Arts and Entertainment

Avengers, Assemble

A review of the most ambitious blockbuster of all time: “Avengers Endgame.”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Daniel Berlinsky

Whatever else it may be, “Avengers: Endgame” is an extraordinary achievement. At three hours and two minutes, it tops off a 22-film franchise of unprecedented scale. It is one that, love it or hate it, has become a seminal part of the movie industry. “Endgame” is not the last movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU); just this summer, Marvel Studios has “Spider-Man: Far from Home” slated for release. But, it is the last in this first, and it proves definitively that the fundamental project of the MCU―to build a massive, sprawling franchise with dozens of characters and almost as many plot threads―can work. It might not generally produce high art, but it works, and it works well.

“Endgame” picks up where last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” left off: with the quasi-Malthusian titan Thanos (a purple, astonishingly CGI’d Josh Brolin) having killed half of the universe’s population with a single snap of his fingers. In a reprise of the tear-jerking final scene of “Infinity War,” Clint Barton, also known as Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), watches his family disintegrate. It’s emotionally manipulative as hell, but it works, if you’re willing to let it.

In fact, much of the movie is emotional manipulation that works if you’re willing to let it. I myself very willingly cried throughout, but any viewer who goes into the film needing to be impressed will be sitting through the three hours with one eyebrow firmly raised up. With a silly time-travel plot and little in the way of artistic beauty or sophistication, the film is a money-making venture on the part of Marvel Studios and Disney. The goal of the film, above all else, was to smash box office records and provide fanservice to viewers who have been watching Marvel movies for over a decade. At the moment of writing this, “Avengers: Endgame” is the second highest grossing film of all time, and it is gunning for first.

While not an aesthetic masterpiece, the film has a fun script that is brought to life by a cast of skilled actors. Robert Downey, Jr., whose starring role in 2008’s “Iron Man” propelled the MCU into existence, gives an emotional and moving performance, reminding everybody why we fell in love with him when he first debuted as a superhero. Chris Evans plays Captain America, now forlorn, but still determined to keep everybody together. He makes the Avengers a force to be reckoned with. Evans’s contract with Marvel has ended, but he certainly gave the audience a farewell performance to remember.

It will be exciting to see what new angles the next generation of Captain America—played by Anthony Mackie—can bring to the character. Mark Ruffalo portrays Bruce Banner (Hulk) in a way that has never been explored in the MCU before, and for the most part, it pays off. Though his evolved character looks kind of funky, Ruffalo plays into the story well and portrays the new Hulk in an exciting way. Chris Hemsworth, meanwhile, shows us a beaten down and self-loathing Thor, distraught from the events of “Infinity War.” Also shown is his journey to redemption.

Other cast members include Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov (Black Widow); Bradley Cooper as the anthropomorphic racoon Rocket; Brie Larson as the extraordinarily powerful new kid on the block, Captain Marvel; Paul Rudd as the loveable doofus Scott Lang, (Ant-Man); and Karen Gillan as Thanos’s daughter Nebula. Everyone does their part effectively and has a clear, fulfilled purpose for being in the movie. While some might complain that the movie was overcrowded (given that it’s an ensemble movie and has a large team size), the character moments were handled well, giving all the original Avengers nice moments and send-offs that serve their characters well.

With such a plot-driven movie, the color palette wasn't ever supposed to be the main focus, but during the gray-dominated battles, it was difficult to figure out what was going on. The CGI was mostly great when it came to animating characters like Thanos and Rocket, but was inadequate when rendering the Avengers’ cheesy-looking quantum suits. This film was not intended to be nitpicked for its every CGI blunder, but rather meant to be ogled at as what is one of the most ambitious movies ever made.

That being said, the plot is a lot to take in. With more than three hours of sensory overload, it’ll take several more hours after the first viewing to fully understand every intricacy of the plot. The heroes travel through space, time, the multiverse, and the quantum realm, leaving little breathing room for the audience to process what's going on. But for diehard fans, this is everything that could be asked for, as every scene provides depth to the character of focus, and there are several moments sprinkled throughout the film to ensure applause all around. When the plot fails, it fails minorly, but when it succeeds, it does so with explosive energy. Keeping up with the breakneck pace of the movie is a daunting task, but it proves to be worthwhile for fans and casual viewers alike.

Even the music used in Marvel’s latest film seems to have been amped up. The Avengers theme is dramatic and fulfilling. It is just as nostalgic as the other music that Marvel pulled from previous MCU films as the characters travel back in time to gather the Infinity stones, most notably when a few Avengers travel back to the beginning of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and find Star Lord singing “Come And Get Your Love.” That moment is a powerful callback that reminds us of just how far we have come since then and how much Star Lord has matured since his first movie. As I watched the scene, I felt like I was in the fourth grade again, watching the Guardians in a small Maine theater. In “Endgame,” the music is used most effectively when it evokes memories and emotions in the viewer, which it does to great effect numerous times.

It is simultaneously epic and yet saddening to see the superheroes we’ve grown up with leave in this chapter of the MCU, but at least they were treated well in this last movie of theirs. With superb acting, an exciting plot, excellent music, and nostalgia galore, “Avengers: Endgame” is by no means a perfect movie, but it sure is close to a perfect Marvel movie. It’s safe to say that this is one for the history books.