This article contains mild spoilers.
Three hundred sixty-four days ago, I sat here and wrote about Avengers: Infinity War. I told you how awesome it was and how excited I was for this year’s follow up, Endgame. Now, having seen it, I can temper expectations. Admittedly, I was really disappointed.
Avengers: Endgame picks up three weeks after the infamous Snap, with the surviving Avengers regrouping and planning to hunt down Thanos (Josh Brolin). Once they find him, they learn that he’s destroyed the Infinity Stones, so that the universe cannot be taken back out of balance. What follows is an overly long adventure built on time travel, CGI mega battles, and some of the flimsiest fan service I’ve ever seen (and that includes Rogue One).
I will start with a positive: I’m happy that the people in charge of this film were able to resist the urge to bring Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) in as a deus ex machina for the Avengers’ whole Thanos problem, and keeping her only as a deus ex machina that prevents Tony from dying on the Milano “millions of light years away from the nearest 7-11.”
But when Carol, Tony (Robert Downey Jr.), and Nebula (Karen Gillan) return to Earth and meet up with everybody at Avengers HQ, you’d think they’d have bigger fish to fry than the lingering tension between Tony and Cap (Chris Evans) — which was totally artificial to begin with when it was set up in Civil War. You would be wrong, though. Apparently, Tony is still mad at Cap. “I told you we needed a suit of armor around the world!” Tony yells at one point. I guess Tony is conveniently forgetting that (a) he also failed to stop Thanos and (b) that suit of armor he wanted to put around the world ended up becoming a megalomaniacal robot that wanted to destroy the world.
Without getting too into the play-by-play (remember, Thanos demands your silence), we eventually settle on the time travel plot, where the Avengers, in their new red and white suits seen in the trailers, decide to go back in time to strategic points to gather up the Infinity Stones and bring them back to the present to undo the Snap.
The second act of the movie is basically a string of greatest hits moments from the MCU, which is fun, yet it makes for a weak story. Endgame resembles a melodrama in this way. It prioritizes plot and physical action over characterization, but even this only occurs in a surface level capacity. The characters respond to events that happen around them and these moments are too few and far between to feel substantial.
This also ends up presenting the characters as flat. We all know that, after eleven years of the MCU, these people are anything but flat. That said, Endgame is also meant to close out Phase 3, and with it, this “volume” of the MCU. Characters we’ve come to know are given satisfactory conclusions, even if they felt very stockish during the three hours it took us to get there.
I’m a huge Marvel fan and, to their credit, even their “bad” movies are still tolerable. I wish I had better things to say about Endgame, but I’ll leave it with this: It’s worth the price of admission, but it could’ve been so much better, so much more worthy of being billed as the epic conclusion to an eleven-year saga. But unfortunately, as a “series” finale, it’s much more in the vein of Lost than The Wire.
Avengers: Endgame assembles in theaters on Friday, April 26 with 3 Infinity Stones out of 6.