Avengers: End Game

Oops, this review is very late. Beware of spoilers, if you haven’t seen it yet!

I have a hit and miss record with Marvel movies. Generally, I’ve discovered, I love a superhero movie that combines its superhero-ness with another genre — a heist movie in Antman, a thriller in Winter Soldier, comedy in Thor Ragnarok. I’m not typically such a fan of the movies when they play things more straight, like in Civil War. And I’ve had a problem with previous “all the heroes” movies like Age of Ultron and Civil War being too damn full of characters to feel satisfying.

So I wasn’t sure I wanted to sit for three hours for End Game, which promised to be the most superhero-y of superhero movies. But I’m so glad that I did, because honestly? I thought End Game was fantastic. It was the perfect conclusion to a decade of movie mythology.

It was a great choice to take (almost) all of the newbies out of the mix with Thanos’ snap. Without needing to worry about every single character in the Marvel canon, the movie had room to breath.

I also loved that the movie focussed on character moments over action sequences for most of its run-time. Sure, we have a big blow-up fight at the end, and there are a couple of scraps along the way, but most of it is about looking at who these characters are and how they relate to one another after so much years of history. To me, at least, that’s far more compelling.

It also helped that End Game has a pretty perfect three act structure, if you discount the opening prologue set immediately after Infinity War. Act One is Antman’s return and the discovery that they might be able to fix things after all. Act Two is the actual process of re-recruiting everybody and travelling in time to gather each of the stones. And of course the big twist leading into Act Three was that they brought everyone back, but Thanos showed up again anyway, and this time he wants to kill everyone.

Unfortunately, putting the newbies out of commission for most of this movie reaffirmed how very white and male the original key Avengers were. With everyone else turned to dust, Black Widow has to hold down the fort as the only female Avenger again, and that makes things… complicated.

Black Widow has a strong story arc in Endgame, and it ends with her getting exactly the resolution she wanted. She feels helpless after Infinity War, so she does everything she can to keep the Avengers going, long after the other key players have abandoned her. She wants to make a difference. She wants to help Hawkeye after his grief.

And she does. She chooses to sacrifice herself not just to save the world in general, but also to save Hawkeye — she gives him the gift of that future with his family that he wanted.

But it kinda sucks that she was one of only two female heroes for most of the film, and she was the one to die.

Meanwhile, we also have Thor, who has been the focus of most of the criticism of the movie. The writers seem to have run with the comedic Thor of Ragnarok, and that’s probably a good choice, considering how successful that movie was. They also decided to deal with the extreme trauma that Thor suffered in Infinity War, and that was ALSO theoretically a good choice. But combining those two elements was asking for disaster.

Comedic!Thor has always been at least partly the butt of his movie’s own jokes. Thor Ragnarok never said Thor wasn’t strong or emotionally complex or worthy of an epic story, but it was also unafraid to make Thor bicker with Loki and swing awkwardly around in a trap and generally be a character to goodnaturedly laugh at. And End Game captures some of that. Thor chilling out with his buddies, talking smack on voicechat on Fortnite? Sure. The movie needed some levity.

But the movie also acknowledged that Thor has been through a lot. He lost his parents, all of Asgard, 50% of the surviving Asgardians, his brother, and any sense that he was a hero or could do anything to help anyone, all in a very short space of time. Hawkeye went through less than that, and he became a super angsty tortured creature of revenge. Thor, it seems, became depressed. He abandoned any sense of being a hero, and mastered the art of the video game battle royale.

And ultimately, the movie was about Thor finding a place and a self that would actually make him happy. He doesn’t want to be King of the Asgardians. He wants to be out there, adventuring, helping people. So by the end of the movie, he regains his confidence and he sets off for a new life.

All of this is good, theoretically. The problem is how it came together. I felt a lot of sympathy for Thor while watching it, but the movie definitely seemed to be pushing for the audience to laugh at him instead. He was playing the comedic role again, but this time the comedy wasn’t goodnatured. It was focussed on his weight and the results of his grief, and part of the joke was how that grief has made him “not!Thor.” He’s not persuaded to help the other Avengers by being given a flicker of hope to make amends. He’s persuaded by booze. His mum tells him to eat a salad.

By the end of the movie, he rediscovers who “Thor” is. But maybe they could have cut out some of the Ragnorak jokey tone around him until after he regained some of that confidence and purpose. It’s one thing to make the clear superhero into the punchline. It’s another to make the suffering, depressed, broken character the punchline too.

My only other complaint isn’t really that much of a complaint at all, since the plot worked so well as it was. But I was disappointed by Captain Marvel’s lack of a role in most of the movie. It seemed like the writers needed Captain Marvel’s world-breaking powers in order to save Tony Stark and Nebula, but considered her too strong to have around most of the rest of the time. She’s so powerful that her presence breaks the story, and so she was barely in it at all. She still got a couple of badass moments, including her fight with Thanos at the end, and it made perfect sense for her to be taken out with the power stone so Tony Stark could complete this era of Marvel. But still… give me more Captain Marvel soon, Disney. Please.

And my hopes for the next phase? Ms Marvel and Squirrel Girl. If you can make Antman a thing, you can definitely bring the unbeatable Squirrel Girl to our screens. She’s literally unbeatable. She’s defeated Thanos and Galactus. They need her on the team.

04 comments on “Avengers: End Game

  • Penelope Wallace , Direct link to comment

    Excellent review. I’m not quite clear exactly what Captain Marvel can do – it looks like everything except turn back time and read minds. She needs surely to have clear limits to get a good second story of her own. (Still not quite sure what Scarlet Witch can do.) The film was huge fun.

  • Courtney , Direct link to comment

    What did you think of Steve’s ending? Honestly, I hated it because he basically felt entitled to change the past/create a new timeline so he could be with Peggy even though she moved on and lived a happy life. I mean the other movies had him moving on, and yet this movie went back and completely regressed that character development, it was so frustrating! I would have been just fine if he went back JUST to give Peggy that last dance and then go back to the present where he belonged! Ugh.

    Agree we could have used more Captain Marvel. But I did love the brief female Avengers team up at the end. Now if only they’d give us a spinoff…

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      That’s a really interesting perspective on Steve. I guess it depends on whether the show is talking multiple timelines here, or changing the past. If it’s a new timeline in a new world, then I think Peggy can choose to have Steve reappear and be happy. But if it’s erasing the life that the original Peggy lived, that’s… more than a little bit weird. Him showing up at the end again kind of suggests that it’s all the same world and timeline, right? And because nothing else changed after he went back, he ALWAYS had gone back, and just lived in secret, while she did those kickass things? But the wiki says she marries some random person and has two kids. So… is that Steve? I don’t know the movies well enough to know if there’s a contradiction there, and I’ve hurt my head thinking about it now. 😛

  • Lars Sjöström , Direct link to comment

    “It’s another to make the suffering, depressed, broken character the punchline too”, this is a problem with a lot of “comic relief”, the butt of the jokes is often someone whom already has problems. He might be clumsy/slow witted/ have social difficulties/problems with handling his fear, or something else unheroic. I don’t think that female characters are the butt of jokes very often. It feels a lot better if the character that is made fun of is someone we respect and can identify ourselves with the mistake or misfortune. I think that it is both more fun and more morally to have a punchline that makes us feel: HaHa, I made that mistake too! than: HaHa, how stupid he is whom do that!

What do you think?

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