“Avengers: Endgame” brings a satisfying end to a pop culture phenomenon
May 8, 2019
This piece includes spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame.”
When the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, “Iron Man,” was released, George W. Bush was president, Miley Cyrus was Hannah Montana and Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” was one of the most popular songs in the U.S. Many current Northwestern students grew up watching MCU movies — I was nine years old when “Iron Man” came out. “Avengers: Endgame” was 10 years and 21 movies in the making.
Needless to say, many viewers had high expectations for “Endgame.” Fortunately, it meets most of them. Although it possesses many of the typical shortcomings of MCU movies, “Endgame” is a satisfying conclusion to Marvel’s Infinity Saga.
“Endgame” begins immediately after the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” before jumping five years forward in time, where we discover that Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man, played by Robert Downey, Jr.) has a wife and a daughter, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has control over the Hulk and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) — who now more closely resembles The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” than a Norse god — plays Fortnite. Desperately wanting to return the universe to its pre-“Infinity War” state, the Avengers travel back in time to acquire the six Infinity Stones and use their power to bring back those who died in the previous movie. Unfortunately, Thanos (Josh Brolin) finds out about the Avengers’ plan and attacks their headquarters, resulting in a battle of Tolkienian proportions and Tony Stark’s death.
In other words, a lot happens in this movie. With a runtime of over three hours, “Endgame” is the longest MCU movie to date, but it is also the most convoluted. The amount of content in this movie justifies the three-hour runtime, but the amount of CGI-driven sensory overload detracts from its overall value. In fact, the movie’s most powerful moments are the smaller, more personal ones. During my viewing, the audience collectively gasped during the opening scene when it was revealed that Clint Barton’s (a.k.a. Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner) family was killed during “Infinity War.” They collectively sniffled when Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland ) watched Tony Stark die. And I’m sure everyone in the theater smiled when Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America, played by Chris Evans) was finally able to marry Peggy Carter.
Only the final entry in a decade-long series of movies could evoke the audience reactions that “Endgame” did. My three hours in the theater were punctuated by laughs, cheers and applause. And as I left the theater, I felt a little bit closer to everyone who had shared this experience with me. While “Endgame” is certainly not my favorite movie — or even my favorite MCU movie — the experience of seeing it in-theater, on opening weekend, is unparalleled. Even those who aren’t Marvel fans can see that this movie is a testament to the power of fandom and cinema.
Despite living up to most of viewers’ lofty expectations, “Endgame” is not the perfect superhero movie. It’s an MCU movie in every sense of the phrase, and that means it shares many of the flaws that plagued its 21 predecessors. For instance, most of the CGI-centric battle scenes are simply excessive — it’s difficult to tell what exactly is happening during the final battle. Furthermore, the entire plot of this movie wouldn’t have happened if a rat hadn’t unintentionally walked across the control panel of a time machine inside a van (and if that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is). And the Thanos of “Endgame” lacks the three-dimensionality of his character in “Infinity War.”
Additionally, the unprecedented scale of the movie presents issues. Characters’ attempts to explain the science behind time travel are more confusing than helpful, and the sheer amount of content might be too much for more casual viewers of the franchise.
Despite some of its problems, “Endgame” is a historic cinematic achievement — its $1.2 billion worldwide opening weekend is the biggest ever. And although the movie is messy at times, it ultimately accomplishes the superhuman task of tying up the previous 21 MCU movies’ loose ends. After 11 years of viewing, two more presidents and many more pop culture phenomena, this is something nine-year-old me could not have imagined.
Read more from May’s issue of The Monthly here.