Note: Due to the nature of this film – concluding this “phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and also its plot, it’s impossible to talk about it without heavy spoilers for the entire set of 20 odd movies, particularly Infinity War, as this is a direct sequel to that movie. You’ve been warned. (Of course if you are aware of the most recent Spiderman movie this has already been spoiled for you. Oops, sorry…)
How you feel about the conclusion to the MCU – sorry, this phase of the MCU – likely depends upon how you feel about the series as a whole, but also how you felt about Infinity War. If, like me, you felt like Infinity War was the first time the MCU movies really felt like they had actual stakes, then this movie might really piss you off. On the other hand, if you felt like Infinity War‘s death toll was some kind of great tragedy, you will probably like this movie. (Though, in that case, you likely saw this movie already.)
Endgame is the giant conclusion to everything that has happened in the MCU to this point, but it is also a gamble that, by killing off two of the most beloved characters in the MCU movies, audiences will forgive the film for one of the worst kinds of deus ex machinas in fiction – the “going back in time to change the past” kind. How you feel about this film likely depends if you think that
killing Iron Man and Black Widow is enough of a price to pay for bringing back the 50% of the universe that Thanos killed off (including every character killed of in Infinity War).
You are no doubt shocked to read that I do not think that’s good enough. But I will concede that I appreciate that they killed off who they killed off, and that this is relatively brave of them. (But that is damning with faint praise, of course, as this is a series in which entire cities, civilizations and even planets are destroyed while Our Heroes get scratched occasionally. Maybe somebody breaks a bone.)
But, I think I might have been able to take the trade off had the entire rest of the film not been a bunch of corny reunions. But that’s what this impossibly long movie is, really. Infinity War was (a very belated) The Empire Strikes Back. But now everyone is reuniting for (a far happier) Return of the Jedi, where even the ghosts aren’t ghosts but are actually people brought back to life, and everyone gets an entrance. This is the MCU and there are a lot of characters. And it is corny as fuck. I mean, I cannot emphasize to you how corny it all is. If this happened in a movie that wasn’t so expensive and nice to look at, and that wasn’t part of perhaps the most ambitious film project ever undertaken (at least in terms of sheer length), I think the corniness would overwhelm most of us.
But this is actually why this film exists: to be corny so that people who loved every film or nearly every film can see all their favourite characters show up and have brief little moments in this big reunion posing as yet another showdown to save the earth.
The MCU films have impossibly good production values and they are full of great actors doing good work. They are technically some of the best, if not the best, comic book films ever made in filmmaking terms – everything works well enough.
They are impossibly long – this one is over 3 hours long – they are less entertaining than they think they are and they are, at bottom, pretty juvenile in the way they treat their audience. (We didn’t really kill off your favourite character! Don’t worry!) This has worked extremely well for them and it’s clear that most people love these films, as this is the most successful series in the history of film by just about any metric beyond whether or not the films are actually “good” in an artistic sense. But they bore me – I have thoroughly enjoyed two of the 20 or so films in the MCU – and I am glad this is all over. (Of course it really isn’t, because they’ve already started pumping movies for the next “phase” and who knows how few years it will take before the Avengers are rebooted.) Perhaps people will grow tired of the numerous future attempts to replicate the success of the MCU and one day we will live in a world that isn’t dominated by comic book blockbusters. I can only hope.