From the moment Thanos first appeared in the post credits sequence of the first Avengers movie, everyone knew that the MCU was building up to something even bigger than what we already had. Yet nobody realized how huge the MCU would get. Not in terms of scale. Not in terms of the crazy amount of money it’s made. Not in terms of how large the cast would get by the time Endgame released. The MCU stopped being a movie franchise two phases ago. That’s when it became a cultural phenomenon, with each Avengers movie being an event.
In a way, Avengers: Endgame feels like a conclusion to the entire MCU. I’m not saying that it’s done by any means, but I’m saying that if one wanted to jump off to take a break from superhero movies, Endgame is the perfect place to do it.
Avengers: Endgame is also a massive financial success, in a film franchise that is already massively successful. As of this writing, Endgame is only $7.16 million short of passing Avatar as the highest earning movie of all-time. And as impressive as Avatar’s run was, it needed an extended cut re-release to get to its $2.78 billion worldwide record. At this point, it’s too close to call as to whether Endgame will pass Avatar or not, but it earned another $2 million this weekend despite having released nearly 3 months ago. It earned almost 10 times as much as Dark Phoenix did this past weekend, and Dark Phoenix came out just over a month ago. Then again, Dark Phoenix is on path to bombing hard.
Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame filmed back to back, with a lot of the pre-production being shared by these two movies. As such, I won’t be talking about the behind the scenes details all that much.
Both were directed by the Russo brothers, who had previously also directed Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War for the MCU. Composer Alan Silvestri also returned for Endgame, after composing the soundtracks for Captain America: The First Avenger, and the first Avengers movie. Silvestri also did the soundtrack for the Back to the Future trilogy, the first two Predator movies, Forrest Gump, the Night At the Museum trilogy, The Mummy Returns, and … the Super Mario Bros. movie? That’s a random entry in his resume. Anyway, Silvestri described Endgame as having the most versatile soundtrack of the franchise, with everything from epic battle themes to minimalistic, jazz inspired numbers.
He also said that composing the theme for the end of Captain America’s story felt bittersweet, as he had been with Steve Rogers since the beginning.
There will be spoilers in this review, so if you somehow haven’t seen this movie, you may want to stop reading from this point on and skip to the last two paragraphs. Because this movie can’t properly be discussed without describing how awesome some of these moments are.
After a brief aftermath sequence that leads to a seemingly final confrontation with Thanos (surprisingly early in the movie), most of Endgame takes place 5 years after Infinity War. The first hour of the movie feels a bit slow, but necessarily slow after the breakneck pace of Infinity War. It takes time to explore where each character’s head is at. It takes time to explore how the aftermath of Thanos wiping out half of the Universe’s life is affecting the world at large. Captain Marvel also points out that everything happening on Earth is also happening around the Universe, but it’s probably best that this movie just focuses on Earth.
Some characters are dealing with their failure as well as they can. Black Widow basically took over SHIELD, and manages to hide her emotions well when she’s on the job. Captain America is, in addition to superheroing, leading help groups with people struggling to move on. Considering that’s pretty much how he met Falcon, it feels very appropriate for him to do that. Iron Man partly retires and lives a quiet life with his family – he’s one of the lucky ones. If anything, Hulk is better off than before, managing to merge his two personalities into one brilliant, strong Dr. Hulk. The scene where you first see him is kind of hilarious as well.
On the other hand, Thor is reduced to a severe alcoholic, who shows clear signs of distress if you even mention Thanos’s name. He carries a lot of guilt, and with that, he seriously doubts his abilities. Hawkeye is on an endless rampage on the streets, killing criminals without mercy. He’s basically the Punisher when the movie begins, except possibly even darker. As much as Nebula and Rocket seem to be handling things ok, they also seem to be stranded on Earth. They’re certainly not traveling around the Galaxy as much, now that the Guardians of the Galaxy are only comprised of two members.
Although some of these character directions are surprising, they all make sense from a character standpoint. The movie explores all of their situations and reactions enough that you understand why each character went the direction they did. In that sense, the first hour is almost more of a character study than it is a superhero film. But once the action gets going, this movie really doesn’t slow down.
As epic as Infinity War was, this movie blows that out of the water. The final action sequence may be the most epic battle ever put on film. You’ve got two armies clashing with each other, each with some very powerful individuals. It’s also a very dynamic action scene, with a number of characters dueling Thanos for a bit, moments where you get an overall view of the battle as a whole, moments where you see the superheroes trying to remove the infinity stones from the battlefield, and some nice character moments to give the audience time to breath.
Before Endgame, I would have said that the Battle of Pellenor Fields in Return of the King was my favourite large battle scene in the world of movies. It’s good for a lot of the same reasons, from the epic soundtrack to the mix of big moments, small duels and touches of downtime for emotional conversations. I’m pretty sure this one takes the cake though. It helps that while Pellenor Fields has some great moments, Endgame is loaded with them. You’ve got Captain America proving that he’s worthy. That’s happened in the comics several times, and Age of Ultron even hinted at it, but now we’ve finally got confirmation on-screen. With his incredible combat skills, he arguably wields Mjolnir better than Thor. You’ve not only got all the dusted superheroes returning, but there are even a couple surprises among them. Rescue is a welcome addition. Valkyrie getting her flying horse back is awesome. Scarlet Witch wrecking Thanos on her own is an impressive showing, yet one that is easy to buy considering her previous feats.
Some of the nice character moments include the reunion between Iron Man and Spider-Man, something that Tony probably needed in order to make his ultimate sacrifice. He just needed to know that there was someone who could potentially take his place in the Superhero world. That’s something that was explored in this Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer.
Mixed in with the onslaught of action, we’ve also got some very emotional moments. Two of the original Avengers make the ultimate sacrifice, with a third who tried to in order to spare the other. You really feel Thor’s emotional trauma when he returns to Asgard in 2014, and the conversation he has with his mother really helps him recover his confidence. There’s a nicer moment where Tony runs into his father, at a time before he was born. You can tell Tony feels awkward about it at first, but it leads him to a place where he appreciates his father more than he ever did before. The fact that he willingly sacrafices himself shows how far he’s come as a character since Iron Man 1. While there is tragedy in the finale, Captain America gets a very well deserved happy ending, acting as the perfect closer to both this movie and his story.
Avengers: Endgame also includes a lot of fan service moments, more so than pretty much any other Superhero movie I can think of. But when you’ve got the finale to at least three major characters (possibly four with Hawkeye retiring), it feels appropriate and never overdone. In some ways this feels like an MCU highlight reel, while still acting as its own film. This is a film that is satisfying on so many levels. If you’re an MCU fan, this movie will make you laugh. It will probably make you cry. And most importantly, it will thrill you.
It’s hard to say whether the MCU can continue to be as large of a success post-Endgame or not. There’s a chance that Superhero fatigue is starting to kick in (I know some of my friends are feeling it), and Endgame feels like it could very easily be the conclusion to the entire MCU. Thankfully, it’s a very satisfying conclusion on multiple levels. Several characters get their stories wrapped up in satisfying ways, even if they’re not all happy endings. A number of other characters get new beginnings; one’s already been expanded on with Spider-Man: Far From Home. I for one look forward to whatever Phase 4 announcements are coming, but I don’t see myself being nearly as excited for any of these movies as I was for Endgame. This is the kind of event movie that we may never see the likes of for decades to come. Not even Star Wars: The Force Awakens garnered this level of excitement or satisfaction.
Next up is Toy Story 4, so I can catch up on my Pixar blogathon. Then we’ll look at Spider-Man: Far From Home. Because I have the next week off from work, I’ll probably look at both of these this week. Afterwards, I may start another theme month early, or just look at a couple more DreamWorks movies so I can continue that project.