Avengers: EndReview

China: the reason that MCU films never, ever mention the words “freedom” or “democracy,” let alone endorse the concepts in any way, shape, or form. Also, can Chinese audiences seriously tell all these white people apart? ©Marvel

The moment of Avengers when everyone comes back — if you think that’s anything even resembling a spoiler, then you’re beyond saving — was hands-down one of the most joyous experiences I have ever had in a theater.

I confess the widely-lauded emotional impact of the “Vanishing” at the end of the last one was totally lost on me, particularly from the moment when Chadwick fluttered away. I wanted to buy in as an audience member, but seeing as Black Panther made over a billion dollars, killing him would completely defy any commercial logic and possibly crash Disney’s share price. So, while others cried their eyes out and the theater got quiet, my eyes rolled back so far that I caught a glimpse of my frontal lobe.

Thankfully, the inverse did not prove true when that obvious fake-out was reversed in the new film, particularly with a crowd of Marvel fans cheering around me. I love a good deus ex machina, and when Wakanda’s mightiest intellectual property reappeared alongside the rest of his totally-not-fallen comrades, there was a stirring in my chest unrivaled by even by the Rohirrim and Gandalf arriving at Helm’s Deep, which used to be my personal deus ex machina gold standard. Until today.

It was so deeply rousing, in fact, that I completely forgot how boring so much of the movie had been.

I suggest you see Captain Marvel, because I didn’t, and the normally-delightful Brie Larson’s character was completely lost on me. She mainly just smirked. ©Marvel

On account of the fact that half of the galaxy’s population has disappeared, this picture takes its sweet-ass time to get going. Admittedly, the opening sequence with Hawkeye is beautifully directed, using the events of the previous film to create emotional impact straight off the bat, much like Batman vs. Superman did with the Metropolis fight from the end of Man of Steel (though this movie is quite a bit better than BvS).

But then there’s a time jump, and then we spend like an hour dicking around suburban Atlanta while our heroes find a reason to get the band back together. While I quite enjoyed getting the band back together — Thor’s intro sequence was genuinely hilarious and the Hulk’s was charming — the movie was still spending an hour restarting a story that we’d been lead to believe was already very much in progress.

That story picks up once Ant-Man returns (sidenote: that immortal bastard is finally starting to age) with a time-travel based solution to their problem, which you already knew because it’s the only way to undo what happened at the end of the previous movie. Then they take off on a “time heist” to steal the Infinity Stones back from the previous movies, much of which is a blast, but it’s weighed down with a sense of perfunctory fan service. There’s like five minutes of mawkish dialog scenes for every major character’s B-plot, in a movie with 70 major characters, but none of them got enough screen time for any emotional impact to really land.

Why do these movies keep expecting me to care so much about this chick? Is it just fan service for Agent Carter or what? This is like the third movie where that crap has fallen completely flat for me.

Now I need to take a moment to talk about the most ludicrously incoherent time-travel mechanics that Hollywood has ever produced, and that is saying a whole hell of a lot.

I’m not a stick in the mud where suspending my disbelief is concerned. I’ve enjoyed plenty of time travel stories with dumb, inconsistent rules — on the topic of Thanos, Men in Black III is an underrated gem. I’ve also seen all but a handful of the MCU films, so I’m acclimated to their ridiculous cosmology, which combines futuristic technology, WWII-era genetic engineering, psychic powers, gamma rays that don’t immediately kill you, magic, and Norse mythology. That was before they turned the whole series into Star Wars, and it’s a testament to the quality of the MCU that the only time I have ever really questioned this nonsense was when all those incompatible genres got in a fistfight with each other at the end of Infinity War.

However, combining the contrived mechanics of time travel with the existing slate of BS is a bridge too far, and the results are so utterly arbitrary that it starts to get frustrating. None of it makes sense: they’re going back in time to steal something that lets you go back in time to change the present, but Thanos won’t be able to reverse their reversal because his present-timeline self is dead, or something (because doing it that way made the movie easier to write). There’s even an overlong scene where a frigging wizard introduces quantum multiverse theory to the proceedings, and I’m sorry, but saying “there are infinite universes where none of this shit happens” doesn’t really juice the film’s sense of stakes.

Compared to the nightmare of causality that is Avengers: Endgame, you’d think that the producers of Back to the Future brought in Stephen Hawking to punch up the script. ©1955 TriStar

Fortunately, as is the MCU’s wont, the film distracts you from these frustrations with sparkling character dynamics and witty banter —I need to just take a moment to say that Chris Hemsworth is one of the funniest actors working today, bar none. Black Widow and the original four white boys are basically the only heroes with major roles in both movies, as you can tell the writers evidently made a conscious choice to divvy up the second tier of heroes between the two films (a decision necessitated by time constraints and the need to rein in the Earth’s Mightiest Payroll).

So we get Hawkeye and Ant-Man back in major roles, and Rocket steps up to main character duty because the maudlin sentimentality hung on all the other characters would leave the team a bit light on comic relief. On that topic, Jeremy Renner spends the first act mass-murdering criminals for reasons that are never explained, which wasn’t quite as jarring as Batman lighting up mercenaries with machine guns, but it was still a bizarre character choice that would’ve seriously thrown me off if it wasn’t diluted by 700 other plot points.

But then it comes to that triumphant moment, the splash page where all of our resurrected B-listers return to the field alongside the original team, and every wasted moment of the film is suddenly justified. After so much jawing and so many diversions that I didn’t particularly care for, the film showed me what I came there for, and I welled up with pure excitement. Every character in a movie with 7,000 characters gets a fuck-yeah moment in the space of a minute, and it is exquisite.

Then the moment passed, the CGI chaos rose to an incomprehensible crescendo, and there were so many characters onscreen that the movie itself forgot about half of them, let alone this audience member. The dramatic final beats of the climax felt a little like Han Solo’s death in Force Awakens: it was less like I was watching a dramatic, emotional conclusion than watching ludicrously well-paid actors finally get out of contracts that they’d been bitching about for years. The movie was perfect, for a brief, shining moment, and then the MCU house style regressed to the mean, and I was once again aware of the film of crass commercialism clinging to every frame that Marvel puts out.

Actually, screw that. It’s still my one and only.

Where The Two Towers gave me my beloved moment of triumph at the end of the movie, allowing me to leave on a high note, Avengers: Endgame follows the example of Return of the King and spends half an hour tying off loose ends after the climax. The flabby denouement only served to remind me of everything that had left me cold prior to that breathtaking cinematic orgasm, and I felt mainly indifference while I listened to my fellow moviegoers sob for the fallen, while I ever-more-impatiently waited it out.

But were those 90 seconds of perfection worth 3 mostly-wasted hours and the price of a matinee ticket? Oh, hell yes.

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Jack Walsh

Jack Walsh

Unverified. Uncredentialed. Unpublished. Uncompromising.

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