The scale and spectacle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is unrivalled by any other series in the last decade. The amount of heavy hitters in this epic 22-film saga is jaw-dropping. The latest instalment is handled with such care, effort, and ambition that it is hard to classify Avengers: Endgame as a movie.
It’s an experience.
A culmination of the characters we’ve known for more than a decade; their personal growth and their contrasting ideologies. These are goofy characters, no doubt. But they are handled with such love and nuance that these films have been adored by newcomers and hardcore fans alike. Nothing of this scale has been done before. Marvel takes an understanding of a character from the comics, modifies some aspects, puts them into a big-budget movie, and manages the development and interconnectedness of a TV show.
Before looking at the movie holistically, one has to investigate Stark’s and Captain America’s development. We see a conflicted Tony Stark in Civil War, as he is reminded of the irreversible damage that the Avengers have caused and seeks to prevent innocent people from getting hurt. This does not undermine his wit or charm but brings more depth to his arc. Stark now is a morally ambiguous character who has to ponder the effects of his decisions. He wants to redeem himself. A character that told governments “go to hell” is now fighting to act within the confines of the law. The Avengers should be subservient to the law, not above it.
Captain America, on the other hand, was brought up in a simpler time where the distinction between good and evil was clear, and he was one of the good guys. However, when Hydra infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D, Cap is on the run stripped of the name of “Captain America.” The world has become a more complex place. This is first explored at the end of The First Avenger when Cap runs out of a SHIELD facility to “realize he was asleep for 70 years.” He looks around in amazement. He was in Times Square. The camera spun around. He was obviously confused. “I had a date” (he finally gets his dance in Endgame, and it is satisfying.) While Captain America was on the run, he learned humility and a broader understanding of what it meant to be “Captain America.” This development paid off in Endgame where he lifts Thor’s Mjolnir because he is “worthy.”
Another example of the interconnected storytelling are the events of Spiderman: Homecoming, which is a natural storyline about a 15-year-old Spider-Man. These events wouldn’t be possible if not for the first Avengers movie.
If I had to choose something for aliens to find in the distant future, the one remnant of modern society, I would show them the gem that is the MCU, specifically. The portrayal of heroes that resonate with audiences because of their multi-layered arc; the vividly realized world that was adapted from an intellectual property that was decades old. I would choose to pass on the slight fatigue after watching the three-hour epic that feels like reading comic books after lights out with Mr. Suman, a dorm parent, lingering in the shadows.
The feeling of a satisfying conclusion. The continuous subversion of expectations and changing motivations. The line “I am Iron Man” at the end of a journey.
This is, of course, the antithesis of Batman in the DCEU, that ignored the very elements that form Batman. Especially the “no-killing” rule, which arose from Batman’s moral compass: the thought that no one should experience what he did; that no child would have to be parentless. Batman’s moral ambiguity is botched, murdered in front of our very eyes. Everyone can agree that BVS was an atrocity and that good comic book movies need to understand the characters in them.
Thus, this brings us to Endgame, which I’ve already touched upon. The image of the light fading from Tony Stark’s eyes as he struggles to control the power that doomed the world is profoundly touching. Avenger’s Endgame pulls on the heartstrings. It’s funny in itself that Thor playing against NoobMaster69 is in the same movie where we see Scott Lang reunite with his daughter and Black Widow sacrifice herself.
This movie is the fruition of all the events of the MCU, of the love that has been put into this series. And even though our heroes are victorious, we see how hopeless they have become over the course of five years. Cap is giving advice on how to move on after the snap, Hawkeye lost his entire family and is willing to go to any measure to get them back. Entire stadiums are empty.
There is a profound effect on the world. This hour of depressing exposition and scenes was one of the best parts of the movie. It takes it’s time establishing stakes. This part is exemplified by incredible cinematography and lighting which really helps to make it feel like a comic book.
The neon-lit alley-ways reflect the puddles as the camera slowly pans across to Hawkeye. The scene is delightfully dark, we see a deprived Hawkeye, one that’s slipping away from his morals. Even though I wish they did more with this arc, I did enjoy it. This is also the first (and probably) last movie where I enjoyed Black Widow’s dynamic.
These actors have been playing these characters for a really long time and have developed genuine chemistry, that’s why they always play off each other in a genuine way. Scarlett Johansson is great as Black Widow, but the writers have never really explored her character to an interesting degree or made her motivations interesting until now.
The Russos understood what made every character interesting, they understood what defines those characters. Things like Stark saying, “I am Iron Man” as he snaps everyone back to existence and Cap’s dance, which I already mentioned.
I also enjoyed Nebula’s performance and arc, she has subtle physical traits that carry throughout the movie and great voice performance that made me forget that she was actually done by an actor.
Thor is a bit of a weak point in the movie, him becoming fat and drunk was really fun to see in the beginning but it overstayed it’s welcome. Thor was drunk and sad, he didn’t have any great moments in the movie aside from when he talks to his mother. Overall, this movie handled the characters very well, except for Thor.
Endgame was incredibly emotional. Scenes like when Stark talked to his father were deeply riveting. He spent time with a man whom he never really knew and their bond was really interesting. They talked about their children which once again reminded us of the stakes and Tony’s daughter, which made his sacrifice so meaningful.
The time machine reminded us of the personal growth that all these characters have undergone, the bonds and conflicts that have led to the events of this movie. Most of the movies in the MCU have been remembered fondly because they prioritize characters.
Now, in showing us all of the consequences of the snap and all the emotional scenes I talked about, the movie ends up running for three hours. I heard some people talking about being fatigued at the run time for this movie, however, I thought the run time added to the movie. Seeing this many characters on screen, all whom I adore (except Captain Marvel) really had me excited. It felt like reading after lights out with dorm parents lurking in the shadows.
It felt like reading a comic book that took its time.
Watching our heroes fight in the ruins of the Avengers HQ, we are reminded of the stakes. No matter what, Thanos cannot be allowed to hold the Infinity Gauntlet. The opposing armies run towards each other and the heroes deliver quips that somehow don’t oppose the atmosphere this scene was aiming for. There is a focus on a specific item. There are shots of clashes between the opposing factions and they are epic.
This fight left me satisfied. And this movie left me relieved.
Endgame is by no means the perfect movie, but it is the fruition of all the events in the MCU. It illustrates depravity and juggles characters. It is a satisfying dance at the end of an amazing journey.
Edited by Dhrubhagat Singh