Since Marvel’s 2008 blockbuster Iron Man, Disney and Marvel Studios have taken the film industry by storm, producing hit superhero films year after year, pleasing Marvel and film fans everywhere. In 2019, Marvel Studios brought the decade of box office dominance to a satisfying conclusion with Avengers: Endgame, following the immensely successful part one, Avengers: Infinity War. Avengers: Endgame did an excellent job of following the “Marvel blueprint” (for better or worse, I’ll get into that later) while simultaneously leaving long time Marvel fans with unexpected twists and turns leading up to the epic final battle everybody wanted. Now I must add before going into specific details with this film that I am nowhere near the biggest Marvel film fan. I’ve only seen a small handful of the most recent Marvel films, and for that reason I likely cannot attest to the nostalgia and magic that hardcore Marvel fans may have felt watching this film. I will be judging this film apart from its connections to previous films beyond Infinity War, and I will be judging it as I would any other film. Any great film should be a great film to any fans, not just Marvel fans. And I will begin by stating that while I greatly enjoyed this film and thought it had many strengths, I would have to completely disagree with anyone calling it “the greatest film of all time.” But first, let me start with what this film did really well.
One aspect of this film that can be seen in nearly all the Marvel films is the use of comedy, and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons these films are so successful. You can even see DC films finally having some success by injecting their latest film Shazam! with a healthy dose of comedy. It is no secret that people love to laugh, so having any sort of successful comic relief that isn’t too overbearing will always be well-received. In the case of Avengers: Endgame, that comic relief came in the form of a beer-bellied, Fortnite playing Thor, and boy was his comedy effective. After decapitating Thanos five years prior with the infinity stones seemingly lost, Thor decided to crack open some cold ones and get lost in videogames to help him forget his past failures. One of the reasons this comic relief was so effective was due to how unexpected it was. Thor is arguably one of the strongest and most shredded members of the Avengers, so if there was a list of heroes most likely to have a beer-belly in the film, he would likely be near the bottom. And of course, some of the best comedy is that which is unexpected, and I think the Russo brothers really nailed it with overweight Thor. The sight of Thor especially got ridiculous near the climax when he, Captain America, and Iron Man were fighting Thanos, and he still had the beer belly. Though this seemed to take away from the seriousness of the situation at first, I found myself forgetting about it as the fight progressed as there were not a whole lot of slow, steady shots of Thor from the waist up in the scene. Another comedic aspect of the film that I loved was the Hulk throughout the film, from taking pictures with fans to pretending to wreck stuff in anger as he walked through New York City. The whole “America’s ass” bit was also a nice little gag.
Another aspect of the film that I really loved was Iron Man’s character arc and the way that was handled. The stakes for him really could not have been higher, as even after Thanos’ snap, he still had his wife and his daughter. And of course if the Avengers went back in time to try to reverse the snap, and failed, it could’ve been possible that Iron Man would not have been so fortunate. This was a classic case of Iron Man having to be the unselfish hero he’s supposed to be and put the needs of everyone else before his own. Yet I really liked the restraint he showed at first, displaying just how tough of a decision that would be, and how even though he’s Iron Man, he’s still Tony Stark, a human like everybody else with earthly attachments. It certainly always seemed like he would be the one to have to activate the infinity gauntlet and defeat Thanos, which of course kills him and ironically, everyone else lives besides Black Widow. This is a perfect example of the “ultimate sacrifice” that most superheros are seen having to make at some point in their lives, yet in this case, this is perhaps the ultimate “ultimate sacrifice.”
Speaking of Black Widow and ultimate sacrifices, that climactic scene between her and Hawkeye was possibly one of my favorite scenes in the film. I loved how neither hero would allow the other to die for them, and how each of them went to such great lengths to try to prevent the other from jumping into the abyss. The scene showed not only how much the two heros cared about each other, but also what it means to be a hero and how much they both wanted to be the hero. Though it perhaps may also show a bit of fear and weakness, and not wanting to live with the fact that somebody died for you, which is unfortunately what Hawkeye is forced to live with. I especially liked how the creatives did the last shot of that scene, with Hawkeye holding onto Black Widow on the edge of the cliff and having to physically let go of her hand to allow her to be the hero. All in all I thought that was a powerful and emotionally heart-wrenching scene. I could not imagine having seen all of the Marvel films prior and having to sit through that scene.
One part of the film that worried me a bit at first though I think was handled really well was Captain Marvel. Out of all of the Avengers, Captain Marvel appears to resemble Superman the most, with the one difference being that Superman has one clear weakness as all superheros should. Now, I have not seen the film Captain Marvel, so I can only speak to what I saw in Avengers: Endgame, but from what I saw, Captain Marvel did not have a clear weakness of any sort. I especially did not like how at the beginning when the Avengers first go to confront Thanos, Captain Marvel states that the only reason they lost was because they did not have her. And of course, once they get to the planet Thanos is hiding out on, Captain Marvel blasts Thanos out of nowhere with her energy bursts and Thanos is then easily subdued by the rest of the Avengers. I at first, like many others, was wondering if that was it, if that was the final battle between the Avengers and Thanos. Of course it wouldn’t be, yet had the film ended right there, Captain Marvel would have been just another ex-machina born out of from lazy writing. However, by the end of the film, the writers redeem themselves during the final battle, with Captain Marvel showing her power and prowess against Thanos, but still being unable to defeat him without Iron Man. Yet even with that moment of vulnerability, I think I would have liked to see more moments where Captain Marvel was not just this completely invincible being. Because even though she was not able to defeat Thanos on her own, I still got the sense that she definitely could have.
Putting the characters aside, I think one of the film’s biggest strengths was its cinematography. Again, this is one of those things that Marvel does really well with its films year after year, and you could see that on display again with Avengers: Endgame. The fight scenes were magnificently shot, especially during the final battle, and there were also a handful of close up shots that were very powerful and meaningful. One of these shots that I really liked was when Steve Rogers sees Peggy Carter when he goes back to the past, and he wants so much to be with her, but knows that it would likely throw the future into disarray. In this scene there is a close up shot of Steve looking at her though the window, with half his face in the shadow, and as he realizes he cannot be with her, he turns his head into the shadow and walks away. This was very beautifully done, and was one of a number of really good shots in the film. I also found it very satisfying at the end when Steve went back into the time machine to spend a full life with Peggy.
Now, while this film had a lot of positives and strengths, there were still quite a few things I did not like and certainly believe take away from it being “the greatest film of all time.” My biggest critique of the film would have the be the cheesiness and repetitiveness of the writing at times. Again, almost every Marvel film has some form of cheesy writing at some point during the film, but in Avengers: Endgame, I found the cheesiness especially apparent. One example of this is when Tony Stark is talking to his wife about making the decision to go back in time to save everybody, and while the dialogue was cheesy enough on its own, the non-diegetic score in the background made the scene even cheesier. This kind of scene would be repeated over and over when Captain America, Black Widow, the Hulk, and Rocket are going around the world to get the team back together. Even when they go to Asgard to bring Thor back, you already knew before they even got there that he would join them just like the other heroes. The Hulk and Rocket also didn’t really seem too convincing with their persuasion, with the former telling Thor simply, “we need you pal,” and the latter adding, “there’s beer on the ship.” I would’ve liked to see Thor show a bit more restraint, or possibly not even go along with them. I think I would have preferred it if he had showed up in the final battle to save the day right before Thanos could kill one of the Avengers or snap his fingers. At least then it would have added some variation to a narrative that was ultra-repetitive at that point in the film.
As much as I loved the final battle at the climax of the film, the one aspect of it that I did not like and found very unrealistic was the amount of dialogue between characters amongst all the fighting. It was a really nice moment to see Iron Man reunite with Spider-Man on the battlefield, it seemed as if the entire battle had stopped just so they could have that moment. I think the creatives could have one a better job with incorporating dialogue while they were fighting, or possibly having Iron Man fly into the air with Spider-Man to have a moment with him, or anything to to make it seem like they’re still fighting an epic battle.
And with the amount of cheese that could be seen throughout the film, perhaps the cringiest moment was the shot of Captain Marvel and all the other female superheroes standing together and demonstrating their “female empowerment.” As much as I believe in equal rights and female representation on screen, that moment seemed way too forced to be effective in any way. Especially considering how the Russo brothers did a decent job of not making Captain Marvel look like a Mary Sue or ex-machina, that moment was very surprising. I would have much preferred if they had some shots of the female superheros actually working together and fighting, or possibly one of them saving a male superhero from dying, like Black Widow. Overall, that was one of the few moments in the film that stood out to me as explicitly cringey.
Nevertheless, with all the cheesiness aside, Avengers: Endgame was a very good film and an embodiment of everything good, (and perhaps not so good), about the Marvel films. The decision to have Iron Man make the “ultimate sacrifice” was predictable yet satisfying, and his final moments are easily the most emotional in the entire film. I actually found it intriguing that there was no swelling non-diegetic string music when he died, merely silence. And if there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I’m a very sensitive person and will willingly let the tears fall in the theaters, but surprisingly, I did not drop a single tear for Iron Man. I admittedly had tears welling in my eyes, but I think the lack of melancholic music in that moment prevented my tears from dropping. I think I would have liked to hear some kind of score in that scene. Yet, I’m sure that if I had seen all the Marvel films, I likely would have shedded many tears in that moment. All in all though, I thought that ending was supremely satisfying, and that the film as a whole did a great job of bringing a decade of Marvel films to an end. Did I think it was one of the greatest films of all time? No. In fact, I think I may have actually liked Infinity War more, and will have to watch both again before I can make an official judgment on that. In short though, I think a lot more imagination and creativity went into Infinity War, especially with the inclusion of the infinity stones. One small drawback I had with Endgame was the whole time machine idea. Considering how imaginative the Marvel universe is, I think the Russo brothers could have come up with a more creative solution. All in all though, if you’re a major Marvel film fan, you will be in for quite the treat with Avengers: Endgame.
Final Rating: 8.5/10