(Spoiler free till otherwise stated)
On the weekend of 22nd March 2019, I assembled (see what I did there) all my friends on a WhatsApp group, created a Google sheet with all 21 MCU movies (listed in chronological order obviously, only plebs watch them in release order) and started my MCU mega-movie marathon. Every weekend, we gathered, awake all night (telling each other “I can do this all day”), discussing and dissecting the intricacies of this beloved universe. After all, Endgame is to our generation what ‘Return of the Jedi’ was to our parents’ generation.
Long story short, all pieces were in place, we were super hyped, super ready, to avenge the SNAPPENING.
The audience, and the Russo’s, and the studio, had a lot riding on this movie; massive amounts of money, the responsibility of concluding Phase 3 of the MCU, and most of all, delivering on the expectations of presumptuous fans like me. And, by god, Russo’s have put their heart and soul into it. And that blood & sweat is evident throughout. Endgame takes (or at least makes a decent try at) a worthy shot at concluding multiple characters’ story arcs, while being visually stunning, with set action pieces that look grander than all that has come before, and a screenplay that covers (or hints at) almost all major events in the MCU. In short, Russo’s had the unenviable task of creating 180 minute masterpiece that gives a befitting end to a saga than spans across 21 movies & 10 years. The result is an almost satisfactory, but somewhat chaotic, end to one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in the history of moviemaking.
(MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD, TURN AROUND NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS. THEY ARE INEVITABLE)
The film opens pre-snappening, with Hawkeye (one of my favorite MCU characters) and his family discussing merits of mayonnaise vs. mustard on hotdogs, while he passes on his legendary bow & arrow skills to his daughter. Then, in a heart breaking moment, they are all, with the exception of Hawkeye, disintegrated (watch out for his transformation into Ronin, full paisa vasool). Brilliant opening! Sets the perfect mood for a gloomy reality in the aftermaths of the universe bending events of Infinity War.
The first 30 minutes or so are great movie moments. I was on the edge of my seat, (and tears once) worried about the fate of the universe and our heroes. Then enters Ant Man (aka Scott Lang) with his new found knowledge of time travel from the Quantum realm; and this is where the film’s (much required) somber tone takes a needless turn towards being a potpourri of ill-timed humor and complete callousness of the so called Avengers (Earth’s mightiest heroes) towards the fate of the universe. It is understandable to take a nihilistic view to life after an event like this, but quite another to become self(ie)-obsessed (the mighty Hulk, as The Professor, no less) or frat-house boys (looking at you Thor).
Before I get shot down with calls of “That’s how MCU works, they take comic books as they should be – fun and irreverent.” Would it be OK for MCU to add humor when Tony Stark saw his parents being killed by Bucky in Civil War? Or when Spider Man was getting decimated (still brings a tear to my eyes) in Infinity War? And the situation is much worse here; half the sentient life in universe is dead!
Russo’s overindulgence, in what I would call gratuitous fan service (every single character ever referenced is given a cameo, best quips are recycled, all locations/planets given a look-at, battle for NYC is seen from a different POV; hell, even the kid who helps Stark in Iron Man III gets screen time), is one among the many flaws that add to the 3 hr plus runtime of the movie. Honestly, there is one 45 min section you could walk out to get popcorn and not miss much in terms of story moving forward.
And don’t even get me started on time travel. It is a tricky beast to be handled, even in the hands of the best of directors. Interstellar, Harry Potter’s Prisoner of Azbakan, 12 Monkeys, Back to the Future, Donnie Darko, Star Trek, Terminator 2, all had their time travel/causal loop generated issues, but they at least followed the rules set within the movie. Russo’s created their own rules, but broke them more than once, specially at the end, for (amongst all things) dramatic effect (Captain America’s last assignment). And again, what’s with the needless humor while half the universe, including your friends and family, is dead.
Remember when I mentioned the multi movie spanning character arcs? Yeah, they do not end satisfactorily. Cap would never run away from his duties to live in the past (where he potentially also destroys Peggy’s marriage) leaving his friends unaware and unassisted while Hydra infiltrates SHIELD (for one example), Thor’s arc is non-existent, Black Widow’s is rushed at best. And poor Bruce Banner/Hulk/The Professor walks out with nothing at all.
But again, it’s an entertainer of a movie; we are all going to watch it despite what the reviews say, Russo’s (and MCU) have earned that. The last battle scene, Thanos and forces (primarily Ebony Maw, Chitauris et al) versus all the resurrected Avengers, is what nerd dreams (I often dream of this, don’t judge) are made of. And when Cap proves himself worthy of Mjolnir (expected), and uses God of Thunder’s weapon in conjunction with his own shield against Thanos, I was crying tears of joy, it is a scene that is orgasmic. I can forgive all sins for that one scene. Thanos, supremely strong; Cap, with Mjolnir and his shield; is a one-on-one battle for the ages.
As my regular readers (3 in all – my mom, Sumit and the editor) are well aware of my gripe with Snake Oil Salesmen technique on TV or silver screen, i.e., referencing 80s movies. It’s a cheap way to keep the audience interested. I expect the plethora of TV series and movies (Stranger Things, Captain Marvel, Ready Player One) to cash on them because of lack of quality source material. But do you really need to talk about Hot Tub Time Machine (a mediocre movie at best), Back to the Future (a movie that’s not aged well) while half your Avengers team is dead? Specially, when you have such beautifully crafted myths and nuanced back-stories to explore in your own universe.
As a long time Marvel Comics and MCU fan, (this is against all the reviews you will read for Endgame), I ended up disappointed and disoriented. Kudos to Russo’s for the effort, but “We don’t do that (give out chirps for effort) here”. Maybe it was because of high expectations from the movie, or it was because I was comparing it to the comic book story arc, or maybe it was the plot-holes, I can’t give this movie more than 3 chirps.
As a wise man had once said, “It’s an imperfect world, but it’s only one we got.”