty smug about its own resolutions of this device through the character of Bruce Banner. This isn’t like the whole idea of time travel paradoxes that a lot of people like to make fun in regards to the Terminator films in which John Conner should be erased from existence since his father Kyle Reece came from the Terminator future who should also be erased from existence due to the actions and choices made to prevent Judgment Day from happening since the first two Terminator films do not draw attention to such details in the first place, these are the type of plot holes that still exist regardless of the time travel.
Now onto to the action of the film and compared to “Avengers: Infinity War” this is a weird case of the film in terms of its action being both better and worse at the same time. One of my biggest issues with the Battle for Wakanda in “Avengers: Infinity War” was that it was way too long and felt too long as well which makes the film most of the time to be a rather dull because it really felt like just another MCU climatic battle with another coat of paint with a lot of the banter spliced within the battle scene feeling rather interchangeable from character to character despite its occasional moments of decent camerawork and decent colour palette. The end climax for this film while even bigger in terms of its scope, yet it never feels like it drags on for too long and the spliced moments that are put within the battle did feel like something rather distinct from one another and something that particular individual character would which makes the relief from a tense scene all the more satisfying as pay offs. However, the rather dull colour palette, shaky cam and even some pretty dodgy CGI that makes the scene somewhat dull in some places and the moment Captain Marvel showed up in the film has me a little worried about the future of the MCU because from what I’ve seen of her in this film, I have worries about future Avengers films becoming rather tensionless with how overpowered she came off as in this film.
Sorry if this review of mine came off as messy and indecisive overall, but a point of a review is for me to describe my overall experience with the film and try my best to add a different perspective to the picture. I say that I was a lot more invested in this film than I was with “Avengers: Infinity War” because it felt like as the plot was going forward, a story was being developed as it was going on. The film had plenty of great moments and even a great character arc that I really appreciated, but it had plenty of stupid moments and the wonky framework of the whole thing leaves a bit too be desired. This is honestly one of those films in which I think I will only watch again if a friend of mine asks me to watch it with him or her because I just don’t have any need to watch this one again and due to my indecisive experience with this film, this is going to be one of those rare reviews of mine in which I will not be giving it a rating.